With more employees hoteling or working partly remote, many managers are taking a closer look at their office-space design. Whether you’re dealing with an abundance of space or simply realizing that your old office layout doesn’t fit your operation today, consider this a fresh start.
The key is to reassess the notion of the office entirely. The thinking behind what an office is—and what workers ought to do there—has undergone a radical transformation. Now managers are creating workspaces that offer a complete experience: a place workers will want to go, offering equipment, environment and perks they can’t get at home. The emphasis is on creating a space that supports their needs and allows them to better collaborate, explore and be creative. We talked with office design experts at Gensler about what you should keep in mind.
1. Approach with curiosity.
Before you start making changes to your office layout, survey your people. What are their expectations for going into the office? How many days per week do they plan to be in? Are they coming in for active collaboration or quiet concentration? This type of knowledge is invaluable when you’re adapting your office floorplan.
“A lot of people expect the office to be a place to collaborate for in-person knowledge, but some are also going in as a place of refuge—maybe they live in a noisy apartment building or have young kids,” says Gensler design director Matthew Kobylar. It’s important to understand your people’s needs rather than make assumptions.
2. Consider what virtual can’t do.
Start by thinking about what’s drawing your people into the office. Often, these are things that are harder to do virtually. If your organization does a lot of idea-generating, a collaborative brainstorming space with a digital whiteboard could help them take it up a notch. Or maybe you could create a dedicated space for specialist tools your team uses, like an audio recording studio. One-on-one nooks for private mentoring conversations and open areas for networking are valuable additions, too.
As you think through your office layout, remember that it’s not about getting rid of extra office space. It’s about using that space differently.
3. Lean into flexible office spaces.
If your workforce is now partially remote and you find yourself with extra space, consider expanding the rooms and creating hackable spaces where users can move things around. These flexible office spaces allow users to size down and seclude the area for more privacy or enlarge the space to accommodate more people. It empowers people to arrange the office to work for them—a big shift from the traditional model of assigned cubicles and closed-off conference rooms.
To create hackable spaces, integrate elements like easy-to-move felt panels and adjustable curtains, which can screen out distractions and absorb sound. Pull-out marker boards and moveable furniture are great additions, too. Just watch the furniture weight: If a piece needs two people to move it, it’s not really moveable.
4. Upgrade your front office.
The pandemic changed the way the front desk works. Enlarging this area can be helpful for maintaining health and safety standards, and it allows more flow of traffic to other spaces within. It also creates an airy, welcoming place for employees or clients to linger and work. Considerations like this are key in creating better workspace experiences for hybrid and returning workers.
“Firms are creating opportunities for people to spend more time in this space,” Kobylar says. “Maybe a client is coming in to sign papers, and while they’re there, they can give them a first-class lounge type of experience.” Self-serve coffee bars and other touches that require minimal staff intervention can give the front office a premium feel without much fuss.
5. Don’t forget shipping and storage spaces.
If your staff is hoteling or partly remote, think about what you’ll need for shipping areas and package storage. Shipping has increased tremendously as a result of hybrid work models. If you’re using a cloud-based shipping solution, you may not need as much office space as you used to for prepping and sending packages—since remote workers can use these tools to ship from anywhere, not just from the workplace. Of course, if packages are still arriving in-office for employees who work remotely, a smart locker unit might be useful to keep packages secure on site until employees arrive to claim them.
Need help figuring out how to make your office’s shipping and mailing set-up fit your needs? We’re happy to talk any time.