We have arrived at an endpoint of this adventure — or at least this part of it. The end of the beginning, if not the very end.
An intentional, well-managed, well-explained hybrid work strategy offers companies and staff the possibility of reimagining the world of work. We’ve looked at how often people might use offices. But what does it mean for the physical structure of the office itself?
“I hope we’re in a position where work is a really fluid and dynamic process," Leesman Chief Insight and Research Officer Peggie Rothe said. Leesman’s survey data of hundreds of thousands of individuals around the world has consistently found that people feel their home enables them to work more productively than their office.
“We need to bring the best of the home into the office, and create spaces that allow people to bring their best selves wherever they are working,” she said.
A big part of this, of course, revolves around collaboration — Leesman’s data has confirmed the intuitive idea that the type of work the office best facilitates — and that can’t be done as well at home — is creative, collaborative work.
“The endless seas of desks go,” MillerKnoll Director of Design Strategy Joseph White said. “You don’t want to walk in and see rows of desks and chairs. There should be intentional neighbourhoods with clearly defined purposes.”
These are non-architectural changes that companies will make to their office space, White said, but owners need to understand the needs of their tenants to make sure the architecture of their building allows them to create this design structure. That is not a new idea; in fact, it has been around for decades, though hybrid work has the potential to make it the standard of office design rather than something only adopted by a few forward-thinking companies.
This design needs to be influenced by the way information flows around a company, another concept landlords perhaps haven’t thought about in the past that might be useful to consider in the future.
“Information flows around companies in different ways, sometimes like a firework [from a single source], sometimes like a fishing net,” Herman Miller Vice President of Global Research and Insights Ryan Anderson said. “And space needs to be designed according to how that information flows.”
The kind of meeting and collaboration space you build — large spaces for all-hands meetings, small spaces for one-on-ones, spaces with interactive whiteboards for presentations — depends on these flows of information.
In a far off, possibly slightly utopian future, hybrid work offers the possibility of democratising office space and making good-quality offices available to companies that might not otherwise be able to afford them.
“We are saying that people have to spend the majority of their week in the office,” Grosvenor HR Director Jo Banfield said. With most people choosing to come in Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday, that offers an intriguing possibility.
“We are looking at whether we can make some of our office space available on days when it is not being used as much,” Banfield said, adding that the space could be used by charity or nonprofit community groups. “There are issues regarding security and access that have to be considered, but it is something that we are looking into, which we wouldn’t have even thought of before.”
Done well, hybrid work has the possibility to remake the world of work, and even society, in ways we haven’t even begun to imagine yet.
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