Be more beta

Continual refinement enhances workspace experience

In July, we wrote about Freedom Day and what a return to the office might look like for office workers across the UK.

Many companies have now, quite rightly, consulted with their workforce about the regularity of attendance at the office and the potential for hybrid working. It is important to remember, though, that this needs to be an ongoing dialogue, as the workspace and the workforce will need to continue evolving.  Both employer and employee are traversing an unfamiliar post-Covid landscape.

Before initiating changes to the office environment, it can be helpful to make clear that you’re going to ‘try out some things’ to make your workspace more pleasant and effective for new ways of working. The changes may require adjustments to habitual ways of working that might feel new and uncomfortable at first, but you can reassure staff that they’re not necessarily permanent changes and they will most likely need further refinement.

In other words, rather than aiming for the perfection of ‘alpha’ and getting it right first time, encourage your workforce to embrace beta – making the post-Covid ‘workscape’ a continual work-in-progress. We’re not suggesting continually making major changes – that would be disruptive to productivity – but a constant state of testing and tweaking might foster more openness in general.

Regardless of whether a company takes a prescriptive approach or a more permissive approach to ‘days in the office’, every company wants to create an office that employees want to come to. The key to this is offering them things that they can’t get at home.  This might be peace and quiet and a space free from distractions, or it might be working and socialising with colleagues in person.

Here are a few ideas for the mix:

Deep-focus areas

Working from home can be more conducive to concentration tasks, but it may still contain some distractions. Deep-focus areas can provide a library-like calm space for just this and represent an advance on both home and conventional workspaces.

Digital experience

New technology can help bridge the home-office divide, making it much easier to collaborate.

Monitors on wheels and shared digital whiteboards can enhance meeting experience. But it doesn’t have to be state-of-the-art, expensive kit – even better cameras and microphones can make a big difference. Whether someone is in or out of office should eventually become irrelevant to their experience of meetings and collaboration.

Comfort

When you’re competing with the ‘comforts of home’, it’s important to remind everyone of what comforts are on offer at the office and try to enhance them where possible. Air conditioning at the office makes it a more comfortable option for sweltering summer days; food on offer presents alternative choices to the normal home selection; people milling around provides a chance of pleasant social interaction, and a choice of work zones provides variety in the work day. An internal newsletter may be a powerful tool to keep reminding the team of the positive things available at the office.

Re-purpose spare space

Rather than shrinking your space because you need less desks with hybrid working, re-purpose that space. This could be a new social space for staff or a hybrid space for informal collaboration. If you are accustomed to hosting meetings or seminars in windowless hotel rooms, consider bringing this in-house. If you entertain your clients or customers, consider becoming the host in your own space.

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The post-Covid hybrid workspace will need to provide different experiences to different people with different needs. How to achieve this is no quick ‘one size fits all’ fix; every company’s culture is different. At the start of any Smarter Workspace project at Woodhouse, we do a lot of listening and observing before we do anything else.  If you would like to chat about how to make your workspace smarter, we’d love to hear from you.