Hybrid Offices: Creating Space for How Employees Want to Work

by | Entrepreneurship, Productivity

Hybrid Offices: Creating Space for How Employees Want to Work
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“Work from home has increased sixfold in the U.S. … an enormous rise.” Nick Bloom shared this in August 2022 while speaking at the Penn Institute for Urban Research. And from the same data, the number of workers logging in from home is expected to remain around 30% – which means the demand for hybrid office spaces will continue to increase as companies re-evaluate their policies and adapt their work environments.

Hybrid offices provide the flexibility that companies need to adapt to the changing landscape of what their employees need to be productive and happy.

But a successful approach requires more than setting up a physical office for people doing the exact same work they could be doing at home or in a coffee shop. Companies are turning to intentionally designed office spaces that meet a variety of employee needs, fulfill organizational goals, and bring back the desirable elements of in-person work.

In other words, making the office a place employees actually want to return to – no coercion necessary.

These spaces can take many forms depending on what they’re needed for, from private suites to meeting rooms and other collaborative spaces.

What exactly is a hybrid office, and what are the benefits of an office space built and designed to maximize the benefits of hybrid work?

What Is a Hybrid Office?

A hybrid office is a type of office that accommodates both remote and in-office workers. It’s a flexible space that empowers individuals and teams with the right environment and tools for the task at hand, whether it’s deep focused work, collaboration sessions, or all-hands company meetings and corporate retreats.

Hybrid offices have long been an ideal solution for remote-first tech companies and digital nomads. But since remote and hybrid work became a long-term reality across many knowledge-based industries, hybrid offices are proving to be a win for many businesses that want to offer employees more flexibility to do their best work. 

Hybrid Office Design and Amenities: Space Planning for the New Ways of Working

While large private offices and cubicles were once the standard, that’s changing as many organizations shift to flex office spaces that include multiple services and amenities.

In an interview on The Ezra Klein Show, Anne Helen Peterson describes “...the perfect hybrid office functioning as a college library.”

It’s a productive, quiet space for those who want to work undisturbed in the presence of others, combined with the option of breakout rooms for collaboration and lounge spaces for casual meetings and spontaneous conversation – all the beneficial ways of working that are unavailable to a fully remote workforce.

Once a staple for business meetings, conference rooms can also be supplemented with alternatives such as phone booths and private day offices. These spaces – while still providing the same level of privacy and utility as a conference room – can often also be made available on an hourly or daily basis in many workspace environments.

In addition, by equipping office spaces with ergonomic furniture, larger screens, whiteboards, optimal lighting, and other wellness- and comfort-oriented amenities, you’re showing that employee needs and preferences are top of mind.

Businesses that opt for hybrid offices can also put employees first by providing the latest tools and technology to share information and collaborate, especially with remote team members.

By using hybrid office spaces, companies can benefit by maximizing the layout of the office space, minimizing office noise and distractions, and keeping workers engaged in the tasks at hand.

Shared vs. Private Offices: Choose a Hybrid Space That Fits Your Team

Now the question that may be on your mind: which type of hybrid office space is right for your business? Between coworking, part-time options, and private office suites, you can choose from a variety of flexible arrangements that can grow and change with your needs.

Shared Space

Shared space is the most affordable option for solopreneurs or startups. Coworking spaces are shared lounges or offices that offer access to the local entrepreneurial community and freedom to choose where and when you work, but sacrifice the privacy of dedicated space. They can be used on a full-time, part-time (called an “Access Pass”), or on-demand basis.

Dedicated desks offer a bit of both: a dedicated workspace with a place to leave private items within a private office shared with others renting similar desks. You get a private office and a place to leave your things, but typically shared with another 1-3 people.

Companies are offering this perk (co-working memberships or access passes) to employees who don’t want to work full time in an office, but still feel the need to get out of the house.

Private Offices and Smart Suites

Private offices or smart suites are great solutions for scaling businesses or enterprises, with dedicated space that you can personalize to the needs of your specific organization. If you want to show brand power through your office space, a private office or even a SmartSuite® is best.

Getting All the Benefits (And Avoiding the Pitfalls) of a Hybrid Office

By adopting a hybrid work model, you can unlock a range of benefits that will enhance the employee experience, drive productivity, and empower innovation.

To achieve this, you need to be thoughtful and deliberate about how you approach it. As stated on McKinsey Talks Talent, “Hybrid work is happening. Your culture will need to catch up. Fast.”

Benefits of a Hybrid Office

Companies that successfully integrate hybrid work early on stand to outperform their competitors and reach new frontiers of growth.

Major benefits include:

Increased Employee Retention

How we work has changed for good. A study found that 73% of employees want flexible work options for the long term.

Echoing this, research shows that over half of employees would consider leaving a job if they couldn’t work flexibly. In contrast, 43% would only consider roles that offer location flexibility.

In this way, hybrid offices are a critical differentiator for talent retention.

Wider Talent Pool

Not only can hybrid work enhance employee retention, but it can also transform the recruitment process for the better, empowering you to find candidates from a diverse range of locations and backgrounds.

In line with this, over a third of companies have started offering location flexibility for most of their positions in the last two years.

The hiring hybrid approach helps organizations to optimize recruitment efforts while accelerating their diversity, equity, and inclusion goals.

Enhanced Productivity

Some business leaders worry that when their employees work from home, they might not work as hard as they would in the office. Research disputes this, showing that hybrid office arrangements enhance employee productivity.

A recent survey found that 63% of high-growth companies have already adopted a “productivity anywhere” workforce model, and 9 out of 10 employees see flexible working as a key motivator.

The reasons for this are plentiful, including that hybrid office arrangements facilitate a better work-life balance, enhance job satisfaction, and increase employee loyalty.

Challenges of a Hybrid Office

For all the benefits embracing a hybrid office brings, evolving the workplace is not without its challenges. Namely, some companies struggle with:

Risk of Employee Burnout

Hybrid work can, if not carefully managed, lead to feelings of burnout since it may make it harder to separate the personal from the professional. This, in turn, is bad for the bottom line, diminishing productivity and increasing employee turnover.

Unfortunately, burnout appears to be a relatively common issue. Research indicates that half of the employees who work for hybrid or remote organizations struggle to maintain a work-life balance.

Collaboration Challenges

71% of HR leaders are concerned about employee collaboration in hybrid offices. It’s easy to see why.

Communication can falter with some employees in the office and others working from home. While collaboration apps do a bit to ease the issue, a planned video call rarely suffices for spur-of-the-moment conversations and idea sharing in the physical office.

Workplace Loneliness

A study found that 55% of hybrid employees and 50% of remote employees report more feelings of loneliness than before the pandemic. Team calls and online messaging somewhat fill this void, but they can’t replace real, human connection.

It’s no wonder, then, that most employees want to return to the office in some format – but with more flexibility and autonomy over when and how they work.

For example, a survey by Working Arrangements and Attitudes found that “…knowledge workers prefer the office a few days a week—not every day, but not never. They don’t want to work from home or the office. They want to work from home and the office.”

Make Hybrid Offices Work For You

The good news is that every challenge associated with the transition to hybrid work is solvable if you take a strategic approach.

After all, moving to a hybrid office is about much more than just changing processes and signing paperwork. It’s a huge cultural shift that requires strategic thinking, empathy, and imagination. 

To do hybrid right, you need to create a hybrid office where your employees want to gather – a social hub that fosters creativity, togetherness, and innovation.

By thoughtfully reimagining the workplace, you can catapult your business into the future and enhance the employee experience along the way.

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