The ideal hybrid working environment

Lucinda Pullinger explores how to make a working environment to maximise your people’s potential 

With a recent survey highlighting that 84% of employers now have hybrid working in place , there is no doubt that this working pattern has become a permanent fixture in the working world. 

With hybrid working comes a shift in the way that offices are being utilised by companies. Whilst some organisations are downsizing to save costs and resources, there is an increase in companies seeking new office space that aligns with their (often newly created) workspace strategies and in doing so, better suits the needs of their employees. 

There are many variations of hybrid workspace strategies. For businesses who chose, as part of their strategy, to have their own, bespoke office space or who are selecting pre-designed space that will best suit them, there are several factors to consider. What is right for one business, will not necessarily be the same for other businesses, even within the same sector. Understanding your business needs and culture is key and once you have done this then you need to consider factors that include human (such as productivity, inclusivity, health and wellbeing), physical (such as size, décor, furniture) and digital (such as desk booking systems, data gathering, video conferencing).

The first step to creating the ideal hybrid environment is to consider the human element. People continue to be an organisation’s most valuable capital and along with culture are often the driving factor behind a workplace strategy. Your workspace strategy will outline the purpose of the office and how it supports and promotes your business culture. You then need to consider what type of work will be done in the office and if this breaks down by department/function etc. Understanding when and how employees want to work, and when and where are they most productive are all important. Factors such as these, as well as insight from focus groups or survey feedback from line managers and employees, will help you form recommendations. 

Understanding when and how employees want to work, and when and where are they most productive are all important

Once we understand the human considerations, we can consider the physical element. Companies downsizing on office space is a steady trend we have witnessed since the beginning of the global pandemic and, at the same time, workspace is being viewed as far more than a “necessary cost base” that provides row upon row of desks. Instead, companies are simultaneously ‘rightsizing’ their workspace portfolios and upgrading and maximising the design of the workspace they opt to occupy. 

An inclusive workspace is integral to create a hybrid working environment that really does work for all. Companies need to consider the ergonomics of the office and how you can make this work for different generations, types of roles, the neurodiversity of employees and of course accessibility for those who have additional requirements. Ensuring your office space is an inclusive one should be at the forefront of a company’s office strategy and will support talent acquisition as well as benefit your current employee base. Ergonomic considerations go far beyond chairs and should also include everything from stand-up desks to providing employees with the choice to stand whilst working to mouses and keyboards. The right furniture helps to avoid short-term and long-term health problems for employees and improves the wellbeing and productivity of the team too.   

The design and décor of a space has been proven to impact the productivity of workers and therefore, a well-designed and decorated space is critical. The office should enable work by providing different types of spaces such as pods, meeting rooms, quiet spaces, collaboration space, break out space etc as per your workspace strategy dictates. The environment should also inspire people and a great way to achieve this is by seeking a space that has lots of natural light. Natural light also reduces the need for artificial light to be used during brighter times in the day, therefore having a positive impact on the environment too.

When it comes to the décor, surveys show that many indoor plants have health benefits including air purifying properties. To avoid choosing an office theme that dates quickly, it is recommended to opt for light and bright décor and when choosing colours, to incorporate the brand’s colours rather than the colour that is in trend that season. 

Organisations must consider the sustainability impact of their workspace strategy too. Understanding the holistic picture of the carbon footprint is important to employees and investors/shareholders. When designing and delivering office space there are many actions a business can take to reduce the carbon footprint such as recycling and upcycling furniture, considering the supply chain that they are using and the carbon footprint of the providers they are partnering with, understanding the energy efficiency of the building they are occupying and recycling policies to name a few. Supporting employees who are working from home or other locations on how they can reduce their carbon footprint during the working day is also important as companies strive for net zero.

The final key factor to consider is the digital element of hybrid space. With hybrid here to stay, we have to find ways to connect teams in the office with those working from home or in another remote location. One way to do this is to install digitally enabled meeting rooms and phone pods to ensure employees can easily switch between home working and office-based working. Companies need to ensure they have super slick, easy-to-use tech and with the addition of a cloud backup. This also means considering the cyber security of the team’s working devices to protect employees, and the company’s, data. 

Workspace strategies will not be static and will, and should, continue to evolve and therefore collating data is key to ensure that as you evolve and learn, you are basing decisions on evidence and insight vs opinion or individual preferences. 

No matter what office space you opt for when creating your ideal hybrid working environment, one thing for certain is that it needs to work for your business objectives and your employees. A team of happy, highly engaged, and healthy (physically and mentally) employees have proven time and time again to provide a better output for businesses and therefore have a positive impact on the bottom line.

Lucinda Pullinger is UK MD at The Instant Group


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