Designing for the future: How office space planning is adapting to changing needs
Hybrid working has taken its place quite comfortably as the new standard way to work and it has changed our working lives in so many ways. Some are obvious; more control over our time, increased happiness levels at work, the ability to work remotely, less commuting.
But there’s one effect that may not seem as visible as the others but is important, nevertheless. Office design. The impact of hybrid and remote working on office design is significant and has altered how businesses are approaching office space planning. First and foremost, the office is no longer the only place to work. The workplace is now multi-locational and multi-functional. People are attending the office for specific reasons, rather than as a daily duty. And having teams spread out in different places, with many working from their homes, means the requirement to have high quality equipment, technology and connectivity is paramount.
Today’s office needs to be collaborative, flexible, adaptable, and connected.
So how do we do that?
Zoning with purpose
The new office should offer spaces to fit a variety of uses. Where once you had people in the office every day working to the same structure, you now have people in on different days for different reasons with different needs.
To serve this new environment well, you can divide your spaces into areas or zones by the purpose they serve.
So, you might have a hot desk zone, a quiet zone, an area for general use working, or some space for ‘touchdown’ working, where colleagues only need to do a quick task or check their emails. With the standardisation of hybrid working, you may even consider moving away from permanent desk spaces completely and moving exclusively to hot desks, using a booking system such as Team Today to enable colleagues to select the days and times they will be using the spaces.
In the wider office area, you can create spaces for meetings, breakout spaces, and for collaborative and creative working.
Social spaces have their place too, for we mustn’t underestimate the importance of human connection, which can risk being lost as we embrace a culture of remote working. And of course, you need areas for the essentials – copier, printer, drinks station/kitchenette. You can include these in resource stations throughout the office, which can double as a catch-up/social space.
As with any planning, there is room to be creative, so think about things you can include that are unique to your business. Perhaps you want to include a library area, or a larger, very focussed social space. Consider your workforce diversity needs too. Make spaces accessible as you would anyway in non-hybrid times and think about ways your space can serve your colleagues’ faith needs, such as including space to pray.
Today’s office has to be so much more than it ever was before. It has to be space that blends colleagues’ home and work lives in the way hybrid working does.
If you lead the design by the purpose each space serves and centre it around your people’s needs, your office can become the holistic, collaborative hub for your organisation, promoting and facilitating efficient and effective working and fostering social connections and strong working relationships.
Ditch the desk
Okay, so we don’t really mean ditch the desk. But here is an opportunity to consider your office furniture and if it is working in the best way. To embrace the hybrid office, it’s worth considering investing in configurable office furniture. Furniture that is flexible and adaptable to meet the needs of a multi-purpose office. Configurable office furniture isn’t a new concept, but we think it’s going to become more prevalent as offices move to meet flexible demands.
Use your intelligence
It’s quite possible your ideal office plan will only become clear by seeing how hybrid working pans out for your organisation in real time and how your teams are using different spaces. If you are using software to help plan your hybrid working, such as Team Today, you can access reports on office usage, whereabouts, and how people are using the spaces. This will help you identify how busy different areas are, what the demand is, and how you can maximise their use.
And what of the future?
We believe it’s important never to stop scanning the horizon, so let’s fast forward a little and see what the trends in office space planning might be in the next year or so.
Making the commitment to a sustainable world is about making workplaces sustainable too. We can all play a part in helping our planet and we predict more workplaces will adopt sustainable practices in the future, focusing on practices and materials that are eco-friendly, renewable, and non-toxic.
Naturally healthy workplaces
With more workplaces prioritising employee wellbeing, we are likely to see office design continuing to adopt a person-centred approach and focus on practices that prioritise health and wellbeing. These could involve bringing plant life and the natural world into the office, investing in ventilation systems to promote healthy air circulation and good health, and investing in ergonomic furniture to assist colleagues’ physical wellbeing.
Into the Metaverse
“Within the next two or three years, I predict most virtual meetings will move from 2D camera image grids….to the metaverse, a 3D space with digital avatars.”
These are the words of Bill Gates in his Year in Review 2021. And we’re seeing it happen. Companies are beginning to look to the metaverse future for collaborative, immersive working and tech companies are responding. Meta has Horizon Workrooms, Nvidia has its Omniverse platform, and Microsoft has its Mesh platform. We expect to see an increasing number of events and meetings being held in VR, offering colleagues an immersive experience. For office space design and planning, businesses who wish to adopt this will need to consider their technology and equipment needs.
For more insights and articles about hybrid working from Team Today, visit our blog here.