Working in the Distributed Office: What can Agile ‘DO’ for me?

By Josephine Aylward, UCD Agile

One of the Agile team’s overarching aims is to empower and support our colleagues, harnessing their creativity and innovation and in the process of doing so – to help foster a continuous improvement culture in everything we do. 

This aim was put to the test from March 2020 when our working lives changed literally overnight.  As we left our offices and adjusted to a new way of working (from our kitchens, bedrooms, spare rooms etc) we began to think about ‘the office’ in a different way … “the office’ is not just the physical place where we work but the work and the people and the things we use, all the connections with others and the people we meet in the process.  All of that, and more, add up to working in ‘the office’ “.  From What is the Distributed Office? article by Michael Sinnott, UCD Agile.

Our UCD colleagues were now working in offices distributed around Dublin, around Ireland and further afield.  The term ‘Distributed Office’ was coined.  The question for Agile was, how do we support our colleagues in this new environment?

A logo was designed to visualise this new idea of the office – the people, the things, the work we do, the help to make it work.. and the reality that each of those elements need not necessarily be in one location.

We listened to the challenges being faced by colleagues around UCD as they adjusted to the new reality.  We then devised a series of short, 1 hour, training offerings which aimed to meet some of these identified needs.

In November 2020 we started to roll out our Distributed Office ‘DO’ training sessions, with the focus on practical areas such as Streamlining Meetings, Workshopping Remotely, Where are we now? (a session which guides those who are planning for, or initiating, change). Over time, we added a few more – Joining a team remotely; Getting to the root of a problem, Paining the customer picture, Keeping teams connected using Google Currents. 

For a full list and description of each of the DO sessions, check this post on Work Smarter Together.  

Since we started the DO: training series we have run 16 sessions with over 170 attendees.

What did people think of them?

We asked participants for their feedback – were we on the right track with our approach? Were they happy with the content of the sessions? Did they find the sessions useful?

A theme emerged in the responses – participants reported that they really valued the sharing of common experiences. The value of hearing from colleagues in different teams about what has worked well for them, and the common challenges, was highlighted.

“I find it useful to hear how other people are experiencing the same difficulties and can share our experiences. The remote working has made people feel somewhat isolated so its great to re-engage every now and then.”  DO session attendee.

On a practical note, attendees appreciated being able to take away practical tools that they could apply in their own work. For example, in our DO: Streamlining Meetings session, we give participants a Meetings Checklist, a Healthcheck for meetings, along with a complete guide to running the Streamlining Meetings workshop with their own team.

We’re also happy to direct people to relevant content on LinkedIn Learning, as a complement to the DO training.

Attendees reported that they valued having short accessible sessions which they could attend without taking too much time out of their working day.

Other things participants valued include:

  • Learning a new approach to a common task
  • Getting hands-on experience with new ways of doing things
  • Learning MURAL (Agile’s favourite tool for online collaboration!)

For the future – we continue to engage with colleagues to check their needs.  We are creating new sessions to add to the existing portfolio – some of the new sessions which will be added soon, based on feedback from colleagues are:

  • DO: Lean – a series of one hour sessions covering everything you need to hit the ground running with Lean.  (Check here for more on Agile’s approach to Lean). 
  • DO: Online events – how do we make the most of the online format and avoid common pitfalls?

There is plenty more to come, so we will keep you updated.

As we write this article, it does look as though we are very slowly moving to a different phase of our pandemic journey.  Dare we say it, there is now light on the horizon with the hope of a gradual return to our lives on campus – in whatever form that now takes.

The Agile team will continue to check in and listen to what our colleagues need and are always open to new ideas and suggestions for DO sessions.  Keep in touch with us at and on Twitter @UCDWorkSmart.

We look forward to seeing you at a DO: training session soon!

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