Agile workers are more efficient, productive and effective than those working traditional patterns, but many employers are failing to reap the benefits due to a reliance on traditional office-based work patterns, says a new report.
The research from the Employers Network for Equality & Inclusion (enei) also found employees with an agile working pattern were more flexible and had higher levels of job satisfaction.
The research, sponsored by Santander & DWF, involved 584 employees and managers from six major private and public sector organisations, included a questionnaire for both employees and managers on methods of working and a personality profile questionnaire.
The personality profiling used a personality test, which profiles individuals into dominant, influential, steadfast and conscientious types. The research found it was important for employers to consider the needs of the different personality types of employees when making the transition to an agile working environment.
It found that “dominant” employees [outgoing and task-oriented] are most likely to enjoy the control accorded by agile working and would be focussed, needing minimal supervision or interaction. “Influential” employees [outgoing and people-oriented] would require strong management through direction, expectation setting and opportunities to communicate with the wider team and might need more regular communication than others. “Steadfast” [reserved and people-oriented] employees might find agile working harder to adapt to and be more likely to work 9-5 anyway. “Conscientious” [reserved and task-oriented] employees were likely to thrive in an agile working environment without distractions, but required supervision to ensure that they did not work too many hours and burn out.
The enei says organisations need to focus on the factors that contribute to effective performance for agile working, specifically communication, diary management and technology, including the provision of laptop computers, good remote access to files, application systems that work well when used remotely and fast reliable networks.
The research also identified obstacles to the implementation of agile working, including the issues of team working and managing agile workers. The enei says the lack of face to face interaction between agile workers, their colleagues and their line managers can be overcome through the use of effective communications and conferencing facilities, and through manager training. The research found that if managers are not good role models or fail to be ambassadors for agile working its implementation has less chance of sustained success.
The research also shows that more employees were rated as exceptional where the agile working initiative is employee-led rather than employer-led. “While there are clear business benefits from organisations adopting agile working, the performance benefits are likely to be greater when staff are involved in its implementation,” says the report.
enei chief executive Denise Keating said: “The results of our survey clearly state the business case for agile working. Whilst many roles do by their very nature require a person to be in a certain place at a specific time many workers work the traditional 9-5 pattern in their organisation’s office simply because of societal norms. By breaking down these norms through the adoption of agile working, and involving staff, our research shows that efficiency, productivity, effectiveness, flexibility and job satisfaction all increase.
“This is the Holy Grail of the HR professional, but simply selling the office building and sending home the workers is not enough. Our research identified many factors required to achieve these benefits, including IT infrastructure, identification of individual employee needs and the challenge of maintaining communication and teamwork when workers are physically distanced.”