Updated: Nov 27, 2020
For many organizations, the COVID-19 crisis highlighted the importance of agility in figuring out quick, effective solutions to the threat - from navigating the rapid shift to remote working and transitioning employees back into the office, to responding to economic shocks.
An agile business must have the ability to develop and implement new strategies and business models, and to incorporate flexibility into its operations to cushion the impact of this crisis. By embracing an agile business model, businesses are endowed with the flexibility needed to both survive and thrive in an everchanging environment.
Agility in business operating model
For companies to respond nimbly to the challenges of a pandemic, they need to first introduce flexibility into their business operation model. This includes maintaining flexible work arrangements for employees even after the virus has been contained.
A flexible work policy will allow employees to be familiarise themselves with working remotely in the event of a pandemic resurgence or any future threats to public health which could force countries back into lockdown.
Employees who had never experienced working from home initially struggled to adjust to the sudden shift to remote working. Many of whom lacked the requisite digital skills and tools to help them remain productive while working from home.
With business agility in mind, companies can provision employees with the right capabilities and software needed for remote working. For example, as part of the employee onboarding process, they could be trained to use communication tools such as Zoom, Skype or Google Meet. This will enable the global workforce to conduct virtual meetings and bridge one of the greatest gaps in remote working - the inability to meet face-to-face discussions.
Having a flexible work policy hence allows businesses to respond swiftly and effectually to economic uncertainties in which the workforce could be force to work remotely.
Prioritising and categorising business tasks
As part of workplace agility, businesses also need to identify specific tasks that need to be carried out in the office for them to respond faster to changes in the unprecedented environment.
Business projects that involve team collaboration often need to be conducted in the same physical space, so that plans can be conceptualised, fine-tuned and then implemented quickly. That way, team members are in in sync with each other’s progress as they work towards a common goal. This is crucial as businesses seek to be more agile.
Organisations can categorise business projects based on ideation, evaluation and operational work. As the ideation and evaluation process typically encompasses teamwork, they can be conducted from the office, with operational tasks to be done remotely.
Using this framework, businesses will be better able to design their workflow to respond quickly to threats.
Another key element of the agility process entails constantly reprioritising business tasks that need to be completed first. To do this, businesses have to segregate work requirements and business management into individual tasks and organise them by urgency and importance depending on the current circumstances.
Setting and developing a realistic project timeline is necessary to complete selected tasks and is particularly crucial in helping remote workers stay on task and assisting them in managing the completion of their daily work.
For enhanced agility, businesses should communicate any changes in priorities to the entire organisation. A good way to promote organisational communication is through regular huddles, where the team convenes for a short meeting to update and align themselves on the work that needs to be done.
This ensures that everybody is kept in the loop without wasting resources on unimportant matters, resulting in a more productive and efficient workforce.
Designing the office space for agility
Businesses can likewise design their offices to create collaboration-based spaces that are pandemic-resistant which can help them adapt quickly to changing situations. These workspaces can be specifically designed to support team meetings and group interactions which cannot take place remotely.
The main objective of the office would be to provide a collaborative environment for teamwork, while employees carry out individual task from home.
In line with official social distancing guidelines to minimise the spread of viruses, businesses can reconfigure their office layout into individual zones based on its overall density. These zones can be further reconfigured to serve a multifunctional purpose.
Achieving agility in the workplace
Agile strategies can help business to navigate economic uncertainties like the one brought on by Covid-19. Through the implementation of flexible operating plans and policies, businesses have the ability to make swift yet effective decisions in their business direction to mitigate the impact of a sudden crisis. This must also be supported by flexible workplace design.