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Hybrid Office Design Guide: How to make hybrid working really work

Fig. — 
March 10, 2022
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Experiences
As recent events have propelled us into a brave new world of hybrid working, the role of the office has undergone a permanent shift. It’s now up to architects, designers, and office managers to keep up with modern demands for hybrid working, and to ensure the workplace can accommodate our new methods as they continue to adapt in the future. This involves the adoption of new layout paradigms as well as carefully selected, strategically important technologies that enable seamless hybrid working.

Defining Hybrid office design

Hybrid office design can be defined as, “the intentional creation of purpose-made spaces that make hybrid working possible.” We’ll dive deeper into what ‘hybrid working’ really is in a moment – but typical features of hybrid-enabled offices will include spaces that help workers to connect socially, as well as collaborative spaces that enable technology-powered interactions between in-person and remote workers. The ‘technological component’ is the key to making it all work, and this needs to be executed with some consideration. 

The actual requirements for any given office will always be tailored to the specific tasks, working methods and preferences of the workers; however what they all have in common is the radical “rethinking of the cube design” required by hybrid working. Office spaces are no longer simply a battery of desks where focused work takes place; rather, they are becoming a flexible and fertile breeding ground for creativity and connections.

What workers want from the office now

Depending on who you ask, companies are generally expecting to reduce their office capacity by 20% to 30%, as they rethink their real estate strategies. This reduction in office space matches the intentions of workers, who do want to return to the office – but only for 2-3 days per week, while working remotely the rest of the time. A recent ONS poll revealed that 85% of UK office workers are very happy with hybrid working.

According to research from Indeed, the social aspect of work is a big reason for workers wanting to return. Some 73% miss socializing at the office, while just 45% miss in-person meetings. Designing the new office means taking these preferences into account; providing both flexible spaces for social connections and in-person work, and the ability to seamlessly join together teams of remote and in-person workers.

So what is ‘hybrid work’? There are two distinct ways that we use the term, and both need to be included in our new office designs. In the broadest sense, hybrid working is the division of tasks into separate days of remote and in-person (office) work, however it’s important to recognize the second meaning: blending the workflows of remote and in-person workers

This second meaning is the most significant, because this is where existing offices are lacking. You need the right technology to ‘tie it together’ and make collaboration among all team-members an equal enterprise. There are plenty of collaboration platforms and software available, but the technology component needs to be capable of making it truly engaging and captivating – for all participants, remote and in-person.


What makes a hybrid office work

When a hybrid office doesn’t work, it’s because the design is lacking. Hybrid working is a sound concept, but it has certain demands. It has effectively dissected how we use offices, and challenged us to answer how physical space can still provide value when many tasks could, theoretically, be done entirely remotely.

Sure, we could do every meeting via Zoom or Teams, but then every single interaction becomes transactional in nature, and this is unfulfilling. For this reason, teams of human workers actually need ‘human moments’ as a part of their office landscape – these could be as simple as a friendly passing comment from a colleague at the coffee machine, or as complicated as an organized team-building activity. 

Frequent in-person interactions foster a stronger sense of commitment and better cooperation among team-members. It’s this reason that tech companies that are 100% online still, in fact, have a physical office. Blending physical and remote team-members however remains a challenge.

What makes a successful hybrid office design

The hybrid working model dictates some pretty straightforward physical requirements, such as ‘hot-desks’ that can be booked for rotating staff members. There are also new features that recognize the need to create value for the workers, including health and wellbeing spaces, and ‘social anchoring’ spaces. These give team members a positive feeling about being in the office, promotes creativity, and helps to create a strong company culture.

To be successful, the hybrid office should achieve the following:

Blending – by allowing remote and in-person workers to collaborate seamlessly and effectively.
Engaging
– by ensuring people have a reason to be in the office, and keep all workers actively invested, wherever they are.
Connecting
– by helping team members to feel socially and functionally connected, with social spaces and inclusive collaborative technologies. Active management is needed to maximize the opportunities for connections.
Enabling
– by giving team members access to all the tools they need, wherever they are. Technology solutions need to work with the tools we already use (like Mural, Miro, Slack, Trello, etc.), and help us work anywhere without disruption.

The physical layout of the hybrid office

Every aspect of the office needs to be enabled for hybrid working, while being tailored to each specific situation. For each company, there may be a mix of different competencies and responsibilities, so some workers actually need to be in the office more than others. Keeping a level playing field, and avoiding a ‘two-tier’ workplace has to be a part of the conscious design.

Another key feature is that the spaces should be flexible and adaptable – using technology setups that are multi-purpose, and physical layouts that have room for evolutionary change. 

