The last months have shown that people expect something completely different from office space than what we were used to before the pandemic. This has raised a lot of new questions.
The answer is simple. If you understand how people work with each other (together), you can adapt the spaces to meet current needs during the (day, week, month). For example, how to get the most out of spaces that are designed for hybrid (co)working?
In order to manage everything simply and clearly, you need to properly understand the ’work activities’ of people.
Example: matrix of work activities
The left and right columns express the ’dependence of the activity on work with other people’. Group activities are on the right, individual activities on the left. The top and bottom rows express ’feelings and moods with other people’. How much time do people spend on these activities? Create your own picture of how much time can be spent working from home or from the office. The workspace must support everything people need. Let’s have a look at the individual activities:
1. Routine activities created by an individual (bottom left)
Example: writing an email, saving documents to the system, sharing files online, e.g. on OneDrive, etc.
This is individual work that can be easily done from anywhere. A basic need is the ability to ’concentrate’. If you want to design the space properly, think about how to adapt it to concentration or deep work. In a home office environment, an ergonomic chair, a positionable desk, an external video camera with sound, customizable lighting or an external monitor will help... In the office space, pay attention to acoustic and visual privacy, as both affect the level of attention and concentration.
2. More complex activities completed by an individual (top left)
Example: writing, editing and designing more complex documents, sending messages, phone calls, using collaborative tools (Microsoft Teams, Cisco Webex, Zoom, Google Meet...).
Just like routine work activities, more complex work needs ’focus and inspiration’. Sometimes people prefer complete privacy, at other times a co-working space or an informal zone. The key is to stay focused and avoid distractions with colleagues. Writing for long periods of time requires a proper desk and chair. A discussion over coffee or watching the people around you can also provide the right stimulation. Consider what purposes and work scenarios the spaces are used for and how you can encourage people to make the most of them and use them often.
3. A routine activity completed by a group (bottom right)
Example: process coordination, internal meetings, knowledge sharing.
With the advent of online communication and video conferencing tools, many activities can be delegated to a well-planned ’hybrid environment’. Daily agile stand-up meetings can benefit from thoughtful spaces where remote and physically present participants feel comfortable. The main purpose is to understand (who, what, where and how) people work together. Give people the flexibility to choose spaces tailored to specific needs.
4. A more complex activity completed by a group (top right)
Examples: innovation, learning new things, team brainstorming, team building and development, corporate identity support, community maintenance and socialization.
For group activities that rely on feedback from others, it is helpful to use ’face-to-face’. Trust is the key to success. Companies with high levels of trust are set for better financial performance, a more sustainable corporate culture and innovation. Trust develops through mutual experience of work and organic communication. These moments help to relax and boost team morale. Make sure the spaces are comfortable, people like to return to them, discuss and think.
Regardless of what ’working activities’ people perform, it is important that we fulfil their needs and wants. The end result will be smart and secure offices that inspire and shape a smooth return.