Flexible, Agile And Hybrid Working — What Is The Difference?


The way we work is changing, with many businesses moving away from the traditional nine-to-five routine with everyone at their own desk. Instead, they are considering more dynamic layouts and a variety of working patterns to fit in with modern life.

The trend towards this has been taking place for some time now, but the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated it. With workplaces so suddenly changing to deal with the threat, employers and employees have now seen what is possible.

The terms ‘flexible’, ‘agile’ and ‘hybrid’ are terms that are often bandied around to describe the new working models, often with some confusion as to exactly what they mean. Here we can consider the features of each working model and who they might be best suited to.

Flexible Working

Flexible working focuses on how and when employees work. While the nine-to-five job suits many people, many find it does not fit into their preferred lifestyle.

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At a flexible place of work,  there may be some employees who choose to work through the night, or they might choose to get up early, starting work several hours before their colleagues and finishing for the day at an earlier time.

A workplace that allows flexible working is a more inclusive one, providing employment opportunities for those whose lives do not permit the more traditional hours. Ultimately, it allows work to fit around a lifestyle rather than the other way around.

Flexible working is ideal for working parents, allowing them to do their work while still being free for school and daycare pick up, or for those caring for elderly family members. However, it is not only for parents and careers.

There can be many other reasons for not wanting a nine-to-five routine. Those having to commute to work might face packed public transport or long traffic jams at the start and end of a traditional working day.

Changing the times allows them to avoid this, so they arrive at work much fresher, having perhaps shortened their transport time.

It is also a useful model of working for those combining work with study. With flexible working, it is possible to carry out your work, while still being free to attend college several afternoons a week, for example.

It also fits in very well with online courses, which also tend to use a flexible working model. A good example of this can be seen in those studying for their MBA online at Aston University in the UK.

Resulting in an accredited, high-quality degree, the course has been designed with working professionals in mind and with flexible study combined with flexible work, fitting both into a busy lifestyle has never been so straightforward.

Agile Working

Agile working is more about where employees work, as technological advances in communication and cloud technology means they no longer need to all work in the same place.

If employees are not coming into the workplace, they will need to find somewhere they can effectively work. For many, this will be at home, as so many did during the pandemic.

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Others may work across multiple workplaces, or over coffee at their local café. Even within the workplace, an agile method of working means that employees are unlikely to be assigned a particular workstation. Instead, the spaces tend to be more dynamic, with multi-purpose spaces and hot desking.

Agile working suits people who do not need to work under close supervision and who enjoy fluidity in their role. With the possibility of working at least partly from home, it can help employees avoid an expensive commute.

It can also allow them to live further from their workplace, helping employers to retain good employees even if their family circumstances force them to move away. It is also a useful work mode for those whose role encompasses several different premises, with each space set up to facilitate the agile worker.

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Hybrid Working

Hybrid working contains elements of both flexible and agile working, giving greater freedom to employees regarding both when and where they work.

This can mean different working patterns and places for different employees, or even for individual employees at different times.

Even when working collaboratively, employees may not necessarily need to come into the office, but instead, teams can meet at a local coffee shop or in a designated co-working space.

For those who come into the workplace, the design is likely to be more fluid, without designated spaces, and because the model gives employees greater choice in where they work, the design needs to be appealing to make it an option that employees are happy to use.

Hybrid working will suit many of the same people as agile and flexible working. Employees need to be self-motivated and able to work well without supervision.

Parents and careers will like it as it allows them to fit work around their responsibilities. It can also fit in with those who wish to study, carry out voluntary work, or even do a time-consuming hobby while still continuing to work.

It might also suit the digital nomad, someone who combines work with travel, giving them the freedom to work from anywhere with an internet connection in any time zone.

Advantages For Employers

These different working models can also be advantageous for employers. If employees can work from anywhere, employers have a much larger pool of talent to choose from, instead of being limited to the local area or those willing to move there.

This can also save businesses money. With fewer people on the premises at any given time, business owners may find they can use smaller premises with lower rent and energy bills.

These more fluid working models have their detractors, but as the pace of change is accelerating, it is likely to be necessary to at least consider what is possible.

With employees keen to have these options, those businesses that embrace this new way of working will attract more talent to their workplaces. Generally, employers are finding that they can make the different models work well, resulting in a happier, more motivated workforce.

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