Managing Agile Workers: The Impact on Wellbeing and Productivity

by Dr Christine Grant, Associate Head of School, Recruitment & Marketing & Principal Lecturer, School of Psychological, Social & Behavioural Sciences.

Dr-Christine-GrantThe move towards ‘agile working’ is being adopted by many organisations in response to the speed of change and the need to provide flexibility for employees but also to retain staff and increase productivity.   We know that commuting is getting worse and people are travelling further 45% of people now spending over an hour commuting to their jobs, and that 70% of people reporting that flexible working options make a job more attractive (powwownow.co.uk, 2017).  Therefore, ‘agile working’ holds significant appeal for today’s workforce. We know also that the millennial generation are keen to work more flexibly and to support their wellbeing whilst developing and continuing their careers.

 

So what is ‘agile working’? 

According to Employers Network for Equality and Inclusion (2013), Agile working is a way of working in which an organisation empowers its people to. work where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum. constraints – to optimise their performance and deliver “best in class” value and. customer service. It uses communications and information technology to enable’

In reality, most organisations are not fully ‘agile’ and implement some strategies rather than the whole agile working package, for example, many organisation provide ‘hot-desking’ to reduce office space but do not always supply all of the technology necessary to work independently.

Guidance on Agile Working

Unfortunately, there is a dearth of guidance available for organisations that want to facilitate agile working arrangements and frequent technology usage has both positive effects but also negative ones including: extended working can lead to work intensity, lack of recuperation and health related problems, such as musculoskeletal or psychological problems (Grant, Wallace & Spurgeon, 2013).  What we do know is that using technology by itself cannot increase job performance and productivity.

Organisations intending to implement agile working practices need to consider some important pros and cons, so that the benefits of wellbeing and productivity may be achieved:

  1. Be clear about business objectives and what you want to achieve by implementing agile working. There will be costs and resources involved so they need to be clear on what these are before you go ahead. For example, will all roles be agile? What are the constraints and what mobile technology will you provide for staff?
  1. Understand and communicate the business need for changing to agile working and gain buy-in from employees before implementation.
  1. Lead by Example, leaders are great role models and when implementing agile working it is good to show that initiatives such as ‘hot-desking’ are for everyone. Other initiatives such as not emailing after hours can also support a culture of ‘switching off’.
  1. Remote Working, many organisation support home working or working away from the office at multiple locations. Whilst this can work well to manage work life balance and caring responsibilities, employees can become invisible and it is important that line managers stay in touch with regular contact to check on wellbeing and work objectives
  1. Sharing Work Space/Hot Desking, can work well for co-working, where colleagues can share ideas and interact. However, not all colleagues will embrace the change and some may feel a loss of anchor to their workplace, thus reducing productivity. It is very important to consider individual needs and that were this does not work to provide appropriate facilities.

Whilst agile working is a phenomena that beings together a number of facets, including remote working, flexible working and co-working. Agile working can increase productivity and wellbeing but the pros and cons should be considered when implementing to be fully effective.

Come along to our Business Breakfast on 20th November to find out more on how you can implement agile working to improve the wellbeing and productivity of your workforce. For more details on the Business Breakfast please visit: https://cwbf2018.ticketleap.com/wellbeing-and-productivity-in-the-workplace/details

 

Dr Christine Grant, C.Psychol. AFBPsS, SFHEA
Associate Head and Principal Lecturer Occupational Psychology

Key References:
Agile working a Guide for Employers:
http://www.nhsemployers.org/-/media/Employers/Documents/SiteCollectionDocuments/Agile-Working-Guide.pdf?la=en&hash=C2F9D66C3C434D939B18DF1561D5AAE50250C0AD
Grant, C.A., Wallace L.M. and Spurgeon P. C. (2013) An exploration of the psychological factors affecting remote e-worker’s job effectiveness, well-being and work-life balance. Employee Relations, 5, 35

 

About the Author

Dr Christine Grant is a leading applied researcher in the psychology of remote e-working, her work explores the impact of technology on remote e-workers work-life balance, job effectiveness and well-being, with a particular interest in developing measures, interventions and coping strategies for employees, supervisors  and organisations.  Christine has  worked with many organisations  in both the private and public sectors completing surveys and interviews with e-workers. Her most recent  focus has been on the overuse of technology and the ‘always on culture’, examining the effects on the well-being of individuals, and producing guidance for agile/e-workers.   Christine has also developed a newly published psychometric measure known as the e-work life scale that enables individuals and organisations to measure the impact of e-working. She is also supporting the development of new measures related to remote e-worker well-being. Christine is published widely in both academically and in the media, being quoted in several high profile  articles and radio shows including BBC news http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-28686235 and has recently written a blog on digital resilience for the CIPD:  https://www.cipd.co.uk/news-views/changing-work-views/future-work/thought-pieces/digital-resilience-24-7-world

Christine has received many funding awards including  ESPRC Balance Network funding to investigate a new concept of e-resilience and from the British Psychological society to lead  a series of public seminars on the ‘switched on culture’. She is also currently working on a research funded research project to examine specific competencies in e-workers related to remote and agile working exploring the potential to develop a competency framework for employers.  Christine has several PhD students who are researching issues related to workplace well-being including devised physical interventions for employees, developing a new measure of e-wellbeing and exploring leadership skills required to manage remote workers.  Christine has also supervised PhDs in mindfulness related to adolescents and skills of those training and working in Cognitive Behavioural Therapy.

To support this work Christine has also foundered a new group call the ‘Switched on culture Research Group (SOCRG) with colleagues from across five UK universities please see blog: http://blogs.coventry.ac.uk/researchblog/age-smartphone

 

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