A complete return to the office is unlikely - especially if you want to retain top talent. A recent FlexJobs study found that 58% of employees want to work completely remote post-pandemic, while 39% want hybrid office options. This means that a massive 97% of workers desire a hybrid work environment in some form.
A hybrid office design offers a competitive edge. Another survey by OC Tanner found that having hybrid work options is a top priority for employees looking for new jobs. This means that HR and office managers must act urgently; they need to prepare the workspace for the new world of work.
How employees work is changing. Naturally, then, shouldn’t where they work change too? The office space of 2019 is no longer fit-for-purpose in the hybrid world. It was designed for people to be in full-time, five days a week. Now, employees are using the workspace in a completely different way.
People don’t need to come to the office to be productive. The pandemic has proved that. People work just as well from home as they do in the office. Some people even work better when they’re at home. Without long commutes and traffic, some employees found their mental health improved and their productivity soared.
But, the office still has an important role to play in the new world of work - especially when it comes to building company culture. Consider these statistics:
Going to the office is not just about productivity; it’s about belonging, communication, and culture. Work, after all, is about more than just getting tasks done. A great workplace can become a community: a space that fosters connection, unity, and learning.
As HR and office managers, you have essential roles in reviving the office space and making it a positive differentiator. To design a workplace fit for the hybrid world, you need to consider your ‘why’. Changes shouldn’t just be aesthetic or cost-effective. They need to boost the employee experience. Ultimately, you need to create an office that people want to come to.
Because employees can work effectively from home, they will be very deliberate about their decisions to go to the office - particularly if attendance is optional. Socializing with colleagues, team meetings, learning sessions, and on-site resources are all common reasons people choose to come to work instead of working from home. It’s certainly about more than just office work.
Now, think about your current office layout. Does it cater to all these needs at the same time? Chances are, it’s a little outdated. Traditional meeting rooms, for example - with long tables, loads of chairs, and conference phones - simply aren’t needed in today’s environment. For one, most people use Teams or Zoom. Instead of a phone, they need a projector. These kinds of rooms are an ineffective use of space.
And that’s just one example. Desk cubicles, presentation spaces, and private offices are fast becoming a thing of the past. This is because they hamper what offices will be used for in the new normal: collaboration, communication, and community.
So, what should your new and improved hybrid office space look like? Here are five examples of features you need to include in your workplace design.
Hot desking is a practice where desk space is not assigned to particular employees. Instead, employees choose where to sit from a pool of desks on any given day, at any given time. In the hybrid office, hot desking is an excellent way to better use your physical environment. Rather than having rows and rows of unused desks, you can consolidate your workstations to maximize floor space.
Layout-wise, the hot desk hub should be the focal point of an open-plan office; a mixture of solo workstations and blocks of desks that are ideal for teams. You may want to consider adding moveable partitions to some of the workstations so that employees can enhance their privacy as needed.
Of course, hot-desking without a strategy could result in miserable employees. If an employee comes in and can’t find a seat, they’ll no doubt feel frustrated. To combat this risk, you should bring your hot-desking practice into the digital age, making it technology-enabled and seamless.
Hot desking, when done well, can become one of your employee perks. A great booking system will allow employees to easily and intuitively book desks on any device. Ideally, the system should allow people to make recurring reservations to create a sense of routine within their workweek.
Remember, too, that hot-desking isn’t just for solo projects. Everyone has different work styles. Departments and groups may decide to come in on the same day to collaborate and brainstorm with team members. So, your hot-desking system should enable block booking, where employees can book a group of desks for their team.
Moreover, while the name “hot desking” focuses on workstations, that’s not to say that you can’t empower your people to book meeting rooms, telephone booths, and more through the same system. The best-in-breed hot desking solutions enable you to upload custom floor plans of your workspace, so your employees can view and book the exact area they - or their team - want to work from.
IT help desks saw their fair share of emails over the last two years. Increased remote work and collaboration have fueled employee dependence on the IT department, which is more essential than ever to workplace operations.
