Hybrid Work

5 Crucial Insights For A Successful Hybrid Office Design from Gensler's Janet Pogue

Janet Pogue, Global Director of Workplace Research at Gensler, shares five crucial insights for creating a thriving hybrid office that fosters happiness and efficiency.
Last updated on
July 11, 2024 8:00 AM
8
min read
hybrid-office-design
Daan van Rossum
Daan van Rossum
Founder & CEO, FlexOS
I founded FlexOS because I believe in a happier future of work. I write and host "Future Work," I'm a 2024 LinkedIn Top Voice, and was featured in the NYT, HBR, Economist, CNBC, Insider, and FastCo.

According to the latest hybrid work statistics, 2-3 days per week is now considered the 'perfect harmony' between how often employees prefer to come into the office and their leadership's expectations. 

This stems from the numerous benefits of the hybrid work model, including autonomy (you get to be your own supervisor/boss/whatever), flexibility (employees can choose the working hours that fit them the most), productivity (fewer interruptions and better focus at their personal space at home), cost savings (reduced office space requirements, less burden on commuting cost), talent attraction (more appealing to candidates seeking work-life balance), innovation (diverse perspectives from different locations), and environmental sustainability (reduced commuting lowers carbon emissions).

So what about the remaining days of the week when people's physical appearance is needed? 

How can we integrate other aspects of the hybrid work model, such as a hybrid work schedule or hybrid work policy, into a better and improved design of offices that everyone truly wants to be a part of? 

These questions were addressed in my discussion with Janet Pogue, the Global Director of Workplace Research at the global design firm Gensler, about redesigning office workplaces in 2024. Her company’s latest study covers 15 countries and 16,000 office workers.

In this article, I put together five valuable insights the expert shared on successfully redesigning offices to improve the workplace experience that every forward-thinking and people-centric leader should care about.

SPONSORED BY: TACTIC

Best Practices To Build A Successful Hybrid Office

1. What A Good Hybrid Office Design Looks Like

Modern hybrid office design

According to Janet, people come to work primarily to get things done and work more efficiently rather than to socialize. 

A good hybrid office design should serve two purposes: 

  • Effective enough to get work done
  • Have great workplace experience for people
“When you come into the office to work with others, there are co-creation spaces—those innovation hubs. But there's also space for informal conversations, so you're more impromptu. There's space for confidential conversations around coaching, mentoring, and growing the next generation of leaders.
But then there's also spaces that you need to have that are more for hybrid meetings, have video conferencing capability, and have the right technology in order to co-create when not everybody's in the room. And then finally, there's these spaces that are really around well-being: relaxing, recharging, and taking a break.
Those spaces are not amenities that are optional. They're really an important part of how we perform at our best.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin

This aligns with another insight from hybrid work guru Nick Bloom regarding the importance of hybrid office design

2. Involving People In The Design Process

Moreover, Janet emphasizes that involving people in the design phase is equally important, by using, for example, interactive surveys.

“We've done that with interactive surveys. For example, tell us how you work, what's important, and what you value. We really want everyone involved because when people say feel like they had a say, they now have ownership. And they're behind it even more. And they know that their company cares about them as a person.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin

Who would have thought involving people in something would engage them more and potentially improve their productivity? Pretty surprising, isn't it? 

3. Bettering Technology 

Technology in hybrid office design

An excellent hybrid office design should mean good technology. Janet highlighted that nearly every meeting will involve remote participants. 

Investing in technology that improves communication and collaboration is key to ensuring equal engagement for both remote and in-office workers. 

This includes upgrading microphones and cameras, as well as optimizing room acoustics.

“It's absolutely crucial. It's not only the space of how it's designed, but it's that technology piece of it so that it's seamless.
We've been doing a lot of labs and experimentation in our own offices in our San Francisco office. We have actually mocked up a number of hybrid meeting spaces that are out in the open.
They're not even enclosed rooms. So there are ways that you can use directional speakers and cameras that follow and zoom in. And you can actually have hybrid meetings. Beside each other, there's no conflict of noise, where the camera is following, and the like. I think the technology is only going to get better.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin 

Earlier, we discussed how the technology you use shapes how your employees perceive your company

To ensure a seamless and satisfactory experience for people working in your hybrid office, it's crucial to invest in the best possible devices and technologies—whether it's microphones, cameras, or hot desk booking software.

