What is a Hybrid Office Design?
Today’s offices are designed to meet the needs of both remote employees and in-house staff. A flexible hybrid office design encourages work-life balance and provides greater autonomy to workers—all of which promote satisfaction, stability and enhanced engagement in tasks.
The hybrid office space is not intended for every industry. Rather, this contemporary type of design is meant to benefit employees whose primary duties can be done on the computer and offsite. A hybrid office design is not a temporary solution—but the future of agile workplaces.
Covid-19 accelerated the transition to hybrid offices, although the move toward this type of design was happening long before then. At the height of the pandemic, teams became dispersed, and management had to find a way to continue productivity and oversight without losing morale.
Since the end of the pandemic, workers have been reentering the office. The hybrid office design is becoming increasingly commonplace, and employees are beginning to favor this flexible style of working. The goal is to design an office that supports everyone’s needs.
The hybrid office is the solution for both in-house and remote workers. Employees have a choice of when, how, and where they work—this flexibility boosts the number of high performers to 55 percent, whereas the number of high performers who work solely in the office remains at 36 percent.
What are elements of a hybrid office design?
1. Diverse Workspaces
What does a hybrid office look like? The primary design feature is ample space for all types of work. Two-person meetings are held in booths; specific work tasks are accomplished at desks; and, meeting rooms are scheduled for team collaborations—all within the same office.
An office ecosystem that allows employees to find the ideal setup helps them get work done. Pods and booths support specific needs. Staff must also connect with remote workers. Virtual meetings are most successful when they are held in quiet, private workspaces.
Rather than knock down office walls, managers can repurpose existing equipment. Acoustic screens and whiteboards, for instance, can be positioned to establish physical boundaries around collaboration areas. Digital screens are moveable technologies that can be rolled to designated work spaces.
Technology is essential in the success of a hybrid office design. Depending on the company, some offices must be equipped with optimal video conferencing technology, while others may need improved spaces fitted with moveable acoustic screens or virtual whiteboards to better use digital gadgets.
Organization is also key—and technology makes this element easier. Booking systems, for instance, can be adopted to allow office workers to “book” a desk for a day. This type of system prevents staff coming into the office from being unable to find places to work.
A challenge to scheduling desks, however, is making employees feel connected to their workspaces. The answer to this problem is the team pod. Neighborhood desks give staff a home base from which to conduct their work three to four days out of the week.
3. Social Areas
Similarly, employees must feel connected when they work in a hybrid office. Face-to-face encounters are vital to fostering empathy and emotional connections. A hybrid office design encourages serendipitous meetings, such as when colleagues bump into each other and discuss projects.
In-person meetings are necessary for not only collaborations but building trust among employees. As a result of frequent in-person interactions, employees experience professional rewards, like greater commitment, support, and cooperation between teams. The hybrid office design makes these face-to-face meetings happen.
Opportunities for social interactions can occur in other ways. Companies may bring colleagues together once a year for a weeklong getaway, where long-lasting, influential bonds are built. Or, winding staircases can encourage impromptu meetings between office workers from different departments.
When these informal encounters happen, acoustics goes a long way toward motivating colleagues to socialize. Sounds around desks can be muted by sound-absorbent materials on ceilings and floors. But in areas designed for socializing, using less sound-absorbent material promotes chatting among staff.
Hybrid office designs cater to the needs of both in-house and remote workers, but real-life interactions rank highly. While employees value socializing with colleagues and impromptu in-person chats, they also want access to technology, professional development opportunities, and to feel a part of the community.
The most effective hybrid office motivates employees. Companies should focus on not only office design but technology and general office procedures to make their hybrid office a space workers want to walk into when they work onsite certain days of the week.
The ideal hybrid office is a place where staff members can absorb the workplace culture, receive mentoring, share ideas, and engage in impromptu meetings with their colleagues. The challenge remains in creating a seamless transition between home and work environments.
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