Hybrid working means working partly in an office or other work premises and partly remotely. The ratio is different for everyone, and remote work may occur at home, at a coworking space, coffee shop - or anywhere else with a WiFi connection.
Employers who operate a hybrid team structure tend to offer employees the chance to shape their own schedule to suit their preferences, personality and lifestyle. Some will have a rigid structure where employees have set days or hours in the office or remote working each week. In contrast, others will be even more flexible and allow workers to set their own timetable on a weekly – or even daily – basis.
While hybrid working isn’t a new concept, it’s accelerated in popularity and become much more mainstream due to the pandemic.
As many employers have been forced to adapt to remote working during the pandemic, they’ve discovered the benefits of hybrid and flexible working. Unsurprisingly, many have implemented measures that will stay long after the memories of social distancing and support bubbles fade.
Research by the Bank of England, released in March 2021, revealed that 49% of workers were home-based at least one day a week in February 2021, compared to just 14% pre-pandemic. Therefore, what advantages can be found in building a hybrid team?
Hybrid working offers a host of benefits to employers and employees, with tech giant Microsoft dubbing it “the best of both worlds”.
For employers, happier workers are more productive, and heightened wellbeing leads to fewer sick days and mental health concerns. A hybrid work pattern is also considered an ideal “happy medium” between the traditional 9-5 office hours and going fully flexible – as, after all, there are indisputable advantages of face-to-face contact.
Another huge bonus of hybrid working is that it unlocks a broader talent pool for employers. When we no longer have to recruit in a certain radius of the office, we can handpick a more diverse and accomplished workforce.
For employees, hybrid working lays much stronger foundations to help us achieve that hallowed work-life balance, boosting both productivity and mental wellbeing in the process.
And reports suggest that hybrid working enhances authenticity at work, as increased exposure to our colleagues’ home lives has amplified empathy and understanding.
Compared to 2020, 39% of people are more comfortable being their whole, authentic selves in the office, with 31% less embarrassed about their personal lives infiltrating the office. After seeing managers Zoom from their bedrooms and toddlers burst into virtual interviews, is it any wonder we’re feeling more affinity towards our coworkers?
A study by Microsoft revealed that 66% of business leaders are thinking about redesigning their office space to facilitate hybrid working.
Right now, we’re speaking to a lot of clients who know they need to evolve their workspaces to attract employees back into the office by adopting a hybrid schedule rather than going fully remote. Yet understanding the nuances of creating an optimal environment to facilitate hybrid working can be a complex process.
So, what are the key considerations when planning a hybrid-friendly workspace? Here’s how we break it down.
Comfort is paramount for the hybrid workspace. We’ve spoken about the resimercial design concept before, which is all about bringing homely elements into the office to create warming, welcoming environments.
Ambient lighting, comfortable furniture, plants and rugs are excellent starting points. Still, a comfortable workplace looks different for every business, and it’s essential to understand what your employees need to reach their potential.
We do our best work when we feel our best, so ask your employees for insight into how you can make them more comfortable at work, and use this research to shape your hybrid workspace design plans.
A strong sense of community and belonging is the primary differentiator between home and office working.
While it’s certainly possible to achieve a connected remote workforce, nothing quite beats face-to-face contact to nurture meaningful human connections. So, understand that your workspace has this crucial advantage to offer your employees and run with it.
The modern workspace should feel like a private members’ club, where employees feel proud to belong to something special.
Again, this looks different for every company, but think about central social zones that spark conversation and collaboration, yoga studios for lunchtime mindfulness or cosy bar areas for after-work drinks. You know your team best: what will make them stay longer and work harder?
In designing these spaces, go beyond the aesthetics and think about the vibe you want to create. For example, use floor or ceiling materials that control noise levels in a relaxed zone or incorporate a soundscape that gently encourages connections in social settings.
A crucial consideration in designing a hybrid workplace is connectivity. When your team members are in the office, they need to connect effectively with remote coworkers who aren’t.
Naturally, technology is the major factor in facilitating smooth hybrid team comms. Yet, it’s equally important to create spaces that lend themselves to individual and group video calls, meetings, training and interviews.
Not only is this essential from a visual and practical perspective, but it also helps your team feel emotionally capable of navigating the demands of a hybrid lifestyle.
For instance, introverted colleagues may feel uneasy at the prospect of Zooming from a crowded office or open-plan breakout space, while extroverts may thrive off the buzz of a busy bank of desks. So, providing ample – and thoughtful - options will enable your team members to find their optimal working environment for every professional situation.
We all want an easy life, right? Many of your employees embraced remote working during the pandemic because, fundamentally, working from home is easy. Zero commute, home comforts on tap and a loungewear-friendly dress code: what could be better?
Therefore, if you want to attract your employees out of their hoodies and back into the office, you need to make it easy for them.
Think: comfortable furniture teams can sink into to throw ideas around, great lighting to create a vibey atmosphere and soft furnishings that inspire relaxation and inspiration. Forget rows of desks; focus on fluid, open spaces where colleagues can lounge and let their creativity flow.
Taking a sensory approach to designing hybrid workspaces will enable you to make noticeable and long-lasting changes to the way you work.
Start with how you want your employees to feel in the space, then allow a sensory-led interior designer to thoughtfully harness each of the senses to spark those emotional reactions in your teams.
Designing for the senses elevates your goals beyond aesthetics and functionality to achieve your desired outcomes.
For example, did you know research by HR Grapevine revealed lemon is the most motivational of fragrances, proven to reduce mistakes by 54%?
The best (and most popular) coworking spaces aren’t acutally coworking spaces. After all, we’ve all seen those comfy cafes and laidback lobbies fill up with remote workers faster than dedicated coworking spots.
People like choice, and can often rebel against being told where to work and where to play.
So, when we’re designing the modern workspace, we have to centre on how to create spaces that don’t look or feel like working environments at all.
For many, the prospect of updating an office or workplace to ease the transition into hybrid working may seem daunting or feel like one more task on their seemingly endless to-do list. However, you shouldn’t overlook or underestimate its importance to your team’s productivity and wellbeing.
As experienced sensory-led interior designers, we can advise on the best way to plan your hybrid office or handle the entire project for you from concept to completion.
To speak to us about how to design the ideal hybrid workplace ahead of your employees’ return to the office, call the studio on 0161 533 0366 or email email@example.com