Following the great work from home experiment, we’re now in a phase of discovery called hybrid work.
The latest Steelcase magazine for Spring/Summer 2022 explores how the office needs to take inspiration from a new place - neighbourhoods.
The challenge of bringing people back to the office
Despite employers’ efforts to entice everyone back to the office, people are dragging their feet. And it’s not because they’re demanding more flexible working options. Hybrid work has been embraced by 71% of global leaders giving people the option to work two-to-three days from home or other locations.
The real problem is:
“Do people really believe anything has changed if everything looks the same?”
Companies are embracing hybrid work policies but haven’t changed their offices to support hybrid work.
The solution: taking inspiration from the neighbourhoods we live in
In the article, Steelcase propose a solution:
“Rather than basing office design on the need to fit more people into less space, the workplace should draw inspiration from a new source that is less about efficiency and more about humanity - the vibrant communities in which we live.”
Because they exude vitality and energy. The neighbourhood is where people form relationships, feel a sense of belonging and build trust.
The best neighbourhoods foster inclusion and allow ideas and trends to be born. And this is what people at work need.
Steelcase propose that organisations can create diverse neighbourhoods in their workplace to communicate their values and shift their culture.
"The workplace can create the same energy and connection people feel sitting in a sidewalk cafe or the same level of solitude they experience in their library or the privacy of their own home."
How to build a hybrid neighbourhood at work
Neighbourhoods should include a variety of interconnected spaces that support different types of work. They include:
- Individual spaces assigned to one person or shared amongst the team
- Collaboration spaces for in-person and virtual interactions that support the different ways people need to come together
- Places with appropriate privacy for individual heads down work or finding solitude and rejuvenation
Steelcase argue that for a neighbourhood to truly work it has to be based on three key design goals:
- Equity - Create a more equitable and inclusive experience for all participants, with a design goal to eliminate the gap between co-located and remote employees.
- Engagement - Design settings for a range of experiences that help people participate fully, focus deeply and stay in flow longer.
- Ease - Design a variety of intuitive virtual and physical experiences that are easy to navigate and control.
What the hybrid neighbourhood looks like
The article showcases six hybrid neighbourhoods that are designed to meet people's new needs at work:
1. Unassigned team spaces
Hybrid teams need a space to call home and feel a sense of belonging. They need to be able to connect with teammates joining remotely, and privacy is important.
2. Privacy on demand
Flexible active collaboration spaces strike the right balance between privacy and the open office. Furniture can be wheeled in and barriers created using booths, pods and screens. The new Overhead Tent from Steelcase is one viable solution.
3. Social garden
Designed as a cross between a city park and conference room, it’s a place people can go to connect with work friends. Comfortable lounge seating, personal tables and integrated power will be important.
4. Open collaboration space
A flexible space that can be easily adapted to support diverse ways of collaborating and providing an alternative to enclosed spaces. Easy to use technology is key.
5. Focus rooms
Hybrid teams need access to acoustic privacy to collaborate on a video call, do deep focus work or rejuvenate. The solution is a shared private office with an adjacent space for those seeking respite, a place to read or take a call.
6. Assigned homes
Many organisations are reducing assigned workstations yet people still need some level of ownership and control over their workspace.
The new era of hybrid work means people have more choices than ever. And the office has to work harder to attract people and keep them coming back.
The workplace can become a community where people feel part of something special, rather than just a cog in the wheel. This community can be intentionally designed like a great neighbourhood, that’s full of energy and life.
For more information, download the full magazine now: