Agile Work vs. Flexible Work: What's the Difference?

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published April 8, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

A business that's adaptable to internal and external conditions can use both flexibility and agility to prepare for multiple business climates. Both flexibility and agility in management are important for a business' overall well-being. Learning more about the differences between agile and flexible work can help you better understand what aspects impact your work environment. In this article, we review the differences between agile work versus flexible work, discuss their advantages and explain how the principles affect a department or company.

What is agile work?

Agile work is when an organization allows its employees to work where, when and how they want. This means that employees, regardless of skill or focus in a department, can work on a project in an agile department format. Agile working focuses on removing boundaries between staff and goals to make the business as adaptable and efficient as it can be. In an agile project, research, planning, development, design and testing all happen at the same time. It helps allow continuous improvement throughout a process so that it can both satisfy customer needs and continue to improve simultaneously.

Related: Using the Agile Project Management Methodology

What is flexible work?

Flexible work is when a department allows for flexible working hours. This allows employees to request greater control over the hours that they work to achieve a more moderate work-life balance. It can help create a diverse workforce and an inclusive economy by working with those who may have other jobs, children or otherwise needs for working hours that differ from the standard. This non-traditional method of working arrangement helps managers understand an individual's personal needs, and may even permit an employee to work from home.

Related: Definitive Guide To Scrum Development

What's the difference between agile work vs. flexible work?

There are many differences between agile and flexible work, including:

Employee effects

Agile work affects every member of the department, from managers to newly hired employees. Under an agile management system, every employee learns, trains and commits to different projects within the system to improve each. Fewer employees work toward single responsibilities, and management encourages employees to work together and train each other. Because agile management involves improving processes and projects even after employees complete them, employees also practice continuous improvement and documentation for projects, even if they meet production goals.

Flexible work only affects specific employees, particularly those with special hour-related needs. Those who have other jobs, life commitments or sudden events in their lives can use flexible work schedules to continue meeting production goals for themselves while working hours outside of their usual spectrum. Flexible work involves a change of schedule rather than a change of work philosophy, like in agile work.

Related: Agile vs. Scrum in Project Management: What's the Difference?

Work differences

Agile work allows employees to diversify their schedules according to what they can improve the most. For example, if an employee usually works in production, but wants to try leading a team, they can work in another sector of the department to see if this job suits them better. If they're more effective in another role, agile working allows them to change as they wish.

For flexible work schedules, the only work aspects that change for employees are hours. The work they do rarely changes under flexible work exclusively. Usually, employees with a flexible work schedule handle the same work they managed before, except during different hours. Flexible work schedules are also sometimes temporary, whereas agile work schedules aim to be permanent.

Advantages of agile working

There are many advantages of agile working, including:

Improves employee autonomy

Because agile working encourages employees to find work within a department that best suits them, it can help improve an employee's overall autonomy in a department. As an employee explores different responsibilities and train for each they try, they gain more skills and the ability to work in each area as they learn. When they eventually find a focus in which they want to continue, they can both work in a branch where they're productive and return to any previous branches where they trained in the event of an employee absence.

Diversifies work experience

Agile working actively encourages work diversity, meaning an employee doesn't need to work in one area for long if they don't want to. If they want to change responsibilities, agile working allows them to select different focuses and train underneath management. Not only does this help continuously improve employees' work experiences, but makes a department more flexible overall as more employees train in diverse areas.

Increases productivity

Agile working means that employees can find an area where they enjoy working the most. The more an employee enjoys working in an area, the more productive they may be. If each employee finds a work niche they become satisfied with, this can increase department productivity immensely.

Related: Comprehensive Guide to the Values and Principles of Agile Software Development

Advantages of flexible working

Some advantages of flexible working include the following:

Helps improve employee retention

Flexible work hours allow employees to handle personal matters and give full commitment to work when it's time for them to begin. Because flexible work allows employees to handle matters such as another job, childcare or personal needs, employees can worry less about matters outside of work and bring their full attention to the needs they have within their department. Allowing an employee to adjust hours based on their needs can help improve their motivation toward work and improve their overall retention.

Improves worker diversity

If a department allows employees to change their hours based on their needs, they may be able to hire more employees. A hiring campaign can become more attractive if the department allows workers more freedom related to their work. While this is also true with agile working, flexible working allows employees to impact their schedule directly, which may make diverse amounts of employees available for the position.

Increases employee engagement

Flexible working allows employees to make their schedule, which can not only improve their satisfaction during work but their engagement overall in the department and with other employees. If a department satisfies an employee with their position due to having optimal hours that the employee scheduled, they may be more willing to engage during meetings, training and when their input may be helpful during a project. Happy employees may be more passionate about their work.

Explore more articles