It was not that long ago that flexibility at work mostly revolved around allowing employees to come in later or take a slightly longer lunch break when they needed to run an important errand. Today, though, everything about work is increasingly more flexible -- and that includes flexible seating ideas too.
The traditional concept of work has been challenged, and the battle for freedom is on. More businesses are making more efforts than ever to dodge the Great Resignation, attract better talent, and increase employee satisfaction with flexible options across the entire spectrum of their work models.
What are some of the key tips you should know about flexible workplace design for hybrid offices?
Read on and find out more.
What Is Flexible Workplace Design?
Put simply, flexible workplace design is office design that enables teams to work in open-plan spaces and alternate between the actual desks at which they sit every day.
Beyond this, flexible workspaces tap into a much bigger paradigm change: that of people not wanting to go back into confined office spaces and that of businesses adopting hybrid work models to meet employee demand. Flexible workplaces are now everywhere -- a growing trend that embraces life/ work balance, the uniqueness of each individual, and the need for more meaningful work.
A flexible workplace is one in which employees are given the freedom to choose their own working hours, working location, work desk, and even working environment (within reason, of course).
Why Does a Flexible Office Design Matter?
As it frequently happens with (relatively) new concepts, you will see as many understandings of what "flexible office design" actually means as Facility Managers, Human Resources, and Office Managers there are.
It's not wrong: the future is often built upon the melting pot of different ideas, understandings, and nuances people bring into a room.
One company might need more meeting space, another - more open-plan workstations, still others - a combination of both or something quite different altogether.
That's why it's important to understand that flexible workplace design is not just about installing standing desks and putting some bean bags in the corner for employees to lounge on after lunch.
Flexible workplace design is essential to:
- Proper implementation of your chosen hybrid model
- Overall employee satisfaction and retention
Hybrid models make people happier precisely because they offer them plenty of flexibility to alternate between remote and office work, as they please. Taking it one step further with the help of desk hoteling and flexible office design means you will offer your team even more room to adjust their workspace to their work styles.
What Are the Elements of Flexible Office Design?
OK, let's say you're already convinced that flexible office design is the way to go forward. What are the basic elements of flexible office design?
Types of Workspaces
Flexible office design doesn't focus on one type of workplace only but offers teams the option to use a mix of types of workspaces. Some of the most popular ones include :
- Open-plan desks: these are the most common type of desk and they're usually assigned to each employee. The only downside is that they don't offer much privacy.
- Cubicles: if you need more privacy than an open-plan desk can offer, then you can opt for a cubicle. These are usually assigned to employees who make a lot of phone calls or who need to concentrate on their work without being disturbed.
- Standing desks: these are becoming increasingly popular as they offer the opportunity to move around and stay active even while working.
- Lounge areas: these are usually informal areas where employees can take a break, have a snack, and socialize with their colleagues.
- Private offices: these are usually reserved for senior management or for employees who need to concentrate on their work without being disturbed.
- Conference rooms: these are usually used for meetings, presentations, and other events.
Focus On Privacy
Open-space doesn't mean a lack of privacy. In fact, flexible office design takes into account the fact that employees may, at least from time to time, require a bit of privacy.
That's why flexible office design usually includes both private and open spaces so that each employee can choose the type of workspace that best suits their needs at any given moment.
Some people like to work sitting. Others like to work standing. And some people like to move around and change their position frequently.
Flexible office design takes all of these into account by using furniture that can be easily moved and reconfigured. This way, each employee can adjust their workspace to their own needs.
Flexible office design is all about giving employees the freedom to choose the type of workspace that best suits their needs at any given moment.
This way, they can be more productive and happier in their work.
6 Strategies for Embracing Flexible Workplace Design
Flexibility is great -- but if the implementation is lacking, it can lead to frustration among employees. Here are a few tips to make sure your flexible workplace design is executed properly:
Strategy 1: Do Your Homework Upfront
Before you start making changes to your office, it's important to do your homework and understand the needs of your employees.
The best way to do this is to survey your employees and ask them about their work habits, what type of workspace they prefer, and what would make them more productive.
This will help you make sure that the changes you make to your office are in line with the needs of your employees.
Strategy 2: Don't Focus on Trends Over Function
Trends are great, they inspire and get people excited. But when it comes to office design, it's important to focus on function over trends.
The last thing you want is to make changes to your office that look great in the short term but don't actually help your employees be more productive in the long term.
So, when considering changes to your office, always ask yourself: will this help my employees be more productive? Will it make them happier, more creative, or more likely to recommend the company to other talented individuals?
If the answer is no, then it's probably not worth doing.
Strategy 3: Give Employees More Autonomy
Your employees are full-grown adults. They don't need you to tell them how to do their job.
Instead of micromanaging, give your employees the autonomy to design their own workspace. This way, they can create a space that suits their needs and work habits.
All you need to do is provide them with the resources they need (e.g., furniture, technology, etc.) and then get out of the way.