4. Balancing Function and Experience

Let's heed Janet's advice not to get overly immersed in the design process alone but also consider why people are motivated to come to your workplace and build from there.

Ultimately, people are social creatures who enjoy meeting, catching up, and socializing—not out of obligation, but because they genuinely want to.

“I think it's less about policy because no one wants to be told what to do. It's more about how you can activate the space differently. We're seeing core days start to reappear. That's when everybody tries to be in the office.
We're social individuals, and that goes a long way toward feeding our souls, building a community, and building trust with one another. In these social relationships, trust and innovation are the outcomes of the currency of trust that we're building. I think it's really important to take time and just be together.
And so, be very intentional about it. And then we're seeing that we're designing the space to really underscore and reinforce that intention, even though that intention and purpose may be different from company to company. That's where the uniqueness of the design can also play a role, because the space is really the nudge to those behaviors.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin 

At the end of the day, it's not just about physical space. We must deliberately curate experiences through events, team gatherings, and core days to foster vibrancy and ensure that offices are seen as a positive incentive (carrots), not an obligation (a stick).

With that in mind, a successful workspace achieves a balance between functional efficiency and creating an engaging, welcoming environment.

5. Leveraging Third Spaces

Did you know that, according to Gensler’s findings, employees already spend a third of their week outside the office and home?

Why not leverage this by enhancing the functionality and appeal of your office with these “third places,” such as coffee shops, coworking spaces, or libraries? Let’s think outside the box, quite literally!

Leveraging third spaces in hybrid work design
“But overall, we're seeing that people are spending about half of their typical work week at the office, and they're spending about 20% at home. And the surprise is that, for about a third of that week, all that balance is in an array of other places. Business travel is not being at your client's office; it's traveling to other offices within your company. It's co-working and it's third places—the coffee shops, other spaces that might be in your neighborhood near your office, or it could be your neighborhood near your home.
So think about what's in the building and what's outside, and go for walking meetings. How do you take advantage of the coffee shop down the street or even civic spaces like our actual library that may be down the block? And so we're seeing that workplaces are now an ecosystem of spaces both in and out of the office.
And that's one of the reasons why we see these third places really surging, and think about that as an extension of your workspace and office.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin

The Bottom Line: A Good Hybrid Office Is All About People Experience

“Workplace performance is no longer defined solely by building efficiency or space effectiveness; it's also about the emotional response to space: the workplace experience.” This insight, from Gensler's study, resonates deeply with me.

Designing a hybrid office that fosters positive, engaging, and appealing experiences is crucial to encouraging people to come in and work enthusiastically.

“It’s an opportunity to reimagine how we gather together and create workplaces that are compelling destinations where everyone feels included and welcomed. It's about designing buildings that not only respond to but also anticipate our needs. Ultimately, it's leaving at the end of the day feeling healthier and happier than when we arrived in the morning, and contributing to more vibrant cities and neighborhoods.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin 

For more, check out our detailed guide to Hybrid Work and our eBook "Hybrid Work Best Practices."

And to level up your workplace technology, don't wait another moment to switch over to a more employee-friendly desk booking software and room scheduling software.

According to the latest hybrid work statistics, 2-3 days per week is now considered the 'perfect harmony' between how often employees prefer to come into the office and their leadership's expectations. 

This stems from the numerous benefits of the hybrid work model, including autonomy (you get to be your own supervisor/boss/whatever), flexibility (employees can choose the working hours that fit them the most), productivity (fewer interruptions and better focus at their personal space at home), cost savings (reduced office space requirements, less burden on commuting cost), talent attraction (more appealing to candidates seeking work-life balance), innovation (diverse perspectives from different locations), and environmental sustainability (reduced commuting lowers carbon emissions).

So what about the remaining days of the week when people's physical appearance is needed? 

How can we integrate other aspects of the hybrid work model, such as a hybrid work schedule or hybrid work policy, into a better and improved design of offices that everyone truly wants to be a part of? 

These questions were addressed in my discussion with Janet Pogue, the Global Director of Workplace Research at the global design firm Gensler, about redesigning office workplaces in 2024. Her company’s latest study covers 15 countries and 16,000 office workers.

In this article, I put together five valuable insights the expert shared on successfully redesigning offices to improve the workplace experience that every forward-thinking and people-centric leader should care about.

