The moment is now. Use this opportunity to reshape your office & boost motivation like never before!
“We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to reshape everything about how we do our work and how we run our companies,” Stewart Butterfield, CEO and co-founder of Slack, told BBC. He couldn’t be more right. Covid-19 has proven to be a catalyst for change that tech visionaries have been discussing for decades – the rise of remote working and a revolution in office design.
The pandemic has led executives to answer the fundamental question: What is an office for? Initially, most companies viewed the office as a place to get work done. Post-pandemic, the office is becoming more of a cultural and social anchor that fosters creativity, agility, and collaboration that every business needs to grow. It is a place where productivity skyrockets and people experience long-missed social interactions.
Hybrid future of work
Experts are sure: the future of work is hybrid. Remote work has its advantages: saving time on commuting, increasing the pool of potential employees, and effective online meetings.
But studies show that over time, problems emerge – productivity drops, the ability to read nonverbal communication dwindles, and the lines between personal and professional life become blurred.
As Microsoft’s CEO, Satya Nadella, told The New Yorker, technology should not substitute for human connection. Research has shown that what people miss most is interacting with others. At the same time, most employees opt for a hybrid model – working partly in the office and partly from home.
Three models that will boost your team’s productivity
As vaccinations accelerate in most countries and tech giants partially return to the office, it’s high time to think about how to prepare your team for a comeback and design your space to make it safe and productivity-oriented.
The following three models will shape the future workspace: Hub-and-Spoke, Office as Collaboration Hub, and De-densified Office.
Originally, companies had one headquarters located in prestigious city districts, where all executive level managers could meet and collaborate. But with the rise of remote work and cloud technology, tech giants and banking groups including Google, JP Morgan, and Metro Bank, adopt a hub-and-spoke model.
In this type of space, the primary hub office is usually located in a city center and serves as a venue for meetings, team collaboration, and events. The spokes are satellite offices in smaller cities or neighborhoods closer to employees’ homes.
They include traditional and flexible office space or hot desks rented in a coworking space. Employees work from home 1-2 days a week and three days in the office that is in their neighborhood or travel to the headquarters for larger events.
Research has shown that flexible working increases productivity, profitability and work-life balance. For businesses, hub-and-spoke allows to distribute the workforce and expands the pool of potential talents. In terms of a company’s environmental responsibility, it contributes to reducing the carbon footprint as smaller offices mean less emission – not to mention the shorter commutes for the employees.
“Companies are reshaping their real estate strategies toward satellite work by placing their main offices, which resemble a hub, on a come-as-you-are-needed basis. These offices emphasize meeting rooms, break areas, and various workspace types to meet the diverse needs of teams. And flexible workspaces near employee clusters allow them to have professional workspaces close to home,” says Robert Chmielewski, CEO & Co-Founder of ShareSpace.
There are different variations in the hub-and-spoke model. For example, employees can get a coworking membership card and have access to different locations of the same office space provider. They can book dedicated desks on-demand or come without reservation to work at “hot desks” in the common coworking area.
Another solution is employee rotation, where a team of 50 uses 25 workstations in a serviced office space and rotates every one or two weeks. In case of team growth the capacity can be increased according to the needs. The advantage is that you only pay for the actually used space which helps to optimize the costs.
Office as a Collaboration Hub
Sharing a space improves team performance, creativity, and innovation. It’s also much easier to train a new employee on-site than remotely. Plus, getting together to socialize is probably a prominent benefit for those who decide to return to the office.
For this reason, some companies are opting to turn their offices into collaboration hubs. This idea can take many forms, but the primary purpose is to create a space that encourages discussion and teamwork, and restores communication in the post-pandemic isolated world.
If you decide to turn your office into a collaboration hub, start with asking yourself the following:
- How do you want people to collaborate in that space? Will the office hub be used for brainstorming meetings, focus work, dynamic collaboration meetings, or rather monthly townhalls?
- Who/what kind of teams will be working there?
- How many people will be using the space at the same time?
The answers to these questions will make a good starting point for designing or redesigning the existing space. Then, there will be time to address more complicated and detailed issues such as how you can use your existing furniture and equipment, or what new items should be placed in the rearranged, collaborative space.
Other, more detailed questions you might want to consider include:
- Do you want to have a large table in the central point of your office or would you opt for a more informal lounge area?
- How many conference or meeting rooms do you need?
- Should any workspace have a circular arrangement to encourage eye contact?
- Will you need mobile walls or moveable whiteboards (crucial for small team collaboration and agility)?
- How about a ping pong/foosball table or a kitchen island with a multipurpose break area for creative re-energize sessions?
Obviously, these are just several examples of the collaborative zone set-up, as there are hundreds of possibilities. Also, in addition to the central common area, your office can include a variety of other spaces:
- Smaller meeting rooms
- Private offices
- De-densified focus workspaces
- Phone booths for one-on-one conversations
- Informal social spaces
“The key is an ‘office as gym’ concept. Employees come to the office to use the type of space according to their needs.
They can use a dedicated workstation or work area – a phone booth, a design table, a conference room – as if they were using a particular gym section. One day they might have some head-down work to do and use a quiet focus area. Another day they need to discuss a project, so they meet in a common collaborative zone. It’s just as if they were coming to the gym – one day training individually with available equipment, and the other – participating in group sessions with an instructor.
“While most companies embrace remote work to some extent, giving employees access to professional workspaces will be necessary. It is a way to increase the variety of workspaces for employees and improve cost efficiency for business owners,” Robert Chmielewski adds.
The third concept essentially involves limiting the number of employees in a room. It requires adopting safety policies such as reducing occupancy by 50% in all spaces – meeting rooms, common areas, and breakout areas.
The key issues to consider are physical distance and circulation patterns.
Physical distancing primarily assumes reducing the number of people in a room and implementing physical barriers such as movable walls and screens.
For example, if you have a 20-person conference room in the office, you might consider removing seats and adding screens or shields to limit exposure.
Think about rearranging the space to create more private areas such as enclosed offices or individual pods and nooks.
For circulation patterns, it is essential to create safe pathways (in one or two directions) and deliberately place furniture and physical boundaries to limit the possibility of contact. Determine what can be moved and what can’t (walls, corridor width).
If you de-densify your space, consider equipping the office with movable and modular furniture that can be used as needed – like table carts on wheels or magnetic whiteboard wallpaper. Implement touchless solutions where possible and use technology to track the conference room occupancy.
In each model, provide your team with sanitation stations and add signage to help them navigate in a transformed space.
Whatever you choose, be flexible. Your office won’t just be a place to work anymore. Therefore it needs to be responsive to different activities and different work models. At the same time, the workspace should be innovative and inspiring so that people want to come and work there.
Think of your office transformation and the return of your employees as an opportunity. Quoting Stewart Butterfield again: “There’s an opportunity to retain the best parts of office culture while freeing ourselves from bad habits and inefficient processes. Every leader believes they can do better, and things can move faster: this is their chance.”.
We can help you rearrange your office and prepare it for your team’s return. See how you can change your space and save money – order our FREE analysis.