7 May, 2024
Change is the only constant in the workplace – so how do you design for it?
There has been a lot of change and debate about the workplace in the last five to 10 years, and one thing rises to the top of the agenda as a resounding truth - change is the only constant.

Much like agility is the hallmark of a modern business, it’s also one of the most forward-thinking characteristics of a contemporary working environment, spanning multiple facets for short- and long-term benefit. So, what are those benefits and how can you enjoy them?

What does it mean to have a change-ready business?

Most people think about being change-ready as a matter of mindset and logistical infrastructure in the workplace, but it’s also reflected in and enabled by the physical environment. Providing the space and facilities for people to work dynamically, for the team to grow, for you to shift the way you work over time without always having to move buildings – these are all parts of a change-ready workplace.

McKinsey described the five trademarks of agile organisations as:

  • Having a North Star embodied across the organisation, helping team members to feel personally and emotionally invested in outcomes. 
  • They foster a network of empowered teams where “small, fit-for-purpose performance cells” have greater autonomy and accountability and are focused on specific value-creating activities and performance outcomes.
  • They encourage rapid decision and learning cycles, including iteration and experimentation, even ‘play’, preferring to learn and continuously improve rather than insisting on immediately perfect outcomes.
  • They nurture a dynamic people model that ignites passion – they have leaders that empower employees to take ownership of ideas and drive them forward with purpose.
  • They see technology as an essential enabler rather than a support capability, unlocking value and enabling quick reactions.

What does it mean to have an agile office?

With all of that in mind, what does change-ready mean purely in the context of your office? There are two overarching points:

  1. Your space needs to reflect and enable the agile mindset.
  2. Your space needs to be able to adapt as both your business evolves and the wants, needs and expectations of the working environment change.

In terms of what that looks like, agile, change-ready spaces benefit from featuring some or all of the following:

  • Encourage employees to move around the office, taking them away from a fixed bank of desks throughout the day.
  • Create spaces for teamwork, collaboration and creativity, allowing ideas to be shared freely between teams and departments.
  • Provide different spaces for different types of work from breakout spaces to quiet zones, collaboration areas to private meeting rooms, kitchens, benches, lounge seating, coffee tables, Zoom booths and more.
  • Use modular furniture that can be moved around, giving you the opportunity to add or remove items as your needs evolve or your team grows.
  • Open plan spaces can be reconfigured for different uses as workplace trends change or your specific business needs change.
  • Use free address seating plans rather than giving team members assigned desks. This encourages team members to move around and meet new people – it also reduces any sense of ownership or barriers to change if you reconfigure your layout.
  • Use materials designed for disassembly, so that there’s minimal disruption and waste if or when you update your space.

These are just a few of the elements that can help a business to be adaptable in the face of change, with many more being tailored to the individual space and organisational needs using the right designer.


The benefits of designing for change

The benefits of workspaces that are designed for change apply to the organisation as well as the people in it.

In the short-term:

  • It enables more space efficiency (which can also be cost-effective).
  • The characteristics of an agile working environment support team wellbeing and employee satisfaction and retention.
  • It makes collaboration easier and improves productivity by allowing people to move to areas that meet their needs.
  • It encourages innovation.
  • It encourages interaction and community amongst team members.
  • It supports the generation of new ideas through serendipitous conversations and interactions.
  • Improves communication amongst team members.

In the long-term:

  • It makes your business more resilient.
  • It makes it easier and more cost-effective to scale up or down.
  • It makes it easier and quicker to implement new facilities and technologies.

The agile nature of change-ready offices also has a lot of the characteristics that support neurodiversity, and general workplace wellbeing. This has the added benefit of making your office more appealing to people who think and work in different ways, broadening the scope of talent that you attract and also creating more opportunities for ideas and better outcomes.


Change is a part of modern design

At Maris we not only seek to help clients get the most out of their working environments today, but in the future as well. Recognising the significance of the investment, we know the importance of designing whilst thinking one step ahead. Designing for change is an intrinsic part of that.

That might be enabling hot desking in a more flexible working world at the likes of JTI. It might also mean implementing moveable walls and modular furniture in multi-use spaces that need to accommodate events as well as meetings of various sizes, or custom designing storage that doubles up as seating.

Whatever ‘change’ means for the future of your business or organisation, preparing for it is an integral part of good office design.

Want to find out more?

Speak to the team at Maris