As social distancing guidelines gradually ease, companies are investing in different methods that encourage their employees to return to the office. For the social media behemoth Facebook, leasing out the entire James A. Farley Building (and many more) in Manhattan is one way to bring 4,000 of its people in one city. However, the company has also given most of its employees the option of working from home. This dichotomy now characterizes the future of workplaces globally. It also doesn’t come as a surprise that Facebook’s turnover rate is lower than 5%.
While average-sized businesses are not able to rent out 2.2 million square feet-worth of property, there are many ways to follow social distancing guidelines while encouraging productivity in the office.
In Cisco’s recent survey, 37% of the 3,000 companies they surveyed answered that more than half of their workforce will be working from home permanently—once the pandemic is over, that is. Though the idea is not a novel one, hybrid workspaces are taking over corporations.
Age of Flexibility
Let’s first define what a hybrid workplace is. Thanks to how technology has evolved in recent years, people can choose to work in spaces that benefit them the most. Once companies caught on, the terms “activity-based working” or “hybrid workplace” became popular.
No longer are employees assigned to a specific workstation. Instead, the office space is designed for different activities. There would be soundproof rooms for client calls, open-plan spaces for easy collaboration, and private areas for people who have focus-intensive work. In a study conducted by the University of California, it takes people an average of 23 minutes to regain their focus after being interrupted. Customized spaces can help with this predicament.
Hybrid offices are more intentional than the partitioned cubicles that we have come to associate with traditional corporations. Not only are employees able to have more autonomy over where they sit and work and encourage a healthier lifestyle, but offices can also save on overhead and utilize every square foot of their property.
Know What You Need
Given that preventing COVID-19 transmission is part of our new normal, there is an increasing need for businesses to create more sustainable responses and work settings. As hybrid workplaces are gradually normalized, companies need to adapt to a work culture where people are free to work where they can be the most productive. That can be done in several ways:
- Involve everyone in your team.
Before transitioning to a more flexible workspace, make sure to communicate your plans to your employees. By giving them a platform to share their thoughts and opinions, you can ensure that your initiative will be more successful.
Making a list of everyone’s ideas will help you rank all of them according to importance and urgency.
Along with that, it’s pertinent to take note of social distancing protocol. If you’re planning on bringing 15% or 25% of your people back onsite, how can you keep everyone 2 meters apart?
- Create a flexible and secure floor plan.
Taking all of these things into consideration, it’s time to take stock of what you can keep, change, and throw away in your office. This also means replacing recirculating air-conditioning systems, installing automated sanitation areas, and introducing one-way foot traffic schemes.
Permanent fixtures are difficult to change without extensive renovations, so look for open spaces where you can easily install flexible furniture and temporary partitions. For example, you can purchase standing desks to help people stay mobile, or create a huddle room where people can hold meetings or lounge during their free time.
There are tables that can be connected to form a larger one for meetings, that can then be separated during working sessions. We recommend purchasing those that are easy to store, move, and setup.
- Use a robust platform that keeps local and remote connections secure.
Many companies already use the Intranet to remotely connect and communicate with their employees prior to the pandemic. Through this software, other companies transitioning online can increase their knowledge management, communication efforts, and process automation.
Alongside this, your IT department needs to fit every asset with up-to-date firewall protection, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software. They should also be regularly updated through a remote desktop application, allowing your IT team to solve connection problems even for those working from home.
- Keep the playing field level for those working inside the office and at home.
For people who are not required or unable to come to the office, it is also helpful to level out the playing field. Find out if their homes are conducive areas for remote work. Do they have a stable network connection? Do they have an appropriate work-from-home setup? Do they have a toddler they need to take care of during the day?
Introducing flexible shifts, delivering necessary equipment, or offering mental health leaves can encourage those who have been staying at home for most of their 2020. Overall, it also shows them how your company is willing to invest in their safety and wellness.
As we enter the new year with renewed motivation to keep everyone safe, let’s invest in a new normal where we are all safe and secure. By creating a hybrid workspace, we can work together no matter where we are in the world.