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The hybrid office: A place employees want to be

What role will the office play post-pandemic?

The pandemic has changed the face of the office as we know it and forced businesses to rethink their workplace requirements and the safe environments they now need to be.

The office itself is not a thing of the past, but the office that does not prioritise and support wellbeing, collaboration and flexibility, is. Workspaces are no longer just a place of work, they are now a social destination which will play a crucial role in bringing people and businesses back together.

Following the success of working from home, many businesses have introduced flexible-working programmes across their workforce. As companies make this shift, the function of the office will now need to change to support both part-time and full-time workers, and essentially transition from a place employees have to be, to a place employees want to be. This hybrid model will ensure workplaces provide employees with a variety of areas to support their different working needs, whist prioritising mental health and encouraging togetherness and collaboration.

What does the hybrid workplace look like?

The purpose of the office has always been evolving, long before the pandemic. In our life time alone, it has transformed from a place of rigid seating plans and ‘cubical farms’, to the infamous open plan layout, providing collaborative and flexible working areas for both independent and group work. So it’s no surprise that the office as we know it is now taking on a new purpose following the global change to our working styles. Thus comes the hyrbid model – An evolution that was already in the making before the pandemic, but has been accelerated into action as we all return to normality.

The hybrid workplace is all about the people, with people-centric design playing a significant role to ensure the space represents and supports a true understanding of the different working styles and personalities within the business. It is about providing your employees with a variety of spaces that support their personal and professional needs, both as individuals and a collective. With employees mental health and work-life balance at an all-time low, offices will need to work harder than ever before to ensure they prioritise these. Wellbeing was always a rising topic within office design, but over the last 18 months has now gone from a workplace benefit to a fundamental requirement and expectation.  Creativity, productivity, engagement and happiness levels, all begin with positive mental health. So for businesses to get the best out of their employees, they need to create a ‘hub’ that provides a sense of belonging and community for all who use it.

Less desks, more touch down areas 

The pandemic has proven that employees can work independently from home successfully. However, it has also proven that as humans we are very social creatures and therefore being shut away from face to face interaction is not natural, nor healthy for us. It is abundantly clear that many people still want somewhere they can interact with others and have that social fulfillment we all need, whether its one day a week, or four. For many businesses, this means less personal desk space, and more touch down areas, where people can come and go as they please.

Adapting to the unknown 

After a year of uncertainty, the hybrid workplace must be flexible and allow for change.  Designers are facing some of their biggest challenges to date to find future proofing solutions so that spaces can adapt to the unknown. Future proofing and flexibility is not just about furniture and wall dividers, it’s about the building infrastructure, the mechanical and lighting systems, as well as the materials and aesthetic elements installed.

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