Organisations large and small are proudly embracing what they often call ‘new ways of working.’ Job seekers need to be aware, however, that some companies are much more clued up than others when it comes to accurately describing their specific approach.
The terms ‘flexible’ and ‘agile’ are two terms you’ll see used all over company descriptions, especially in the tech industries. They’re often used interchangeably to refer to vastly different ways of working, but there are some distinct differences between them that are important to bear in mind. We’ve highlighted the most crucial:
When, where…. and how
Flexible working tends to be used to broadly refer to a non-traditional approach – one that turns its back on nine-to-five hours in a fixed location. It implies two main levels of flexibility – time and place. Flexitime, for example, enables employees to choose to work at alternative times of the day, week or year, making it a popular approach for organisations looking to accommodate working parents, for example. Flexible working also gives workers more choice as to where they work – from home, while travelling or in a co-working space or workhub, for instance.
Agile working also adds another, key element – autonomy. As well as adaptability in terms of hours and location, a true agile working policy also empowers workers to choose precisely how they complete the tasks expected of them. As long as they work within legal and regulatory boundaries, agile workers are given freedom from set procedures that might not suit their working style.
Flexible working is often described as a more employee-focused approach, while agile working tends to be seen as benefiting companies and workers alike. Organisations that choose to adopt an agile working policy are generally hoping for a more efficient and reactive company culture, leading to boosted performance and happier customers.
As anyone who’s led a successful team will attest, an atmosphere of trust that enables employees to control when, where and how they complete their work can be an incomparable boon to productivity. Implemented properly, agile working can have startlingly positive effects on both staff morale and the bottom line.
A difference in commitment
Another fundamental aspect that sets agile working apart from flexible working comes down to management. If a company wants to reap all its transformational benefits, it has to commit to deep changes in attitude, culture and working practices from the top down – whereas it’s possible to adopt only selected flexible working policies rather than going the whole hog. It’s worth really doing your homework if you want to get it right.