When you think of the workplace, what comes to mind? There’s no right answer. Some are open floor plan offices and others are manufacturing plants. Some use the latest technologies and others rely on manual processes. In short, every workplace looks different.
Regardless of what your company does, the workplace should be more than a physical space people go to do their work. It should be a space where people can get their best work done, be creative, and make meaningful connections. Yet, too often the workplace can prevent employees from doing their best work, resulting in lower employee productivity, poor online company reviews, and—ultimately—retention issues.
The key to creating a workplace that empowers your people in a hybrid work environment? Flexibility. Flexible workplaces help people find the optimal environment for them based on their specific needs. Let’s go over three key spaces that give employees more flexibility and a better experience in the workplace.
1 – Assigned spaces
Assigned spaces are dedicated workstations. They’re typically desks or cubicles, but are sometimes offices. This type of space is ideal for employees who work best independently and whose work requires a lot of head-down time. Assigned spaces also allow employees to come in each day and work in a space that’s familiar to them.
Tips for implementing this space type:
If you’re rethinking your workplace to be more flexible, you don’t have to do away with assigned seating altogether. Instead, you may assign desks to employees who prefer this work setup and offer hot desks (which we’ll go over next) to those who don’t. This ensures you don’t assign a bunch of desks to employees who are rarely on-site, or who prefer to switch up their work environment on a regular basis. This way, everyone wins.
2 – Hot desk areas
These areas are for “hot desks”—desks that employees can book for the day. Unlike assigned spaces, they’re for short-term use only. Employees can secure a desk using hot desk booking software when they plan to go into the workplace. If they’re not on-site, they’re not taking up valuable square footage in the workplace. Since hybrid work means fewer people work on-site on any given day, fewer desks are needed to accommodate your workforce. This flexibility gives employees the option to do heads-down work and frees up room for other important space types.
Hot desks aren’t only for head-down work, though. Employees can coordinate their desk bookings so they’re seated next to teammates or work friends. This is helpful for people who may want to sit near each other while they’re working on a shared project.
Tips for implementing this space type:
Switching from assigned spaces to hot desks can be disorienting and stressful for employees. To make the process a smooth one, be sure to communicate early and often leading up to the change. Explain why this is a win-win for employees, whether that’s more flexibility, making room for new space types, or ensuring that desks are sanitized after each use. Be sure to share guidelines for using hot desks that include best practices on noise, hygiene, and privacy. This will establish a culture around this space type and help employees know how to uphold it.
3 – Informal meeting areas
These areas are often located around the kitchen and away from quiet zones. Employees can use informal meeting spaces to work alone, in groups, or have casual conversations unrelated to work. In a hybrid work environment, employees want to use the workplace for more than just work. They want to be able to make connections with others—new employees, work friends, teammates, and clients. And there’s a business incentive to provide spaces that enable these connections: building relationships with people at work helps employees feel more comfortable, connected, and encouraged to work on-site.
Tips for this implementing space type:
Don’t assume informal spaces can be thrown together without thoughtful planning. To get the most out of these areas, you need to design them with care. Ask your employees how they want to use communal spaces. When you understand their needs, you can design the most appropriate space. For example, you may find that employees want a space where they can have one-on-one or small group lunches. If you only have communal lunch tables, you may consider including a few smaller spaces for these employees.—
We only scratched the surface of the different space types worth considering to support your employees in a hybrid work model. But before you try out other workspaces, be sure you have these basics down. And remember: the best way to know what your employees need is by asking them. Send them a survey and collect data on what they’ll find most helpful. After all, the workplace is built for your people to thrive and your job is critical to ensuring they have what they need to be successful.