Want to understand agile working methods? Look at start ups

Social and flexible break-out spaces have since become popular in the workplace. Accessories have changed, but the underlying philosophy remains the same.

Offices still tend to be places you travel to and spend upwards of eight hours of the day sat at your (own) desk. This approach is at odds with how technology has advanced, particularly in relation to connectivity, and this may actively be harming productivity.

Statistics from Global Workplace Analytics reveal of 3.7 million US workers, only 5% telecommute at least half of the time, however, productivity increases by 27% on those days employees do work remotely.

That said, attitudes do seem to be changing, global business expansion and an increase in external collaboration is leading teams to seek out new ways of working together to achieve amazing things.

The trickle down of new methods of working from both forward-looking large enterprises and from less traditional, technology-led ventures, notably fast growth businesses, such as start-ups are becoming apparent.

>See also: Digital skills gap: How to prepare a generation for the modern workplace

Early stage businesses often have little choice other than to embrace flexible practices due to their circumstances. There’s no room for ego when you may not know where the next big win will come from – hot desking, shared work spaces, or home working can often be more sensible options than a flashy office.

Equally, offering agile working options can be great way to attract talent across all levels. Achieving a better work/life balance is widely-held aspiration, and, notably, 2016’s Deloitte Millennial study indicates that the younger demographic rates it more highly than career progression.

The term ‘bureaucracy’, stems from the French word for office, and its connotations are now almost entirely negative – unnecessary layers of hierarchy and endless administration etc.

The entrepreneurial spirit tends to run counter to this and the start-up mentality goes hand-in-hand with a dynamic company culture.

This is manifested in agile, flat working practices to simplify workflows, drive efficiencies and increase productivity. This ethos lends itself to flexible working – whether that’s off-site or in task-focused cross-disciplinary teams.

This dichotomy is perhaps best represented by the two schools of thought on smart devices: some regard these an unwelcome intrusion into their personal life –  as demonstrated by recent legislation in France that gives office workers the ‘right to disconnect’ from work emails outside of office hours; on the other hand, others value the freedom to work when and when it suits them that is granted by mobile devices.

Regardless of where businesses stand, the boundaries between home and work time are blurring and this is undoubtedly technology-led.

Not only do people want to work flexibly, they want the technology experience at work to be as seamless as they’ve come to expect in their leisure time. The most effective way to provision a truly flexible, user-friendly and, crucially, platform agnostic experience is through implementing cloud services.

Matrixx Software, a software provider to telcos, was founded in 2008 and is a textbook example of a fast-growing, disruptive start-up.

The company is ‘technically’ headquartered in Silicon Valley but its 130-strong workforce is spread across four continents, with the majority working from home.

>See also: Technology and the workplace of the future

The greatest challenge inherent in this arrangement was secure access to the most up-to-date materials for individuals and teams who are often on the move.

Switching from a legacy VPN model to a more user-friendly software-as-a-service cloud infrastructure allowed employees to access shared documents from any device over cellular or WiFi networks. It also enabled individuals to collaborate virtually and in real-time, regardless of time zone or location.

The marketing and sales teams have been able to drastically cut down their reliance on email. An unforeseen, but welcome, consequence was also a significant reduction in amount of time spent fielding IT enquiries as to the whereabouts of document versions.

Despite what seem be very clear benefits, the same concerns seem to reoccur in discussions around rolling out cloud-based agile working initiatives – namely perceived impacts on productivity, creativity and security.

As Matrixx Software demonstrates, employees do not need to be in the same physical space to be productive or creative. Indeed, our own research shows 60% of employees believe working remotely is more efficient than working in the office.

Moreover the web is regarded as a natural collaboration space by digital natives, a third of millennials have already expressed a preference for collaborating online according to KPB Partners ‘2015 Internet Trends Report’ – and that figure is only set to grow.

From a security standpoint, it makes sense to equip employees with cloud solutions they’re already accustomed to using, with built in security functionality, so that they don’t find work arounds corporate IT to get things done.

>See also: How to prepare your office for the app generation

I’m sure these attitudes will seem archaic sooner, rather than later. In the meantime, more positive and progressive working environments will attract and retain the best talent, after all the core values of a company should be embodied by its culture.

As such, business leaders would be advised to take the lead from the most successful start-ups and put measures in place to create work places that foster collaboration and encourage diversity.

Agile working models demonstrate a company recognises not everyone can, or indeed wants to, work in the same way. Where and when people are working is less important than a shared goal and what they achieve.


Sourced by Philip Lacor, VP EMEA, Dropbox

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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