How a small business can redesign the office for hybrid work
The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally changed the way people work, and there seems no going back. Whipping us straight into the hybrid world, and forcing the rapid uptake of flexible working across the globe, Australians have quickly learnt to adapt to post pandemic ways of working. Businesses now find themselves in the position of needing to adapt their workplaces to suit, needing to create an experience of work that is engaging, productive, collaborative and supports mental wellbeing.
It is time for business owners to leverage the key learnings of this significant shift and create a better workplace for their teams. This includes looking at each aspect of their organisation from office design to workplace culture and technology, to create an experience of work that is engaging for employees.
Fortunately, smaller businesses have an advantage in that they can take a much more individualised, personal approach to creating a great experience for their people. Smaller businesses can be more nimble and agile about any initiatives they implement, and leaders typically have great oversight of how any new ideas or concepts are working.
Here are the 3 key drivers that small businesses (or similarly, teams within a larger organisation) can implement to adapt to a hybrid world of work:
1. Test and learn
In our experience, businesses that have not modified their workplace since before the pandemic are guaranteed to have an outdated environment that is not the quality experience people are looking for. The best way to identify workplace needs is to take a Test-and- learn approach when it comes to implementing new workplace settings, proportions and quantities. Through this process staff can be surveyed on what is important to them and what they best feel suits the way they want to work in the office.
Small businesses can utilize their existing space to try new settings or ideas for a set period, collecting the data and metrics about behaviour and preferences, so that the most appropriate environment can be determined for their people.
At Future X Collective our research shows a higher proportion of collaborative, flexible settings with 1–2-person soundproof rooms and shared amenities are now preferred in workplace environments. Rows and rows of uniform desks, private dedicated spaces for senior management, and large meeting/training rooms are less popular now.
2. Prioritise workplace wellbeing
The Great Resignation witnessed large numbers of Australian employees leaving their jobs in search of better workplace culture, seeking out better wellbeing and work/life balance, and the opportunity to leverage some of the personal gains of the last two years such as less commuting time.
Generally, staff are seeking flexibility so they can alter their hours beyond the standard 9-5, often with the option to work from various locations (other than home or office) including from abroad. Small businesses can look at how to provide employees with experience which fits their needs, supports them in their personal wellbeing goals, and is potentially outside of the ‘norm’.
These needs play into a larger focus on mental health, as talent look for organisations that have an authentic approach to wellbeing. Whether that be providing mental health plans, structured or ad hoc workplace wellbeing activities or company counselling, small businesses can tailor programs for their team’s needs and address global mental health issues that are on the rise, such as workplace loneliness.
Office interiors that embrace biophilia (a human’s innate instinct to connect with the natural world) and bringing the great outdoors indoors can also help to reduce stress levels and have a positive impact on the well-being of the employees.
3. Invest in both technology and ergonomics
As we continue to evolve hybrid working, small businesses must invest in their technology to create a seamless employee experience that allows both those working from home and those working from the office (or elsewhere) to communicate and connect seamlessly. Often staff will have better technology at home than at the office, and the most successful business have seamless ‘plug and play’ between home, the office and then within different settings across the office itself.
Additionally, ergonomics is critical – it is no longer ok to be working off the kitchen bench or living room sofa! As working from home is here to stay, it has become more important than ever to ensure people have an at-home set-up that mirrors their office experience. Small businesses can create a better workplace for their teams by helping to provide WFH ergonomic monitors and screens at the correct heights and distances, as a minimum. Other peripherals may also include laptop stands, footstools and desk lights.
Additionally, working from home has elevated the variety of ergonomic options available. People can freely work in a variety of indoor and outdoor settings at home. In the hybrid workplace, businesses need to ensure that their staff have the same level of office flexibility to move around to suit their working styles. It is also important to ensure they can access the same benefits of home, such as a well-equipped kitchen, comfortable less formal seating, and access to natural light and fresh air.
At Future X Collective we’ve always believed that people are the product of their environment … it has been our experience for more than 20 years of strategizing and designing workplaces that the better environment you create for people – then the better their experience of work is, and in turn the happier and healthier they are.
Future X Collective works with clients to drive new workplace strategies – click here for information on how we help you transform your small Business office to a thriving hybrid model.