How hybrid working is changing office space planning

Wie hybrides Arbeiten die Raumplanung im Büro verändert

In the future, many companies will give their employees the freedom to choose where they work, so they are introducing hybrid work. However, this brings with it some challenges for spatial planning: Who sits in which place and when? Are there always enough tables for everyone? And is there enough space for concentrated work or video conferences? A flexible office concept and efficient planning are needed to design the office of the future and use it successfully.

Hybrid working as a future model

Hybrid work seems inevitable if a study by Microsoft is to be believed. For the “2021 Work Trend Index”, the company surveyed over 31,000 employees and self-employed people in 31 countries and found that 73 percent want the permanent opportunity to work flexibly and remotely. At the same time, 67 percent want more personal contact and direct collaboration with their colleagues again after the pandemic. It's no surprise that 66 percent of executives surveyed said their company was considering converting its office space to hybrid work .

This model brings significant advantages. Employee satisfaction and productivity can increase because the ability to work remotely often improves work-life balance. Companies can save rent and energy costs through a flexible office concept in a smaller space . A hybrid workplace also puts the focus on employees . It offers them flexible workspaces that are tailored precisely to their needs: open areas for communication, soundproof cubicles for concentrated work and collaborative spaces where teams can meet and work on their projects together.

Hybrid Work: More collaboration and technology

It is clear that hybrid working can hardly be implemented in the old spatial concept. Anyone who sticks to this will find themselves faced with rows of empty desks, while at the same time there are not enough meeting rooms and colleagues are making video calls in the hallway so as not to disturb anyone. Hybrid work often means a remote-first model to keep all employees involved regardless of their current work location.

As a result, the number of video conferences is increasing significantly . During the pandemic, the video conferencing software Zoom saw a 2,900 percent increase in meeting participants. The company increased its sales by 317 percent in 2020 compared to the previous year. According to research by Fortune Business Insights, the global video conferencing market will grow significantly over the next few years, reaching $12.99 billion by 2028.

In order to address this development towards hybrid communication, meeting rooms need the appropriate technical equipment to be able to carry out calls even in larger groups. 180-degree cameras with automatic zoom on the person speaking, appropriate monitors and audio equipment, and perhaps even hybrid whiteboard tools ensure a better video call experience in hybrid teams. Soundproof telephone boxes like HUUS One are ideal solutions for individuals so that they do not have to disturb colleagues with their telephone calls or block valuable meeting rooms.

The office transforms from a general place of work into a space for meetings and collaboration . Teams meet in the office for brainstorming and strategy development, but do the concentrated preparation at home. This will most likely require more meeting rooms and fewer workstations .

If there is desk sharing, there are no longer any fixed desks and employees often work from home or on the go, this also means that fixed PCs are a thing of the past and laptops are needed instead. Hybrid working also has an impact on hardware requirements.

Corporate culture: Decisive factor and goal of spatial planning

Hybrid working can mean a wide range of possibilities . For example, companies can employ a mix of remote employees and those who only work in the office. You can also set fixed office days for all teams or give employees the freedom to choose how many days a week they want to work from home - and even let them decide spontaneously.

The decision about the hybrid working model that a company wants to use is a very fundamental one. It's not just about the wishes of the employees, although they should be included in the process. A very important factor is the corporate culture , which should be reflected in the hybrid workspace .

If flexibility is one of the most important values, that could mean complete freedom of choice for teams. However, if a company wants to create a culture based on belonging and personal contact , the office should be designed accordingly and employees should have an incentive to meet there in person. Online artist marketplace Etsy offers great examples of spaces that reflect the company's mission and values. The stylish and cozy offices have plenty of relaxed communal spaces decorated with craft supplies and displaying items made by Etsy sellers.

Etsy office

Companies should define the goals for their office space and create a concept. The shift to hybrid working is a great opportunity to rethink the purpose of the office and choose a setup that suits everyone.

Determine utilization and adjust room planning

Once the philosophy of the office is clear, practical steps that relate to the specific spatial planning follow. The first question is how many days on average the employees will spend in the office. If there is no requirement from the employer, a survey that shows the wishes of the workforce makes sense. Based on this, the approximate capacity utilization and thus the need for workplaces can be determined. This is of course higher with four office days per week than with two.

Roughly speaking, there are two options for everyday life: fixed guidelines or intelligent planning . In the first variant, the company creates a plan for who comes to the office and when. The teams must adhere to these and can only exchange ideas with colleagues in exceptional cases. However, this option is rather rigid and does not fit the flexibility of the new working world with self-determined employees.

Software solutions for tailor-made occupancy

With the second option, employees can decide relatively spontaneously when they want to come to the office. Workstations and meeting rooms are booked digitally . Very small teams can probably get by without a specialized tool and can, for example, use an online calendar or a table. However, with around ten employees this becomes too confusing.

Larger teams can use specialized software to book workstations and meeting rooms. In the tool, employees can see directly whether a desk is still available on the desired day and reserve the space. If necessary, teams can also come together in a specific area. If there is no space or conference room available, another day must be chosen.

Julius Urban is co-founder and CEO of Pult , a tool for coordinating the hybrid workplace. He explains: “The purpose of the office has changed; most employees use it primarily as a place to collaborate and get together, not to work 9-to-5. Software allows the team to see who is in the office and who is working remotely. This makes it easier to decide whether it’s worth going to the office in a day or not.”

Stay flexible with modular solutions

When it comes to the number of desks, the utilization survey can serve as a basis. But what about conference rooms ? Here too, companies can ask their employees and analyze the previous meeting frequency. However, it is often difficult to predict how many personal meetings will actually take place after the transition to a hybrid workplace.

It is therefore best for companies to maintain a certain degree of flexibility . For example, sliding doors can turn one large room into several. And for short brainstorming sessions with a few people, a seating area or a bar table is also ideal. There may also be a courtyard or roof terrace that can become a meeting point if necessary and the weather is good.

Meeting and telephone boxes offer very good opportunities to make optimal use of unused areas. They can be easily set up or moved if they make more sense to another location. This quickly creates a cost-effective alternative to a conference room . How many telephone boxes a company needs depends, of course, on the number of calls. For our single box HUUS One, we recommend a ratio of one box for ten employees .

Flexibility for future viability

With flexibility as a core value, ongoing evaluation and optimization become important success factors. This could mean, for example, conducting regular surveys with the teams (monthly, quarterly or annually) or using software to evaluate office usage . This means it can be adapted to the changing needs of the teams. The tool shows particularly intensive days of the week or phases of the month and can serve as a basis for adapting office space planning even better to the needs of the company and its employees. Julius Urban explains: “Software can help companies understand their office space(s) and their utilization. This makes it possible to quickly draw conclusions as to whether it makes sense to expand or reduce it, for example .”

HUUS founder Justina Clemens says: “After the pandemic, we have to rethink the office . The hybrid workplace will become a reality in many companies. It offers many opportunities to focus on employee satisfaction and at the same time use rooms more efficiently. Flexibility is the key: a flexible office is a future-proof office. We will have to keep trying and evaluating to find the best solution for the current requirements. The space should be as modular and flexible as possible.”