It is clear that in recent years the way of conceiving office work in organizations has been undergoing various changes and we still don’t really know which will be the definitive trend to endure – if any of them should become the predominant format.
Following the pandemic, people have undergone a paradigm shift with new ways of understanding and living life, fundamentally affecting the way they understand work and their priorities. Yet also, their way of socializing and seeking humanized relationships in all contexts, including work.
Hybrid work, which combines in-person and remote work, and fusing office and home environments, is a trend that we have already embraced, as companies are shifting towards it to offer a balance between the demand and need that employees require for flexible work and, on the other hand, the need for organizations to bring their staff together in collaborative spaces that foster creativity and create a corporate culture specific to teams. Therefore, leaders are concerned about the workspace not only as a way to attract and retain talent but also as a means of preventing their own corporate culture from disappearing if teamwork and the idea of being part of the organization are not fostered.
What role do executive spaces play in this hybrid workspace design?
Leadership positions are being reimagined to embody a more present and involved approach to work, resulting in a new focus on designing executive spaces that are open and integrated with the rest of the office. This encourages other employees within the organization to adopt the corporate culture and embrace the hybrid work environment. We are no longer talking about executives, but rather about leaders.
Employees need leaders who are accessible and clear in their approach to running the company, outlining values and goals to be achieved. Therefore, it is necessary to create new executive spaces that are interconnected with their team, both in person and remotely.
Companies need to regain in-person work in the office and rebuild team spirit. Employees also need to socialize and feel like part of a team. The effort and customization put into creating new workspaces within organizations is seen as a humanized and necessary need for all parties involved, which undoubtedly leads to greater productivity and efficiency. This new paradigm leads us to design a collaborative office space where meeting and collaboration areas predominate, connecting both in-person and remotely with the rest of the team. Additionally, individual zones for concentrating or holding videoconferences must also be created. The predominant seating options become all types of pieces, formal or informal, ranging from stools for coffee breaks to lounge areas with sofas, armchairs, or poufs, conference and meeting chairs, and even the operative office chair that no longer has to be the 24-hour chair, but still plays a relevant role in hybrid workspaces, both in the office and at home. The office work chair doesn’t disappear, but rather takes on a new role within flexible spaces.
How to achieve a balance between remote and in-person work?
The challenge for companies lies in offering workspaces that promote and motivate both in-person and remote connections, as well as having leaders who are capable of conveying the value and significance of in-person work. It is essential for employees to feel the advantages of in-person work and for the workspace to be comfortable and connected, providing meaning to their presence through their own efficiency and productivity.
The workspace must be SUSTAINABLE AND INCLUSIVE, as well as friendly and efficient, creating spaces where organizations can communicate their culture and values through hybrid work, thus promoting interest in in-person connections and collaboration for the entire team, including their leaders. At the same time, the workspace must integrate and understand the need for remote connections by facilitating access to individual or group video conferencing from various areas of the workspace.
What should an organisation’s new workspaces have?
We can summarize the answer in three key points:
- FLEXIBILITY, with spaces that can adapt to the needs of each moment and can become different scenarios.
- PHYSICAL AND DIGITAL CONNECTIVITY. The connection between the physical and digital world should be the basis of new workspaces to facilitate video conferencing that allows for seamless connection between in-person and remote attendees.
- OPEN SPACES ALONG WITH CLOSED SPACES. Hybrid workspaces require open work areas that facilitate collaboration, but also closed spaces that allow for concentration or private conversations without interfering with other employees.
How does hybrid work affect the installation of furniture, specifically seating, in workspaces?
With the arrival of coworking spaces and subsequently the pandemic, some believed that traditional office spaces were becoming obsolete. However, a new paradigm shift embracing hybrid work as a trend has brought back the importance of the office as a corporate workspace that is connected, personalized, and humanized.
The concept of coworking, where multiple companies share common areas and private spaces, both open and closed, is partially reflected in the design of new corporate office spaces that feature collaborative areas and private spaces to ensure the privacy of in-person employees. As for seating and chair needs, there is not much difference between these two office concepts, with work chairs still holding a significant place in the workspace design. However, they now share the spotlight with other types of seating that occupy more square footage within the workspace layout and design.
In general, the design of hybrid workspaces should include various defined zones such as:
- Shared collaborative spaces
- Shared social spaces
- Shared learning and training spaces
- Shared workspaces
- Individual work and concentration spaces
- Individual meeting spaces
Flexibility requires creating different environments with different types of seating based on each of these spaces and the needs of the people who occupy them. These pieces must be versatile and usable in these different spaces or coexist in all of them as needed. In the trend towards hybrid work, corporate spaces must be attractive, useful, and efficient for employees, offering all types of physical and remote connections and amenities that improve their work experience compared to working from home.
- In collaborative spaces and meeting areas, confident and conference chairs, both swivel and fixed, gain prominence, with upholstered versions providing comfort and warmth to these spaces. These open or closed areas typically occupy the most square footage in office or workspace design. These types of chairs are the most sought after for these spaces where functionality meets design.
- In social spaces, cafeteria areas with stools and multifunctional chairs in different versions, including upholstered, polypropylene, or wooden, share the spotlight with soft seating areas featuring armchairs, sofas, poufs, and modular upholstered systems. This is another type of seating that is gaining prominence in workspace design.
- In learning spaces, multifunctional chairs with writing tablets are the most requested option, both in fixed and swivel versions with wheels. But multifunctional PP chairs with training tables are also a popular choice. The option of chairs that can have their writing tablets removed or added is an interesting alternative. The digital age also leads to other types of connected training spaces using more informal upholstered seating options.
- In spaces designated for work, whether shared or individual, work operator chairs still hold a relevant place in workspace design. However, hybrid work means that these chairs are no longer meant for just one employee, and they must be comfortable and ergonomic, with easy-to-adjust features and fewer mechanisms and levers, opting for autonomous mechanisms like self-weight synchro mechanisms. As for individual work areas necessary for concentration or private conversations, comfortable directional armchairs are making a comeback.
What is the purpose of the workspace in hybrid work?
This is the question that organizations ask themselves to capture and make sense of in-person work and understand hybrid work within their corporate culture and values. The answer to these objectives can be summarized as follows:
- To improve the performance and productivity of the company, helping people work better by seeking their physical and mental well-being.
- To socialize and build teams, helping people feel that their work is more productive and their time more efficient when they occupy the office spaces of the organization.
So if this is the goal, the design of workspaces in organizations or coworking spaces that host them should help achieve these two objectives.
Pepa Perez de la Oliva
CEO of delaoliva