How to Create a Hybrid Work Environment
The two-year-long COVID-19 pandemic has forced businesses to re-evaluate their current working methods. Considering we have been adopting a work plan invented in the 1900s, developments in technology and the rise of other modern-day problems in the past century challenge us to consider that it may be time for a change.
Businesses shifting to virtual offices has given rise to a new type of employee: the hybrid worker. A cross between the traditional office-based employee and the remote employee of our dreams, hybrid workers spend half the week onsite and the rest of the week working from anywhere else. This flexibility allows them to balance work responsibilities without sacrificing safety and security. Other arrangements take it a step further by also allowing flexible work hours, empowering employees to choose the schedule in which they are most productive.
However, a hybrid setup cannot be done with the snap of a finger. Without proper support, hybrid employees might be the objects of scrutiny or exhibit lackluster performance despite their best efforts. This being the case, once management decides to go hybrid, the workspace must also be adjusted to become conducive to this reality. Check out some small ways that your office can be made hybrid-friendly for the new normal:
Invest in quality, on-the-go workstations
With fewer people in the office, management may decide to lessen overhead expenses, such as facilities management or rent. Some companies have even shifted to virtual offices, meeting through messaging applications, or coffee shops.
A wise way to use the company’s savings would be to invest in quality workstations for employees as they continue to work away from the office. Wherever your employees may be, their laptops and internet connections will make or break their performance at work.
Make space for all types of meetings
One of the new realities of hybrid workflows is the certainty of holding team meetings online–even if you’re in the office. Whereas before, teams needed meeting rooms for big gatherings, nowadays everyone can participate in a team meeting from anywhere.
But this doesn’t mean it’s easy to do. Managing background noise, technical issues, and that pesky phenomenon of having to hear your teammate’s voice echo twice–once beside you and then through your headphones–can make even the shortest meeting feel exhausting.
Workspaces must create more variety in meeting rooms, whether for large plenaries or small one-on-one consultations. Soundproofing must also be employed so that participants can focus on the content of the meeting without the distraction of unwanted or unnecessary noise.
Use video conferencing
Virtual meetings are the new plenaries. Maximize the power of virtual conferencing applications like Zoom and Microsoft Teams to keep company personnel updated on the latest projects and events, whether in or outside the office.
Aside from the usual group chats, take advantage of the other features in conferencing applications that make for a more fruitful meeting experience. Zoom offers breakout sessions to segment teams into smaller groups for productivity, then leads everyone back to the main room to share learnings. Other applications like Google Meet have doodle board features that act as a group whiteboard to share ideas.
Make room-booking systems your meeting guards
Ever get annoyed that virtual meetings encounter delays–whether due to technical issues, waiting for everyone to show up, or simply because there’s no free room available? Having a room-booking system can solve all those problems.
Similar to those whiteboards on meeting room doors, online room-booking systems allow you to reserve your meeting room to prevent that last-minute search for a room. They also book the meeting on everyone’s calendars as a reminder to minimize stragglers coming in twenty minutes late. If no one shows, the room is instantly “let go” for takers, preventing those frustrating ghost reservations from clogging the office.
Having rooms in the office to book and hold allowable meetings will also do wonders in setting boundaries for those working from home. Make it a rule to set meetings only through the room-booking app to limit meetings to office hours.
Optimize work desks through “flex-desking”
Consider “flex-desking” to maximize your office’s remaining available office space. Similar to a hotel or a meeting room, flex-desking allows employees to book desks on days they intend to report for work and offer these up for other employees on other days.
Another option is for desks to be assigned to a set pair–team A shows up when team B will not. Regardless of strategy, this technique allows you to minimize the total needed desks at a given time to reduce overhead.
Utilize interactive maps to locate everything and everyone
Being the new kid on the block isn’t all that fun when it comes to the learning curve. Finding your way around, getting to know who does what and sits where make for additional work in an already busy workday. With a hybrid setup, this is how everyone feels–each day back at work is a whole process of reorienting yourself on the work setup.
Reduce the confusion by incorporating interactive maps into your workspace. These applications can help pin down where everything and everyone–including essentials like the printer, the coffee machine, and the boss’s office–are each day. This allows for more efficient use of resources and overall less stress for employees who might otherwise be wasting time figuring things out themselves.
Hybrid workspaces are fast becoming a lasting concept in the twenty-first-century workplace. Ready your company systems and infrastructure to adapt to these changes. Equip your employees with the basic gear–a laptop and internet connection that can keep up with their changing workspaces. Invest in digital solutions such as videoconferencing and room-booking applications to manage meeting times and spaces. Lastly, incorporate flex-desking and an interactive map system to guide office goers through the rotating desk process.