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Room for Everything: The Shape of Hybrid Office Interiors

Room for Everything: The Shape of Hybrid Office Interiors

Two years into the pandemic aftermath, the hybrid workplace continues to shape the way businesses operate. And businesses, in turn, are shaping their offices to fit the new hybrid workplace. Return to the office (RTO) is surging, but employees are pushing back against full-time RTO. What’s clear is there is value in in-person work, and there’s equal value in remote work, and offices are being re-shaped to accommodate both workstyles.

As reported in FastCompany.com, business-social media company LinkedIn is one of the many businesses adapting their office interiors for hybrid work. Their architects, NBBJ, created a “postures matrix” that guides furniture and layout choices. Design decisions are made based upon the time spent in a particular space, the type of work done there, and the associated ergonomic needs.

The postures matrix showed that the most social places are close to doorways and entries. As people move deeper into the space, work areas become increasingly quieter. Options for heads-down focused work, living room-style conference rooms, and “buzzy” co-working areas provide something for everyone, depending on their needs on any given day.

Like LinkedIn, other businesses may be trying to re-shape their existing offices to make them more hybrid-friendly. Some are concerned that they will need to expand their office footprint, and their budgets are not prepared for additional real estate costs. Luckily, there are design strategies that can support a hybrid redesign without the need for additional space:

  • Convert paper documents to digital documents via imaging, and reduce your document storage area. Imaged documents are productivity boosters, whether staffers are in the office or working remotely. And many of the imaged documents do not need to be retained as paper, freeing up room for interior re-design.
  • Exchange traditional filing cabinets for a high-density filing system, and save as much as 50% of your storage floor area. While imaging will reduce the need for much document storage, some paper docs need to be retained. Keep them in a high-density filing system and save even more space.
  • Add touchless smart lockers that guide in-office traffic while enhancing design aesthetics. Employees without dedicated workspaces need secure storage for personal items in the office. Touchless smart lockers’ customizable finishes make them a design feature, and they can be set up in work areas to provide sound separation and guide traffic. No extra space required.

For many companies, the traditional office is fading away and the hybrid workplace is taking its place. Office interiors will need to be revised to support hybrid work, but these smart moves help keep the costs manageable. Talk to a storage expert to find out how to do a space-saving cost-saving redesign.

 

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How a Hybrid Workplace Grew a New Corporate Culture

How a Hybrid Workplace Grew a New Corporate Culture

While the rest of us have been obsessing about what hybrid workplaces are doing to corporate culture, one D.C.-headquartered office has been quietly getting on with the transition. And in the process, they’ve created a hybrid-office proof of concept: With good planning, good design, and employee input, corporate culture is even stronger and more positive than before.

Journalist Rasheeda Childress recently reported on a national association’s shift to a hybrid workspace. The association was looking at new office space when the pandemic hit, and like everyone, they flipped to remote work. In conversations with employees, leadership realized that that a permanent shift in office life was in the works.

Based on employee input, the association established an updated set of criteria for their new offices, with flexible scheduling in mind. Now the association’s new space includes reservable “hoteling” offices as well as dedicated offices, with an overall space reduction of more than 15%. To address corporate culture, they established new employee designations designed to remove manager bias regarding staff productivity. Employees were classified as “resident workers,” in the office at least 3 days per week, or “teleworkers,” in the office at least 1 day per week.

The association’s director has discovered that connectedness is the secret to the organization’s successful transition to hybrid. He reports that his staff interactions have radically increased; he and his staff have to “wander around” to find the person they need to speak with, and in the course of the search, have serendipitous conversations with a dozen other people. Staff events, like a weekly free lunch, ensure employees have frequent interactions with people outside their team bubbles.

At NOS, we’ve been promoting the value of connectedness for some time. Digitization is part of the connected-culture picture. Document conversion gives teams access to documents wherever they are. Teams stay connected whether they’re in-office or working from home. Everyone is included, and everyone’s work is optimized.

Productivity and effectiveness rely on connection, and document accessibility supports connection. If your employees are telling you they want the flexibility of a hybrid workplace, consider this association’s path: Listen to employees’ ideas, work with designers to create flexible physical space, and provide technology and opportunities that promote connectedness. Your corporate culture will change for the better.

