It’s no secret that well-executed office design works wonders for an array of factors that positively influence culture and business success — teamwork, morale, innovation, creativity, and productivity, to name a few. However, the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the standards for a well-designed office space.
While many companies shifted to remote work during the height of the pandemic, widespread vaccinations have made it possible for U.S.-based workers to return to the office.
With this return, many companies are evaluating hybrid work models to accommodate both business needs and employee desires for work-life balance. Forbes reported that 52% of full-time workers prefer hybrid work models.
With more than half of the country’s workforce looking to maintain the flexibility and freedom that they experienced while working remotely, employers have to make adjustments to their office design accordingly. The best layouts foster connectedness and a collaborative mindset across the entire team.
Companies that want to create a successful hybrid work model may find it challenging to design the workplace to accommodate both remote and in-person staff. To get started optimizing your workspace for a hybrid workforce, consider the following office design tips.
Tip 1: Optimize for Collaboration
Unlike pre-pandemic work environments, an office is now one of two places where employees can get work done. Still, both the home and the office serve different purposes, with the latter increasingly being viewed as a place for collaborative work.
It’s important to re-evaluate your space to accommodate increased in-office collaboration. That being said, you don’t want to get rid of work zones where people can put their heads down and focus. The solution to optimizing for collaboration, then, is to invest in modular solutions that allow employees to transform spaces with ease. Flexible furniture, for example, can allow you to put up partitions between workstations when in-office employees require privacy and quiet. Conversely, you can take them down for any large meetings, such as company all-hands, where access to a large open space is required.
Tip 2: Bridge the Gap Between On- and Off-Site Workers
Communication, efficiency, and collaboration can suffer when in-person and remote teams have difficulty connecting. A lack of togetherness can often lead to frustration among team members, resulting in reduced engagement with projects. This can especially affect remote workers, who may feel left out when meeting virtually with a group of on-site employees.
Keeping all teams on the same page will require effort, but the right office design will help. Consider one of your office’s key zones: the conference room. In conference rooms, both in-office and remote workers will inevitably participate in hybrid meetings but will suffer if these spaces don’t properly accommodate video conferencing. Investing in tools like TV screens to project Zoom meetings, several high-quality microphones, and 360-degree webcams will help the distributed workforce feel as though they are all in one room, working together.
Tip 3: Opt for Modular Zones Instead of Rigid, Single-Use Workspaces
At one time, most offices featured designated workspaces, such as cubicles, for each employee. Though that may still work for some companies, it doesn’t work for a number of evolving businesses — especially post-pandemic. Employers and employees alike increasingly seek flexibility, and hybrid work only amplifies this.
These days, it’s not uncommon for workers to perform multiple types of work in different areas of the office. Having modular, activity-based zones within the office is one of the most effective ways to remain flexible while providing sufficient workspace for employees. Instead of having dedicated space for each employee, you may find that it suits your business better to have a zone dedicated to individual work, a few zones for meetings and collaborative work, and a zone for breaks.
Modularity will also optimize your company’s usage of the office’s square footage. This can come especially in handy in markets where office space per square foot is costly. For businesses with offices in LA, for example, where office rental prices lean higher, this strategy can be instrumental in helping to reduce real estate costs.
Tip 4: Don’t Forget About the Need for Privacy
Collaboration and teamwork are necessary for any successful business, but that doesn’t mean every task requires group work. When colleagues spend too much time together, they may not have enough time alone to generate unique ideas or complete assigned tasks.
The office should maintain an effective ebb and flow between collaboration and solitude. Many people find that working from home gives them enough privacy to be productive. In-office workers also need workspaces that offer limited interruptions, as it’s doubtful that your on-site employees’ schedules will consist solely of meetings.
To create an office environment that empowers all employees to be successful, avoid designing an office layout that relies solely on open spaces for collaboration, or that doesn’t offer space for heads-down work.
Private zones don’t necessarily have to take the form of individual workspaces. Employers can provide visual and acoustic privacy by placing high-traffic zones where people meet for projects away from quiet zones where people work alone. Soft furnishings, high-backed sofas, and decorative hanging partitions will reduce visual and acoustic distractions without taking away from the office’s aesthetic.
Looking Ahead to Post-Pandemic Office Life
The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people live and work. Though many people shifted to working at home, many companies are bringing the bulk of their workforces back to the office. If these businesses want to stay on top, they’ll need to adjust their office design to accommodate remote and in-person employees.
Flexibility is the key to redesigning an office for a hybrid work model. Employers can utilize everything from video conferencing technology to modular furniture to create an office that employees will benefit from.
There’s no one way to redesign an office. However, employers willing to consider the needs of their entire workforce and the needs of the business will succeed in finding practical solutions that work best for their teams.