The key role of office property is to support an organisation and its people in the activity of work. The office is not the only place of work and although it is often seen as the hub for many organisations, its role is changing as technology enables and financial strictures demand new ways of working.

Many public and private Corporations are now looking to extend agile working across their organisations to help retain key staff, create a more productive workforce and support carbon targets but particularly to make their property assets work harder by re-defining work settings and space requirements – ultimately improving the “bottom line”.

As such, assessing how agile working should be accommodated and supported forms a key element in new office building and property consolidation business cases. Although the asset is important, end users and client occupiers are increasingly looking to ensure their property supports people and their work.

Many people use the term agile working and other related terminology without understanding its true meaning. My article “What is Agile Working ?” is designed to explain the key elements and some of the confusion in its definition. But successful agile working is not something that happens instantly, and it requires considerable time and energy from many sources across the client organisation and its suppliers. Without early insightful engagement with the client to understand Workstyles, the property solution is unlikely to be what the client actually needs.

So what does “Workstyling” involve ? It is not about space planning or interior design. It is complementary to and helps inform these design activities, focusing on engagement, information gathering, assessment, understanding and interpretation of current and particularly future business needs of the client organisation. In the initial stages it is about data gathering , then working with clients to envisage and develop workstyle profiles and standards followed by development of the current “situation” overlaid with the future opportunity. Finally identifying the support, culture and investment gaps that need to be filled and the route map for the “agile journey” and benefits realisation.

The development team are often driven by standard BCO or OGC guidance on “agility ratios”, who are satisfied with limited ratios of  8:10 (desks:people). However, technology and new ways of working continue to develop, with for example Monmouthshire County Council progressing a target of 5:10 agility across its office estate – showing the potential opportunity that assessments can reveal or enable.

Workstyle assessment will better inform this agility quotient and enable better understanding of the key space components as well as related enabling activities such as IT investment, management capability and training, process and culture change requirements. More thought about the Agile Agenda – understanding the organisation, its people and their working requirements at the inception stage will pay significant future dividends.

I have undertaken “workstyling” for a number of organisations embarking on office portfolio rationalisation and in each case the project yielded 20% to 30% space savings. These workstyle exercises not only yielded significant cost reduction in realigning property requirements, but also indicated the need for different worksettings, support mechanisms and IT investment to support the organisations newly discovered workstyles to gain potentially the more significant benefits from new more productive ways of working.

In the current climate property development is only likely to be successful as a close partnership between occupier and developer. Developers and corporate advisers should therefore now be looking to help clients introduce workstyling at the earliest opportunity to deliver better, more focused property solutions.

Today the Client Occupier” is not just looking for a cost effective building asset. Value driven clients are increasingly focused on the core business investment benefits of workplace solutions which understand and enable a more capable agile and productive workforce.

Learn more about workstyles and how it can support space and portfolio rationalisation releasing office cost savings and organisational efficiency and effectiveness, by contacting:

Paul Allsopp, The Agile Organisation.



Article also featured as “guest post” on Public Sector Forums: