Forging flexible workspaces for unpredictable times

With the cost-of-living crisis predicted to further change our approach to home working, employers are having to prepare for an influx of staff returning to the office. These changing tides mean businesses are having to future-proof their workspaces to bolster hybrid working by designing flexible spaces.

Recent years have instigated a near-seismic shift in working habits. Today, 59 per cent of UK staff prefer hybrid models of working, with workers commuting into offices on an average of 1.4 days a week. Pre-pandemic, that figure was almost triple at 3.8 days.

While the ‘death of the office’ has been exaggerated, it has shone a light on workplaces to become more adaptable to get the optimum performance from their staff. As the cost of living intensifies in 2023, many businesses expect staff to minimise remote working if it will save them money on their energy bills. For offices that were acclimatising to hybrid working, it means they may have to adapt once more.  

For Paul Eatock, Managing Director of office fit-out specialists Eatock Design & Build, the current climate underlines the importance for offices to be designed with flexibility so they can easily accommodate changing trends in working habits.

He said, “the pandemic altered our perception of working habits and placed a new emphasis on the benefits of home and hybrid working. However, this winter there are many draws for returning to the office for UK workers and the modern workspace must be able to accommodate both extremities of the scale.” 

Of those incorporating a capacity of home working into their routines, 78 per cent have seen an improved work-life balance in February 2022, leading to a happier, more motivated workforce. But how can office spaces swap rigidity for flexibility and ensure productivity? 

Paul said, “it’s about ensuring the modern office is well-equipped for the demands of the modern worker. To redesign an office space for hybrid working, individual concerns must be handled with as much importance as business concerns.

“You can keep an element of the freedom of remote working within the office to make the workplace a hive for creativity, rather than a stifler of innovation.  

“Doing away with rigid desk-focused layouts in favour of a variety of spaces to work throughout the day can aid staff wellbeing as they can move around to work in spaces best suited for that task. Open plan, creative spaces encourage team-based and collaborative working, whilst more isolated spaces are perfect for meetings or focusing on projects with deadlines looming. Having the choice can be a great boost for staff.”

In addition, Paul believes it’s important to equip these spaces with task-specific technologies to support its staff.  

He added, “We’re seeing a huge demand for private booths with in-built technology to facilitate video calls. That way, it’s easy to communicate with remote workers, clients, and potential customers. The rise of video calls must be accommodated, especially in older offices, it’s important to make sure the technology in place is hassle-free. Acoustic booths are great for facilitating video calls in a tailor-made and private environment, free from distractions.

“For some clients, we’ve added interactive mobile screen units with simple connectivity, enabling collaborative ideation sessions anywhere within the office. This means that meetings can take place to accommodate other teams in other spaces at any moment in time, adding greater flexibility and greater opportunity for collaboration.”

The modern worker demands flexibility, blending office and remote working to work suit their wider lives. Office managers must understand and design their offices to reflect the needs of their staff in spaces where creativity can thrive, both the business and, more importantly, permitting staff to flourish.

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