Strategy 4: Consider Implementing “Neighborhood Agreements”
One of the reason people used to frown upon open-space office design is the fact that sometimes, people tend to expand way beyond their desks. They may have too many mugs on their desk, they might take client calls while on their desk, or they might generally just make a lot of noise.
One way to combat this is to encourage collaboration by implementing "neighborhood agreements".
This is basically an agreement where employees in the same area agree to certain rules, such as keeping their desk clean and tidy, being considerate of others when on phone calls, and so forth.
Strategy 5: Use What You Already Have
If you're thinking of making changes to your office, don't feel like you need to start from scratch. You can use what you already have and just make some tweaks here and there.
For example, if you have a lot of unused space in your office, you could consider partitioning it off and creating small meeting rooms or collaboration areas.
Or, if you have a lot of empty walls, you could add some whiteboards or corkboards to encourage collaboration and information sharing.
Strategy 6: Easy Access to Power Is Critical
This might come as an obvious one, but it's often overlooked: easy access to power is critical in a modern workplace.
With the proliferation of laptops, tablets, and smartphones, employees need to be able to easily charge their devices, regardless of where in the office they choose to work from.
So, when making changes to your office, make sure there are plenty of outlets and power strips available. You might also want to consider investing in wireless charging stations.
Flexible Seating Ideas for Your Office
How, more exactly, can you make flexible office spaces happen?
The following flexible seating ideas will inspire you:
Different Types of Workspaces
If you want to encourage employees to move around during the day, it helps to have different types of workspaces available for different tasks. For example, you might have:
- Standing desks for when employees need to focus on a task and don't want to be distracted
- Comfortable chairs and couches for when employees need to relax or take a break
- Collaboration areas for when employees need to work on projects together
The Privacy Should Be There
As mentioned before, privacy is important for employees who need to focus on a task. So, when creating flexible office spaces, make sure there are some private areas available, such as :
- Private offices
- Phone booths
- Focus rooms
These types of spaces will give employees the privacy they need to get work done or simply have some private space.
Accommodate Collaboration Using Flexible and Adaptable Furniture
Flexible and adaptable furniture is the backbone of a flexible office (it makes sense, doesn't it?).
Here are some ideas of what you can use:
- Modular furniture - Modular furniture is great because it can be reconfigured to suit the needs of employees. For example, you can use modular furniture to create private offices, meeting rooms, or collaboration areas.
- Height-adjustable desks - Height-adjustable desks are a must in any flexible office. They allow employees to work either standing up or sitting down, depending on their needs.
- Mobile whiteboards - Mobile whiteboards are another great way to encourage collaboration in the office. They can be moved around to wherever they're needed and used for brainstorming sessions, presentations, or impromptu meetings.
Flexible Style and Decor
The style and decor of your office can also be flexible and perform a good function that supports your hybrid work model. For example, you could use:
- Movable walls
- Rearrangeable furniture
- Changeable lighting
These types of elements will make it easy for you to change the layout of your office, depending on your team's needs.
Give Autonomy to Employees
One of the key benefits of flexible office spaces is that they give employees more autonomy over their work environment. So, when creating flexible office spaces, make sure to give employees some control over their work environment, such as:
- Allowing them to choose where they want to work from
- Giving them the ability to adjust their workstation to suit their needs
- Providing them with desk hoteling software that enables them to book a desk easily
Go With Open Concept
Open Concept office design isn't new -- it's been around for years. But, it's becoming more and more popular in today's workplace, particularly with hybrid work models becoming a predominant preference among employees.
Open concept offices are great for flexible working because they provide employees with a lot of flexibility and autonomy. For example, an open-concept office might have:
- Unassigned seating - Unassigned seating means that employees can sit anywhere they want in the office. This is great for employees who like to move around during the day or who need to focus on a task and don't want to be disturbed.
- A variety of work areas - An open concept office will typically have a variety of work areas, such as standing desks, comfortable chairs and couches, and collaboration areas. This allows employees to choose the best place to work, depending on their needs.
- No assigned offices - In an open-concept office, there are no assigned offices. This means that employees can choose to work from anywhere in the office, including from home.
Including green spaces in your office is a great way to create a more flexible and adaptable work environment. Green spaces can be used for a variety of purposes, such as:
- Relaxation areas
- Brainstorming sessions
- Collaboration areas
Improve Acoustics and Natural Light
Acoustics and natural light are two important factors to consider when designing a flexible office space. Poor acoustics can make it difficult for employees to concentrate, and a lack of natural light can make the office feel less inviting. Moreover, both of these factors can contribute to how the team in the office collaborates with those who are working remotely.
There are a few things you can do to improve acoustics, such as:
- Use sound-absorbing materials
- Add acoustic panels
- Ensure that the office is well-ventilated
Have an Overflow Area
An overflow area is a great way to accommodate more employees in your office, without having to make any major changes to the layout. This type of area can help you accommodate any last-minute changes or employees coming over to work from the office, so everyone has enough room and can comfortably keep on being productive.
