When welcoming employees back to the office this year, companies need to rethink their workplace policies and structures to support their employees. The employees being welcomed back don’t have the same needs and professional expectations as they did way back in March 2020 when they left the office for the safety of their homes. Companies like Salesforce have seen the number of employees who expect to work remotely at least some of the time jump from 40% pre-pandemic to 65% post-pandemic.
Supporting this return takes intention and open-mindedness from companies who are new to navigating the potential landmines of hybrid and remote working. (Workplace and real estate teams, listen up!)
There are many factors that dictate the changes your workplace will need to go through to best support this return to work. It depends on the size and shape of your workplaces, the degree and volume of which your employees will be physically returning to the office, and the workplace needs of those who will be commuting into the space at least some of the time.
Regardless of the specifics of these factors as they apply to your company, every organization can make workplace changes that better support the return to the office. A good place to start is by creating places for collaboration in the workplace. Going fully remote this past year actually increased the desire for employees to connect and collaborate with colleagues, with 62% of enterprises indicating meetings have increased since COVID began. As offices reopen, turning offices into collaboration hubs where employees can effectively collaborate in-person and virtually (sometimes simultaneously) will be challenging.
Let’s take a look at a few ways companies can reimagine their office space to support hybrid meeting culture.
Before you begin drafting policies for your new hybrid meetings, take the time to survey your employees. Since they are the ones who will be conducting and participating in these meetings, the meeting protocols you put in place should be crafted with their lived experience at the forefront of your mind. Once you’ve taken their perspective and expectations into account, you can begin creating hybrid meeting policies that benefit all parties and support your employee’s new workstyle preferences.
Hybrid meeting best practices include:
Inclusive protocols that ensure all attendees have equal opportunity for participation, regardless of if they are attending the meeting in-person or remotely.
Multiple options for attendees to join (like in-person, with the help of video conferencing software, or audio-only calling in) to create meetings that fit employee’s new hyper-flexible expectations.
Meeting agendas that are distributed far enough in advance to allow employees time to add to them if necessary.
Transparency surrounding meeting expectations, so all attendees know what is expected of them during the meeting and no one is caught off guard or unprepared.
Keeping meetings short and no longer than necessary. Recent research finds that the ideal meeting length for short meetings is 25 minutes and 45 minutes for long meetings.
Only inviting necessary attendees, so employees aren’t stuck sitting in meetings wondering why they are there.
Rethinking the frequency of meetings and only holding those that can’t otherwise be emails, phone calls, or even a quick Slack conversation.
Hybrid Meeting Room Tech Essentials
Once you decide to rewire your conference and meeting rooms to better support hybrid work, the first thing you’ll need to do is partner with the IT and AV teams at your organization. It is their help that you’ll need when implementing tech changes to existing workspaces and when constructing new tech-supportive spaces. Once you’ve got them on board and aligned with your rewiring vision, you’ll need these hybrid conference room tech essentials:
A smart video conference camera
A whiteboard or smart whiteboard
WiFi (and an ethernet cable on standby)
Once you have all the necessary tech, you may need to rearrange your conference room furniture to be better equipped for hybrid meetings. Gone are the days where conference rooms are dominated by a single, oversized rectangular table. To accommodate hybrid meetings, switch to a round table so all participants have equal opportunity to be seen and heard. Then, use hybrid-friendly video conferencing tech to give all participants (remote included) an opportunity to share.
The goal of hybrid meetings is to create a sense of equity in order to create a more accessible environment for all participants, regardless of location. To do so, invest in the necessary tech and draft hybrid meeting policies that are as progressive and flexible as your employees themselves.
Creating an Agile Office to Support Hybrid Working
Outside of the conference room, there are many other ways that you can redesign and rethink your office to better support the return to office. If you haven’t yet, this is a time where you will definitely benefit from the input of your employees themselves. Hybrid work is a spectrum, where employees fall on that spectrum (from fully remote to fully in-person with a multitude of hybrid alternatives in between) will dictate their specific workplace needs. To ensure you aren’t neglecting any subgroup of workers, be sure to take their input into account when creating an agile office that supports hybrid workers.
To create the ultimate agile office space that is supportive of hybrid working, consider:
Making every desk, room, and huddle space shareable and bookable. As a hybrid workplace, everyday in your office will look a little bit differently depending on how many and which employees are working on-site. To accommodate their changing schedules, create workspaces that are as flexible as they are.
Utilize a user-friendly app that allows employees to easily book workspaces ahead of time. Communication and organization help to avoid any miscommunications or overlapping regarding which rooms are reserved and which are free to use. (Shockingly, allowing employees to choose their own seating isn’t a popular trend despite all of the benefits it has for employees, 79% of enterprises will continue to assign seating for at least 1/4 of employees moving forward.)
Track the usage of each unique workspace to see where the most popular places are to work and meet in your office. Then, use what you learn to redesign the least popular spaces to better fulfill the needs of your employees.
Offer access to coworking spaces. For remote employees who don’t live within a reasonable commuting distance of your office, supply them with passes to co-working spaces near them as an alternative to working from home. The rise in remote work has also sparked a rise in more distanced hiring practices, 82% of enterprises are hiring outside of pre-COVID office locations.
Redesign your office spaces. Allocate more room for social hubs, brainstorming clubs, quiet corners, nature zones, product showcases, and client meetings to ensure no space goes unoptimized.
Redesigning your workspace to accommodate more flexible employees requires creative thinking, innovation, and a commitment to dynamic workspaces. Embrace the structure of your existing office and incorporate hybrid elements and features into the space you already have. As long as you make these hybrid-minded changes with intention and with one ear always open to hear feedback from your employees, you’ll have created a workplace environment that successfully supports hybrid work. To review the changing landscape of today’s employee needs, take a look at our 2021 Workplace Impact Report for all the latest stats and trends.