How to design your office to meet the needs of today’s hybrid-remote workforce
Before COVID, the biggest office design trend was balancing between the open office layout and the opposite layout style, which was more cubicle- and privacy-based. The open office layout was generally preferred by owners and executives, as it fostered collaboration and team-building and enhanced the office culture.
However, employees tended to prefer the privacy and dedicated workspace provided by assigned cubicles. Businesses were trying to find the sweet spot that blended elements of open offices (collaborative and cost-effective) and cubicle-based space (employee privacy and fewer distractions).
Fast forward two-and-a-half years. A lot has changed, yet a lot has stayed the same. Businesses are still trying to find the right balance between an open office and layouts that offer privacy and distraction-free workspace. However, there are now some new challenges to consider, primarily:
- Most employees now follow a hybrid-remote schedule that has them coming into the office only a few days per week.
- Safety measures enacted during the height of the pandemic have become far more relaxed, but COVID concerns still impact the workplace significantly.
Office-design and furniture considerations used to be based on the premise that every employee would work in the office full-time. Now, most office employees work from home at least part-time. That model has pros and cons. An obvious pro is that office space will cost less moving forward. For the same number of employees, fewer workstations and a smaller square footage are needed now. An obvious con is that it is now more complicated for businesses to plan offices. If you have 500 employees and employees are in the office 2 days per week on average, you would need approximately 200 workstations. But what if Wednesday is a much more popular day to be in the office? How many workstations do you need?
An office design and furniture dealer can help you plan for these possibilities, but solving these challenges is not easy.
When the in-office workforce is different each day, the office needs to be designed more flexibly. Naturally, workstations will be shared and not dedicated to one employee. Flexibility and shared workstations are elements that are commonly associated with an open office layout.
Before the pandemic, open offices were squeezing more workers into smaller spaces by replacing cubicles with multi-person benching or workstations. Companies were able to fit more employees into less space and that layout required less furniture on a per-person basis. Today, people are concerned about spending a lot of time in close contact with others and prefer a little bit more personal space. Offices that have a layout conducive to social distancing are usually less open. They either have more space between employees or more dividers in place to minimize the virus’s ability to spread.
Today, the 2023 office design trends look to offer solutions befitting the modern office and workforce. The goals remain to be cost-effective and collaborative and to offer ample privacy and distraction-free areas. But now space must also be flexible to accommodate the hybrid-remote schedule and offer appropriate accommodations for limiting the spread of airborne illness. Some of the top layout and furniture trends that help solve office design challenges, both new and old. include:
- Collaborative Breakout Spaces are designed to enable collaboration with coworkers in a creative, supportive atmosphere. The furniture for these spaces should be comfortable and inviting, mimicking the living room of a home.
- Flexible Furniture is furniture (i.e., a desk, workstation, or seating) that can be adapted for different working styles and atmospheres. Flexible furniture helps businesses adapt as needs change within an office space.
- Desk Configurations that are limitless. Desks should be configured in an office promote the highest productivity. Configurations may include a height-adjustable desk, a U-shaped desk, a desk with overheads for storage, or a tackboard. Finding just the right combinations is important.
- Height-Adjustable Desks are great solutions for employees who are at their desks all day. Alternating between standing and sitting, an employee can relieve back strain, increase productivity, and burn more calories.
- Dividers / Partitions / Modular Walls are objects designed to separate space. There are many shapes and sizes, as well as applications for, these elements of office furniture. Determining how you want them to be used dictates which type will work best
- Phone / Privacy Booths & Pods offer employees a quiet space to make a private call or work on a project that requires no distractions. They also allow for meetings for just a few people when more privacy is needed.
- Sound Absorption / Noise Reduction can be a challenge for any office. Finding just the right acoustical solution is critical. Acoustic panels or baffles or sound-masking systems can be beneficial, but complete soundproofing requires floor-to-ceiling walls.
- Resimercial Furniture is softer and more comfortable than typical office furniture. These pieces have colors and design details that strive to make the workplace feel more like home.
- Aesthetics, including Plants, Natural Light, Neutral Colors, and Covered / Decorated Walls, have been shown to have a positive impact on employees, leading to higher productivity and job satisfaction.