The Changing Workspace
Amid the many conflicting opinions of the future of work and the workspace, one thing everyone is agreed on is that recent events have changed the way we work forever. Workforces across the world now have a newfound appreciation of the positives of home working: no commute, more privacy, more flexibility, more control over their environment, and much more.
Recent months have also shone a light on many of the underappreciated elements of office working: less isolation, better culture, better networks, more serendipity, and so on. In this situation, many companies are implementing a hybrid working environment, whether for the short, mid, or long-term. However, ordering all you people to work a certain combination of days from work and the rest from home won't work. Such an arbitrary policy negates many of the benefits of both remote and in-office working, leaving you in a worse position than before.
In order to harness the unprecedented potential of hybrid working, you need to consider both how and where your people will work. This includes what sort of work they are doing (both when remote and in-office), how much time they are spending in different locations, and how they are collaborating with their immediate and wider networks. By building an accurate understanding of how your people are using your workspace, you can then make a plan for how they should be using it, and create a workspace that supports that.
The Different Zones of Workspace
While there are many different types of working zones, they all fall into 1 of 3 categories: focussed, semi-focussed, collaborative. By defining these areas and keeping them distinct in your workspace, each will develop its own atmosphere that reflects and enhances the kind of activities the space is designed for. Having the right mix of these environments will not only ensure your space is used as effectively as possible, but will also help to maximise the performance and wellbeing of your people too.
Focussed spaces are self-explanatory: private one-person spaces for employees to work in peace with no distractions, on individual work. On average, employees lose 86 minutes each day at a workspace due to distractions around them in their environment – nearly 20% of their working day.
Carefully designed workstations, private pods and small individual offices are all perfect for one-person tasks such as writing, data analysis, or phone calls. Many office buildings also have underused pockets of space- nooks that can be transformed to give your people a chance to get their heads down in peace and quiet. All these spaces enable your people to remove themselves from the hubbub of the collaborative areas and focus on their work.
Many office-based workers spend much of the day working in small teams, where they need to be able to communicate but don’t need to be talking together the whole time. This hybrid of focussed and collaborative work is known as semi- collaborative and is the most-used zone in the modern workspace. Despite this, many office designs do not cater to this at all, having a binary choice of a desk or a meeting room. Providing for this agile kind of working will have significant benefits for the productivity of your people.
In addition to this, there are only 2-4 people involved in 73% of meetings. Ensuring there are a variety of small spaces that people can meet and collaborate in on an informal basis will reduce the amount of time your people waste in meetings and increase alignment and engagement in teams.
Collaboration is the number 1 reason so many companies are so keen to get their people back into the office. 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures. By creating a variety of spaces such as large meeting areas (both formal and informal), along with hot-desking (and even outdoor spaces), you can bring your people together to build networks and synergize.
Collaboration is the fuel that drives any successful organisation, and creating spaces that your people can work together in has never been more important in the workspace. While much more common in recent years, the productive benefit of breakout spaces is still underappreciated. Not only good for giving your people space to relax, but it can also help them communicate informally, making your organisation more flexible and agile.
Implementing Variety in Your Workspace
A carefully considered office design can generate significant ROI by ensuring that your teams are present, healthy, and in the best possible position to perform. It enables employees to synergize, creating results far above the power of themselves as individuals. With the right environments to support any task they are working on at any time, your people will waste less time and become more engaged and efficient.
By giving your people a variety of spaces that reflect and enhance the way they work, they will gravitate to the zone that suits what they are doing at that time, moving on to another area when they change tasks. This will keep your people active throughout the day, meeting new colleagues, building networks, and creating more collisions between staff.
Giving your people as much control as possible over when, where and how they work will increase their engagement and productivity. This is not only a choice of home or the office but a choice of different environments inside the office that support the different ways they work. You could even incorporate customisable elements into your office design that enable your people to adapt their environments – such as moving walls to open up multiple meeting rooms, or modular furniture that can be repurposed to better suit their needs throughout the day.
A “one size fits all” approach is clearly not suitable in the future workspace. Your people are all unique and have unique ways of working. And when they are in the office, they can’t collaborate the whole time – they also need time and space to focus on individual tasks. No longer do staff work on the same one tasks all day, every day. Today’s knowledge worker is involved in a wide variety of tasks and projects and needs a variety of spaces to support and enhance the way they work at any point in their day.