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4 ways hybrid work is driving space changes in the workplace

What do Google, Salesforce, and GoDaddy have in common? Besides having workplaces that wow visitors, these companies have all adopted a hybrid work model. With many employees demanding flexible work options, lots of companies have followed suit. To meet people’s expectations, companies need to rethink their physical workplaces.

In a hybrid work environment, you need to prioritize flexibility, health and safety, and workplace experience. They each play a role in enticing your employees to work on-site rather than remotely. Today, the workplace isn’t only competing against work-from-home environments. It’s competing against the “third workplace”—cafes, hotels, and co-working spaces. 

To win, your space must offer an experience employees can’t get elsewhere. In a hybrid work model, this means enabling your employees to use the workplace in more collaborative and immersive ways. Let’s look at four ways hybrid work is shaking up the workplace.

1 – Employees have more say in when they work on-site

Under a hybrid work model, employee schedules are more flexible. Employees don’t have to be in the workplace five days a week. Instead, they go in when they need to be there. In some cases, employees will set their own schedules. Other times, schedules may be set by team or department. 

In either case, companies are giving employees the opportunity to weigh in on what works best for them. According to a recent Wakefield survey, 61% of office workers want to work on-site between 1-4 days a week.

Now that your employees have more say in when they work on-site, how they think about the workplace has changed. It’s no longer a place they have to be all week, so you have to work harder to make it a place they want to be. 

For example, some teams or departments may only work on-site certain days a week. To support who’s in the workplace, you can reconfigure it throughout the week. You could rearrange desks so there are enough grouped together to accommodate a team you know will be on-site. Better yet, ask your people what they need. When you make changes employees actually want, they’ll feel seen and welcome in the workplace. 

2 – Employees want to choose how they’ll use the workplace

Employee choice is at the core of the hybrid workplace. According to Eric Gannon, Workplace Studio Leader at Gensler Chicago, hybrid work will shift companies toward a “‘worker-as-consumer’ mindset, with the workplace as their central marketplace.” This means you must be more responsive to your employee needs and preferences. Otherwise, they could—like consumers—choose to work somewhere else.

A survey of 1,000 US employees revealed that two out of five employees want to use the workplace to collaborate and build connections. But they also want their on-site experience to be flexible. If employees have heads-down work to do, they want to be sure they can book a desk to power through it. If they have loads of one-on-ones, they’ll need to reserve a meeting room to collaborate with coworkers. 

To support people’s changing needs, your floorplan, furniture, and technology must all be adaptable. This means implementing more moveable and adjustable features, like retractable walls or moveable partitions. It may also mean dividing large conference rooms into smaller meeting spaces and using more modular furnishings. 

3 – Health and safety is non-negotiable

In response to the pandemic, workplaces around the world closed. If your employees were able to work from home, they likely did so to avoid getting sick and spreading illness to others. Many studies have shown that concern for health and safety in the workplace is here to stay. While employees want to work on-site part of the week, they don’t want to risk their health by doing so.

To respond to this concern, you should think long-term about how to keep your employees healthy in the workplace. Ensuring there’s enough space to keep people a safe distance apart is a start. Showing them it’s safe to be on-site is key to employee productivity and comfort. Educate your employees on how you’re keeping them safe. 

For example, at an all-company meeting you can discuss the top five changes your company has made to keep people safe on-site. Show people your new air filtration system and the sanitation stations you’ve added. Discuss changes to policies and procedures they need to be aware of when they come into the workplace. 

4 – Collaboration between remote and on-site employees has never been more important

In a hybrid work model, employees need to be productive despite not always being in the same room as their coworkers. To enable this, companies need to be more deliberate about their workplace tech. Flashy new tech can be exciting but also a hassle to use. At the end of the day, employees need tools that simplify the workday rather than complicate it.

To support collaboration between folks on-site and in the workplace, and to entice people to work on-site, you should install screens, cameras, and other equipment that enables virtual collaboration throughout the workplace. Think beyond your typical meeting rooms. For example, you may want to install screens in informal gathering spaces. 

Employees may want to use these areas to have a virtual lunch or coffee with remote colleagues. Better yet, prompt employees to use these spaces in this way. One way you can do this is by placing a note by your drink station that says, “Got a few minutes? Invite a remote teammate for a coffee or tea in the lounge.” Don’t forget to think about noise levels since remote/on-site collaboration often results in more chatter, which can be disruptive. 

In a hybrid work environment, the on-site experience is more important than before. Employees don’t necessarily have to go into the workplace five days a week anymore. Now, they need a reason to leave the comfort of their couch or favorite local coffee shop for the workplace. 

Think about how you’ve adapted your workplace for each of the priorities above. What changes have you made for hybrid work and how do they support your people? When you craft your space to meet the needs of employees in a hybrid work model, they’ll feel safe, empowered, and excited to turn up to the workplace.

Want to learn more about how to manage your space in a hybrid work model? Download our ebook, Space management tips to help your people thrive in a hybrid workplace