A modular approach can help to create these flexible spaces, which makes it easier to manage the changing requirement for social spaces, collaborative rooms, and spaces for focused work (for those who need or want to be in the office more often). All of these spaces are needed in the hybrid office, but the proportions of each space will vary.

Using digital storytelling technologies to enable better hybrid working

Your new physical layout can handle the most basic requirements of hybrid working, but the technology part has to be a prime enabler of hybrid working methods. To do this, you need to be able to connect your hybrid teams effectively and seamlessly. It is helpful to look at this in the same light as hybrid events, because they have the same basic requirements. 

Purple has been leading the way in hybrid events for some time, and knows what it takes to make these successful and engaging. We know that hybrid events have to bring the best of both worlds – a technologically enabled environment that optimizes the experience for all participants.

In addition to creating custom solutions, we have developed some incredible concepts that can empower hybrid working today:

Video Wall: These are large (touch-enabled) screens with immense potential. They have a strong application for semi-immersive collaboration, and can help tie-together hybrid teams with a common virtual workspace. Give remote workers prominence with a screen that can show them as life-size.
Interactive Signage:
Smaller screens act as interactive displays that can be retooled for different purposes. An excellent example of a flexible, multi-function screen that is more accessible than a regular computer screen. Collaboration, demonstrations and presentations are all possible with these, and they can be used to virtually boost social ties.
Immersive spaces
: A 270-degree immersive experience space is one of the most effective tools which has many stacked values. Training programs and VIP presentations are just the beginning; these immersive spaces create engaging collaborations which keep both remote and in-person participants engaged and with an equal footing.
StreamIX and Virtual Studio:
These make incredible and engaging online events, but are not explicitly used for hybrid collaboration. The value of online events however remains strong in the era of hybrid work.

Technology should always be an enabler of success

Behind all the technological solutions that Purple offers, including those above, is the powerful Hyro digital storytelling platform. This is a versatile web-based platform, which can easily handle and integrate all the web-based tools that are currently used for collaboration. This makes Hyro the perfect companion to the hybrid office, because it essentially acts as a single node that can connect all the different workstreams. It has been made for digital storytelling, which makes it incredibly nimble and capable of handling any media type, and embedding any kind of web-content - including collaboration software and other tools.

Furthermore, Hyro makes it possible to switch functions with a few taps on a screen - because it is made for agile digital storytelling experiences. This makes it easier to create totally customized virtual workspaces, including 3D content and customized virtual environments that keep all team members totally engaged. It also empowers you to use the same tech setup for totally different purposes - converting an immersive collaboration space into a VIP presentation room in a matter of moments. This kind of flexibility and adaptability is a cornerstone of success in the hybrid office.

Digital Storytelling FAQs

What is the hybrid office?
A hybrid office (or hybrid workspace), is an office that has been designed to accommodate hybrid working methods. It consists of a flexible layout that can adapt to different requirements, using adjustable spaces and modular furniture. The hybrid office will typically have fewer dedicated workstations, and instead be equipped with ‘hot desks’ and be empowered with technology that seamlessly connects in-office and remote team members.

What does a hybrid office look like?

A hybrid office will look different to a traditional office layout: it’s more open, more flexible, and with spaces that you would associate more with a ‘home office’ than a traditional ‘cube design’. The hybrid office looks less formal, and will be designed to include social spaces, wellbeing spaces, and digital collaboration suites.


How do you create a hybrid workspace?

To create a hybrid workspace, you need to identify the core tasks of the workers, and examine how these are carried out, both in-office and remotely. Remote workers should have equal access to resources, so a primary concern when creating a hybrid workspace is making it inclusive and technologically enabled. Because social connections are a major reason to be in-office, spaces that encourage relaxed social interactions are an important feature.

What is hybrid work technology?

Hybrid work technology is defined as a set of integrated technological solutions which empower hybrid workers. This technology needs to be capable of connecting hybrid office workers from whatever environment they are working in. Keeping remote workers as engaged and involved as in-office colleagues is a prerequisite for this technology; this means being able to create customized virtual environments, while also being able to connect and embed web-based productivity and collaboration software.

What is a Hybrid office layout?
A hybrid office layout will contain several distinct spaces, which can be rearranged, or retooled easily for different tasks when needed. A typical hybrid office layout will include a welcome area, private spaces for (virtual) meetings, open spaces for social interactions, and collaborative spaces that use technology to connect with remote participants. Many hybrid offices will be equipped with interactive video walls or immersive experiences that have multifunctional end-uses; collaboration, presentations, training, conferencing and more.


Credits
Written by:

Gerben Mak

Managing Director
 at 
Purple
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