Designing the Hybrid Office: New Commercial Needs
In 2020, commercial spaces became vacant as individuals worked from home in greater numbers. Today, over half of the country has received vaccinations, helping individuals return to their offices. Though many employees felt relief returning to in-person workspaces, others struggled to part with their productive work-from-home (WFH) routines. Plus, many companies recognized the benefits of working from home during the pandemic, furthering the demand for hybrid offices.
Hybrid office design needs to support both in-person and from-home work methods. Read on to learn how building professionals and business owners can successfully start designing the hybrid office to create a flexible, productive environment for any employee.
The Demand for Hybrid Offices
Today, the hybrid office has a different purpose than its traditional version. Originally, companies used the hybrid office to support traveling employees and those with transportation-limiting conditions. WFH can help many employees maintain job security while supporting their challenges and increasing flexibility.
In 2020, more companies began using the hybrid office model to protect individuals’ health, specifically from COVID-19. Nearly 44 million individuals contracted the virus in America, causing unpleasant and sometimes life-threatening symptoms. The government established social distancing regulations to reduce the virus’s spread, forcing employees to work from home. As experts hope case numbers will decrease and vaccinations become normalized, business owners search for ways to increase their offices’ safety.
Finally, in large part due to the shift to remote work over the past eighteen months, hybrid offices are becoming more of a norm for work/life quality. Employees who may not have experienced remote work before it became a necessity realized that they could often match the quality of work they completed without a commute or shared office space. For many households, work from home provides flexibility that helps employees find a better balance between work, home responsibilities and hobbies or interests. Many employers simply will never go back to a fully in-office operation.
Therefore, building professionals must prioritize working on redesigning their spaces to support the hybrid work method. Owners plan on using their workspaces as a secondary location to home offices. Individuals hope to use their office space for meetings, routine tasks, and other necessary face-to-face interactions. Professionals can work with architects to create the most efficient workplace, supporting employees’ productivity, safety, and well-being.
Versatile and Portable Furniture
Designers can make the most of office spaces by increasing their versatility. Many employees struggle to return to in-person work environments. Over half of workers in New York City and San Francisco chose to remain at home instead of returning to the office.
Architects may enhance an employee’s willingness to return by creating a flexible environment. Swapping out heavy and permanently placed desks for mobile variants can help individuals design their own space and figure out what works for them. Adding portable furniture can also help workers choose their mode of working and cooperation.
If individuals feel more comfortable isolated from their co-workers, they can move their workstation into a more removed part of the office, sending information through email. Some employees prefer more social work settings and may shift their desks closer to their colleagues, transferring information by word-of-mouth.
Adding movable furniture also helps companies stay on top of regulation changes. If another variant outbreak occurs, professionals can separate workstations to support mandated distancing. Opening the room may additionally improve an office’s versatility, helping diversify its uses.
Creating Open Space
As employers begin viewing their community offices as secondary work locations, they explore the diversity of its potential functions. They can use the space to support social connections between co-workers, creating a sense of community. Some companies are using their offices to host yoga classes, team-building activities, and other social gatherings.
Architects can expand the openness of offices to increase their versatility. They may remove particular walls to create one large room, able to host various events. Employees can develop a sense of confinement in open workspaces by using moveable barriers and surrounding wall space.
As workers return to the office during uncertain times, they can maximize their safety in an open area. The design minimizes the transmission of COVID-19 by increasing employee access to social distancing. Employers can also upgrade their heating, ventilation, and air conditioning (HVAC) systems to enhance indoor safety.
Adequate air filtration and distancing can support employee health as the virus remains active. Some workers with high-risk health conditions may still choose to stay home, and designers can add advanced technology in the office to increase hybrid capabilities.
Supporting Technological Tools and Future Advancements
Professionals can add supportive technological tools around a workspace to connect in-office employees with WFH professionals. Many designers are increasing the number of cameras around the office, for example, enhancing workplace inclusion and access to essential information.
They can also add communal technology like built-in retractable projectors. The technology may help individuals present in the office and virtually. Designers can additionally remove structural limitations that may reduce a room’s future compatibility with technological advancements.
Designing the Hybrid Office for Flexible Work
Before designing a hybrid office, it is essential to hear employees’ needs and concerns. Research and aesthetics can fuel architectural decisions, and they can cause productivity challenges. If workers feel most productive away from other employees and conduct mainly solo projects, an open office design may degrade their quality of work.
Similarly, if employees value social time and community, and architects design confined office cubicles, workers’ mental health may decline. Employers can prevent adverse design effects by conducting inclusive meetings before hiring a professional. Architects can use the feedback to create the safest and most compatible hybrid office for their clients.
Utimately, the workforce is changing, and business owners and construction professionals alike need to rise to the occasion. The hybrid office has many needs to fulfill, but as a hub for in-person connection and flexibility, modern design techniques can help achieve a balanced, productive workplace.