A GUIDE TO CREATING A HYBRID WORKSPACE
It can’t be denied that there has been a definitive shift in our relationship with the place of work. Prior to the pandemic, for most businesses, working from the office every day was common practice. And whilst some companies had already started to implement some form of hybrid working, the pandemic has rapidly forced many other businesses to introduce hybrid or even fully remote working. Many people have fully embraced working from home, but many others were eager to get back to the office, fuelling much debate about how the post-pandemic office should look and how it should be used.
OFFICE OR REMOTE WORKING?
To get a clearer picture of how people are working today and how they see the office evolving, we carried out a survey completed by office workers.
55% said that they now work remotely 2-4 times per week.
Only 5% said that they now work in the office every day.
But interestingly, a massive 93% said that their preferred way of working was hybrid or fully remote, which indicated that some people are required to go into the office even though they would rather be at home.
When we asked them what the main reasons for going into the office were, the top three answers were to collaborate, for meetings and to catch up with colleagues.
It is clear from our survey that the office has not been made completely redundant, it is still needed as a space for socialising and collaboration. With so many people saying that they would rather be at home, how do we make the office a real destination that your employees want to come to? Below are some considerations for adapting the office to this new way of working.
The office was already evolving away from banks of fixed desks, but the huge uptake in hybrid working has accelerated this. If people have the flexibility to choose when they come into the office and when they work from home, hot desking is a much more viable option. If you can track the number of people who are coming into the office each day over the space of a few weeks, you can easily get an idea of the number of desks needed – it will probably be significantly less than you currently have and will reduce the space needed for desking. With fewer desks required it may be possible to invest in some new furniture aimed at improving the wellbeing of employees. Standing desks have been proven to support the physical and psychological well-being of users, it is estimated that only 1% of UK workers use sit-stand desks and many workers spend between 4 and 9 hours each day sitting at their desks. Many people working from home have reported an increase in back pain, due to not having the correct equipment at home. The office can provide a healthier and better way of working.
Something to consider if you are going to move to hot-desking is that people still need somewhere to store personal belonging while in the office. Lockers are a great and secure way of providing storage, and there are so many different options and designs – they can be a real feature within the office. Some have lockers combined with planting or moss panels. As a general rule, one locker per hot desk is a good way of calculating how many you may need. Something that is often forgotten, is somewhere that people can store coats and jackets, instead of having them on the backs of chairs.
The top answer from our survey for why people are going into the office was to collaborate. There are many benefits to working from home, but it cannot be denied that when working in a team, it is crucial to be able to come together to share ideas, discuss, debate, and collaborate. Providing spaces and zones within the office where this can be done is therefore essential. Meeting rooms can be provided so as not to disturb those who have come in to use a desk and focus on individual tasks. More formal/traditional meeting rooms can be used but also less formal areas with soft seating where collaboration and creativity can come to life. The key is to make the office feel more like home, you may have heard the term “resimercial” – meaning the mixing of residential design within commercial spaces.
I think we can all agree that catching up with colleagues is one of the best parts of going into the office, and it’s just not the same catching up over a screen. Providing kitchen areas, tea points and breakout spaces will allow your employees to come together and connect again on a personal rather than professional level. Relationship building is crucial to creating a close-knit team and people are desperate to socialise after being at home for so long. Working from home means that people have got used to having a real break at lunchtime, getting away from their desks and eating something healthy. People shouldn’t be eating at their desks anymore. Use some of the space saved in desking to provide a breakout area where people can catch up over lunch or coffee and get away from their screens.
If your company is embracing hybrid working, it is important that you have sufficient infrastructure and technology in place to support this way of working. Teams or Zoom calls have become a huge part of working life (how many times over the last few years have you said, “you’re on mute”!?) Having video conferencing facilities throughout the office will allow those who are working from home to still get involved in meetings. For Facilities Managers, it may be worth looking into how technology can help manage the office. Desk booking systems can help ensure that you don’t have too many people coming in on a certain day. Getting people to check in and out allows you to see how the office is being used and it’s a great tool to aid in fire evacuations and keeping everyone safe. It is also possible to install sensors on mechanical & electrical equipment. With fewer people coming into the office it may be possible to save significant energy and money on this equipment.
Don’t forget that when people are working from home they have the benefit of privacy, if they need to phone the doctors or make a personal call, they have the luxury of being able to do that. If they need to speak to a colleague privately, they can phone them, or video call them. It is therefore worth considering some private zones, smaller meeting rooms where colleagues can have one-to-one meetings, without fear of others over hearing. Phone booths are a great solution for allowing people to have private phone calls, whether they are personal calls or work calls.
We don’t know what the future holds for the office, with soaring energy bills and a cost-of-living crisis it may evolve again with people opting to go into the office more to save money on heating their homes. It’s worth remembering as well, that not everyone has an adequate space or set-up at home to work effectively, and people’s circumstances can change. Designing an office that is agile and flexible will future-proof your space and allow you to evolve as the workplace and world changes.
Finally, one of the biggest considerations is how you continue to promote your company culture with people working from home. All the above points will help, providing a comfortable and practical space for your employees to look forward to coming to. There will always be those that would opt for fully remote working, but by creating somewhere that clearly takes their needs into consideration and is designed around their well-being, you may find some people naturally gravitating to the office more.
Many of the available solutions might feel daunting, but effective change doesn’t have to be disruptive. Whether you have decided to move offices, refurbish, or make the most of what you’ve got, we can help create effective solutions to meet your individual business needs, tailored to your company’s culture and workflows.