New ways of working in today's forward-thinking companies.
These days, the normal routine of 9-5 at an office place is no longer ‘normal’. The best and brightest talent value a work/life balance more than almost any other type of job perk, and companies are responding with new types of work schedules. These new work styles include agile working, activity-based working, flex working, and hot desking, among others. But what do they each mean exactly and how are they different? Here’s a quick overview of the most common workplace practices, and what the preliminary pros and cons may be.
New ways of working include agile working, activity-based working, flex working, and hot desking, among others.
Flex Work, a.k.a flexitime, flexible work, flexiwork.
Flex work is probably the most common type of work style offered by companies around the world. Flex work, or a flexible work schedule, allows employees to set the hours they want to work, when they want to work them. This means that if they need to come in later during a weekday so they can get to a dentist appointment, they can.
Flextime usually requires that employees be there for certain periods of the day, usually around the middle while the time at the beginning and end are flexible. This allows managers to schedule meetings when everyone will be there, while still allowing employees the flexibility they desire. Studies have also shown another benefit: Employers who implement flex work tend to have more productive employees than those who don’t.1
Pros of flex work:
- Greater flexibility for employees
- Attracts new talent to the workplace
- Allows flexibility while still making time for meetings, encounters, overlaps… etc.
- More productive employees
Cons of flex work:
- Doesn’t offer the same incentives as agile work
- Less predictability in employee availability
Flex work is not perfect, but it is a great compromise between an employer’s need for consistency, and an employee’s need for more flexibility in his/her work schedule.
Have you ever felt like the cubicle you’ve been assigned to work in is just not right for the job at hand? In activity-based work, you wouldn’t have a dedicated cubicle, office or even desk all of your own. Instead, you’ll move to a new location on the work floor based on what it is you need to do. If you need to be close to the 3D printer you can move right next to it, or if you need a secluded place to think, you can move away from the crowded center of the building.
While activity-based work is great for some people, it might not be as enjoyable for others. If you really like having your own dedicated space, this might not be as attractive to you as other types of work.
Pros of activity-based work:
- The promise of the best work setting for each specific work dynamic
- Possibility for serendipitous encounters due to the moving around
- More variety of work settings offered around the office to suit the preferences of different personalities.
Cons of activity-based work:
- May not suit all employees, due to the loss of the dedicated work space
Hot desking transforms the office landscape by making desks first come first served, or on a rota system, rather than assigned. In this situation, employees find themselves working alongside a variety of different team members.
This results in more opportunities for serendipitous meetings, ideas exchanges among new people, brainstorming, and better interactions overall that can result in better overall growth for the company. Hot desking may not be a good solution for introvert employees, those with artistic personalities or even the ones that prefer having their own dedicated ‘home base’.
Pros of hot desking:
- Promotes employees’ social encounters and bonding
- Fosters the cross-pollination of ideas
- Leads to a more efficient use of available workspace
Cons of hot desking:
- May not be suitable for all employees
- Studies are divided as to the benefots of hot desking2
Agile work is frequently confused with a flex work schedule. Agile work has many of the same features as flextime, including allowing employees to choose what time they come in or what time they leave. The difference is that in agile work, the major focus is on allowing employees to work when and how they want to, without constraints. Instead of limiting the flexibility to a few hours, they can work from home, come in only in the afternoons, or simply get their project done and go home for the day.
Agile working is a whole company concept, and can include hot desking, activity-based work, or flexitime as part of the effort. Agile working is harder on employers due to the difficulty in balancing meetings and other important functions, but it is more attractive to employees.
Pros of Agile Work:
- Very attractive to new talent
- Boosts employee morale by giving them more freedom.
Cons of agile work:
- More difficult for employers to arrange meetings
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