It Pays to Be Agile: 3 Steps to Increasing Workspace Flexibility

As you get older, your body tends to become less agile. Balance can be more difficult to maintain. Keeping up with your usual activities may become a struggle.

But this decline is not inevitable. To combat these physical and mental losses, many turn to an exercise program. Yoga, perhaps. Or Pilates.

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Breathe.

Strengthen.

Stretch a little—then a little further.

Regain your focus.

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This same type of aging process can also take place within an office building. Your company’s workspace—if it has remained static—has likely also become less agile with time. The traditional office layout that worked so well back before technology made dedicated desk space unnecessary may now feel inflexible and inefficient.

It doesn’t need to. Consider this blog a Pilates session for your workspace, a tool to increase its agility and performance potential in three simple steps.

Step 1: Evaluate Your Current Workspace

To maintain productivity, companies need to actively modify their office layout over time. An agile workspace offers a variety of settings that employees can cycle through—much the way a Pilates practitioner moves through exercise poses. These settings typically include some form of each the following five areas, customized to fit the needs of the particular workspace:

  • An open floor plan. Having an open floor plan—with modular, easy-to-reconfigure furniture—encourages face-to-face collaboration and communication and fosters a sense of community. In addition, this type of floor plan—especially when used in conjunction with the kinds of breakout areas described below—can increase the chances for “accidental collisions” between staff from different departments—which can encourage innovation.
  • Breakout areas. Separated from the open work space (although not necessarily by walls—screens or other partitions can also be effective), breakout areas can be meeting rooms, booths, or living room-style areas that facilitate small group work and/or employee relaxation. Outdoor areas can make excellent breakout areas.
  • Quiet zones. Small, usually soundproofed areas, quiet zones are designed to provide privacy for phone calls and other “heads down” tasks requiring extensive concentration. Telephone booth-style privacy pods can be easy to install and move, making them popular additions to many agile workspaces.
  • Touchdown spaces. These types of unassigned work stations can serve as temporary offices for employees who generally work from home or spend a lot of time meeting with clients elsewhere. They maximize spatial efficiency and decrease costs.
  • Resource Stations. These areas house office supplies, printers, and other necessary resources.

If your existing office layout incorporates an open floor plan, increasing agility may require adding more private spaces. If your current office space is divided up into cubicles, however, you may instead need to enlarge the common area to allow for greater collaboration and teamwork. Take a close look at your existing space to see how it can be refigured to allow for the types of settings associated with workplace agility.


Step 2: Talk to Your Employees

Letting your employees know in advance of your hope to make the office space more agile will give them the opportunity to share their ideas and concerns. Change—even positive change—can be difficult, and soliciting input is the best way to end up with a workspace that everyone looks forward to coming to each day. Involving your staff early will give them a chance to mentally prepare for the change and to feel like the renovation is something that they are a part of, rather than something to which they are being subjected.

Your employees are the people who use the workspace the most—and as such, they are likely to come up with some of the best ideas for making it perform best. How and where do they wish to go about getting their work done? Do they anticipate a need for several smaller meeting rooms or would one suffice? How often would a privacy booth for confidential telephone conversations and extended focus sessions be used? Should the resource stations be set up close by for ease of access or out of the way so as not to be a distraction? How can the space be made comfortable and efficient? These are all issues that your staff can advise on.

Step 3: Recognize that You Don’t Need to Get It Exactly Right

One of the great joys of an agile workspace is that very little is irreparable. When last month’s highly-efficient floor plan no longer seems to be meeting employee needs, the modular, easy-to-move office furniture and partitions typically used in an agile office can quickly be reconfigured. No one has unlimited space. But by having the flexibility to repurpose existing spaces—using the kitchen area as a large meeting room, for example—companies can make it feel as if they have far more space than they do.

Without movement and flexibility, it can be difficult to remain productive with age. Stasis can can impact an office space just as much as it can those working within it. But with the proper tools, and an eye toward actively modifying those elements of an office layout that are no longer functioning effectively, the space can regain its agility and efficiency.

If only it were as easy for the rest of us.

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Written By: Kim Pierson
for CoeoSpace

Coworking Cafés Serve Up Community with Your Caffeine

The adventure began—as so many do—with coffee.

Our old $15 machine broke. So we bought a new one, a nice big one that did pretty much everything except deliver up that steaming cup of deliciousness on a silver tray.

We brought our fancy new machine home, took it out of the box, and settled it—in all its shining glory—on the countertop.

And that’s the precise moment we realized that our circa 1980s kitchen needed a whole lot more than just a new coffee pot.

We enjoyed our next cup of coffee courtesy of our local bank, while we waited to have our home equity loan papers notarized.

The comfy chairs in the bank’s lounge area had fold-out desks. Cupholders, even. The coffee bar was right behind us.

“I could do my writing here,” I said to my spouse in a hushed voice, as I made a beeline to the coffee.

