For all the talk about hybrid work, most of the conversation surrounding it seems to imply that it is an either-or proposition. Your office is hybrid, performing well and enabling better productivity, or it is not hybrid at all. But this isn’t how hybrid offices work in reality. Instead, the coming years will see well-executed hybrid offices, poorly-executed ones, and everything in between. Offices that fit for what their occupiers actually want, and ones that were designed like a paint by numbers, hitting all the recommended notes but not working for the people that use them every day. Most importantly, even excellent hybrid offices will be iterative, changing and growing as the needs of their occupiers evolve and more and more data is collected.
No two occupier firms will wind up with exactly the same interior design in their ideal hybrid workplace. Even within industries, there will be changes based on the personalities, preferences, and management styles of the occupants. Over time, things will change as well. As employees get used to the new opportunities and realities of working in a hybrid office, they may come to realize that their preferences change. For instance, someone who went into their newly hybridized office wanting focus space could eventually decide they do better focus work at home, and preferred social working in the office.
Moving into the hybrid era of work will require a long-term flexibility with regard to interior design, company policies, and overall vision, powered by an effective data collection function and performed iteratively as workplaces get closer and closer to their own individual best hybrid workplace.
It all starts with the tech. As we explain in our new report, focused on the costs and benefits of hybrid workplaces, there are a few tech platforms that hybrid offices absolutely require in order to perform effectively. We’re talking about the trifecta of mission-critical tech tools that rose to the top in last year’s Propmodo tenant experience app report: space booking software, a touchless access platform, and a visitor management system.
But while these are the hallmark tech platforms of well-performing offices in general, hybrid takes more than just this trinity of tools. To enable that long-term flexibility, to capture and allow measured responses to the iterative nature of hybrid offices that need to serve remote-first, in-person first, and flip-flopper employees, hybrid offices need some way to learn, iterate, and revise based on ongoing data collection. In other words, hybrid workplaces demand occupancy sensors, a well-established feedback collection apparatus, and some way to put all of this together.
These tools will allow the astute space planner to do one very important thing: play the world’s most sophisticated game of musical chairs. A cubicle here, a conference room there, lounge-style seating in this corner and the break room over here. And to be truly successful, office planners need to realize the game never really stops. Hybrid work isn’t just the destination, it’s the journey. Today’s well-performing workspaces will need to evolve as staff come and go, cross-functional teams are formed, and employees age into demographic groups that are statistically more likely to prefer to work from home.
Only the right mixture of questions and tools can equip planners to iterate their hybrid workplaces successfully. Sensors and feedback collection need to work in harmony, since neither by itself tells the full story: feedback collection through surveys and interviews captures intent, and sensors capture what actually happens. As we discuss in our report on the true costs and benefits of hybrid, employees may plan to do (or just say they want to do) one thing and then do another, particularly when it comes to the use of reservable spaces, which employees may fear constitute a “use it or lose it” kind of scenario.
Office planners and facility teams also have an opportunity to involve the employees themselves as ongoing partners in the continued evolution of their own workplaces. With sensors and feedback collection systems in place, offices can become living laboratories for best practices and ideal designs. Employees can be brought on to closed alpha and beta tests, where productivity, satisfaction, and space utilization are all carefully monitored.
Employee voices can also be leveraged to add robustness to this iterative design process. Taking a note from the development world, small charrettes involving workplace planners and representatives of many office stakeholder groups (in this case, perhaps remote-first, in person-first, and a range of functional areas and demographics) can form, led by designers and facilities teams, leading to greater employee engagement with their space and higher satisfaction. Every change and pivot can be monitored through sensors, surveys, and performance tracking.
Today’s ideal hybrid workplace may not reflect the needs of the firm in just a few years. Hybrid workplaces that exceed expectations and deliver a great experience for their occupiers are well within reach, but planners need to accept that hybrid is a journey. While there may be an X on the map, the destination is moving and evolving, just like offices themselves will need to.