How to Design Your Office for Hybrid Employees

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Evelyn LongEditor-in-Chief at Renovated

Wednesday, September 29, 2021

It’s no secret that workplace expectations are changing after the past year. Health and safety continue to be a top priority due to COVID-19, leading many companies to alter their return-to-office plans.

Article 5 Minutes
How to Design Your Office for Hybrid Employees

Additionally, while some remote workers may crave more social connections after spending so much time in isolation, others aren’t willing to give up the increased flexibility of work-from-home options.

This puts many business leaders in a conundrum. How do we balance an engaging office space with the increased desire for remote work alternatives?

An increasing number of employers are aspiring to offer both in hybrid working models. Here are some ways to redesign office spaces to fit this new hybrid trend and create a smooth experience for any employee.

1. Provide collaborative spaces

What do employees need from an office space when they also work remotely? Office managers should consider stepping away from the private, quiet space employees can access at home. Many hybrid setups will be built for employees to pursue dedicated work remotely and come into the office for team projects and collaboration.

When thinking about office layout, consider adding more open spaces. This encourages co-workers to collaborate and come up with new ideas. It also saves time since workers can have conversations instead of sending emails.

Design-wise, following the footsteps of open layouts from recent years will help achieve a more collaborative environment. Consider incorporating an open concept around staircases or break rooms. Also, adding coffee machines or comfy seats can encourage informal interactions.

Another thing to keep in mind is the acoustics. Using sound-absorbent material is suitable for private offices but not in collaborative spaces. Install metal structures in open areas to draw people into the conversations.

2. Incorporating technology

Technology can help business owners develop efficient plans to return to the office. The AI platform Dojo is one example. It helps create new layouts through data-driven analytics, analyzes what drives individual productivity and determines how employees use meeting rooms.

The platform also includes distance planning and contact tracing. These features are especially important to prevent the spread of COVID-19. The growth of intelligent data analytics is sure to provide office managers with many options for AI-driven planning in months and years to come.

Managers can also use technology to bring employees together. With a hybrid working model, it’s critical that meetings and work sessions are collaborative for employees both at home and in the office. Collaborative spaces need to be hooked up with easy-to-use video conferencing equipment and quick docking stations for laptops so employees can use them on the fly.

3. Prioritize employees’ health

About 84% of people returning to the office say health and well-being are among their top concerns. Business owners should strategically design their spaces to protect people from COVID-19 and other illnesses. This may include spread-out seating to encourage social distancing. Also, consider placing hand sanitizer near entryways and in conference rooms.

Of course, health goes beyond germ control. Healthy options should be accessible for employees who probably got used to homemade lunches and home workouts over the past year. Offer on-site fitness options and add healthy snacks to the office kitchen for a quick boost.

It’s also essential to keep employees’ mental health in mind. Consider creating designated wellness zones to encourage relaxation and mindfulness. Incorporating plants or adding a rooftop garden can help reduce stress. It’s also important for managers to encourage their employees to take breaks to prevent the risk of burnout and even foster creativity.

4. Spare space can be used for lifestyle additions

With more employees being given the option to commit to fully remote work, office managers may find they have more space that doesn’t need to be dedicated to individual desks. While it may be wise to downsize in years to come, another option is converting the unused space into lifestyle amenities.

Employees working from home can use the office for other activities. Instead of just having desks and cubicles, incorporate other designated areas. This trend is growing — in competitive industries, property managers may allocate more than 10% of their office space to lifestyle-focused amenities. This can give workers more freedom over their schedules.

These assigned spaces can include quiet corners, comfortable social areas or conference rooms. Employees completing projects remotely may only enter the office for meetings. They also might come in to get away from household distractions. Consider adding enclosed areas where they can focus on specific assignments and multipurpose spaces to keep the office running more efficiently.

5. Incorporate hot desking

Hot desking is when employees use desks on a rotating basis instead of each having a designated seat. This can help increase space efficiency, especially with 71% of people working from home as of 2020. No longer will an office manager need to scramble to find spots for new workers — employees will just check in and book an available space when they plan to go to the office.

This has financial advantages in a changing workplace. Hot desking lowers real estate expenses for managers by cutting the amount of space needed for dedicated desks. Along with the cost benefits, this arrangement can increase collaboration. It can even make the space tidier since employees take their belongings with them at the end of the day.

Unassigned seating also gives workers more flexibility and a change of scenery. This is key for remote teammates who may have the same view every day.

Final thoughts

Changes may be needed as teammates start to transition back to the workplace. Making employees feel safe and socially connected is important, which is why some businesses are thinking about adopting a hybrid model.

This can seem like an intimidating task at first, so consider these design tips to create an efficient and productive office space.

Evelyn Long

Editor-in-Chief at Renovated

https://renovated.com/

Evelyn is the editor-in-chief of Renovated, a web magazine for the home industry. Her work has been published by the National Association of REALTORS®, NCCER and other prominent industry resources.

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