A Flexible Floor Plan
A flexible floor plan is one that can easily be changed to suit the needs of the employees. For example, a flexible floor plan might include:
- Movable walls
- Rearrangeable furniture
- Changeable lighting
Paperless offices are becoming more and more popular, as they offer a number of benefits (such as removing waste, improving productivity, and reducing the likelihood of human error.) For a flexible work space, make sure to include paper-free spaces around the office, so you can encourage your employees to go paperless.
Increase Employee Satisfaction by Improving Workflow
When employees are satisfied with their work, they're more likely to be productive and engaged. One way you can increase employee satisfaction is by improving the way work is organized and how communication flows from one person to the next.
Create a Reservation System
A reservation system can help you manage your office space more efficiently and help employees find the perfect workspace for their needs. For example, you can use a reservation system to:
- Reserve desks or work areas in advance
- See which areas are available at any given time
- Get an overview of how the space is being used
Ergonomics and The End of Endless Sitting
There are a few things you can do to make your office more ergonomic, such as:
- Use adjustable furniture (like sit-stand desks, for example)
- Encourage employees to move around
- Provide ergonomic accessories, such as standing desks and footrests
Endless sitting is unhealthy and unproductive -- good ergonomics can put an end to the issue and help employees live better, healthier, happier lives at work.
Include Small Workspaces
Smaller workspaces are becoming more popular in offices, as they offer a number of benefits. For example, smaller workspaces can :
- Help employees focus
- Encourage collaboration
- Improve communication
You may not have the space or the resources to create an office space that's comprised solely of small spaces. But adding one or two people can go when they need to work in smaller teams can definitely benefit everyone.
Relax and Unwind Spaces
In order to encourage employees to take a break, it's important to have spaces where they can relax and unwind. These types of spaces can help employees reduce stress and come back to their work refreshed and ready to be productive.
Evidence-Based Office Design
When it comes to office design, what works for one company might not work for another. It's important to design an office space that takes into account the specific needs of your company and employees. And one way to do that is by basing your design on evidence.
For instance, if you use desk booking software and you notice some areas tend to be a lot more booked than others, then you might consider upgrading your office design to include more of the popular spaces.
Engage Employees Through Creative Work Zones
Creative work zones are a great way to engage employees and encourage them to think outside the box. By providing areas specifically for creative work, you can tap into your employees' creativity and come up with some truly innovative ideas.
If you really want to encourage creativity and out-of-the-box thinking, then you might want to consider using unconventional workspaces. These kinds of spaces can help employees think differently and come up with new ideas that they wouldn't have thought of before.
Retain and Attract Talent with Fresh Amenities
In order to retain and attract top talent, it's important to offer fresh amenities that employees will appreciate. Some things you might want to consider include:
- On-site gym
- Childcare facilities
- Pet-friendly policies
Incorporate Healthy, Activity-Based Workstations
Healthy, activity-based workstations are a great way to promote employee health and well-being. By encouraging employees to be active throughout the day, you can help them stay healthy and improve their overall productivity. Some examples of such workstations include:
- Sit-stand desks
- Treadmill desks
- Balance boards
Incorporate Biophilic Design
Biophilic design is a great way to create a more sustainable and healthy workplace. By incorporating elements of nature into your office design, you can improve employee health and well-being, as well as increase productivity.
Technology in the Workplace
Technology is changing the way we work, and it's important to incorporate it into your office design. Good technology can make the difference between a successful hybrid work model and one that doesn't work that great for everyone involved. Things like a meeting room/ desk schedule software, good microphones and cameras, fast internet speed -- they can really make your on-site team happier and more productive regardless of how the rest of the team chooses to work.
The Use of Multiple Colors
Color is an amazing thing. It can affect our moods, our emotions, and even our productivity. This is not just mumbo-jumbo, there are actual studies pointing to the importance of colors. For instance, some studies go in-depth on how colors can create a very strong first impression in 90% of the cases. Or how men and women or people from different cultures can perceive colors differently.
The entirety of the color theory is very complex, and you may not have the time to dive into it in-depth. But keeping some basic rules in mind can still have a massive influence over how your office space will "feel" like and the kind of work and emotions it will promote.
For example, you want to encourage creativity, then you might want to use brighter colors. If you want to promote focus and concentration, then you should go with more subdued and darker colors.
There are also some color schemes that work great for promoting a sense of calm and relaxation, which can be very important for stressed-out employees. For instance, if you are creating a relaxation space in your office, you might want to consider using colors such as blue, green, or purple.
Nothing in the color theory is a fixed science, though, so remember that the key is to experiment and find what works best for you and your team.
At the end of the day, building flexible workspaces is all about putting humans and their needs first. By doing so, you can create a work environment that not only helps employees be more productive but also one that they enjoy coming to every day.
It is precisely companies like this that will retain and attract top talent in the years to come.