Do the preparation task first. Then read the article and do the exercises.
The world we live in is changing and it is changing rapidly. Whether this is driven by technology, globalisation or in response to specific crises, there is no doubt that the workplace of today needs to constantly adapt to ongoing changes in order to remain efficient and competitive.
In more traditional work settings, the definition of a good employee was someone who came to the office on time at 9 a.m., sat at their desk and worked hard, taking direction from their managers and following the rules. This model employee would be there rain or shine, always appearing busy until it was time to go home at 6 p.m. But with the development of smartphones and internet technologies, many companies are starting to form virtual teams with team members living in different time zones, and employees are now finding themselves answering emails, attending meetings and working on reports from home outside their usual working hours. People now need to work smarter and not just harder.
It is not only the time and location of the modern workplace that is changing. The role of the manager is evolving too. Many organisations are moving away from an approach where managers constantly supervise their staff and tell people exactly what is to be done. Instead, they are adopting a more project-based approach, where managers have the responsibility of clarifying project goals and enabling teamwork and collaboration. The roles that the individuals play might differ from project to project, and agile managers can serve to support team members in adapting the way they contribute to a team.
These changes in modern work practices mean that organisations need to adopt agile working approaches so that they can find the most appropriate and efficient way of getting things done. The consumer goods company Unilever describes agile working as 'an approach to getting work done with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints'.
Agile working is not just about allowing employees to work from home and decide their own working hours. Another example of agile working might be workspaces designed to suit the different kinds of work taking place. This is an environment that helps people to be at their best and most productive. An agile workspace might include open areas with small tables for people to gather and work together and standing desks to improve energy levels and productivity. It might include quiet zones for a bit of thinking time and social areas for staff to chat and relax together. Like most things with agile working, there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Agile workspaces have to be adapted to the individuals and their roles in the company because agile working is about valuing people and their activities and not having them limited by the physical workplace.
Basically, agile working is about being ready to change the way we work – whether it be our working hours, our physical workplace, the technology we use, the nature of our roles and the way we work together, or the way our work is done. By encouraging such agility and flexibility, we can adapt to the ever-changing world around us, while creating a more dynamic workforce and improving our performance and productivity.