To bring a sense of community and a human touch to the IT department, you could create a dedicated space for IT personnel within your hybrid office. Not all IT members need to be in at once or every day, but their availability and in-office schedule should be communicated with the broader team. That way, if anyone has a query, they’ll know when they will be able to have a chat with the IT team in person.
If you’re a tech-driven company or want to foster more innovation, then consider blending the help desk with what’s known as a ‘maker space’. An underused boardroom would be perfect for this. Maker spaces were made famous by the likes of Microsoft and Google. These collaboration spaces resemble ‘man cave’ style rooms, packed with tools and gadgets that encourage employees to think out of the box and get creative.
You could use your maker space for lunch and learn sessions, employee training, and team building. This space aims to empower employees to explore, learn, and invent while face-to-face.
In a lockdown, when work and personal life blended into one for so many of us, daily rituals became essential to maintain a sense of routine. Be it a morning or afternoon cup of coffee or tea, or a walk in the park at lunchtime, small things made a big difference.
As the office reopens, why not allow your employees to continue the rituals that they’ve become accustomed to? That’s exactly what the catch-up kitchen space is for.
This space takes the form of an open-plan kitchen, with a microwave, fridges, and coffee machine. It could feature an island with kitchen stools around it and even a sofa space with a coffee table. The point of this space is to create a homely, comfortable area where employees can come to catch up, have lunch and socialize with their co-workers.
While investing in a kitchen space might seem costly, you must remember the value you’re bringing to your people. 97% of employees in a Management Today survey said that their physical workplace symbolizes whether their employer values them. Bespoke touches, such as a fridge with complimentary drinks inside or even a coffee machine, all add to the workplace experience.
You can add the catch-up kitchen to your hot-desking booking system. When a group is not using it, the area will no doubt be a place where your employees go for lunch and to socialize with their colleagues - all of which will help to foster a sense of unity and belonging within your organization.
Ok, most conferences are hosted on Zooms or Teams these days - but that’s not to say that the traditional conference room is extinct. It would be best to have one dedicated space that resembles the conventional corporate boardroom - but retrofitted for the digital age.
Picture this: a round table and chairs in a soundproof room decked out with cameras and microphones for a superior video conferencing experience. The room should also feature a large, interactive digital screen so that your employees can all look at the same image, rather than being glued to their screens.
This room will be used by teams for group presentations, pitching new business, and perhaps even client calls - depending on the nature of your business. Like all other spaces in the hybrid workplace, you should add the conference room to your booking system. The larger your organization is, the more conference rooms you should include.
Did you know that companies like Google and Uber have dedicated nap pods that employees can use if they need to take a few zzzs? While this might seem a little far-fetched for some organizations, the point of these rooms isn’t to reduce employee productivity - it’s actually to enhance it. A study by Warwick University found that happiness made people around 12% more productive.
By improving your employees’ quality of life, work-life balance, and showing them that you care about them, you can boost efficiency and maybe even the bottom line. Consider creating a refuge space where employees can go if they are feeling overwhelmed, need to take a nap, or just want some quiet time.
If this is out of your budget, or you’re not entirely convinced that a nap pod is for you, then you could opt for giving your employees other benefits, such as a discounted gym membership.
As you design the new hybrid office space for the post-covid world, bear in mind the significant role that technology will play in bringing the employee experience to life. Any overhaul to office operations can bring about significant paperwork for HR teams and feel clunky to employees as they get used to new ways of working.
However, with the right digital solutions in place, you can make a move to a hybrid office space a positive from the get-go. With technologies like seamless booking systems, interactive white-boarding tools, and connected conference rooms, your employees will come into the office feeling like you are looking after their best of interests, improving not only their productivity but also their company loyalty.
OfficeTogether makes the move to a hybrid office easy with its suite of software, featuring desk booking, health checks, vaccine tracking, and meeting room booking. Through our intuitive interface, each employee can access desk reservation services, health checks, Slack, email, and more. Schedule a demo today or start your free trial to see if OfficeTogether’s services are the right match for your team.