Hybrid Working and Office Design
If you’re wondering why your staff are less effective than they used to be, you’re not alone. Staff productivity in most UK companies has dropped 3-6% since 2020, and it’s becoming a major issue for business leaders. Though there are many different factors that affect staff performance, one of the biggest is their work environment.
Over the last 3 years, hybrid working has become the dominant working model in the UK. 62% of UK companies now operate a hybrid working model. This is more than double the pre-pandemic level of 30%. While the remote working model was initially hailed as the future, its shortcomings have since been exposed. Just 8% of UK companies currently work remotely. Moreover, flexible working is here to stay, with many experts expecting it to be the dominant working model for years to come.
This huge change in where people work has had a profound impact on how and when they use the office. Despite this, very few companies have an office that is designed to maximise the performance of a hybrid workforce. Even those that have redesigned their offices in recent years have often let traditional design techniques dominate, despite the impact of hybrid work.
At Zentura, we’re committed to designing spaces around the needs of the business and people that use them, to enable them to become more efficient, productive, and to increase wellbeing. We’ve been designing and building workspaces for 15 years. In the last 3 of those, we’ve seen a huge change in what constitutes the most effective office design. Today, we’ll break down how offices need to change to maximise the potential of hybrid working, in terms of layout, technology, and workspace experience.
The most obvious change brought about by hybrid working is the layout of the office, and how much space is needed for the different environments. The role of the office in the hybrid working model is very different to the traditional office. Rather than the place where all work is done, it is a collaboration and socialising hub. Here, we’ll go through the key areas of an office space, and how much space you may need for each.
Collaboration is much more than communication – it’s about working together to achieve a valuable outcome. That’s why collaboration rarely happens in conventional meeting rooms. More informal environments designed for more flexible use by smaller teams are necessary for collaboration.
In most offices we survey, about 10% of the area is devoted to collaboration spaces. In our experience, this is much too low. Collaboration areas do tend to be more space-efficient than some other areas, so we recommend devoting about 30-45% of your workspace to collaboration areas.
One of the main reasons staff come into the office at all is to socialise with colleagues. While it may seem counterintuitive, this has real performance benefits for your company. If your space provides opportunities for staff to network and relax together, it will improve their relationships which are so important when working together.
In many offices we survey, the only breakout space is an undersized and outdated kitchen. However, given the value that staff socialisation can provide, your breakout space should be an attractive, on-brand space that your people enjoy. Typically, we recommend that such spaces comprise 10-15% of your office space.
Desking areas used to (and often still do) dominate offices. However, in the age of hybrid work, this is no longer the most effective design. While collaboration may be the primary reason your people come into the office, they will still need to spend some time on individual deep work. For this reason, focus spaces are an essential part of the hybrid office.
Focus spaces are much more than banks of desks. Other types of focussed spaces include phone and working pods, as well as bookable individual offices. Typically, we design spaces with around 30-40% designated for focused working, 50-75% of which is devoted to desking.
Meeting rooms may be inappropriate for collaboration, but they still have a crucial role to play in the hybrid office. Sometimes, a more formal environment is appropriate. Meeting rooms can also include hybrid meeting suites, equipped with A/V technology to enable high-quality remote or hybrid meetings.
Meeting rooms are very space-inefficient, and most offices have far too many. For your space to be as effective as possible for hybrid working, you will likely want about 5-10% of your workspace devoted to meeting rooms.
Individual offices are another feature that take up too much space in many offices. They are very space inefficient, as they take up a lot of space for one person, and are typically used less than half the time. In many cases, individual offices are also located in prime areas of the space such as near the amenities or on the external walls.
In a hybrid office, private offices are largely irrelevant, as much of the work that requires a private environment is best done from home. That said, shared or bookable offices can provide a more efficient solution if some individual spaces are needed. These would typically take us less than 5% of a hybrid office. However, certain industries, such as law, may require a higher percentage.
In the hybrid workspace, technology is more important than ever. Not only is it more important, but its role has also been radically changed by hybrid working. No longer are desktops for staff and a TV in the kitchen all that is required. To adapt your technology package for hybrid working, your people need portable technology. This will enable your people to work equally effectively, regardless of their environment – whether it be home, collaboration spaces, or focus spaces.
Audio-Visual (A/V) technology that allows easy and glitch-free hybrid meetings is also important. Many meetings are now held virtually, including client meetings. Creating a good impression in these meetings is essential, and your A/V technology has a role to play in this.
As well as staff technology, space technology is also important in the hybrid workspace. Smart access control systems allow your staff to navigate throughout your office, using only their smartphone. This makes your space much more secure while making access easier for your people. Occupancy sensor software enables you to get a detailed understanding of how, when, and where your people are working. You can then improve your workspace based on this.
To maximise the potential of hybrid working at your company, you will need to go further than updating the layout and technology. You will need to consider the wholistic staff experience your people associate with coming into the office. Staff experience covers every detail, from the lighting to the coffee, and even their commute. For them, it is all part of coming into the office. If you can make that a better experience, your staff will perform better as a result.
Despite the many benefits of in-office work, many staff are reluctant to return to the office. This is mainly due to two reasons: the commute is very unpleasant, and the office doesn’t provide a better working environment than their home.
To make a real success of adapting your office to hybrid work, you will need to provide your people with an experience they can't get at home – one that makes it worth the commute. 87% of staff say they would come into the office to socialise with colleagues, so leaning into this will not only enable you to strengthen culture, you will be able to access the other benefits of in-office working – at least some of the time.
Improving Your Hybrid Office Design
The rapid rise of hybrid working has led to a huge change in the role of the office, and what staff expect from it. If your company has not adapted to this, you will likely be seeing declining staff productivity, as well as poor talent attraction and retention. As a result, your business will struggle to succeed in the long term.
By adapting your office layout to suit the role of the collaboration and networking hub, you will create a space that meets the needs of your people – and company. An effective, portable hybrid technology package will also boost their performance. As a result, your workspace will provide a much better staff experience, and staff will be less reluctant to come to the office.
If you're not sure which working model is best for your company, download our Office v Remote v Hybrid Working Guide. There you’ll get a comparison of the working models rated by 7 key criteria, as well as common situations for each working model, and help to decide which is right for you. Download it here.
Need help fixing your hybrid office design challenges? We’d love to hear from you. At Zentura, we design agile workspaces around the companies and people that use them. We can design and deliver high-performance workspaces for your future. Reach out today.