2020 and the COVID-19 pandemic saw potentially the fastest shift in working practices ever seen. While there has been much debate over the future of the office, it is increasingly evident that office-based work has not dissolved completely, but will need to shift in the light of new demands and working styles. Enter, the hybrid workplace.
Pre-pandemic the office was seen as synonymous with work – the key component in getting work done. But as we look to the near future, organisations are beginning to implement a blend of office and home-based work. This work arrangement epitomises one word: flexibility. It’s about fitting work around your life, rather than life around work. It’s a carefully-balanced blend of structure, sociability, independence and flexibility.
Flexibility isn’t an option – it’s a must. To survive, grow and thrive we have to move away from measuring success by presenteeism and workplace density. We have to design around 3 key factors: communication, connection and workplace experience. Analysing workplace effectiveness is no longer just about using physical presence of people to produce data and determine solutions – it’s about factoring in the workforce that is at home for the foreseeable future, or flexibly working from multiple locations.
The workplace has now become a central hub with which teams can gather, meet and utilise facilities, interwoven as another location in their flexible schedules. This brings requirement for a strong anchorage and affinity with brand and culture in the workspace design.
Space utilisation in the hybrid office will entail the exchange of traditional desks with (safe) collaborative spaces. However, workspaces cannot be eradicated entirely for those with little space for a productive home workstation. To provide equity for employees, spaces for individual focus work should be incorporated, with the risk of friction and frustration at no ‘desk’ to call their own being minimised. On-demand privacy such as phone booths and focus areas are a definite requirement. These, of course, need to be considered for their hygienic factor – a completely enclosed space with no ventilation and upholstered walls would undoubtedly deter most users in the post-covid world.
Introducing furniture such as flexible seating comes with warning – humans are territorial by nature! Users may understandably be unwilling to share a desk with others after the pandemic. However, many employees would be willing to give up their desk in exchange for greater flexibility to choose when and where they work.
Drilling down into the practical application of hybrid working, technology cannot be underestimated. It is the crucial linchpin on which ‘work’ as a verb now operates; without it, a company would dissolve into non-existence. But our expectations of technology are such that we expect a seamless experience. Hybrid working means that there will be increase in non-present colleagues, and we will be looking to tech to ensure that all participants enjoy the same experience.
HR and people management has taken on a new role in our post-covid world. The increased autonomy and virtualisation of our lives can very quickly take away the personal side to work. Without in-person interaction or informal meetings this is something that is of primary importance. Keeping a close – but not prying – eye on team progress, accountability and general productivity cannot be underestimated.
By definition, there is no one-size-fits-all approach a hybrid office. It is shaped and configured – and indeed ever-evolving – to reflect company and employee requirements of the time. Talk to one of our workplace consultants today about space planning, design schemes and options to future-proof your workspace (whether virtual or physical) for the hybrid paradigm shift.Connect
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