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The global pandemic has had a big impact on the way we work. With entire teams working from home for months at a time, the forced experiment has resulted in many companies changing their approach for good.

One approach to work that has boomed as a result of the pandemic is the hybrid model. This supports a blend of in-office, remote and on-the-go work, giving employees more flexibility to work in a way that suits them.

With employees using offices less and for different purposes, this shift has challenged businesses to rethink their office layout and design. The key question for those businesses is how do you set up a space for success?

In this blog, we look into what businesses can do to facilitate hybrid working through intelligent office interior design. From modern tech solutions to hybrid layout ideas, you will find plenty of inspiration here.

Create Social Spaces

According to a survey videoconferencing company Webex, 49% of employees indicate that working remotely makes them feel isolated. The survey also showed that 95% of employees will go into offices for activities like team building and making connections with peers.

Given that in-person interaction is something working from home can’t offer, it’s important to create spaces in the offices that enable “human moments”. Here are a few ideas:

  • Auditorium and Bleacher Seating – Auditorium and bleacher seats are a great way to bring employees together for team building days, presentations and announcements. This can help to boost morale and ensure employees feel part of the business’s journey.
  • Chill Zones – Not only are chill zones good for human interaction, they are fun to design too! Get your employees involved: ask them what they would like to see in the chill zone and let this inform your decisions. This might include gaming items, yoga mats, bean bag chairs or drinks fridges.
  • Ad-Hoc Meeting Furniture – We’ve all heard the expression “water cooler moments”, where employees spontaneously meet and chat on the fly. For a modern twist on the idea, consider introducing casual shared office furniture solutions, such as tables with stools and coffee-shop style banquette seating. These are less secluded than, say, an individual pod, meaning colleagues initiate conversations and bring the human connection back into their working day.

Don’t forget, you can combine some of the above elements to create a “hive” of social activity. That way, you can leave other areas of the office for individual and collaborative work areas.

Facilitate Collaboration and Skill Sharing

The same survey by Webex showed that 95% of employees would come into the office for collaboration. This indicates that, while virtual collaboration has its benefits, it doesn’t necessarily have the same impact as a face-to-face meeting or brainstorming session.

Indeed, it’s nice to be able to collaborate without technical issues arising (human beings don’t glitch in real life). Furthermore, when colleagues get together for an extended period of time in the office, they can use it as an opportunity to share skills and knowledge, which is a challenge of fostering a digital community.

According to Starmind, knowledge sharing reduces repeated mistakes, helps employees make better decisions and increases productivity by 10-40%. Therefore, it makes sense to encourage skill sharing by making it part of the company culture. Here are some collaboration and skill sharing ideas:

  • Learning Rooms – Innovative Clerkenwell-based furniture manufacturer Connection has recently unveiled its “Rooms” range: a selection of freestanding spaces designed for specific purposes, such as collaborating and reading. Among the range is a “learning room”, which, combined with its auditorium style seating, is ideal for bringing people together to share valuable knowledge.
  • Modular Furniture – For a more casual approach to collaboration and skill sharing, consider introducing soft modular furniture. Due to being relatively light and reconfigurable, teams can move modular furniture around and work in a way that suits them.
  • Whiteboard Tables – During our recent visit to Clerkenwell Design Week, our office designers came across a hybrid table/whiteboard by Wilkhahn. The flippable device can be set up for workshops, meetings, training sessions and any kind of group work, making it ideal for companies that actively promote collaboration.

While these represent forward-thinking ideas, a simple meeting room will do as well. If you’ve already got a boardroom (or several) in place, consider installing a digital booking system to avoid an overlap of meetings.

Make Good Use of Dead Space – Designer Tip

When switching to a hybrid setup, one big question that arises is what to do with the vacant space left by a reduced workforce. It is in a business’s best interest to optimise every inch of dead space, so here is a tip from Rap Interiors senior designer Scott Howard:

“If you’re left with a large amount of excess space after going hybrid, think about introducing a spacious breakout area that will make the staff feel at home. This may mean extending your current breakout space or adapting your overall layout, but the result will be a fully optimised space that employees will love.

