Hybrid workspaces are one of the biggest office trends for next year. However, they are a lot more than a design trend – they represent a shift in the way we work.

This year’s pandemic has sped up the shift from the traditional office environment. With offices being forced to temporarily close their doors and switch to a remote working model, adaptability is now the aim of the game. 

Both employers and employees have seen the benefits of agile working over the last few months, with many workers enjoying a better work-life balance and companies saving money on bills associated with operating offices. While many organisations look set to utilise flexible working in the long-run, it doesn’t mean an end to office spaces. 

Although working from home can be beneficial, there is still a lot to be said for the collaboration that an office can bring. On top of this, the social side of work is strongly tied to the office space. 

You also have to factor in everything else that happens in an office. People now use their workspaces for many parts of their daily lives, from cooking meals to catching up with people and even enjoy the after-hours activities. This transformation along with the shift to more flexible ways of working is leading to the rise of the hybrid workspace. 

What is a hybrid workspace?

Hybrid workspaces buck the 9-5, Monday to Friday trend that has been the cornerstone of office working for decades. Instead, they seek to create a balance between the social collaboration side of being in the office and the flexibility of working from home. Essentially, they are co-working spaces within the same company. 

Not only can this help businesses deal with the health and safety challenges of the Covid era, ensuring the office hasn’t got too many people in it at one time while still enabling in-person interaction, it also creates a more relaxed working atmosphere. 

This doesn’t mean that less work is going to get done, instead, it helps to promote employee wellbeing, allows people to work in a way that suits them and provides a better work-life balance. All of these things can actually result in improved productivity. 

The impact on office design

Beyond the concept of flexibility, the way that offices look within this hybrid trend is going to change. With people now used to and enjoying the comfort of working from home, offices are mimicking this ‘at home’ feeling to create workspaces that are inviting. 

This is an important step forward, especially as generations who value the working environment just as much as their wage are now entering the workforce. Companies can no longer make office design an exercise in fitting as many desks in as possible, they need to ensure they are offering an adaptable, comfortable and accommodating workspace in order to foster staff loyalty. 

So what does this hybrid design include and what can you expect to see more in 2021 as organisations begin to adapt to the new style of working?

Home-like touches

When we say offices will start to reflect people’s homes, we don’t just mean breakout areas and different types of seating. This home-like feeling to the workplace will take more than a few cushions and plants to achieve.

Expect to see outdoor spaces that encourage relaxation, large kitchens that allow people to take time over their lunches and enjoy the social side of preparing food with people, open designs that provide areas for collaboration, and smaller spaces to provide quiet areas to work. 

These should all have a relaxed, modern feel about them that instantly creates a sense of comfort. The combination of working and social areas will result in a workspace that inspires creativity and ensures that every member of your team feels comfortable and welcomed when they walk into the office.

airbnb hybrid workspace Dublin

[Image via Dezeen]

Combined styles of working

When designing the space, you shouldn’t focus on what needs to be included. Instead, you need to assess how the office is used by those who work there. A hybrid workspace should anticipate an employee’s changing needs throughout the course of a single day and seek to provide a solution to these.

This is a long-term approach to the workplace that will ultimately foster loyalty and lead to sustained improved productivity, rather than just considering improving productivity on a short-term basis. 

Taking a leaf out of co-working spaces’ book will help you create a great hybrid workspace. These spaces provide great social areas, spaces for relaxed working, larger team areas and quiet, enclosed sections – such as meeting rooms and individual quiet pods. Incorporating this mix of working styles within your design will help cater for multiple types of workers and allow your employees to find what works best for them. 

An adaptable approach

The most important part of a hybrid workspace is adaptability. Working styles may change, more people may want to be in the office post-Covid and your team could grow. All of these possible situations will need to be met by your workspace, without incurring huge added costs. 

To be as adaptable as possible, modular furniture is likely to be a big part of hybrid workspaces. This will enable the office to move around the employees rather than forcing workers to adapt to a permanent layout. 

Modular office furniture can be instrumental in creating a dynamic workspace that can easily be transformed to meet the needs of your future workforce. Opting for modular furniture also allows you to transform an office space in stages, allowing work to continue as your workspace is updated – something that will be beneficial for every future update. 

Reaping the benefits of a hybrid workspace

Beyond providing a great place to work that looks good to partners, clients and potential employees, hybrid workspaces provide a range of benefits. While you may consider many – if not most – of the benefits to be for employees, the flexibility of a hybrid office will also bring multiple benefits to companies.

Employee wellbeing

One of the big office trends in 2021 is promoting employee wellbeing. The Covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance in companies looking after both the physical and mental health of their employees and the workplace is a big part of that. 

Combining an office environment and remote working is a key part of a truly hybrid workspace and one that companies should start to utilise permanently from now on. Both ways of working provide benefits for employees, meaning that companies can truly support and improve their team’s wellbeing by promoting both options as standard. 

Employee loyalty

In addition to wellbeing, hybrid workspaces are key to attracting and retaining talent. Never before has the working environment and the balance it can provide been such an important factor in building a great team. 

Younger workforces want to work for organisations that are in-line with their beliefs, however, it is no longer just enough to promise flexible working and regular social events, companies need to show that they are all about the right culture too. The office plays a big part in this as it says a lot about the culture of a company. If you want people to believe that you care about your employees, you need to show this through your office design. 

Even better, the continued growth and flexibility of hybrid workspaces will allow you to show workers that you are continually trying to make things better for them. You can respond to feedback, update your design and foster loyalty simply by providing a great environment to work in – although you also need the right policies to underpin this. 

Improved productivity

When Covid-19 meant that people had to start working from home, companies were concerned about a possible drop in productivity. This hasn’t been the case and in most cases, employees and employers have reported equal, if not improved productivity levels. 

Adopting an agile way of working and extending this to the design of your office helps to encourage productivity. Allowing people to work how they want, where they want and when they want ensures you’re getting the best from every individual. 

Hybrid workplaces help to inspire collaboration, imagination and focus as and when required and in multiple ways. This means that companies can focus just on results and not how people achieved them.

Hybrid workspaces for 2021 and beyond

While hybrid workspaces are being penned as a big trend for 2021, it is already clear that they are more than that. Instead of a simple design trend, they represent a fundamental change in the way people work. 

In order to fully benefit from this transition, companies need to look at what else needs to change, otherwise, the shift will be seen only as a surface one by employees, meaning organisations do not see the full benefits. 

Looking at benefits and policies that are currently in place to see how they can be updated in-line with the design changes is a vital part of fully adapting to hybrid working. Just as with the workplace design, these changes need to be adaptable and represent a shift in the way your company operates.