Flexing the workplace model
Over recent years, there has been a very real shift in the way offices and business premises are used. Where once, employees were expected to be in an office, at a set desk for core hours that spanned most of the day, there is now a recognition that productivity, rather than presenteeism, is what counts. Flexible has become the new buzz word and it’s revolutionising working practices.
Flexible offices for Collaboration and Co-Working
As the office workplace become a space for collaboration and co-working, with more flexible arrangements in place for day-to-day working, an increasing number of organisations have recognised that by providing an environment that nurtures their employees’ well-being and happiness, they will increase employee engagement, creativity and productivity, which, in turn, boosts their bottom line.
The current climate, heavily influenced by the Covid-19 health crisis, has forced the hand of many employers to redefine their business norms. Dubbed the country’s biggest work-from-home experiment, the nationwide lockdown measures have accelerated what many believe to be an inevitable movement in working culture and workspace trends.
There has undoubtedly been a shift in the collective corporate mindset regarding how we work collaboratively, how vital office space is to our productivity and how an office is no longer simply defined by four walls.
Key Elements of the Flexible Office
Flexible workplaces take advantage of these key elements:
- Meeting Rooms
- Commercial Flexibility
What is flexible workspace?
Flexible workspaces adapt to the needs of whoever is using them at any given time; it’s space ready to support employees as their tasks and focus change. It goes beyond hot-desking or having open-plan working and looks more holistically at a complete environment.
Furniture: Desks and chairs are essential, but in a flexible environment these need to accommodate a range of working styles. Ergonomics and mobility are key; standing desks and rolling chairs with features such as lumbar support are good examples of furniture pieces that suit this kind of workspace. Looking to the future, smart and connected furniture are likely to be a key feature as well.
Meeting rooms: Whether a traditional meeting room or more flexible collaboration space, areas that are designed to bring people together are increasingly being used differently. Driven not just by social distancing but by a change in the way people want to work when they’re physically together, flexible environments encourage more interaction, make it easier to capture thinking and allow for break-outs and micro-meetings as easily as they do a traditional board meeting.
Architecture: Design has a direct impact on workplace flexibility. From small spaces designed for just a few employees to collaborative space aimed at larger workforces, architecture should support space that’s easily accessible, has plenty of light and depth, and is built for comfort. Advances with flexible partitioning, smart glass and lighting can all help a space work harder for those who use it.
Technology: A flexible workspace is no place for archaic kit and slow connectivity. This kind of environment lends itself to showcasing the latest technology, with high-speed internet, wireless connectivity, plenty of screens within pod-style booths and charging points as standard.
Commercial flexibility: Looking beyond the use of space, increased flexibility is also key in a commercial sense. As businesses and employers think about their location strategies, understanding what space they need and on what terms will be key to future building commitments.
During this time of uncertainty, businesses are likely to be thinking shorter-term. Cost management will be a key consideration; as will bringing teams back together safely. There are a number of different options moving away from a traditional long-term building lease, including full or part-time physical office space, hot desking, virtual offices and on-demand meeting room access.
How to create a flexible workspace
There are three key areas to consider:
1. What do your staff want? Understanding what’s important to the people who are actually using the space is a helpful starting point. If it’s a space where they are going to work individually, do they want to sit, stand, lean or perch? Is privacy important or do people need lots of room to co-create? It’s also important to think about how communal space will be utilised; Is open plan the right way to go or is more structure needed? What are the tech requirements? Answering these questions will guide the requirements for the space.
2. What space have you got to work with? There are lots of clever and innovative options to make the most of even the smallest of flexible spaces so don’t let the floorplan limit your thinking. Where it’s an option, there’s also outdoor space that could be adapted to meet more day-today needs which may increase the footprint you have available to work within.
3. What’s your budget? This will define to an extent what’s achievable, however it doesn’t mean you have to compromise on your vision. Being creative in the way you design the space and how you source products is helpful, as is working with professionals in this space who can maximise your budget based on experience and efficiencies of scale.
Workspaces for Maximum productivity
When considering their workspace, the aims for most businesses are to achieve maximum productivity and collaboration, while keeping staff happy and costs as low as possible.
Flexible workspace options have emerged as a response to these criteria. Businesses now have the power to select what they want from their working environment, rather than adapting their needs to a one-size-fits-all model.
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In a typical year (of which 2020 was definitely not!), the average person spends around 1,800 hours at work. Spending that much time anywhere means it needs to be conducive to happiness, productivity and enjoyment. When it’s associated with work, it becomes even more critical.