Working in the office of the future

Moving to an agile working environment has taken some getting used to, but it's definitely a positive change.

How we work is changing dramatically. The office of the future is adopting a new practice, one that embraces agility and flexibility to give employees a fluid working environment where they're no longer shackled to the same desk or location every day.

According to a 2016 report entitled Working Anywhere: A Winning Formula for Good Work?, research from 500 managerial level employees within medium to large businesses has predicted that flexible working will be adopted by over 70 per cent of organisations by 2020. The paper, from Lancaster University's Work Foundation, argues that this style will increase productivity, improve employee wellbeing and encourage talent attraction and retention. As far as when to expect the "tipping point"? That's happening right now in 2017.

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Agile working is something I'm experiencing first-hand, having just taken up a role at Dennis Publishing. With close to a decade's worth of experience in online journalism - both full-time and freelance across major UK publishers - it's a structure that's completely different to anywhere I've worked before, but one that feels empowering and exciting. 

Previously, I've worked in offices with traditional layouts and environments. Rigid seating policies were the norm - you were assigned a desk and this is where working roots were planted. This can help establish quick relationships with those around you, but it's not ideal when it comes to collaboration and communication across the wider business. 

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One of my biggest frustrations with previous offices was the barriers created by these prescribed seating plans. It wasn't always divides between departments like sales and editorial; sometimes it can create distance between teams working for the same publication on the same floor. Old colleagues would often spend an entire day at their desk, even eating lunch over their keyboard while still trying to tap out stories. That's hardly a recipe for a productive working life.

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Heading into Dennis' agile environment has presented me with a new way of working and, admittedly, a cultural change from the offices I've been used to. However, the benefits are quickly making themselves apparent - now I'm able to work when, where and how I chose. All that's needed is a stable internet connection and an open mind willing to make the adjustment.

Key to making this run smoothly is the company adopting new technology and digital communication tools to allow information to be shared quickly. Working in online journalism at previous media companies, I'd often find myself dispatched to cover events and race to publish reactive articles at a lightning-quick pace. Without an agile infrastructure I felt cut adrift and working in a vacuum. Dennis operates differently, giving me the tools to create an efficient and collaborative workspace wherever I happen to be.

Arriving at Dennis I was handed a laptop and immediately encouraged to move through the building to get to know my new colleagues across different departments. Armed with a cloud-based productivity suite and a collaboration platform that's accessible through laptop and mobile, I know I can reach people on my team with a quick instant message or call into a meeting through a virtual platform. Having a synchronised calendar also has some big advantages - I can keep track of my diary through mobile and as meetings drop in or get rearranged throughout the day I'm able to manage my time more efficiently. This also means I don't need to be bound to a desk phone; our cloud phone system means that I just need to install an app on my mobile and I can take my office number with me.

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Embracing the agile method means I'm also able to change my environment to work more productively. If I need the chatter and atmosphere of a buzzing office floor that's easy to find, similarly there's always somewhere to go if I need a quiet place to work. The building is packed with break-out areas (offering free coffee!) and seating booths - ideal if you want to hold a quick meeting away from the bustle of the office floor or open your laptop to clear an email backlog. At the end of the day staff pack everything away into their individual lockers, leaving the office free from the clutter associated with permanent workspaces.

Everything feels a lot more organised and tidy. And thanks to Dennis rolling out thin and light laptops as standard, everyone is happy to take their work computer home with them, or out to a client meeting.

The benefits extend to outside of the office, too. Having recently moved home I've had to deal with furniture delivery, installations and all the admin that goes into switching addresses. Being able to work from home and still communicate efficiently with colleagues means this isn't something I need to worry about.

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By having this flexibility I feel like I'm being given a level of trust and autonomy that's rare from a large company. As the old saying goes, a happy worker is a more productive worker - and that's something that's instantly apparent right across the Dennis staff.

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