 “Another idea is to introduce a diverse range of furniture. With hybrid working, employees will likely be using the office for a specific task, and your furniture selection is key in catering to this. In turn, you can configure the new furniture in a way that makes the most of the given space. If you look at images of agile office layouts, which always have a great range of furniture, you will see that the spaces are always well optimised with no gaping dead space on show.”

Enable Deep Work

In our recent blog on Deep Work, we looked into what companies can do to help employees focus better on cognitively challenging tasks. As a case study, we referenced J.K. Rowling, who was struggling to finish The Deathly Hallows while working at home. With dogs barking and kids running around, she took the step to move to the Balmoral Hotel, where she worked without distraction to finish the final book of the series.

Not only did the change in environment help her to concentrate, it increased the “perceived importance of the task”, delivering “an injection motivation and energy”.  Likewise, businesses can encourage hybrid workers to do the same by offering an inviting office environment where they can work deeply.

This could be in the form of a quiet zone with acoustic pods, or even a selection of small bookable meeting rooms. You could also install wall prints or a neon sign to indicate quiet working zones, ensuring that employees can block out some uninterrupted time for important, challenging tasks.

Read our blog on Deep Work here.

Picture credit: Max Furniture

Embrace Technology and Innovation

Further to the hybrid working layout and design, your office technology needs to reliable, easy to use and up to date. Furthermore, your furniture plays a big part in enabling video chats with external employees, so it’s important that you invest in the right equipment. Here are some considerations:

  • “Hive” Auditorium Units – During our recent trip to Clerkenwell Design Week, our designers spotted the “Hive” auditorium unit. Complete with a flat screen TV and cantilever table, it’s ideal for group work or casual video chats. Furthermore, its reconfigurable design means you can build with higher modules for more privacy.
  • Zoom Booths Zoom booths are a key part of the hybrid office setup, enabling employees to communicate easily with external colleagues and clients. With their acoustic properties, laptop ledges, integrated power and stools, Zoom booths are practical, private and popular amongst employees.
  • Digital Visitor Management Systems – One interesting feature at the recent Workspace Design Show was the Vpod visitor management system. The Vpod’s benefits include live face-to-face video help from external executive PAs, wayfinding maps visitors, and touchless technology to remove the need for contact with the screen. People can also book rooms and desks with the Vpod, making it a great addition to hybrid working environments.

Additionally, if you are conducting a lot of video calls, make sure your technology is working well. As part of an interior fit out or refurbishment, check out your AV (audio visual) equipment and upgrade it if need be.

Picture credit: Meavo

Use the Office to Promote Your Brand

An office is more than just a place to work: it’s a physical representation of who you are as a business. With a well-branded central hub, or “base”, you can help hybrid workers to feel part of the company’s journey and fully understand its philosophy.

With this in mind, think about creating a “brand experience” with your office space design. This simply starts with identifying a theme, which is often rooted in your company identify and culture. Whether you’re an innovative tech company with a passion for sustainability or creative agency with a fun and youthful vibe, you should let this inform your design decisions.

By providing an on-brand office, you will ensure employees stay connected with the culture, vision and brand. For some design inspiration, take a look at our project portfolio here.

Thank You for Reading

Ultimately, if you set up your space correctly, you can give employees everything they need to lead a productive and enjoyable working life. Depending on your current situation, this could mean making a few more additions or overhauling your space design to facilitate a new way of working. Either way, the result will help to get the most of your team and, in turn, grow your business in your respective field. It’s win-win!

*Many thanks to Max Furniture and Meavo for photography contributions.

Are You Going Hybrid?

If this blog has inspired you to make changes to your office, then Rap Interiors can help. As an experienced workplace design and build company, we can guide you on the best solutions for your hybrid office and carry out the works as well. From space planning to the furniture selection and the office fit out, we are with you from concept to completion.

To book a design consultation, call our friendly client care team on 0333 600 1234 or fill out the form below.