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In and Out: Guidelines for Hybrid Office Design

In 2020, we talked quite a bit about what the future of work would look like.

We discussed distancing between desks, air ventilation, and yes, even reducing the in-person workforce while the virus was still circulating.

Now that we are almost through 2021, even with lowered restrictions, people have gotten used to the flexibility remote work gives them and do not want to come back full time. Yet, many teams do better at staying engaged with some in-person, face-to-face time. With lingering virus variants and many large companies not bringing remote workers back until January 2022, part-office part-remote work might become the new normal.

Enter the hybrid office. This flexible workplace model keeps core staff, transient workers, and fully remote workers in mind, reacting to the shifting needs of the workforce while offering a safe home base.

Here are some guidelines for considering hybrid office design:

Keep It Open… But Not Too Open

A certain balance must be struck with hybrid office design. On the one hand, workers coming back to the office need some openness. Over 40% of at-home workers expressed that the thing they missed most about the office were the opportunities for collaboration with colleagues, which open spaces encourage. In addition, more space is better for continued social distancing and for workers to make adjustments when needed.

On the other hand, as discussed in other articles on this topic, the open office has its issues. Along with pre-pandemic issues like increased distractions and lack of privacy, open office design causes disease to spread more easily and makes it harder to conduct calls and remote meetings, which will be a mainstay of work for the foreseeable future.

If your existing office is an open layout, furniture pods, de-mountable partitions, and moveable walls can help carve out some private space when necessary. If your office is a little more walled-in, make sure there are open spaces that encourage socialization and collaboration without packing people in too much. Essentially, plan out a variety of spaces for a variety of needs.

Bring in Natural Elements

Mental wellness is interconnected with physical wellness for employees, and good office design can help facilitate both.

After many months cooped up, people crave the outdoors more than ever. While employees may not be able to work outside, there are ways to bring the outdoors inside to facilitate a positive work environment.

Biophilic design elements can include increased natural lighting, plants, color, and natural materials like wood and stone. All of these have been proven to calm workers down and improve concentration and creativity.

Stay Within Code

While flexibility is important at this time, there are some rules that you can’t be flexible with: The New York City Building Code.

Before installing anything new or nailing down your new design, you need to check if it’s up to code. Things to watch out for include:

  • ADA Compliance: Your office must meet the accessibility requirements of the American Disabilities Act, as well as local accessibility laws.
  • Egress: There’s little point in making your office COVID-safe if it isn’t also fire safe. Make sure new add-ons and barriers are not obstructing egress, and that any new layout allows for code-compliant access to fire exits in case of emergency.
  • Emergency Action Plan: If your egress pathways do need to change, you will also need to update your office’s Emergency Action Plan and make sure in-office employees are aware of it.
  • Work with your Workers

    In order to bring your employees back into the fold, it’s best to what their needs are at this time. Beyond just coordinating in-office vs remote schedules, keep workers updated on planned renovations and ask for input on certain decisions like desks or partitions. It is important to help workers feel comfortable with coming back to the office, and making them feel they have a say in the way they work will be essential to moving forward.

    If you need assistance with making sure that your office is up to code, contact the experts at Outsource Consultants.



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