Does Hybrid Working suit your business?
Following the mandated growth of the virtual workforce during 2020, businesses are now evaluating hybrid working as a means to get the best of both worlds. Workplace design company Evoke Projects examines the benefits of hybrid working with tips for successful implementation of this modern office design strategy.
What is hybrid working?
At its broadest, a hybrid workplace design strategy is simply a mixture of working from home and at the office. There are different models including the popular ‘hub and spoke’ workplace design with a head office hub and smaller regional office space spokes. Employees commute to the hub when they need to collaborate with a large group. Other days, they work from home for deeper focus work or attend regional offices for smaller meetings and team collaboration. Regional offices that were previously allocated to a departmental function, e.g. operations or finance, may host local employees regardless of their role in the company. Co-working or pop-up work spaces can service smaller businesses.
Which businesses does it suit best?
Hybrid working suits most traditional office based workplaces. It is less practical for businesses that rely on physical interactions or manual work such as retail, healthcare or trades. However, it is still worth consideration for back office staff.
The benefits of a hybrid workplace design
While remote working had obvious convenience benefits for staff, such as no commuting, there was one surprising benefit for businesses. A Capgemini Research Institute report showed over six in ten organisations witnessed productivity gains in Q3-2020 with average productivity gains ranging from 13%-24%.1 This is likely due to a better work-life balance leading to increased motivation.
Retention was also boosted. In Radware’s global survey of 260 senior executives, it was reported that remote employees improved their work-life balance and retention rates by 46%. With flexible work plans, employees tend to be happier, which makes them want to stay loyal to their companies.2
However, the Capgemini Research Institute study also reported that remote working burnout increased, particularly amongst younger employees. People miss the social cohesion and company culture when they work from home. It can also be difficult to switch off.
Hybrid working enables the best of both worlds, particularly if staff have the choice of where to work. Through this, there is the potential to improve workplace health and well-being by providing the almost perfect work-life balance. Staff feel socially connected and part of the company culture while at the office; they feel motivated and productive at home. Mental health and well-being is also comforted if employees feel COVID safe with lower office occupancy and less exposure to commuters.
Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has predicted that “over 50% of business travel and over 30% of days in the office will go away”. 3 Reduced travel results in lower costs of doing business and reduced greenhouse emissions. Less time in the office means real estate costs can be dramatically reduced if hybrid working becomes the long term workplace solution.
Tips for implementing a hybrid working design strategy
Begin with the end in mind
At Evoke Projects, our approach to every modern office design project includes one of Stephen Covey’s 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: ‘begin with the end in mind’. Never has this been truer in 2021. If you approach hybrid working as a simple ‘flexible working’ workplace solution, you are missing a trick! Flexible working is a component of hybrid working but remind yourself of the historical challenges of ‘working from home’, namely trust, staff accountability and measuring results.
Starting with the end in mind means going back to business objectives, job descriptions and KPIs. A hybrid workplace design works best when staff have results oriented objectives that are clearly communicated. Think about how managers will inspire and lead their teams under the new arrangement. Management training might be necessary.
Design the office space to suit the type of work
- The Hub – Bring people together for brainstorming and innovation sessions at the hub to optimise collaboration. An open plan office fit-out will work best with café style space that allows for social distancing during break times.
- Regional Office Design – The regions will likely host smaller team groups or individuals whose home is not suitable for remote working. Meeting rooms and personal workstations that are allocated via a hoteling system will suit these office fit-outs. Technology can be used to allocate and track work spaces during the day.
- General Office Design Principles – Both Hub and Regional offices may be used for Zoom/Teams meetings. People tend to talk louder on video calls so dedicated online meeting zones are worthwhile. Incorporate sound absorbing materials in the office interior design to reduce echo. Private acoustic pods or booths equipped with a monitor are essential in a modern office fit-out.
- Home Office Refurbishment – Companies will increasingly be involved in the set-up of home offices helping staff to refurbish their physical environment. Provision of ergonomic office furniture, routers, laptops, printers and monitors will ensure remote workers can be as efficient at home as in the office.
Flexible and multidisciplinary office fit-out
Be ready. Always. A flexible office fit-out that allows you to adapt your interior office design will be future-proof. Whether it is an unexpected challenge or a business opportunity that needs the troops mustered quickly, movable furniture and partitions are the best workplace solution.
A commercial fit-out with multidisciplinary spaces also gives day-to-day flexibility. A breakout space can be used for downtime, meetings or informal work. Companies that are now welcoming less face-to-face visitors can adapt spacious reception areas for multiple uses.
COVID-safe office design for better health and well-being
When people come into the office, they need to feel comfortable with the physical environment and the circulation of people throughout the workplace. Visibly good cleaning protocols are essential. Touchless entry, sensor and booking technology will reassure people that they are working in a safe environment. Wayfinding signage and directional arrows for social distancing, wide hallways, screens and dividers are all part of your arsenal for a COVID-safe office design.
Each company is unique and careful occupancy planning can balance the density of staff in the hub vs regional vs home working. For more information on office fit-outs for hybrid working, please call Evoke Projects on 1300 720 692.