Agile working by guest blogger Alison Burgess

January 3, 2016 3:32 pm

In the 15 months that I was on parental leave, the working world has changed. Technology continues to develop and the way we work is constantly evolving. One of my first experiences of this was catching a train with the throngs of my fellow commuters – no longer did I need to line up to purchase a ticket every morning but rather, I swiped my opal card and away I went. Quick, easy and convenient.

The company for which I am employed has been undergoing a significant shift in the way we work, from a desk-bound, cluttered and oftentimes stifling environment, to an “agile” way of working. I have been in the fortunate position of being in the pilot group for this over the past 6 months and have observed (within myself and of others) the changes in habits and mindsets that have accompanied this.

Some of the key advantages include:

Increased opportunities for collaboration

Not having an assigned desk results in my working alongside colleagues whom I didn’t know well (or at all) and who were from different parts of the business. I found myself putting questions to these colleagues and garnering responses that came from a completely different perspective, in addition to increased networking due to the ease of mobility.

Productivity has increased

The success of an agile environment lends significantly to the technology available and adoption of “paperless” principles. Being equipped with a laptop, smartphone and limited storage on a wifi floor comes with a fantastic sense of freedom, particularly when effectively partnered with programs such as Onenote and Skype for Business. Meetings can in effect be held instantaneously and minutes captured and issued immediately, saving time, just as one example.

The definition of flexibility is broader than I ever imagined

I didn’t realise it until recently but I am guilty of subscribing to my own self-imposed “presenteeism”. I still expect myself to complete roughly 8-9 hours of work a day and if I don’t achieve that, I feel the need to make it up in the evenings or on the weekend to alleviate the guilt. I suspect that this was partly a perfectionist trait but significantly a by-product of the environment in which I used to work.

This changed when I moved to agile and realised that not only was I not being monitored but my colleagues were perfect examples of flexibility in action, often leaving mid-way through the afternoon to work from home, attend appointments or deal with personal priorities.
Mobile phone with email & social media means I can check my email and network on my trip to and from the office; a laptop means I can catch up on reviewing strategy papers or drafting business cases.

I have faced some challenges since moving to an agile environment and one of the biggest hurdles has been a loss of community and team. With my colleagues spread at different locations, I found it daunting as a new member to try and build both the relationships and the knowledge that you gain from proximity. We have worked to overcome this by scheduling regular team lunches and meetings and endeavouring to sit in the same “neighbourhoods”. I think this one will continue to evolve over time.

When discussing the merits of agile working with my colleagues, all comment on how they can never imagine returning to “the way it was before”, a sentiment I wholeheartedly echo. This year I have felt in control of how I work, when I work and what I deliver and for the first time in several years, truly feel like I have hit it out of the park. I attribute this to that amazing sense of freedom and inherent trust that comes from working agile. I am not constantly second-guessing myself and my work because when I look around me, flexibility is the norm and trust is inherent.


NOTE: Alison Burgess also contributed: “THE UNWRITTEN RULES OF WORKING FLEXIBLY on 1 Feb 2015

One thought on “Agile working by guest blogger Alison Burgess”

  • Britt Jacobsen says:

    I’ve also felt the pressure of “self-imposed presenteeism” and feelings of guilt if I start work later, leave earlier, or have to take a longer break during the day to deal with things unrelated to work. One of the ways I have challenged myself on this is by doing my daily commute later in the morning and coming into the office around 10:30am. Even though I’m still working the same hours all up, I’m avoiding peak times on public transport and starting my day less flustered than if I came in on the tin-of-sardine-like 8am Sydney train.

    One skill that everyone needs in the agile workspace is to manage your working hours effectively. It’s very easy, when you have access to a phone and laptop 24/7, to check your emails and feel the need to respond at all hours. Everyone who works in an agile environment needs to learn to put their own boundaries up, so that they don’t feel the need to always be on. Simple things like switching my inbox to only update when I manually update it (rather than notifications flashing up on my phone every 5 minutes) has helped with this.

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