What is hybrid working?
The pandemic has profoundly changed the world of work, leading to the rise of a hybrid style of working. The pandemic has profoundly changed the world of work, leading to the rise of a hybrid style of working. More than just a question of where we work, hybrid working is pushing companies to reassess the way they work to prioritise employee wellbeing and the success of their projects.
A study conducted by Gallup Workplace highlighted that 56% of American workers believe their job can be done entirely remotely. What is more, 30% are already solely working from home and only travelling to the office for training or meetings. Before the pandemic, this figure was only 8%. In three years the world of work has completely changed. Hybrid working has spread within companies, and many are struggling to get a handle on the result of this situation.
Hybrid working is not just simply splitting your work time between the home and the office. It makes organising a company much more complex. This is reflected in the office layouts that are no longer fit for purpose such as deserted open-plan spaces, meeting rooms that are always booked up and spaces that employees are using incorrectly, as well as in the difficulties companies are experiencing getting teams to come back to the office.
This is because to truly understand hybrid working, we first need to understand the notion of activity-based spaces, explains Christine Rillaerts, manager at Buroconcept.“It involves defining what workers do on a daily basis and creating spaces dedicated to these activities. Traditionally, everyone had their desk, whether it was in their own closed office or in an open-plan space. The worker did everything there – made calls, held informal and formal meetings and did their everyday work. To create a hybrid-optimised office layout, you need to create spaces tailored to each to these tasks.”
Workplaces are becoming hybrid
Hybrid working is therefore the division of a worker’s tasks between different spaces dedicated to specific activities, including the home. This is why Christine believes that the pandemic did not create hybrid working, but instead intensified one of its components: the home as a workplace. “Remote working predates the pandemic what has changed is that many companies have provided their staff with a laptop and other equipment to work from home. The home has therefore become a new workplace for lots of people.”
This increase in the number of workplaces means that work needs to be reorganised to become more flexible. “The fact that work is becoming flexible is therefore not an end in itself but rather a result. Once open-plan office space became somewhere only intended for certain activities, workers could no longer spend all their time there. You therefore can’t provide one space per person anymore. In the space of one day, a person might spend some time working in an open-plan space, a pod, a project room and their home.”
This flexibility shows us why it is important to adapt offices to hybrid working.
How to adapt your offices to hybrid working
Hybrid working brings with it many challenges. To manage them, first and foremost you need to listen to your employees’ needs. “Our first task is to understand how workers work and what they really need,” explains Laurence Indekeu, project manager at Buroconcept. “We run workshops with the company’s employees during the office relocation audit stage. This is all the more important because of hybrid working and technological advances.”
Laurence Indekeu comes back to examples of spaces designed for hybrid working:“You need to reflect on why we go to the office. First and foremost it is to see our colleagues. In new offices, we seek to create spaces where colleagues can talk and exchange ideas. For example, we are transforming the traditional cafeteria into a place that is used throughout the day so it becomes the heart of the company where ideas are born and productive conversations and meetings take place. There are so many new spaces that we can create, for example spaces for two people to talk, for discussions between colleagues or simply for reading a newspaper.”
Although office layout is central to making hybrid working a success, flexible modern management is also an essential component.
Setups designed specifically for hybrid working
As an office layout specialist, Buroconcept offers a wide range of different layout options for its clients. Meeting space size is a point that is often raised. Before the explosion in hybrid working, these spaces came in relatively standard sizes, which is no longer the case today. They need to adapt to meet a range of different needs, such as:
- spaces for one person to join an online meeting
- large spaces for meetings that all staff attend
- rooms set up so that managers can organise hybrid meetings with staff in the room and staff joining remotely
- small spaces for debriefings with only a few participants
This is exactly what we did for Elia’s Brussels offices so their team members could find meeting rooms tailored to their needs.
We created the layouts of the offices of CSD Engineers with a similar aim; they were designed to optimise the workspace for the teams’ requirements. Pods were placed alongside open-plan spaces for people wanting to be alone to concentrate. Meeting rooms of different sizes were created alongside family-style rooms, which are spaces optimised for exchanging ideas and holding discussions.
Office layouts need to address the main challenges of hybrid working:
- Adapting to new technology that is useful for hybrid working.
- Creating a company culture that integrates hybrid working at all levels of the organisation.
- Implementing a style of management that is adapted to hybrid working through regular individual and group meetings.
- Training in new methods of working to ensure that all employees adapt to hybrid working.
Improving wellbeing and productivity: the advantages of hybrid working
Employees are asking for hybrid working, a study by Business Wire highlights. 55% of French employees want to adopt hybrid working, and 74% of them want the flexibility of hybrid working to be integrated into their company’s culture. It’s not a surprise. Hybrid working makes it possible to achieve a number of goals that are positive for both companies and employees. The first goal is improving team cohesion, and developing ways to maintain high-quality collaborative work when colleagues do not see each other every day.
The way offices are laid out can facilitate collaborative work within teams. Tailored workspaces save companies considerable time by supporting their teams to work remotely or at their normal workstation. Optimised offices are also a way to accelerate the digital transition. The workspace can then adapt to the technological revolution, and not the other way round, with great potential for the future.
These offices are also suited to the digital nomad and the, often young, employees who need agility in their daily lives. It is one of the key ways to attract and retain young talent within a company. Hybrid working is also an effective way to reduce a company’s carbon footprint.
If it is well designed, it also helps to save a significant amount of space and avoids leaving meeting rooms and offices empty most of the time. Teams become more efficient because they can easily find a space that is adapted to the work they need to do. Finally, these kinds of layouts can help a workplace to flourish by offering a solution for everyone whether they are seeking silence and comfort, want to improve cohesion within their team or need a specific layout to interact with their clients or colleagues.