When you picture flexibility, you’re probably not thinking about an office. For a long time, offices were the very opposite of flexible. You came in, sat at your assigned desk—perhaps within your assigned cubicle—did your work, and clocked out. It wasn’t glamorous, and it definitely wasn’t flexible. Today’s employees work differently. Collaboration, catch ups, hybrid brainstorms, impromptu one-on-ones—these are now daily realities in workplaces. To keep folks productive and happy onsite, companies need flexible office space that meets employee needs. In this post, we’ll talk about what it means to have a flexible workspace. We’ll also cover the different types of flexible office space design and its benefits.
What is flexible office space?
A flexible office space is a type of workplace that offers employees options for where and how they work onsite. Unlike a traditional office, where employees have assigned desks, a flexible workspace allows you to choose a space that’s best for the task at hand. It also has tools and technology that help you work agilely. Need to book a focus space on the fly? Easy. Have an impromptu meeting with a remote colleague? Not a problem. A flexible workspace can adapt as needed when team, department, or business goals change. It can also expand or shrink to support teams of varying sizes. This type of dynamic office environment is often paired with flexible working policies to give folks more choice in where, when, and how they work.
Types of flexible office space
While there are many types of flexible office space, these are the most common:
- Hot desks: This is a type of flexible seating arrangement that allows employees to book a desk when they need it, whether it's for a few hours or for an entire day. Hot desking also gives folks the option to plan ahead or book a workspace on an ad hoc basis.
- Meeting rooms: Using a room booking system, meeting rooms can be a kind of flexible workspace. If someone needs to book a room for a meeting, they can quickly find available rooms that suit their headcount. If their meeting gets canceled, or they need to switch to a different room, they can easily free up the room so other folks can use it.
- Open offices: This type of workspace emphasizes collaboration over siloed work. With more floor space to work with, open offices can transform into different types of space based on what folks need. This kind of flexible office space works best when paired with other flexible elements, such as hot desks and easy-to-move furniture.
- Huddle spaces: Sometimes folks need a small, private space to gather for an impromptu chat. A huddle space offers the flexibility of impermanence—one minute it’s a quiet seating area and the next it’s a space for people to have a quick strategy session. These areas typically have whiteboards and video conferencing equipment available, but are located in an open area rather than the confines of a room.
Benefits of flexible office space
Creating a flexible office space takes effort. But, is it worth it? Turns out, there’s a big upside to giving your employees more flexibility in how they work onsite. Here are the top benefits.
- Business adaptability: A flexible workspace enables fast-growing companies to expand during growth phases by making the most of the space they already have. Using space to its full potential can not only lower real estate costs, it also eliminates the need to search for additional office space.
- Productivity and efficiency: A flexible workspace allows employees to adapt their work environment to their needs, resulting in more productive and efficient working. No more wasting time looking for a meeting room or trying to do heads-down work in a crowded space. Instead, the office is a tool for employees to do their best work.
- Collaboration and innovation: A flexible workspace brings people together to do better, more creative work. When folks can collaborate seamlessly, they can share ideas, knowledge, and resources to solve problems… otherwise known as a win-win-win for individuals, teams, and businesses.
- More folks wanting to be on site: A flexible workspace encourages more folks to work onsite on a regular basis. When the in-office experience beats the remote one, people will want to go to the office. This means fewer people dragging their feet to work and more people who want to take advantage of onsite perks. It’s a domino effect: when people enjoy being onsite, it attracts others to the office.
5 tips for creating a flexible office space
Now that you know the benefits of a flexible office space, let’s create a plan to help you transform your workplace. Below are five tips for making your space more flexible.
Tip #1: Make data-driven decisions
The key to flexible office space design is to optimize, optimize, optimize. What works for your people one week may not be best the next week. This is where workplace analytics, including room booking, desk usage, and occupancy data, are your best friends. Understand which conference rooms are most popular and which ones sit empty. Find out the most popular days of the week to book a hot desk so you can adapt your setup accordingly. Get a handle on return-to-office trends, including which teams and departments are coming in most, and the popular days of the week to work onsite. Understanding how folks are using your workplace will unlock opportunities to improve it.
Tip #2: Use adaptable furniture
There’s nothing fun about having to move heavy furniture around the office several times a week. (Who has time for that, anyway?) Installing easy-to-move furniture throughout your office is a great way to encourage people to use it in a way that best meets their needs. Beyond rolling chairs, think: dividers, whiteboards, monitors, and reconfigurable tables. You may even throw in some moveable snack carts to keep folks nourished and happy in any area of the office.
Tip #3: Empower employees with technology
Another way to empower employees to use space on site is by showing them what’s available. Employees can access workplace technology on their phones to see if a desk or meeting room is in use. If it’s not, they can easily book one that meets their needs. They can also see which of their coworkers plan to be onsite, or invite folks to join them on the days they plan to go in. Access to this information helps employees make informed decisions on the fly.
Tip #4: Keep things tidy
Obvious, maybe, but crucial. Keep your workplace tidy to encourage folks to use it to its full potential. Having to move cables out of the way to use a meeting space or clean up after others will lead to a subpar workplace experience. On the flip side, creating a culture around tidying up after yourself will lead to a better, more flexible experience. Folks will be able to move from one space into another without losing focus.
Tip #5: Create a flexible workplace culture
To create a flexible workplace experience, employees and executives alike need to be on board. There are a few ways you can make this happen. First, establish best practices for space use. This might be room booking rules, such as no hanging out in rooms you haven’t booked and tidying up when your meeting is over. Second, encourage folks to use new areas of the workplace by leveraging a solution like hot desking with interactive maps. People will be able to easily find their new favorite spots to work throughout the office.—Remember, creating a flexible office space doesn’t have to be a headache! Sure, building the optimal work environment when there are lots of moving parts may seem intimidating at first. But with the right approach—and tools—it can also be a huge unlock for workplace teams and their employees. With a flexible workspace, you stand to win big for your business: more onsite attendance, agility, productivity, and collaboration.