Agile Working - Making Property Work Harder

Richard Morris
Both public and private sector organisations are looking closely at their real estate portfolios to ensure that they’re not carrying excess weight and that their space is configured for best use.

The concept of agile working enables property holders to use their property assets to enhance their business, by getting the best from the interface between people and space. The way in which we work has changed, making the traditional view of the office as workplace less relevant to many organisations. The office may still retain its function as ‘the hub’, but changes in technology have facilitated new ways of working. Smarter workspace strategies can ensure that the space accurately reflects the business plan and actively enhances business performance

As the UK’s largest landowner and tenant, central and local government is ripe for workspace strategy innovations. Estimates suggest that the total UK public sector estate is valued at £370 billion, with an annual running cost bill of £25 billion and carbon emissions of around 20 million tonnes. With public spending reductions of over 25 per cent required over four years following the 2010 Budget, maximising efficiencies and adopting a transformational approach to the estate could help protect front-line public services. For local government, the challenge is how to alter the profile of their estate in order to capture the required cost savings. 

Agile working is increasingly linked to a new breed of corporate workplace environments that engender a sense of community, collaboration and interaction.

Private sector organisations face similar issues and opportunities. BT, for instance, is reported as saving £500 million per annum over the last two decades, as a result of rationalising its estate through a series of initiatives including an increased focus on space provision, occupation and utilisation.

The decision to rationalise or reconfigure accommodation provides an ideal opportunity to deliver space that does more than simply provide a place to work. Rationalised property and a rationalised workforce can be aligned to realise maximum benefit from both. Work settings can be aligned with the business vision and with the type of work undertaken by teams and individuals. Agile working is increasingly linked to a new breed of corporate workplace environments that engender a sense of community, collaboration and interaction.

Changing the nature of the workplace environment and encouraging remote or flexible working strategies also brings challenges in terms of infrastructure, workspace design and management style. Significant culture changes may be needed to allow workers more freedom in choosing the location best suited to the task they are undertaking.

The resulting mix of spaces will be different for each organisation, and will ideally follow a series of detailed assessments of the business vision, the way in which space is used, the range of ‘work styles’ and their frequency of use, the infrastructure available and its constraints. By taking all of these factors into consideration, organisations can move towards transformational change that allows workspace layout to support improvements in business performance.

Faithful+Gould supports public and private sector clients in implementing innovative ways of working, contributing to culture transformation that ensures successful and lasting change. Our team has worked with local authorities to help them future-proof their decisions. In the private sector, we are providing these services to a range of global pharmaceutical, chemical and financial corporations.