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Do Some Good With All That Extra Office Space

Do Some Good With All That Extra Office Space

For some time, we’ve been talking about the extra office space which businesses find they have after digitizing their paper documents. Digitization reduces document storage needs dramatically, at a rate of 9 square feet for each filing cabinet eliminated. That can add up pretty quickly to some real space savings that goes straight to your bottom line.

But what if your business can’t just hand back the excess space? Maybe your lease isn’t ending for some time. Maybe your building’s interior configuration doesn’t allow for easy reassignment to another tenant. What will you do with the extra space that you’re already paying for?

And if you add hybrid-workplace space savings into the equation, you may find you have even more unused space. Digitization supports hybrid operations by making digital documents securely accessible to off-site staff. A sizeable number of hybrid offices are empty on Fridays or Mondays; everyone is working from home, with access to digital document files. Again, what happens to all that unused space?

Here’s a proposal: Offer it to a community nonprofit. Chronically underfunded local and regional nonprofits need meeting places for volunteer training and activities. Their boards need a conference room. Their clients need a safe place to meet with volunteers.

If you’re working on a hybrid schedule, it’s easy to know when your conference room is available to a nonprofit. Even if you’re full-time in-office, the space your filing cabinets used to occupy can be put to good use as a volunteer meeting area after business hours or on weekends.

It’s a win for everyone. The nonprofit’s volunteers have a safe and professional meeting place. Your staff is likely to follow your lead in supporting community organizations. Your brand is reinforced by public participation in community life. And your budget potentially gets a nice boost in the form of a tax deduction. It’s one of those rare opportunities with no downside for anyone.

And in case you’re worried about having outsiders in your workplace, remember that digitizing your documents adds a level of security that you can’t get with paper documents. It protects them from prying eyes, and from falling into the wrong hands.

So bring those nonprofits into your extra office space, and make the world a better place!

 

Photo © zinkevych / AdobeStock

A Reason to Return: Office Amenities Help Bring Employees Back

A Reason to Return: Office Amenities Help Bring Employees Back

Workplace amenities used to be associated with tech start-ups – meals, game rooms, and bring-your-dog-to-work were some of the popular perks that kept tech workers in the office. Why go home when everything you want is there? Today’s newer office buildings are taking a page from the tech world, offering an array of amenities like gyms, concierge services, and lounges.

It’s all part of tenants’ commitment to hybrid offices, a staffing retain-and-return game plan for many companies. Survey after survey shows the same results: Employees do not want to go back to full-time in-office operations. And employers are discovering that the hybrid workstyle has benefits that they don’t want to give up, including greater productivity, lower real estate costs, and happy employees.

Employees are willing to trade space for the hybrid workstyle. More than half of law firm employees recently surveyed said they would trade assigned seating/offices for greater flexibility. That’s good news for employers, who can reduce their office footprint when they don’t have to find space for all their staff each and every day.

The amenities offered by first-class office buildings aren’t free, of course, and a prudent practice manager or facilities manager will try to balance that extra cost by reducing the amount of space in a new lease. The same law firm survey showed the average square feet per attorney has decreased from 760 s.f. to 625 s.f., and other industry sectors are making similar reductions.

But reducing personnel space can only go so far. For many professional practices, paper documents take up an outsize proportion of the office footprint. High density storage systems help reduce the space needed for document storage. Digitization goes even further.

Just one filing cabinet takes up 9 square feet, at an average real estate cost of $540 per year (and that’s before factoring in the higher price of amenity-rich buildings). Document conversion eliminates the need for that space, and the cost associated with it.

Digitization lets you have your cake (or gym or lounge) and eat it too. When employers can offer appealing amenities to encourage staff to return to the office, without increasing their real estate costs, it’s a win for everyone.

 

Photo © Iriana Shiyan / AdobeStock

Document Imaging Tames Office-Work Chaos

Document Imaging Tames Office-Work Chaos

“When would you like to come in to work?” In the pre-pandemic Before-Times, no one ever expected to hear that from their boss. Now in the new normal of hybrid offices, employees are getting exactly that question from HR managers, supervisors, and team leaders.

