Our research has found that just 26% of businesses are considering an entirely remote work setting, with 17% likely to remain office-based, and 57% considering a hybrid of the two. So how do you transform it to fit this new style of working? And why is it so important to get it right?
Phil Muir, Director of Consultancy and Design at Space Solutions, believes that getting your workspace right is fundamental to employee happiness, productivity and business growth. In order to do this, leaders need to consult with stakeholders throughout the business.
Set your vision
Phil is clear that when it comes to designing your workspace, setting your vision and having a clear process has always been important.
“The process that we would advise people to go through is no different to how it was pre pandemic. What is different is the information and the attitudes that are feeding into that process.”
“It's generally a consultancy process where you decide who the right people are, you get the leadership team together, you discuss what the vision is for the new workspace. And then you speak to the key leadership people.”
Now, however, Phil recommends that leaders take even more time to check with various internal stakeholders to ensure that your office reflects the needs of staff. He’s also clear that the vision leaders have for their workspaces is likely to be very different from pre-pandemic times. Changes in a number of factors mean that many leaders will be thinking about moving away from traditional offices, and leaning towards creating more collaborative workspaces:
“It’s thinking about work now and how work could be in the future. You have to ask: how do we do certain things - and how important are certain things? How well are they performing? Where those big gaps are - you try to close those gaps through the solutions that you propose. For example, if something is really important but performing badly, you need to address that with your workspace. That could be with things like collaboration space or it could be about brand or culture. That’s why you need to gather a lot of information in order to set your vision.”
Our latest report looks at all aspects of hybrid working – from office changes to culture and legal considerations.
Speak to managers
Speaking to your managers is a key factor in adapting your workspace. The more information and detail you can gather about the various functions and requirements of your employees, the better equipped you are to design a space that optimises productivity.
“Your management team will be able to tell you about things like headcount, work patterns, levels of mobility, the types of space needed, the individual activities undertaken by staff, and their outputs,” he explains.
“Your leadership team is best positioned to share information on how you’ll be interacting with customers externally, and stakeholders internally.”
For example, how frequently will face-to-face meetings take place? What size will those meetings be? If you currently have a meeting room that can fit 20 people around a table, will you still need it to serve that function?
Phil believes that profiling staff and establishing the work styles is another prerequisite for adapting your workspace.
“At a basic level, some organisations will have three work styles, others will have as many as six or seven.”
“At one end of this spectrum are fixed employees,” Phil explains, “These are people who are at the office all the time and own their desk space. They usually do a headstone activity. At the other end you’ve got fluid workers. These are employees who are rarely in the office. They may be out selling, visiting external sites or simply working remotely.”
While these different work styles have always existed, a number of other factors have come into play. Now there’s the added factor of what works for the individual.
“We have to start to think more about personal circumstances. Before it was mostly about rules and what was best for the organisation - you've now got the added complication of what works for the individual.”
Now for example, a fixed employee could be fixed at home. Some people may simply find it more convenient and productive to work from home, others might find it incredibly difficult.
However, Phil is clear that while you should consider personal circumstances, you can’t offer a free-for-all approach.
“In an organisation with 200 people, you can’t have 200 work styles. The intention of the profile is to find a way to manage space and protocols.”
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Things change, people change. That’s why it’s vital you conduct regular staff surveys - both before people return to the office and after. Even if employees are keen to return to the office, it’s still a big change.
“When businesses are looking at how they're now going to bring people back, there needs to be a focus on how they bring their staff back on this journey and support them,” Phil says.
“It’s a big shift - from a mental health perspective as well. If we have staff at home how do we support them, both from a legal point of view, and from a policy and processes point of view?”
Effectively, hybrid working is about creating a work environment where people are at their most productive. If you work better by yourself, at home, why should you be forced to come into the office? And vice-versa. However, personal circumstances and work trends can shift.
That’s why Phil believes it’s important to regularly check in within your employees and your management team. Ultimately, this is what will help you to stay agile. In a year’s time will we still be conducting the majority of meetings via video? Will more people miss being in a physical office?
By conducting frequent staff surveys, you can stay abreast of both changes in personal circumstances and the wider culture shifts and trends.
Transforming your workspace for hybrid working ultimately comes down to communication. The design of your workspace shouldn’t be arbitrary or superficial - it needs to make sense. It should fit the needs and wants of the people who inhabit it - and the only way to find out what those needs are is through active, ongoing communication.
Image: By denisismagilov Via Adobe Stock