Recently, the main concern for many Chief executives worldwide has been how to get employees “Back-to-the-Office”. These past two years have certainly been out of the ordinary, yet the time has come when the C-Suite wants to start migrating employees back into the office. Yet employees wonder, “why should we go 100% in the office? Maybe part-time (hybrid) is enough? Maybe not at all?”. Yet while employees are hesitant to return to a regular office routine, they are excited to come to the office when there is a practical reason.
Regardless of your office’s situation, the environment will not be the same as before. You’ll need to excite employees to want to come to work, and you don’t want them to wander through a sea of empty desks seeing the same office they left two years ago. Below are some updates to your space that you should consider when accommodating the hybrid workforce.
When companies decide to go hybrid, employees don’t always need a dedicated desk or cubicle since people come and go throughout the week. Some offices allow reserving a desk or a private workroom for the day or hourly. Alternatively, open benching can be a great option to maximize the space and accommodate an arbitrary number of employees coming into the office daily. Many types of benching surround power beams, so the layouts are flexible, and charging is never a problem. Portable dividers are available between the seats in case more privacy is needed.
There are also individual chairs with work surfaces that provide isolated workspaces. These are ideal for short periods of heads-down work and solitude for phone calls or videos.
Yet if the only reason employees are coming into the office is to work at a desk, they won’t be very enthusiastic about making the commute.
An excellent reason to come into the office is to collaborate with coworkers, so creating collaborative spaces is a priority in a hybrid workplace. Initially, employees may migrate to the conference rooms, but these are not ideal for quick brainstorming sessions of two to four people. Instead, more casual settings, with large monitors and built-in video conferencing to include remote workers, are preferred. These informal areas could be open, semi-private, or enclosed, depending on the level of privacy needed. The spots can also use flexible furniture that employees reposition quickly or with demountable walls for a permanent feel but will disassemble as required. Space for additional lounge furniture or booths often must be carved out of the existing floorplan.
After two years of working from home, employees could be hesitant to come back into the office. Creating “resimercial” spaces – spaces that feel more residential than commercial – could help ease them into this significant change. A section of the office dedicated to taking a breather and relaxing is a practical update when reopening the office. Additionally, a quiet area offers solitude when the noise of the office overwhelms people who have been used to working in isolation for the past two years. Comfortable lounge furniture where you can have quiet time or catch up with your coworkers makes the office more inviting and inclusive. These spaces can include large L shape couches or several smaller ones. Social areas also allow groups to gather for impromptu sessions and fulfill the social interactions employees have missed while working at home. Employees have not seen each other in a bit, so allowing them this space to wind down can help with their mental well-being. Finally, employees like to work in different places around the office instead of being confined to their desks. Comfort while working and having the option to sit or stand can be very important.
Heads-down work is essential for many employees who do well in quiet environments. Heads-down spaces can include enclosed chairs, partially secluded booths, or enclosed phone booths that have acoustics keeping noise out. Individual huddle booths are great when one does not want to be closed off in a cubicle but likes their own space to focus and do work. Employees often need to make a phone call privately where a phone booth would be perfect. Booths come in all sizes, whether you need an enclosed chair, a group meeting booth, or a one-person pod. An alternative would be to create a dedicated private area in the office with personal huddle spaces with power outlets to charge your phone or computer.
Wireframe space dividers are an efficient way to separate space without walls and have room to store items as well. These dividers can be stacked and configured to however the company wants. When configuring the divider, you can also choose where you want boxes for storage to be throughout the crates. Using dividers with storage can be a great way to split up collaboration spaces from quieter spaces. Dividers also define a room, making separated areas rather than one sizeable jumbled area.
In hybrid workspaces, employees do not have dedicated desks to store their belongings as desk reservations have become very popular. Lockers are the perfect alternative when you still need a place for your purse, gym bag, or briefcase while in the office. Lockers are also a great place to store individual headsets, keyboards, mice, and other personal items when you are not in the office. Some locker options include keycards or RF tags to lock/unlock; others have the classic combination code. Many lockers are customized to fit the aesthetic of your space, matching colors, blending into the walls, or used as space dividers.
In a hybrid world, executive touchdown areas are perfect for group meetings since it is standard for remote employees to attend meetings virtually. These spaces usually consist of a high-top table with chairs or stools and a media unit that integrates a camera, speakers, microphone, and computer to the screen. For more comfortable meetings, these areas could also be a booth setup. Finally, touchdown areas are a great way to review a project or other teamwork that needs space to get things done. It is hard to get everyone’s involvement when collaborating around desks.
Biophilia brings a new air into the office, making it feel like one is not so restricted indoors. Most of us work indoors for 8+ hours a day but bringing the outdoors inside makes the space feel more open and welcoming. Biophilia can completely change the nature of the space leading to employees potentially being more productive. It can come in different shapes and sizes, hanging from the ceiling or mounted on the wall. Biophilia can even be on wheels to simplify positioning anywhere inside the office. A room with great natural light and biophilia can excite employees to return.
At Jefferson Group, we have created three packages with different price points to accommodate various hybrid workspaces. These packages give companies an idea of how they can configure their workspace to fit the hybrid needs. Each package’s price reflects the space and function it fulfills.
Package A is about $15,000 and includes:
The high-top table and lounge chairs include accessible power outlets, eliminating employees having to keep returning to their desks to charge their devices. In addition, a mobile media unit allows positioning the screen wherever you want to work.
Package B comes in at about $30,000 and includes:
Within this space, companies can have 8-10 people in a meeting or working on some solo projects. Working in environments like this can remind people that coming into the office is not as scary as it may seem after such a long time.
Package C costs around $80,000 and includes:
We developed this package to encompass a hybrid workspace with many different options of work areas. Package C can fit about 15 people spread out in various formats. Therefore, this package allows employees to socialize, have private zoom meetings, and work collaboratively on a project.
Returning to the office can be a challenging change of pace after the past two years. Still, options like those we have provided can make the process easier than many think.