How do I create an agile office?

Having completed twenty-something agile offices in my career, I know that the devil is in the details, or, more appropriately, in the hidden folds of design!

After what many consider a terrible year, with only a few glimmers of hope, I am showered daily with the same question by friends and colleagues: our company has excess office space, how do we reduce cost? Or even, with foresight: how do we transform it to create value for our business? Or even, with foresight: how do we transform it to create value for our business?

After the tenth time, I decided to grab pen and inkwell and share with everyone my personal answer to these questions. Below is a checklist to read from top to bottom so as not to miss crucial pieces in the creation of an agile office.


Is the agile office aimed at employees of the company or third parties? In this second scenario, what does the lease say? Does it allow for subletting? Has there been any communication with the landlord? Does the space lend itself to hosting subtenants or other companies with which to share costs?

The first step is to undergo an analysis (audit) of the real estate and contractual constraints, and define the room for maneuver that is available.

It is imperative to also have a conversation with the owner and, as the Constitutional Court advises us, come to an “understanding”… but I would only do this at the end of the checklist, once well aware of the model of agile office chosen: a commuter sedan, Ferrari or Tesla? Who’s going to be using the car?

The analysis has a second, more internal, organizational phase, which, for example, a Tree Canvas would divide between intangible (>> roots) and tangible (> > branches) elements: culture, values, objectives, imperatives on the one hand – mapping of the structure and organizational dynamics on the other, enriched by surveys regarding logistics, psychological factors and willingness to work remotely for each individual, mapping of stakeholders, definition of financial choices and benchmarking, which is useful.

*How to conduct the Audit?

An in-house audit may not be too complex, or else with the use of expert advice: a good real estate expert along with an organization consultant. It is wise to consult thoroughly with the decision makers in the company first, to ensure the boat is steered in the right direction, keeping in mind that the process of creating an agile office can be an important strategic lever!


Having completed twenty-something agile offices in my career, I know that the devil is in the details, or, more appropriately, in the hidden folds of design! Let’s really question the present and prospective flow of employees-how will individuals and teams work today or ten years from now? Who do we want to support with the agile office? What messages do we want to send?

Design is about space (space planning), decor, furniture, orientation messaging (wayfinding, digital signage and information screens) but also about the tools made available for people to work. Sometimes we are able to improve air quality, light quality, and even bring some nature into the office.

*How do we plan design?


Photo by Marcus Loke

The Technology chapter is complex for most to decipher, but at the same time essential to characterize the new office as agile. Let us therefore try to functionally segment technology into three compartments:

Physical space
First, we need to know for sure who “inhabits” and who visits the space, in other words, we need to crystallize and maintain the digital identities of the users. This “database” must dialogue with everything else starting with the access system > automated and customized to specific permissions. We must then enable people to securely connect to the Internet, including reinforcing security and connectivity for specific individuals and time periods. Users need to be informed about the availability of the space through screens and digital signals, and they need to be able to print securely and modulate their environmental comfort.

In an advanced model, the space could “feel” individuals and respond in a personalized way, could collect data and transfer information to managers to optimize layouts, tools and even services.

In an advanced model, the space could “feel” individuals and respond in a personalized way, could collect data and transfer information to managers to optimize layouts, tools and even services.

Back office
The scenario of an agile space open to third parties implies the adoption of specific management tools for each process: administration, marketing, sales, CRM and property management.

If the space is not large, the back office can be managed “artisanally,” with the awareness that the effect on the client will be quite different than professionally managed spaces and the scalability of the initiative limited by the management infrastructure.

Front office
Comprehensive digitized customer service entails that much if not all of the following be available on an easy-to-access interface: workstation or meeting room reservations, physical access to the office, request of secretarial support, maintenance and technical assistance (e.g. PC support), guest hospitality, printing and value-added services, booking parking and assistance for car maintenance and cleaning.

An increasingly popular service involves delivery of food for lunch or catering for meetings. The challenge is to integrate app functions readily in use with available food production.

Some advanced tools support professional activity, highlighting personal and/or business skills, and facilitating people-to-people matching to generate collaboration and business opportunities.


