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Designing for the Hybrid Workplace

Effective and efficient space usage continues to pose an issue for companies as they adjust to changing workspace use. With 66% of leaders saying their company is considering redesigning office space for hybrid work, the trends in interior design and real estate are adjusting more and more to fit the idea of flexibility – whatever that looks like for your company.

A hybrid office assumes employees will move more frequently between home and office. Therefore, a hybrid office should provide a seamless experience between working in the office and working elsewhere.

Ramzah Khan, IIDA says that she is working with companies looking for guidance on developing hybrid and collaborative workplaces.

A Studio Manager at Ware Malcomb in Washington, DC, Khan offers perspectives in the iOFFICE Innovator Podcast episode “The Psychology Workplace Design and the Evolution of Employee Experience” on how companies can explore a holistic view of office design to create an employee experience where employees feel valued, heard, and supported.

The biggest trend she is seeing is that leaders are approaching workplace design from a people-oriented position as the idea of employee wellbeing takes on a new meaning.

“At the end of the day, flexibility is not linear. It is personal to everyone and it continuously evolves,” Khan said. “I think in a way, we are in this evolution of the workplace right now and the hybrid workplace is part of it … I think the trend is that it is becoming people focused, it is becoming employee focused.”

Elements of a hybrid office include:

  • A mix of collaborative and private spaces
  • Multipurpose areas employees can use depending on the work they’re doing
  • Furniture that’s easy to reconfigure
  • High-quality conference room technology
  • Technology that makes it easy for employees to find and reserve workspaces anywhere

A great example of an employee-focused hybrid office is Building and Land Technology (BLT). The Stanford, CT, company develops, owns, manages, and invests in more than 25 million square feet of real estate. The company designed what it calls the “post-COVID prototype” for hybrid offices.

It features a meeting space called The Cube, designed specifically for meetings and visitors and equipped with all the technology you need to interact with people in person and virtually. It features a large screen, high-quality conference room speakers, and webcams that give virtual attendees the feeling that they’re right in the middle of the action.
Work Design Magazine’s Bob Fox encourages workplace designers to view the office as a tool with the primary function of bringing people together. To that end, designers need to look at how employees are working, what tools they need, and how the physical workspace around them can support them in those functions.

The way you physically plan your office space for when employees and clients are in the office can lead to greater productivity and improve the bottom line.

Architectural Record discussed trends for innovative offices in the hybrid workspace, and suggests paying attention to the type of materials you purchase to make the office space flexible. Flooring, for example, can be a key element in creating acoustics to aid, not detract, from work. Materials such as tiles with inherent acoustic properties or carpet with noise-reducing cushion can play a part in helping the functionality of a space filling multiple roles.

Another recommendation is to use the physical space design to give employees a feeling of empowerment. You can achieve this through unassigned desks, lounge-style seating in common areas rather than conference rooms, and rooms sectioned with flooring and furniture to create specific-use areas where employees can choose where they work based on the task.

This strategic use of furniture and physical elements also play into the continued prevalence of social distancing policies. Physical considerations such as enhanced ventilation help with physical wellness, but more and more businesses also are finding the need to plan space in regard to emotional and mental benefits, as well.

The World Green Building Council reported a few years ago that 69% of businesses that implemented healthy building features reported improvements in employee satisfaction and engagement.

Considering elements such as air quality, access to natural light, and even placement of plants and other factors that integrate the soothing power of nature, helps generate a calm aesthetic that can lead to better moods and mindsets for employees while they are in the office.

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