All signs are pointing to a preference among employees for a ‘hybrid’ return to work, a mix of work from home and from the office. While this does offer greater flexibility to the employee, it does not come without its challenges. Employers will be required to re-think their office space and will be faced with the task of maintaining business functionality, while making an attractive and safe environment.
If the majority of SME’s adopt a hybrid model into the future, with most, if not all employees afforded the opportunity to work from home for part of their week, the office will become quieter, with the number of workstations reduced allowing for improved social distancing. Collaboration spaces can be introduced or increased and flexible environments encouraged.
MAKING THE HYBRID OFFICE WORK
The biggest challenge here is finding the right balance. Research has shown that during lockdown work from home, staff genuinely miss the social aspect of the corporate office, while businesses noted the loss of the culture created by the office environment, which tends to be the hub and epicenter of most businesses. It is still important to meet face-to-face albeit not every day, in the same office. These human interactions build relationships outside of video conferencing.
Working from home can be attractive in theory and on a short-term basis, but full time can be a daunting prospect for many. Achieving a hybrid workspace takes investment from the employer and buy-in from the employee.
REPURPOSING THE OFFICE
There are three key focus areas arising for employers in creating an appropriate hybrid office:
Space Planning: Making the most of the available office space is vital – it is safe to say that the days of overcrowded floorplates are fading fast. With many businesses planning for reduced numbers per day, this provides the opportunity for a re-design and reconfiguration.
Ventilation: Good ventilation is paramount – every workplace needs to consider and plan for proper ventilation once staff numbers in the office increase. Modern building’s BMS systems will likely be up to the challenge, while older buildings may be lacking in this department and require an upgrade.
Employee Wellness: Striking the balance between home and office by ensuring all staff are engaged in the new way of working can be difficult, but we are seeing this shift occur rapidly.
In conclusion, employers need to rethink the purpose of the office – the space needs to reflect the needs of all staff, those requiring solitude or quiet to complete a complex task, along with those times when collaboration is key. Overall, maintaining the office as a hub is central to maintaining and driving culture as a business within a hybrid environment.
Re-designing the office, relocating, downsizing and expanding are all strategies being explored and deployed in what is a paradigm shift in how we view the office environment of the future.
At Preempt, we are working with organizations in delivering solutions to the hybrid office model. If you would like to discuss your requirements in any of the topics raised, please contact our Preempt General Manager, Paul Nelson.