Embrace agile working to boost engagement and productivity

By Claire Glynn | Head of Musculoskeletal Services
Eight out of ten workers say they now spend a fifth of their week doing ‘performative work’ that gives off the appearance of being busy, instead of work that actually creates value.
Agile working goes beyond flexible working by empowering employees to perform effectively without constraints that undermine health and productivity.

Eight out of ten workers say they now spend a fifth of their week doing ‘performative work’ that gives off the appearance of being busy, instead of work that actually creates value. This typically includes tasks such as attending endless meetings, constantly responding to emails or being seen to be at their desk or in the office.

Not only is this undermining productivity, by making it difficult for employees to do ‘deep’ work that requires additional focus, but it’s also driving stress and musculoskeletal (MSK) issues. Research from Microsoft Teams shows the three-fold increase in meetings since 2020 is killing productivity, prompting the software giant to urge workers to take more breaks.

However, many companies are going beyond this by adopting agile working and empowering employees to free themselves up to work in ways that maximise their potential. For some that might mean freeing themselves up to do more focused work, for others it might mean taking the office picnic blanket to the park to do some creative thinking.

Critical to success is educating managers not to mind if someone isn’t always at their desk, and judging performance on output, rather than face-time. Claire Glynn discusses the challenges and what represents agile working best practice.

How to make agile working work in practice

1. Focus on productivity

At the heart of agile working is the concept of empowering employees to maximise their contribution while minimising their constraints. It goes beyond allowing people to flex their hours or work from home by bringing people, processes, technology and locations together to find the most effective way of working to complete a task.

Because people are being measured on their ability to complete a task, instead of how they achieved it, it makes people much more productive. They know that instead of being judged on their attendance or how many emails they sent, it’s their contribution that counts.

This is actually liberating for employees, as it frees them up to focus on what they need to do to deliver. For some, that might mean collaborating with someone they might not normally work with. For others, it might mean having the option to work by the sea if it inspires them or using the office ‘library’ to complete a task in 30 minutes that would take two hours if they were being constantly interrupted or distracted.

2. Enhance engagement

Most people feel very flat at the moment due to issues ranging from the cost of living crisis to feeling burned out after a tough couple of years. They want to put in a good day’s work but are struggling to feel engaged and motivated.

By shifting the focus from where and how employees are working, to what they’re delivering, you can free them up to work wherever they need to be to release their potential. For some, that might mean embracing any ray of sunshine to work at the beach, for others it might mean working later at night if they’re night owls and struggle to get up early.

So long as it helps them to deliver, and their colleagues know where they are, anything goes, which is incredibly empowering and engaging. At first, this can be difficult for employees to get their heads around, so managers need to encourage them. For example, by suggesting they go to the park if they’re stuck on a task and need to think more creatively.

3. Optimise wellbeing

Lots of us have now got into the mindset that we need to be constantly at our desks. Not only does this reduce our creativity and energy levels, but it’s also bad for our physical wellbeing. Homeworkers in particular, who might have moved around an office, are now very sedentary.

As well as increasing the risk of heart disease, stroke, certain cancers and diabetes, sitting for long periods is also bad for musculoskeletal health. This can increase the risk of neck and back issues and shoulder tension and even migraines.

Instead, agile workers are much more active and feel free to work in different places depending on whether they want to focus or collaborate. This in turn also means they’re much more active and much more likely to be moving around and getting fresh air and hydration breaks during the day to boost wellbeing.

4. Improve business agility

Far from reducing the number of employees available to support the business and be there for colleagues, agile working makes business more agile. Instead of working a rigid working day, agile businesses are able to better match agile employees to customer needs. For example, by enabling customers to talk to people later at night or at the weekend, because there are some employees who also want to work at those times.

Tasks built around clear outcomes, instead of internal processes, also mean employees are better able to adapt to changing customer and industry needs, increasing success rates, quality, innovation and speed-to-market.

This in turn means that agile teams are also better able to break down the complexity of tasks and work in more incremental ways, with different teams working on different goals. This allows people to work even more flexibly and responsively to keep the business itself agile.

5. Enrich employer reputation

Demand for flexible working, where employees get to flex their hours, is now translating into increased demand for agile working. Top professionals know their value and want to work unchained from the traditional constraints of full-time employment.

At the same time, younger generations don’t want to separate work and life in the way they’ve seen older generations struggle to do so. They want to be able to make a personal call during the working day and also progress a great idea for a work project at the weekend.

Instead of just providing a good work-life balance, employers who offer agile working are able to create an employee experience that brings out the best in people. This in turn can enhance your reputation as an employer of choice to allow you to attract a much wider pool of talent from which to select.

For more information about how we can help you to reduce MSK issues:

Visit: www.pamphysiosolutions.co.uk
Email: pamphysiosolutions@people-am.com
Call: 01925 989741

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