21 March, 2024
Designing flexible workspaces for agile organisations
What does it mean to create a flexible workplace and what are the benefits?

Flexibility and agility have become popular in the work environment over the last 10 years, describing everything from the way we work to the structure of the business and the office design as well. Agility has become the hallmark of a business’s strength, a key pillar in its ability to adapt to an ever-changing and often rapidly pivoting world.

From responding to technological innovation, growth and evolving staff wants and needs to unexpected events like the global pandemic, flexibility and agility are woven into every layer of organisations and the way they operate.

What is an agile business?

An agile business and a flexible office are not the same thing, but the design of the latter is indicative of the organisation’s mindset and its commitment to true adaptability.

An agile business is one that can respond quickly and effectively to both internal and external opportunities and threats. In being designed for agility, businesses tend to be both more stable and dynamic than their more traditional counterparts.

McKinsey & Company says an agile organisation is: “a network of teams within a people-centred culture that operates in rapid learning and fast decision cycles which are enabled by technology, and that is guided by a powerful common purpose to co-create value for all stakeholders.”

They list the five trademarks of agile organisations as:

  • A North Star embodied across the organisation (shared purpose and values)
  • A network of empowered teams
  • Rapid decision and learning cycles
  • A dynamic people model that ignites passion
  • Next generation enabling technology
university spaces

What is a flexible office?

With this outlook in mind, a flexible office supports an agile business both in terms of mindset and by physically enabling change and desired behaviours. That physical flexibility functions in two ways:

  1. Providing a variety of workspaces, enabling different working styles, and encouraging movement through the office to support collaboration, connection, and ideation. This includes different desk layouts, hot desks, non-fixed workplaces, and different types of seating for different tasks, moods and working styles.
  2. Implementing moveable partitions, modular furniture and designing spaces for change and growth within the company. For example, as the team grows or working practices evolve, the space can be quickly and easily adapted with minimal time, disruption, and cost implications.

What are the benefits of flexible workspaces?

The benefits of flexible workspaces are both short- and long-term. Highly influential when it comes to workplace culture and supporting desired behaviours, in a world with increasing levels of hybrid working, the design of the office is fundamental for bringing people together and maximising time spent together.

Amongst the key reasons employers implement flexible office design are:

  • Improved employee productivity because they can choose the workspace that best suits their needs.
  • Better staff wellbeing as people move around and feel more comfortable or supported at work.
  • Improved employee retention through increased workplace satisfaction and connectivity.
  • A dynamic working environment attracts top talent.
  • Improved collaboration, problem solving and networking opportunities.
  • Companies can easily adapt their space depending on current headcount.
  • Organisations can tailor their leases to take up space according to current need with a view to taking up more or less space as the company grows or working patterns change.
  • Lower development costs in the future through offices that are designed for change.
  • They’re more environmentally friendly, resulting in less waste and energy use if or when you come to updating the office design.
Flexible workspaces

How do you design a flexible office?

There’s no single format that a flexible workspace must take, central to their design is that they are created for the current and future needs of each individual business.

They are envisioned in the knowledge that one thing alone is inevitable – things will change.

Typically, however, there are some elements that are considered to maximise the use of the space and prevent wasted areas, enable movement and change. These include, but are not limited to:

  • A variety of working environments from open plan spaces to private pods and offices.
  • A combination of communal working tables and spaces as well as individual desks and rooms for focused work.
  • Shared communal kitchens to encourage collaboration, communication and serendipitous conversations that lead to connections, ideas and problem solving. 
  • Breakout areas with soft seating for informal meetings and brainstorming.
  • Casual meeting spaces as well as more formal boardrooms for presentations.
  • Client lounges to encourage guests to stay, work, connect and communicate. These are also useful for remote workers spending time in the office.
  • Gyms and fitness studios for staff wellbeing leading to improved retention and productivity.
  • Wellness rooms for multiple purposes from prayer to meditation, nursing and other personal needs.
  • Highly considered technology for integrating remote workers and clients in different parts of the world effectively.
  • Conference theatres with bleacher seating and other flexible options for town hall meetings.
  • A variety of seating options including comfortable furniture to create a home away from home and bar stools in breakout areas.
  • Event spaces with moveable walls and furniture for multiple uses.
employee health and wellbeing

Putting theory into practice

We create offices that are designed to adapt, evolve and future proof the organisation’s working environment. Here are just some of the flexible offices we have designed for agile businesses:

Flexible workspaces

Creating privacy in a flexible workspace

AM Best is an insurance specialist in the City of London, who wanted an office designed for modern working requirements, but that still required spaces for privacy and compliance due to the nature of their work. Alongside open plan areas of the office we featured several private offices and phone booths, all of which were double glazed and treated for acoustics. To enable flexible use, we installed a folding wall in the front of house meeting rooms, so that they could also be used as an event space or adapted for different numbers of people.  

Flexible workspaces

A playground of zones

Planet, who specialise in commerce technologies across the retail and hospitality sectors, wanted to create a London office that encouraged people back into the workplace post pandemic. The goal was to make sure it didn’t feel like a traditional office, thinking differently about the world of work. We created a destination that felt more like a member’s club, with a variety of zones including a bar-style reception, an elegant and flexible dining area that could also be used for presentations, open plan desk space for collaborative working, small meeting rooms for private calls, one-to-one conversations or quiet working, and executive suites. 

Flexible workspaces

Bringing people together through design

In London’s East End, global digital agency Croud wanted an office that would set them apart as a best-in-class employer. Employee-focused and rooted in a highly sociable, inclusive company culture, the central feature of the space is a visually impressive, circular breakout area that operates as a tea spot by day while in the evening they host DJs, play music and make it a generally convivial, communal environment.  

Want to create a flexible office to match your business’s dynamic mindset?

Speak to the team at Maris