Redesigning Offices For Hybrid Work Models

How The Transition To Hybrid Work Is Forcing Companies To Redesign Their Offices For Improved Functionality.

For companies and employees, office spaces have always defined the ingenuity and function of a business. For decades the office experience's direct association with "company culture" has muddied the waters on functional design. But what does that all now mean with half of the workforce remote? Well, it brings into question the root characteristics of 9-to-5 office space.

With hybrid work models, crowded corridors of desks and cubicles no longer serve their purpose. Rather employees now desire functionality, collaboration, technology, and wellness-focused spaces when they work in person. Read on to learn how this transition to hybrid work directly influences companies to redesign their once lively office spaces into healthy indoor environments.

What Is A Hybrid Work Model?

A hybrid work model is defined by the flexibility it provides employees to mix in-office work and work from home into their schedules. Often planned-out by companies, employees are given a set number of days to be in or out of the office. In some cases, companies may even set standard days for mandatory in-person meetings to occur. One of the benefits of hybrid work is the ability to customize the schedules of different departments. When public health issues arise, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, companies can purposely reduce office occupancy, alternate in-person status for departments, and thwart potential virus exposure.

Embracing The Shift to Workplace Flexibility

Since the early lockdowns of the COVID-19 pandemic, workplace flexibility has become the talking point for all companies. For the first time, this introduced a fully remote strategy for many workers. Although an increasing number of employees began preferring to work from home, some employees started feeling increasingly disconnected.

According to a US COVID-19 workforce study, 45% of fully remote teams desired to bring back in-person meetings. Additionally, over 73% of the surveyed corporate workers missed socializing with coworkers in-person. With numerous surveys corroborating similar data, it's evident that to maintain the contentment of employees, a hybrid work model is preferred. By embracing this workplace flexibility, companies can ensure their employees can remain connected, socialize, and communicate ideas.

How Will Hybrid Work Influence Office Design?

Office design has always been focused on maximizing the usage of available space. However, this mindset correlated to cramming as many desks as possible into a single room pre-pandemic. Thereby, when considering how to redesign an office space for hybrid work, companies will need to evaluate the different types of in-person activities that will occur in the space.

At a basic level, hybrid work models will eliminate the need for individually assigned desks. With alternated schedules, companies can provide shared use "hot desks," pre-setup for connectivity and laptop usage—this reduction of personal desks also opens more room in the office for multi-purpose and collaborative workspaces.

Arguably a hybrid office is also a connected office. Therefore, a hybrid office design will need to account for the constant use of video and teleconferencing platforms. With a high-quality IT infrastructure in place, these offices can support designated private and group conferencing spaces.

On in-office workdays, these shared spaces will also serve the various functions of socializing, dining, and company meetings. Functional elements such as reconfigurable furniture will enable the spaces to be used to their full capacity.

Focusing On Health In Hybrid Office Design

In combination with functional design, hybrid offices will also need to consider employee health and wellness. With the ongoing presence of COVID-19, this focus translates to implementing viral mitigation controls. Beginning in shared workspaces, employees will need access to stations for hand hygiene, anti-bacterial cleaning products, and personal protective equipment (PPE).

By placing these stations throughout the office, employees are given the freedom to control their health and help maintain office cleanliness. With COVID-19's aerosol transmission nature, it's also critical to implement indoor air quality controls into hybrid office design.

Between portable air purifiers and HVAC Induct systems, increasing airflow, filtration, and ventilation will help reduce viral spread. When designing the office layout or planning renovations, these air purifiers should be placed in optimal locations with open airflow to ensure maximum coverage. For HVAC Induct systems, be sure to put them in easily accessible ductwork for future maintenance.

Another method to improve the overall health of a hybrid office is through frequent UV-C disinfection. Whether through stand-alone UV-C lamps or autonomous UV-C robots, adding this hospital-grade disinfection to nightly cleaning routines will ensure bacteria and virus-free office spaces.

Communication Is Key To Reopening Offices To Hybrid Work

When the time arrives to reopen your newly designed hybrid work office, it's essential to communicate to employees about the changes and new standards put in place. Begin by speaking to employees about the shared desk model and access to collaborative workspaces. Be sure to communicate the access to hand sanitizer, anti-bacterial products, and PPE. Employees will appreciate the ability to disinfect their workspaces and protect their health. Lastly, if air purifier systems or UV-C disinfection are used, provide signage indicating so. Your employees will recognize the extra steps being taken to ensure their safety from airborne and surface pathogens.

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