by Andrew Flint

Is your workplace already dabbling in hybrid work? If you plan to keep hybrid alive and well, you need to develop a dependable hybrid real estate plan that meets everyone’s needs. Here’s how to do so.

Hybrid work might have sounded daunting to companies before the pandemic. Now, though, employers and employees are finding that a blended working style has some serious perks.

With this, what are the upsides of moving to a more adaptable working style? For many companies, embracing a hybrid mindset opens the door to sourcing diversified talent from anywhere — and that’s a massive boost amidst the shadow of the Great Resignation. For workers, having the flexibility to move seamlessly from a classic office atmosphere to a remote location offers a sense of empowerment and freedom. Is it any wonder that a recent McKinsey C-suite survey indicated 9 in 10 organizations are adopting a hybrid working environment?

Here’s the struggle, though: A hybrid work model is conceptual. It’s not yet a straightforward destination, because it’s not the same for every business — and especially from a real estate perspective. True, a Research and Markets report predicts a 12% annual surge in the co-working space market over the next few years. Nonetheless, co-working spaces will (and should) look different depending on the organization. Constructing a hybrid-informed commercial real estate strategy will be incredibly valuable.

Designing a Thoughtful Hybrid Working Environment

Maybe you’ve already begun to dabble in the hybrid workplace sphere. At some point, you’ll need to set guidelines and goals. Otherwise, you might end up with an ever-changing ecosystem that might or might not work in the long term. You won’t be alone: CBRE’s “2021 Occupier Sentiment Survey” showed that 78% of enterprises embracing hybrid work are constructing rule books to avoid misunderstandings — and overspending.

Hybrid Workplace 1

Just how bad can the overspending get? Think about long-term real estate leases. They can be costly and inflexible if you’re not careful. If you don’t have a well-defined hybrid real estate plan in place, you might end up signing a five-year or 10-year lease, but use only a portion of the space. That’s a drain on your resources and won’t lead to long-term hybrid effectiveness or efficiency. How, then, can you start fleshing out your real estate needs to support a hybrid work model that will foster productivity and fuel innovation?

  1. Consider the spaces most needed by each team.
    When engineers work at your headquarters, they like to have a heads-down space that allows them to focus on coding. But when your sales folks are all in-house, they like to host client meetings and campaign retrospectives. At the same time, your designers want open-concept spaces where they can ideate, collaborate, and think big. 

    Although it might seem difficult at first blush, understand that your corporate offices need to satisfy the needs of all your employees. Otherwise, people will start to grumble — and your move toward hybrid working could flatline. Therefore, conduct surveys and determine what types of furnishings and technology you’ll need to accommodate everyone when they’re on-site. You can then use helpful products (such as comprehensive space utilization analytics programs) to bring those needs to life.

  2. Seek inspiration from other companies’ hybrid workspace real estate designs.
    Hybrid workspaces aren’t just about the layout or number of rooms your business occupies, but how you use digital technology to support your staff members’ needs. Will you use a cloud-based desk reservation system? Install touchless solutions? Design spaces for varying employee work styles? Modernizing your office environment can help you achieve a welcoming office for hybrid employees. 

    It can be simpler to think outside the traditional office setup by looking at other companies. Start by investigating Google’s maneuverable “Team Pods” or highly connected “Campfire” rooms. Also, be sure to check out Microsoft’s immersive conference spaces that enable smoother interfaces between virtual and in-person attendees through imaginative uses of technology. Keeping a personal portfolio of other businesses’ ingenious workplace real estate plans can prompt your team’s ideas.

  3. Thread the essence of your corporate culture throughout your real estate plans.
    According to Owl Labs’ “State of Remote Work 2021” survey, most employees appreciate the balance of working remotely or within a hybrid structure. However, only about one-fifth of companies have invested in employee-centric real estate additions: think leasing satellite offices or prioritizing hot-desking. In other words, the bulk of organizations aren’t putting their workers first — and could end up harming their cultural efforts. 

    It’s critical to keep your culture in mind when developing a flexible, hybrid-friendly workplace design. With that, consider how to weave your culture into each space decision. For instance, each space, desk, piece of equipment, or system you adopt might be aimed to help strengthen communications between personnel. That way, you can ensure that your employees develop bonds with your brand and each other as you all work toward common objectives.

Over the next few years, companies’ looks and operations will change. If you believe your company’s future lies in a hybrid working arrangement, now is the best time to reevaluate the commercial real estate strategy you’ll need to satisfy all stakeholders.