Hybrid working and the other legacies of lockdown, three years on
It’s now three years since the world was hit with the full force of COVID-19 and went into lockdown. So what better time to take stock on the legacy of that period on the way we work and the way we design spaces to accommodate work? Underlying these changes is a general shift towards flexible and hybrid working models for many – or most – of the world’s office based workers. It is this that is driving the core changes we are seeing in the way we work and the places we work.
Firstly, hybrid working will change the layout of office spaces. With fewer people in the office at any given time, employers may opt for smaller workspaces. This will allow companies to reduce real estate costs and allocate more resources towards employee perks and benefits. Hybrid working will also enable companies to provide more flexible workspaces that can be adapted to different types of work. For example, employees may use individual workstations for focused work, and then move to communal areas for collaboration and brainstorming sessions.
Secondly, hybrid working will lead to an increased emphasis on technology. With remote work becoming a more significant part of many employees’ workweek, offices will need to invest in technology that can facilitate remote collaboration. For example, companies may use video conferencing software to enable virtual meetings between employees in different locations. Furthermore, employers may invest in smart building technology that can help employees locate available workspaces, set up video conferencing, or manage building resources such as lighting and temperature.
Thirdly, hybrid working will lead to changes in the design of office furniture. With employees spending less time in the office, they will need comfortable and ergonomic furniture that can support their physical health. Companies may opt for standing desks, ergonomic chairs, and adjustable workstations that can be easily customized to individual preferences. Furthermore, offices may incorporate more communal areas such as lounges and break rooms, where employees can relax and socialize during their breaks.
Fourthly, hybrid working will lead to changes in the design of office buildings. With employees working both in-person and remotely, offices will need to become more versatile and adaptable. For example, offices may incorporate flexible walls and partitions that can be easily moved to accommodate different types of work. Additionally, offices may incorporate outdoor workspaces such as patios and rooftops, where employees can work in a more natural and relaxed environment.
Finally, hybrid working will change the way offices are used. With fewer employees in the office at any given time, companies may opt for a shared desk model, where employees do not have assigned workstations. This model can help companies reduce real estate costs and increase flexibility. Additionally, hybrid working may lead to a shift towards a more activity-based working model, where employees choose their workspace based on the task they are working on. This model can help employees be more productive and engaged, as they can choose a workspace that suits their work style and preferences.
In its present iteration, hybrid working is leading to the creation of smaller, more flexible workspaces that emphasize technology and employee well-being. Furthermore, hybrid working will lead to changes in the design of office buildings and the way offices are used. As companies continue to adopt hybrid working models, it is essential for them to consider how their office design can support this new way of working. By embracing these changes, companies can create a more productive, engaging, and enjoyable work environment for their employees.