From Mandate to Magnet: Office Design for Great Hybrid Workplaces

May 30, 2024
Hybrid Work
Space Design
From Mandate to Magnet: Office Design for Great Hybrid Workplaces

TL;DR Article Summary

There were carrots, then there were sticks, and then there were Instagrammable office designs. In the great return-to-office (RTO) debate, employers have used all tactics to get employees back into the office. Halfway into 2024, most employees are open to working sometimes in the office. According to Gensler's Global Workplace Survey 2024, 72% of employees are positive about returning.

However, employees don’t like going to an office that doesn’t accommodate their new ways of working. They want spaces that support seamless collaboration, social interaction, and creative brainstorming. A new Cisco survey found that only 47% of workers believe their work environments are equipped for this new era of hybrid work. 

It’s time for organizations to reevaluate their office space designs to meet the evolving needs of their hybrid workforce. Facilities managers, IT, and workspace designers should consider new workplace metrics when considering how their offices meet hybrid working needs.

“Making the office a magnet means creating experiences that employees value. To achieve this, organizations must embed hybrid work solutions, infused with AI, into office spaces to foster collaborative experiences for everyone.” - Jeetu Patel, Executive Vice President and General Manager of Security and Collaboration at Cisco

1. Increase Opportunities for In-Office Collaboration and Socializing

Both employers and employees recognize the need for office spaces that encourage collaboration and innovation. The Cisco survey found that two of the top three drivers for employees to return to the office were “socializing with others” (74%) and “collaborating with others” (71%). However, as it is now, office spaces are too focused on individual work rather than fostering collaboration and creativity. 85% of employers say that most of their organization’s office space is allocated to personal working spaces (Cisco).

Offices designed for more collaboration and socializing also have a positive return on investment for businesses, helping to improve retention and employee engagement. An overwhelming 83% of employers acknowledge that collaboration-driven enhancements effectively attract and retain top talent. Employees who spend more time working with others versus individually are the most engaged and more likely to continue learning and engaging in professional development (Gensler). Organizations should allocate more personal workstations to spaces for small and large meetings, creative brainstorming sessions, and personal discussions like 1:1s.

2. Design Office Layout To Meet New Ways of Hybrid Working

While collaborating and socializing take center stage for employees' work in the office, hybrid work emphasizes the importance of spaces that accommodate flexibility and a greater variety of work activities. According to JLL’s 2024 Global Occupancy Planning Benchmarking Report, the spectrum of space types is expanding across collaboration, individual, and focus spaces, with flexible seating arrangements like hot desking increasing.

According to Cisco, both employers and employees believe that the office of the future needs to facilitate flexibility and adaptability to tailor a more individualized work experience. That’s because when, where, and how people work have changed. Employees no longer come into the office five days a week and sit at their desks all day. Gensler found that workplaces now need to be optimized to effectively support all five work modes: 

  • working alone,
  • working with others in person,
  • working with others virtually,
  • learning, and
  • socializing. 

However, only about half of employers and employees say that individual workstations, small and large meeting rooms, and huddle spaces are either “effective” or “moderately effective” at enhancing in-office productivity. These results demonstrate that more can and should be done to ensure that current office designs fully support work activities in those spaces.

3. Invest in Workplace Experience To Improve Performance

93% of employers and 89% of employees worldwide believe a positive correlation exists between workspace design and employee satisfaction (Cisco). Office design is no longer just about function—it’s also about using the office to create great workplace experiences. High-performing workplaces have office designs that support better workplace experiences. There’s also more flexibility in these workplaces, with 94% of employees having a choice in where they work within the office.

Workplace performance improves with the quantity of spaces offered within and beyond the office. These workplaces have diverse space types, offering greater access to spaces for critical work activities and more work settings to choose from beyond individual workspaces and enclosed meeting rooms (Gensler). Knowing this, organizations should consider the various lifestyle amenities that contribute to a better workplace experience. That includes break rooms and lounges, cafeterias, project and team rooms, outdoor workspaces, and rest and nap spaces. 

Read more: How to Create Hybrid Office Neighborhoods With Skedda

4. Update Office Tech To Enable Hybrid Collaboration

Nearly two-thirds of employees want better technology and infrastructure to accommodate different work and activities (Cisco). Many feel that their office’s meeting rooms are ineffective, hindering productivity and collaboration due to faulty audio and video technologies. On average, just under half of meeting rooms across organizations have video and audio capabilities. The main reasons that meeting rooms are ineffective in enhancing in-office productivity include:

  • Lack of video and audio endpoints in rooms (46%)
  • The low quality of the audio-visual experience (41%)
  • Lack of video and audio endpoints to make it inclusive (31%)
  • A lack of consistency in the experience of remote vs in-office participants (32%)

Organizations need modern, easy-to-implement technology that integrates well with their other platforms. They also need to start integrating Artificial Intelligence (AI) into the workplace to streamline administrative tasks and free employees to focus more on critical thinking work. It will take cross-functional collaboration with facilities, IT, and HR to develop change management strategies for implementing new technology throughout their organization.

See 7 must-have conference room tech tools for hybrid meetings.

5. Focus on Closing the Tech Skills Gap With Training

Simply providing the tech tools is not enough, as many employees have access but don’t feel knowledgeable enough to use these tools. Cisco found that most employees (60%) report either a lack of access to or proficiency in these technologies, which include instant messaging and chat, project management or collaboration tools, and cloud-based document sharing with video-conferencing platforms. While 43% of employees have access to AI technologies, less than half feel proficient using them (Cisco).

Organizations need to assess how much their employees use the tools being implemented and, if not, find out why. Once you understand the disconnect and skills gap, you can design training programs and change processes to introduce employees to these technologies. For example, you may have to introduce the tech tools and training early in the onboarding process to ensure that all new employees are prepared when they start. Every time you introduce a new tool, you may have to create new training and resources for employees to take and regularly collect data to see how the adoption is going.

Designing the Workplace To Attract the Future Workforce

The future of office space design hinges on creating environments that go beyond functional requirements to deliver exceptional workplace experiences, accommodating flexibility, collaboration, and personal growth. Research shows that a substantial redesign of office layouts is imperative to support a variety of work modes effectively. By investing in modern office designs and integrating advanced technologies, organizations can create a magnet for talent, fostering a productive and engaging workplace that aligns with contemporary work trends.

If you’re ready to start optimizing your office space in the hybrid work era, create your free Skedda account today.

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