How to adapt your office for hybrid work

The Owl Labs Team
The Owl Labs Team

Leading up to and through 2021 the way that people work has changed. People are no longer constrained by 9 to 5 schedules, traditional work styles, or traditional office setups. 

Most full-time employees expect to work remotely at least three times per week after COVID-19, requiring employers to rethink their remote work policies and physical office spaces. Many orgs are opting for satellite offices or shared co-working spaces instead of a traditional singular HQ model.

With an opportunity to rethink what offices and collaborative spaces look like, companies are creating new workplaces designed for today’s employees. Combined with workplace analytics and technology, companies have designed smart workplaces that incorporate real-time data, cloud-based software, and the latest in meeting technology to improve the hybrid employee’s experience.

Here are some of the ways that companies are redesigning their office spaces and rewiring meeting rooms to support a hybrid workforce.

How offices are changing for the hybrid workforce

Many office spaces have areas that haven’t been used effectively in years. Consider a traditional conference room with a long boardroom-style table and no projector or other monitor in place. 

These types of meetings now incorporate remote attendees on a regular basis, but many companies have had to “Frankenstein” a setup to be inclusive to all attendees. Ever huddled around a laptop and tried to squeeze in-person attendees in because you didn’t have a conference room camera? It’s not a great experience for either side of the call. Now, companies are updating and adapting existing office spaces (both collaborative and individual spaces) to meet the needs of their flexible and hybrid workforce.

So, how exactly are offices changing? Meeting rooms are getting smaller due to the increased participation from remote attendees. Oval or rectangular meeting room tables are being replaced with round tables due to the collaborative way people work, and more spaces are collaborative than one-to-many, or presentation-style. In some situations, it’s still valuable to have one-to-many or presentation-style spaces, but these spaces are now being designed with hybrid collaboration in mind and include technology like:

Benefits of updating offices for the hybrid workforce

New research has shown that what’s drawing people into the office is collaboration. The square footage that was previously dedicated to individual desks is shifting towards meeting rooms, huddle rooms, and other presentation spaces equipped with hybrid tech. 

With these amenities, employers are retaining their employees, improving productivity, and creating an inclusive company culture with flexibility at heart.

With an overwhelming shift to more dynamic workplaces designed to meet employee needs at any given date and time and be flexible, growing and changing as companies do, companies are making better use of their physical office spaces and real estate.

Hybrid room layouts

With these changing workforce needs comes a change to the actual design of the office and the infrastructure of the workplace.

Think: office space design and wiring these spaces. This might mean a conversation with your office manager to replace furniture or your IT team to equip spaces with the proper tech. (The best tech has a one-time setup and is user friendly from there on out.) 

Let’s explore the ways that hybrid rooms can be set up, including the technology that makes them the most successful for hybrid teams.

Meeting rooms

Hybrid meeting rooms are simply rooms designed with hybrid meetings in mind. Remember the huddling around a laptop to have a hybrid meeting?

That’s not what we mean when we say huddle rooms. Huddle rooms in 2021 have video conferencing access, room-booking technology, and a monitor to stream remote attendees or documents. 

Event rooms

Event rooms are for larger meetings like a weekly team meeting, quarterly off-site, or brainstorming session. They can be set up as a U-shape or a theater style, with a focus on collaboration and allowing all participants to be seen and heard, both in-person and remote.

For these rooms, have a camera, monitor, and speakers available along with a whiteboard camera to make it a completely inclusive experience. For larger setups, consider that the audience should be in full-view so they can interact with remote participants easily. 

Pro Tip: Placing a 360-degree video camera in the center of the room gives a panoramic view to all participants tuning in remotely.

Huddle rooms

Huddle rooms are designed for smaller meetings and meetings with remote team members. These can serve as smaller areas with lounge furniture or more open spaces for impromptu team huddles. Designed as a 1:1 huddle room or more open huddle space, these rooms should have access to an outlet, meeting room software, and if space allows, a monitor. 

To learn more about adapting your office space for a hybrid workforce, take a look at the Practical Guide for Rewiring a Hybrid Office.

Hybrid meeting room technology

For any hybrid meeting, there are a few essential requirements. First, you need to be able to see and hear remote participants. Second, they need to be able to see and hear in-person participants.

What people often overlook is whether or not everyone has access to the whiteboard, or if the in-room video technology is easy to use. If not, it makes it easier for meetings to be less inclusive.

Video conferencing cameras

Plug-and-play video camera technology works well with hybrid meeting rooms since they can be set up in minutes for a last-minute meeting. Look for technology with high quality audio and video streaming, wireless connectivity, and a wide audiovisual pickup for larger spaces.

Be sure to check that your video conferencing camera syncs with your meeting app and meeting room software so you can avoid a bunch of tech that doesn’t speak to each other.

Video meeting apps

Why do people choose a certain video conferencing software over another? When surveyed, the top reasons people chose their video meeting app were being easy to use and providing a high quality audiovisual streaming experience.

When looking for a video conferencing software, people look for platforms that:

  • Make meetings easy to start
  • Show remote team members to everyone
  • Have the ability to share screens and use a digital whiteboard
  • Have no audio problems (high quality audio)

Meeting room software + workplace analytics

When asked the biggest challenge with video conferencing, the top reason employees reported was finding and booking meeting rooms. The ability to collaborate as a team depends on access to technology and the spaces to do just that… collaborate.

By implementing a workplace analytics platform like Robin, teams can coordinate their in-office days, book meeting rooms for hybrid meetings, and re-enter the office in a way that feels comfortable to everyone.

With the workplace changing, employee experience has never been more of a priority, and today’s employees are largely looking for organizations who offer hybrid work and flexible work options.

Make sure your office is equipped to support an inclusive workplace culture and designed for the office of the future by designing or rewiring your office for hybrid work.

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This post was written in partnership with Owl Labs. Explore Owl Labs’ tools for hybrid team collaboration, including the 360-degree smart video conferencing camera, the Meeting Owl Pro.

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