19 March 2021

What hybrid working means for your office space

Mass adoption of hybrid working means we need to re-evaluate the role of our offices and dispersed workplaces. When it’s done right, the hybrid working model allows organisations to encompass collaboration, autonomy, structure and flexibility. 

Hybrid working is an evolution of activity-based working

Before the pandemic, we designed offices around how people worked, creating various settings to support particular tasks. Previously, we talked about Activity Based Working 2.0 (in Workplace Reset: Future), and how it was giving people the freedom of choice in how, when and where they work within the office. The hybrid working model is the next evolution of activity-based working. Now, people are be working from a collection of connected physical and digital spaces.  While this is a huge opportunity, it also comes with its own set of challenges.

  • Making the office work harder for your organisation
  • Leading across a distributed workforce
  • Choosing the right tools to stay connected
  • Re-establishing fairness and inclusivity

Find the potential in each work setting

Traditional office layouts with desks and chairs worked for process-driven work but prevented collaboration and innovation. According to Aon’s Benefits and Trends Survey, over 90% of those surveyed believed employees’ expectations of the workplace are changing, with 95% expecting agile/homeworking. Leaders will need to start thinking differently about the value in different workplaces (home, office and on-demand spaces) and play to each setting’s strengths.

Typically, the home supports focused work, reading, or confidential conversations. On-demand spaces (such as cafes) are great for 1-2-1 meetings, independent work away from the desk or creative thinking. There is an opportunity for the office to act as a multi-functional space where people can learn, connect, create and carry out collaborative tasks that can’t be done digitally.

The office is a tool that should empower people to do their best work, and so its purpose will be different for every organisation. What does your team need the office for? We’re working with clients who are using their office space to create content for their brand, train staff and develop new products. We’re also working with clients looking to support their people in focused tasks they can’t do at home.

Leading a hybrid workforce

The definition of productivity is changing, and so is the relationship between managers and their teams. Since March 2020, we’ve moved away from controlled micro-managing and fallen into a new era built on trust and outcomes. Staff have had to manage their own schedules and workloads. Instead of becoming complacent, employees have become more productive while working from home. 

We recommend that leaders focus on the following five measures when managing a sustainable hybrid workforce: 

Focus on outputs, not inputs – Focussing on the productivity and actionable team metrics related to what work needs to be done.

Ensure equality – Ensuring people feel as though they are having the same opportunities wherever they work will be key.

Keep your people empowered and inspired – Empowerment through autonomy has been found by numerous studies to help increase wellbeing and productivity.

Leverage technology – Integrating technology within your workplace will allow teams to utilise systems like email, chat, and project management software to work from anywhere and will be an important component of a hybrid workforce.

Take accountability – A series of shorter-term plans are more powerful than long term decisions right now. Leaders need to have the confidence to make decisions that are the most effective for their organisations.

Harnessing tech to build a seamless hybrid working model

The pandemic forced businesses to adopt new technologies, making it possible for a distributed workforce to connect and collaborate. As more of us transition into hybrid working, we will need to work harder to ensure our physical spaces merge more seamlessly with digital ones. Gensler notes that digital experiences help to bridge technology to people and places, from immersive brand experiences and exhibits to connected customer experiences and intelligent buildings.

87% of CIOs believe digitally empowering their employees can drive at least 5% additional revenue growth over 3 years.

Levelling the playing field

According to research by Steelcase, people want to get back to the office because they’re missing connection to company purpose, a sense of community and support for their productivity. The same study found that feeling isolated while working from home is the biggest concern in every country (out of 10 countries) and the top reason to return to the office is to connect with co-workers.

Employers will be expected to do more to re-establish fairness, company culture and inclusivity under a hybrid working model. They will need to think about how their organisation can support employees from different locations. For example, if some team members are working from home, and some are in the office – could meetings be conducted digitally (as if everyone were working remotely) to promote fairness and inclusivity?

Become more purposeful

The pandemic has helped more people to see that work is not a place; it’s something you do. The office is a valuable asset that can make organisations more purposeful, productive and profitable. Once you’ve re-defined the purpose of each space, you’ll need to help your people understand, embrace and commit to these new ways of working.

If you want to talk to our team about how hybrid working can support your future office, we’re here to help.

What hybrid working means for your office space

Want to know more about hybrid working? Check out our documentary – Hybrid Working: It’s a workplace revolution

You can now watch as our team of experts explore the answers to the questions on everyone’s mind about the workplace.

Watch the full film here


Get in touch

We design everything with our clients’ end-user in mind because we believe it creates better customer and employee experiences.

Get in touch with our team to find out how we can support you here.

Workplace [R]Evolution: Issue 3
Workplace [R]Evolution: Issue 3

With many organisations now viewing hybrid working as a competitive advantage, it’s more important than ever to engage with people, to guide workplace decisions.

In this third issue of the Workplace [R]Evolution, we’re bringing you the latest data, exploring how to lead with employee experience and sharing the latest examples of hybrid workplaces.

Download for free now