Agile Working – What Does It Really Mean? And Can Employees and Businesses Benefit?

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Tony Stevens, Senior Client Engagement Manager at Hays raises questions about the complexity of agile working and challenges the notion that all businesses should offer it as a benefit.

Many of the organisations I have worked with in recent months have been assessing their benefits packages and asking the million-dollar question; “What is important to potential employees in today’s market?”

There have been many research projects and reports written on this subject, including the 2017 Hays Salary Guide and many reports cite agile working as one of the top benefits. However, what does it really mean? Can it work for everyone and realistically, is this something all businesses should offer?

The Oxford Dictionary definition of agile is ‘able to move quickly and easily’. For most of us, when we think about our day to day lives, this is a standard requirement and skill we need to develop to keep on top of it all, but try to translate that it into a benefit and all sorts of connotations come out. For me personally, agile working is a mind-set not a benefit

Most people instantly revert to home working as the closest example of agile working, but this barely scratches the surface. Should agile working relate more closely to someone’s ability to transfer skills quickly and easily between functions? Or should it relate to an individual’s ability to deliver their required work load in a manner that best suits their own working style?

For example, we all remember the kids at school who never appeared to study but aced every exam and then others who studied into the early hours to achieve similar results. Is one of these styles right or wrong? Or is it just at that stage of our lives we are given more responsibility and accountability to deliver what we have agreed. I am not sure where along the path to adulthood did we stop this behaviour and suddenly felt the need to for everyone in the same role as us to work in the same way.

Answering the questions, can it work for everyone? and should all businesses offer it? My honest opinion is no. This is due to the ever-ending list of variables attached to both personal capability and operational effectiveness. However, given the world we live in today we definitely should have the conversation to see if, what and how we can benefit from agile working - both personally and as a wider economy.

I would love to hear your take on this complex subject.

Tony Stevens
Senior Client Engagement Manager - Hays