“What makes hybrid work kind of interesting is that it’s the only kind of work we don’t know how to do,” says Ethan Bernstein, associate professor of management at Harvard Business School. We’ve known for more than a century how to schedule in-office work, and we’ve quickly mastered WFH. But hybrid work has no rules. Everyone wants it, but it feels very chaotic to manage.

Part of the chaos can be resolved with scheduling. Too many choices can be overwhelming, as every parent knows. If staff have 100% flexibility – in-office or WFH – the office has to be ready for anything. It could be 100% full or 100% empty on any given day. A mandated schedule with some built-in flexibility is better than limitless choices.

A flexible but structured schedule lets real estate and facilities management departments predict space utilization. Right-sizing the office space saves real estate costs, and time-of-day utilization schedules save utility usage and costs.

Additionally, a flexible-but-mandated schedule gives employees a way to structure their time for a healthy work/life balance. Managers have begun polling staffers to ask when they’d like to come in to the office, building their schedules on the results. This would have seemed impossible a few years ago.

Document imaging tames another part of the hybrid-office chaos. If a staff member takes a document home for a few days, that document is no longer available to other team members. Sure, they can make copies (additional cost), or they can send photos of the documents to their co-workers (security risk). Or they can try to re-work the schedule so they’re all in the office at the same time, just to have access to the same document (frustrating and time-consuming, at best).

A database of imaged documents takes the documents’ physical location out of the scheduling equation. It gives access to WFH and in-office employees alike, at any time of day. It also keeps the information on the documents secure. With people coming and going on irregular schedules, it’s all too easy for documents to be lost or to fall into the hands of those who should not have access.

Chaos can be the birthplace of breakthrough creativity. The hybrid workplace itself is an example, growing from the upheaval of the pandemic. However, in the words of Karen Martin, “Chaos is the enemy of any organization that strives to be outstanding.” A work schedule that starts with employees’ preferences, and a digital document database that allows staffers access without regard to location or time of day, will keep chaos at bay.

Photo © Sergey Nivens / AdobeStock

The Just-Right Redesign: Hybrid Office Adaptations

The Just-Right Redesign: Hybrid Office Adaptations

Yes, the hybrid office is here to stay, and with it comes an opportunity to do a beneficial redesign of the workplace. The soulless twentieth century “cube farms” were dehumanizing, but so were the noisy, crowded open-plan offices that replaced the cubicles. Now designers have a chance to create the perfect balance between too claustrophobic and too unstructured. With some thoughtful innovations, the hybrid office can be the happy medium, like Baby Bear’s oatmeal.

Successful hybrid offices counteract the oversharing open office by providing defined work areas for individual heads-down tasks, and for collaborative team projects. But defined, enclosed areas don’t have to make a space feel crowded. Architectural glass walls and partitions retain an open feel while mitigating the noise interference of open office plans. Additionally, they maintain separation to reduce the potential for infections.

Lockers, too, provide attractive space-defining structures that complement other design choices. Like work spaces, lockers can be reserved for use when teams are in the office, and released for others to use later. Touchless locking mechanisms enhance health protocols, too.

A hybrid redesign is about more than the physical space, of course. Emotional welfare is a significant component of the new workplace. People crave sociability, and working in an office is fundamentally a social activity. When staffers are not in the office, they become anxious about their place in the social order. Providing support for the WFH component of a hybrid office demonstrates management’s trust in employees who aren’t routinely present.

And that support is often in the form of technology. Businesses are providing electronic devices – computers, wifi, cell phones – to employees for their WFH days. Just as important are the digital data resources. Paper-intensive work is now being converted to digital formats. Document conversion, or imaging, gives staff access to information no matter where they are physically located. An additional benefit: With fewer documents to store, storage space can be converted to work spaces, without expanding the office footprint.

The Great Resignation of 2021 has spurred much soul-searching at the C-level. The conclusion of many managers: Make the office a place where people want to spend time, make WFH a valued part of the hybrid workplace, and show support by providing productivity tools. A redesign to achieve these goals is a win for workers and financial stakeholders alike.

Photo © Dariusz Jarzabek / AdobeStock