And while the manager may frown on the idea of me and a few of my writer friends showing up there every morning, laptops in hand, a number of established businesses now have locations where users are encouraged to do exactly that.

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State Farm launched Next Door, a collaborative coworking café in Chicago, back in 2011. It offers workspace—and optional financial coaching—in a space that feels more like your favorite coffee shop.

There are workshops on anything from 401k basics to launching a podcast to buying a home. Whiteboards are available, as well as conference rooms for meeting with clients. Users can reserve event spaces, browse the library, and take advantage of the reliable Wi-Fi.

And the only thing they have to pay for is the coffee.

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So where’s the catch?

Surprisingly, there doesn’t appear to be one. State Farm says it benefits from learning about customer needs and developing one-on-one connections. Users say they haven’t been pressured to make a purchase. And unlike a traditional coffee shop, where the owners are relying on a high volume of drink purchases to make a go of it, at Next Door, users can linger as long as they wish, without worrying that they should give up their table or order additional lattes.

Other companies are also using the concept of free coworking cafés to engage with their communities. Capital One now has locations from Boston to Chicago that combine a Peet’s coffee shop with life coaches—and offer communal tables, meeting rooms, WiFi—even free ATMs. The spaces are open to everyone, not just cardholders, and some even hold special events, like family game nights. Through these cafés, Capital One seeks to preserve human connections in a field that is becoming more dependent on digital tools.

Although these types of free coworking cafés are not available everywhere, similar options are springing up throughout the U.S.—the main difference being that these locations charge individuals or companies a modest fee to access some or all of the services.

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Hopewell’s Columbus, Ohio, location, for example, provides users with a mix of public and private spaces to work and collaborate. Members pay a monthly fee for flexible daily access and the ability to reserve meeting spaces at special rates. The café area, however, is open to all, member or not (although coffee is free to members only!), as are some events. The Hopewell founders compare the space to a community rec center, or a student union.

Like Capital One and State Farm, Hopewell’s purpose in offering a communal workspace is to help forge human connections. But its motivation is arguably less mixed. Hopewell has no products or services to sell its members beyond that for which they are already paying. The connections being forged are thus not so much between the members and the business providing the space. Instead, Hopewell’s focus is on fostering the connections between its members themselves.

The Hopewell founders are serious about building strong communities and helping their members obtain the benefits associated with increased social capital. As co-founder Brian Zuercher puts it, “The mission of Hopewell is to end isolation through shared experiences.”

  

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We can all use a little more community with our coffee.

Four Stand-Out Ways to Make Meetings Count

We’ve all been subjected to them—seemingly purposeless meetings that go on forever, one person dominating the discussion while everyone else stares at their phones. And outside the meeting room door, work is piling up.

Done right, however, meetings can not only foster an efficient exchange of ideas, but also encourage teamwork and provide opportunities for creativity and problem-solving. Which is exactly why companies are still holding them, and holding them often. In fact, meetings have been increasing in length and frequency over the last 50 years, with senior managers now spending as much as 23 hours a week attending them.

So how can you avoid wasting your time and that of your employees with ineffective meetings everyone dreads attending?

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(1) Set an Efficient Agenda

A well-designed agenda will provide those in attendance with a good sense of why the meeting is being held, what you’d like to accomplish, and how long it should last. Any outside materials that need to be reviewed should be included, and the entire packet should be distributed far enough in advance that the attendees actually have time to read it.

Bonus points if you send a follow-up email after the meeting, reiterating what was accomplished and drawing attention to any outstanding action items.

(2) Think Twice Before Scheduling

So your predecessor always held a full-staff meeting on Mondays at 7 a.m.—that doesn’t mean you have to do the same. Look closely at your agenda, and think about whether you can accomplish the goals set forth within through a one-on-one meeting with the right person—or even via email or phone. Only invite those who have a clear reason to attend.

If your needs change, or key players can no longer be there, don’t be afraid to cancel a meeting, or to reschedule.

(3) Stay on Target

You have the agenda, now stick to it—a business meeting is not the time for general information sharing. Show your employees that you value their time by starting the meeting on schedule. Encourage participation by setting the ground rules early on (no cell phones is a good one) and managing those employees who do not follow them. And even if you have a full hour of time blocked off, call the meeting to a close when you get through the agenda items, whether that took 47 minutes or a mere 12.

(4) Utilize the Correct Meeting Room

Think about how your team works and how many people you expect to attend the meeting, then choose an appropriately sized room with the features necessary to make the meeting a success. These could be anything from tall tables to facilitate a standing meeting to videoconferencing capabilities so you can include a colleague working from home—or even just ensuring there’s plenty of coffee.

For more on choosing the best room for your meeting, see Increasing Efficiency of Meetings Through Better Use of Conference Space.

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Written By:

Kim Pierson for CoeoSpace