The businesses who will get hybrid working right are the ones who are bold enough about who they are and brave enough to challenge the way they have been working
One thing the pandemic has taught us is that to embrace the future of work we need to fundamentally change our understanding of the office – from a stand-alone space where people come to work, to a platform for engagement, that sits amongst many other platforms: Zoom, Teams, cafes, co-working hubs and office spaces are all platforms for engagement.
The term hybrid working refers to the journey many businesses are embarking on to discover how effective these engagement platforms really are at helping them to build upon their culture and get the most from their people. Moving towards hybrid working is a journey with phases: adjust, re-evaluate, and repeat, for a company to establish how best to balance staff happiness, satisfaction and motivation with business resources and productivity, in the long term.
In going through this process, businesses are becoming increasingly mindful of the appropriate constrains that shape this journey: ranging from terms, cost, location and growth, to appetite for change and aspiration, and in some cases, they will be turning all the dials on these at once, to help them find the perfect outcome.
For office architecture and design, the shift towards a hybrid working model, and this process, of embarking into the unknown, means a shift in how we come to measure and evaluate the success of an office space. Over the last decade Instagram has had a big part to play in training us to think of office design in terms of shiny finished projects, an end point, a photo shoot, a full-stop. ‘Agile working’ in particular has given way to vein of design porn, of offices with the most available set ups; from the most vibrant and stimulating break-out and collaboration spaces, to the most cosy and serene areas for concentrated working.
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Hybrid working is bound to be a disrupting force on this trend for the clickbait office, and refocus our attention on how design can genuinely unlock a business’ ability to thrive in a space. It will encourage us to look at offices as an integral part of a much more rounded package, and one that plays a much more active part in a defining a company’s culture, and facilitating its business plans and productivity. Like businesses, offices should always be growing and evolving; they should be part of the ongoing journey, not a final destination. If an office is successful and is doing its job well, it should need to be constantly adjusted, customised, updated, and eventually replaced altogether.
In addition to changing how we measure and evaluate an office, the onset of hybrid working signifies new business thinking coming to the fore. Because of this crisis, all companies are going through an acceleration of their business cycle. Business planning, business thinking, and change management that may otherwise have taken place over the course of years, is happening in a matter of months, and in turn this is enhancing the openness of businesses to consider their culture and the experience of their staff. Mental health and wellbeing are being promoted from being on the agenda, to being central to workplace strategy.
In this sense hybrid working has become a magnet for all the things business have been speaking about leading up to this point. It is saying now is the time for businesses to genuinely look at their team, and their work needs and their personal needs, and where they want to take their business in the future. And one of the best ways of expressing these values is through an office: through a physical engagement platform. This makes this an exciting, and a pivotal time for office architecture and design.
The businesses who will get hybrid working right are the ones who are bold enough about who they are and brave enough to challenge the way they have been working. For architects and designers to support these businesses they need to listen, maintain an open mind, and be equally bold in providing original and tailored solutions. For a meaningful conversation to take place between architects and clients in this current climate, the focus must not be about how a client wants their office to look, but how they want their office to serve them coming out of this crisis.
Success, in this climate, is creating that platform for collaboration, for creation, and for growth. Good design is the invisible empowerment of people and of teams. It’s not the headline, or the Instagram shot, it’s the editorial, the long-form narrative, it’s the ongoing journey.
Image by ThirdWay Interiors