What are the challenges of designing an office space for a hybrid working model?

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CIO Strategic Advisor in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees
We do well with everyone in the office; we know what that model looks like. We know what the fully-remote model looks like now. We've been doing that for the last two years. The hybrid approach is not trivial, especially models in which there are no fixed days during which everyone is in the office. What are the tools that you use in order to coordinate that, and as an office planning person, how do you effectively plan to know that you’re going to need capacity for a certain number of meeting rooms, desks and open spaces? How do you start to do that if that hybrid model will be widely flexible in terms of how people use it or don't use it?

It's going to be the wild west when you think about that hybrid model, and it has to be as we start to navigate it. It's not a bad thing. It's just that we will have to go through iterations of this to learn how people can most effectively work because the way people work will evolve over time. I'm also hearing that there are some generations that think working from home is crazy. They want to be somewhere else to work because they don't want their personal and work lives to mix. They want to have a healthy separation and they find that working from home mixes those two realms together.

We need to have an open mind about how we go through this. It affects everything from the decisions we make about it, to the technology we use, the office designs that we map out, as well as how we build and evolve cultures. All of this is in flux and it will be for some time to come.
4 Replies
CIO / Managing Partner in Manufacturing, 2 - 10 employees

There are going to be things that will find their own level. For example, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday will be more popular for coming into the office because people like to have the longer weekend flexibility. But if they can't get meeting rooms because there are not enough, then how many teams will say, “I'll have a meeting on a Monday or Friday because I know I can get a good meeting room”?

CIO Strategic Advisor in Services (non-Government), 2 - 10 employees

And if we play that out: What happens when you start running into those challenges? How are people going to feel about coming into the office? There will be a degree of frustration that comes up because it's not going to be as fluid as it was in the fully in-person or the fully remote models.

VP, Global IT in Manufacturing, 1,001 - 5,000 employees

That’s true. You don't think about these things until it really starts to happen, and it's not always pretty. Back in the Netherlands when my wife was working for a past company, she’d ride her bike to work after dropping the kids off at school. Schools start at 8:30 a.m., so by the time she got to the office, it would be 8:45 a.m. All the flexible desks were already snatched away by people that came to the office at 7:00 a.m., and a lot of the people that came in later, who were often moms, would have to pedal back home to work remotely. It created a lot of tension in the office.

Advisor | Investor | Former CIO in Services (non-Government), Self-employed
In facilities, it needs to be pretty straightforward, but we haven't figured out the right kind of configuration. It isn't a case of having the workplace be all offices or all open bullpen spaces. Some of the more progressive companies are figuring out that there are certain areas that need to be quiet spaces and they designate those as libraries. You go in there knowing that it's a place where you are meant to be silent and you respect the quiet.

There are many variables to figure out for hybrid models. I'm reminded of one individual, a former CIO, who had a nervous breakdown last year because they’re such an extrovert. Cooped up inside their apartment month after month was just too much for them, and they’re not an exception. People that are very extroverted need that time in the office with others because that's how they get energized. On the flip side, there are certain people for whom working from home has been a blessing in disguise.

We're just starting to figure this thing out. The Gen Z folks in our workforces will challenge us in constructive ways to rethink the way that we approach the office space. We have an innate desire to connect with people where appropriate. But the frequency by which you connect is a very personal thing. Some of us love getting the opportunity to do that every day. For others, maybe not so much. Hybrid models seem to be the best compromise that we've encountered in quite some time. Where it goes from here, time will tell.
CIO / Managing Partner in Manufacturing, 2 - 10 employees
As a lot of people have said, this is the beginning of a different way of looking at things. These things will change and evolve now that people's eyes have been opened to different ways of working. Even some of the real old school people and mindsets have opened up to this. But we don't actually know what the right answer is, and it may vary by company. It may vary by industry, or role, etc. There are certain roles that can only be done in the workplace. But there are other roles which are more productive remotely, and there are a lot of roles for which you only need to be in-person for certain types of work, like a meeting.

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organized a virtual escape room via https://www.puzzlebreak.us/ - even though his team lost it was a fun subtitue for just a "virtual happy hour"
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Director of Finance, Self-employed
We have a dedicated change management and communications team who we call in for consult and/or execution of any initiative. Its part of our dept culture at this point. 

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