Once the space and positioning goals have been identified, the company is faced with the need to choose between managing the business on its own or outsourcing it. More and more operators are offering “Coworking” services-among the big ones, Regus and IWG Group’s Spaces, Copernico, Wework-but many small local businesses may also be able to manage flexible workplaces.

The choice of outsourcer is necessarily related to the strategic goals, the intended function of the agile office, and the speed of execution. In some cases, for spaces that are small and unattractive to tenants, there is no choice but to manage them in-house.

For “do-it-yourself” management, it is essential to consider legal and administrative aspects. It is necessary to have defined ad hoc contracts, data management policy, privacy, and finally to have the relevant IT supports in place. At the same time, it is advisable to identify the team that should care of each activity and that this team has the necessary administrative, business, service management and maintenance skills.

Support functions

An agile office open to third parties involves providing for three services that customers today consider essential:

Food service

Traditionally, organizations of a certain size are equipped with a company cafeteria, often standard across companies and linked to pre-remote working companies of the time card and cubicle kind. New-generation cafeterias resemble modern, pleasant restaurants, but lend themselves little to coaxing people together for informal meetings around coffee and supporting an agile workday.

More evolved forms are cafeterias (in some cases with even limited food choices) open all day and located in the center of the agile office’s “social” space.

When choosing these services, it is crucial to consider the interaction between the service manager and the companies’ employees and to define standards and mechanisms for table and food reservations integrated with apps available to users.

Mail and storage

Work and private lives today have blurred boundaries; we work at home, form relationships and perform private activities in the office. These include package delivery. E-commerce has entered our daily routines, as individuals and as businesses, so the flow of packages into the office is perpetual and abundant. In some cases, organizations prohibit it so as not to overburden poorly equipped reception desks. The agile, well-equipped office puts the customer first. It equips itself with a mailroom or smart closets, tools for managing the process and notifying users.

The same goes for the warehouse and “lockers.” In an agile world, people need spaces where they can store their items and documents. Ideally, the warehouse has a few storage units that can be rented on a time pay basis.


My service design experience here takes us back to 2015, when we implemented an innovative service in the parking lot of Italy’s largest agile office at Via Copernico 38: 15,000 square meters of office space, 1,300 average daily users, with less than 100 spots available.

The service is based on 24/7 hours with valet parking, that is, one or two people always present to place cars in the best possible formation, saturating parking capacity and always ensuring service for customers, whether they have a monthly subscription or are passing through daily.

This type of attendant service can come combined with assistance for security and monitoring of the entire building 24/7, with personal services related to car management, electric charging of vehicles, even possibly management of the mail office.

Positioning and Marketing

Whether the agile office is run independently or through a third party, it should have the best possible position in the marketplace. Ideally we should generate income while creating a place that is compatible for our employees and other companies.

In my experience, the most successful initiatives have been led by companies that have followed the following principles:

  • The agile space is not core to, but still a part of, their own offices so that employees can make use of it in the same way as third parties
  • The functions provided are additional to and do not duplicate traditional office functions
  • Design focuses on elements of pleasantness, attention to art, greenery, light, quality ventilation and the presence of outdoor spaces
  • Positioning is strategically thought-out with respect to business objectives
  • The target market starts from the company’s supply chain, seeking close synergies with important stakeholders.

In other words, opening the company’s doors on the supply chain by making the company more collaborative, transparent and osmotic is a best practice already known before the upheavals of 2020. Today, remote working, along with the widespread desire to reduce corporate real estate costs, gives us the opportunity to leverage excess space to build a new dialogue in the company among employees and externally with relevant audiences. The effect of this can lead to cost savings, but, more importantly increased collaboration, creativity and strength of value chain linkages.

Agile office project management

This concise and non-exhaustive check list is intended to transmit a message: do not underestimate the implementation of an agile space within the company.

The path requires expertise and the activation of various experts depending on the implementation phase. My advice is to identify a project manager who has awareness of the entire process, shared goals with management, is strongly results oriented and has access to the best suppliers for each task.

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