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  • Writer's pictureDavid George

Hybrid Working: How & Why it Changes Your Office Design

What the pandemic has taught us.

Allowing employees greater flexibility and choice about where and when they work, will most likely result in the focus work and general process activities of their role being done remotely, either at home or a third place - to a high standard. This has been one of the main conclusions from remote working during the pandemic.

Our own global studies also reveal that employees are most likely to come to the office for activities where they need to meet work colleagues, or clients, for formal or informal interaction.

Moving to this hybrid way of working will therefore have an impact on the amount of office space you need and how it is configured/designed.

Why? Because existing offices, designed prior to the implementation of hybrid working (also known as agile or flexible working), and prior to the pandemic, were usually designed with most of the space allocated to desks, workstations and private offices - suited to focus and general process work activities (that which we now know employees prefer to do - and do well - remotely). This would possibly use as much as 80% of the available traditional office space, with the remaining space designed as meeting rooms - the formal collaboration space.

Thinking it through this way, it’s clear to see the mismatch between the pre-pandemic traditional office (focus design), and the design of the future office, which needs to be designed with much greater emphasis on enabling collaboration.

Workplace Configuration

That is not to say that all of the office space should be collaborative, far from it, as some employees may prefer or indeed need to work from the office space. It is also the case that in-between the collaborative activities the employee will need somewhere to do focus or general work. For instance, when employees come into the office and attend say, 2-3 meetings in a day, they will want a place where they can be based when not in the meetings, whether the meetings are informal or not. And most likely in a neighborhood with their co-workers.

The range, type, size and quantum of work settings (furniture settings and rooms) need to align to the full range of collaborative activities taking place; formal meetings, informal 1:1 discussion, project team discussions, settings that encourage interaction, informal group discussions, team meetings, confidential meetings that require good acoustical and visual performance etc. etc.

All of these in various sizes to suit the operation of each team, the right quantity to meet their needs, and in the right location to encourage team working and cross team collaboration. They need to be in close proximity to team neighborhoods to work - no one wants to walk to a central lounge area just to have an ad-hoc conversation, they need to work for spontaneous interactions too.

Simply installing an ad-hoc selection of alternative, informal furniture items in your office, is a bit like asking your auto mechanic to fix your car using the plumber’s tools – some might be ok, but it’s unlikely the mechanic will be as productive or get the job done efficiently or effectively!

How much sqft do you really need?

Having completed the analysis of which location enables your employees to do their best work, understanding management objectives and vision, then mapping duration, activity, adjacency and personas we start to configure the workplace design, this provides the evidence based assessment needed to determine the space needed, and reduces risk when it comes to making your next real estate decisions. It may also be that part of the solution includes flex or co-working spaces, distributed to reflect resource geographies, third spaces that allow employees to meet in a local setting and avoid a long commute.

In a recent, fully completed project for the HQ of a global business, we delivered a 40% saving in sqft saving £mm. This reduction in demand can also be considered as a saving for sub-letting, or additional room for the business to expand into.

This may all sound very complex, and to be fair it is, but there is no successful ‘one size fits all' short cut solution here.

Help is at hand

We have over 20 years’ experience leading and guiding businesses on the journey to implementing new ways of working. Right from mapping employee persona’s (so you can accurately forecast who will be in the office and when, and who could be remote based) right through assessing the real estate impacts, creating the people centric workplace redesign, and the all-important communication and change management process.

Don’t leave this to chance, acting now shows a commitment to meeting not only your business needs, but also the needs of your employees. Co-created hybrid and agile working solutions and a people centric, flexible workplace design will go a long way to retaining employee engagement in your purpose, stem attrition, and help you retain and attract the best talent.

  • Contact us for an impartial review of your current strategy, get the journey started or accelerate what you have in place.


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