Agile working – the route to greater productivity, profitability and happiness


Over one third of employees would prefer agile working over a pay rise with the latest Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (ENEI) stats showing almost two-thirds of managers linked a growth in revenue directly to flexible working. Now that really says something!

The aim and benefits

The aim of agile working is to combine maximum flexibility with minimum constraints to create a more responsive, efficient & effective organisation, and optimise performance which ultimately improves business performance and increases client satisfaction.

It started with ‘flexible working’ when businesses identified the need to support working families and the changes occurring which challenged the traditional family model.  With rising numbers of women in the workplace and more men taking on a ‘caregiver’ role in the home, flexible working started to rise.  But agile working is not just about working mothers and families, it’s about addressing the differing needs across an organisation.

The benefits of agile working for employees has been well documented over the years and is now embedded in many firms culture and fast being adopted by many more.. According to the CIPD Employee Outlook (2016), the top three benefits of flexible working most frequently cited by employees are: reduces stress (29%), enables better work–life balance (54%) and has been a factor in them staying with their current employer (28%). A quarter of people responding also said they feel agile working enabled them to be more productive, allowed them time to pursue personal interests and hobbies, and improved overall wellbeing, particularly for those who had longer commute times.

Outside of the benefits to employees, agile working will have a positive impact on the firms carbon footprint, and for some will mean they can scale back on office space meaning lower overheads

How technology is playing a role

With the technology available to modern business, there are numerous tools to help businesses work in new and different ways, to meet customer needs, reduce costs, increase productivity and improve sustainability.

It’s important to understand that adopting Agile working into your business does require you to be set up for it and  there can be significant costs involved with regard to IT support needed outside the office, setting up communications technology and ensuring data is secure particularly on mobile devices. Considerations should include:

  • Do you have the right level of cyber security in place
  • Do your staff have the digital resources to do their work – laptops, smart phones
  • Have you got facilities set up to enable staff to have video conference calls
  • Can you provide a digital‘ ‘whiteboarding’’ space, so staff can work on documents and ideas together as if they were there in person.
  • Are you able to provide 4G data plans for staff who don’t have fast broadband

Achieving the right balance

Although agile working is a hugely positive thing, it is vital to remember how much the face to face side of thing is important to team relationships, so employees still need to be ‘in the office’ every week.

It can also be difficult to manage people who are not together all the time, plus not everyone is good at managing their own time or having the discipline to work properly at home, so it can take management skills to a new level which will often require training. Agile workplaces will require new agreements and practices that are used to maintain relationships, performance and trust. 

When discussing Agile working at MHA MacIntyre Hudson with Leanne Wilkins, Head of Recruitment, she commented that “When MHA MacIntyre Hudson embarked on their agile working initiative, they knew it would benefit the working families in the business, but they wanted more from their agile working programme. They ultimately wanted people to feel valued in the firm.  They wanted it to support wellbeing, to help staff reduce stress levels, to aid retention & engagement, for people to feel trusted and autonomous, and also to be an additional differentiator in hiring the best people.

To enable this to happen, they made significant investment and changes to their IT, phone systems, time recording systems, health and safety policies, HR Policies and data protection procedures.”

 From a recruitment point of view Leanne went on to say that “Agile working really can help businesses attract a more diverse range of talent as geography is so much less of a barrier. It can also be even more important for small to medium businesses if the brand pull and financial package on offer isn’t quite sufficient on its own, agile working can be a key differentiator. 

However, if you are an employee looking at moving to a firm with an agile working environment, ask questions about it and understand to what extent the ‘agility’ extends – some firms have adopted it but have taken it to another dynamic, it should not mean for example that you are expected to have your phone and laptop glued to you 24/7, there is a difference between working anytime and all the time!”

And a final note for the geeks amongst those of you reading this, agile working properly started in the software programming communities in 2001 off the back of a trip 17 software developers went on at the Snowbird ski resort in Utah to share and refine their approaches to software development. One of the guys had read a book on major companies coping with turbulent markets, called Agile Competitors and Virtual Organizations: Strategies for Enriching the Customer. Drawn to the agile’s connotations of speed and responsiveness, the group adopted it for their organisation! Love the fact they’d gone skiing as a team to brainstorm!

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