SPONSORED BY: TACTIC

Best Practices To Build A Successful Hybrid Office

1. What A Good Hybrid Office Design Looks Like

Modern hybrid office design

According to Janet, people come to work primarily to get things done and work more efficiently rather than to socialize. 

A good hybrid office design should serve two purposes: 

  • Effective enough to get work done
  • Have great workplace experience for people
“When you come into the office to work with others, there are co-creation spaces—those innovation hubs. But there's also space for informal conversations, so you're more impromptu. There's space for confidential conversations around coaching, mentoring, and growing the next generation of leaders.
But then there's also spaces that you need to have that are more for hybrid meetings, have video conferencing capability, and have the right technology in order to co-create when not everybody's in the room. And then finally, there's these spaces that are really around well-being: relaxing, recharging, and taking a break.
Those spaces are not amenities that are optional. They're really an important part of how we perform at our best.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin

This aligns with another insight from hybrid work guru Nick Bloom regarding the importance of hybrid office design

2. Involving People In The Design Process

Moreover, Janet emphasizes that involving people in the design phase is equally important, by using, for example, interactive surveys.

“We've done that with interactive surveys. For example, tell us how you work, what's important, and what you value. We really want everyone involved because when people say feel like they had a say, they now have ownership. And they're behind it even more. And they know that their company cares about them as a person.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin

Who would have thought involving people in something would engage them more and potentially improve their productivity? Pretty surprising, isn't it? 

3. Bettering Technology 

Technology in hybrid office design

An excellent hybrid office design should mean good technology. Janet highlighted that nearly every meeting will involve remote participants. 

Investing in technology that improves communication and collaboration is key to ensuring equal engagement for both remote and in-office workers. 

This includes upgrading microphones and cameras, as well as optimizing room acoustics.

“It's absolutely crucial. It's not only the space of how it's designed, but it's that technology piece of it so that it's seamless.
We've been doing a lot of labs and experimentation in our own offices in our San Francisco office. We have actually mocked up a number of hybrid meeting spaces that are out in the open.
They're not even enclosed rooms. So there are ways that you can use directional speakers and cameras that follow and zoom in. And you can actually have hybrid meetings. Beside each other, there's no conflict of noise, where the camera is following, and the like. I think the technology is only going to get better.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin 

Earlier, we discussed how the technology you use shapes how your employees perceive your company

To ensure a seamless and satisfactory experience for people working in your hybrid office, it's crucial to invest in the best possible devices and technologies—whether it's microphones, cameras, or hot desk booking software.

4. Balancing Function and Experience

Let's heed Janet's advice not to get overly immersed in the design process alone but also consider why people are motivated to come to your workplace and build from there.

Ultimately, people are social creatures who enjoy meeting, catching up, and socializing—not out of obligation, but because they genuinely want to.

“I think it's less about policy because no one wants to be told what to do. It's more about how you can activate the space differently. We're seeing core days start to reappear. That's when everybody tries to be in the office.
We're social individuals, and that goes a long way toward feeding our souls, building a community, and building trust with one another. In these social relationships, trust and innovation are the outcomes of the currency of trust that we're building. I think it's really important to take time and just be together.
And so, be very intentional about it. And then we're seeing that we're designing the space to really underscore and reinforce that intention, even though that intention and purpose may be different from company to company. That's where the uniqueness of the design can also play a role, because the space is really the nudge to those behaviors.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin 

At the end of the day, it's not just about physical space. We must deliberately curate experiences through events, team gatherings, and core days to foster vibrancy and ensure that offices are seen as a positive incentive (carrots), not an obligation (a stick).

With that in mind, a successful workspace achieves a balance between functional efficiency and creating an engaging, welcoming environment.

5. Leveraging Third Spaces

Did you know that, according to Gensler’s findings, employees already spend a third of their week outside the office and home?

Why not leverage this by enhancing the functionality and appeal of your office with these “third places,” such as coffee shops, coworking spaces, or libraries? Let’s think outside the box, quite literally!

Leveraging third spaces in hybrid work design
“But overall, we're seeing that people are spending about half of their typical work week at the office, and they're spending about 20% at home. And the surprise is that, for about a third of that week, all that balance is in an array of other places. Business travel is not being at your client's office; it's traveling to other offices within your company. It's co-working and it's third places—the coffee shops, other spaces that might be in your neighborhood near your office, or it could be your neighborhood near your home.
So think about what's in the building and what's outside, and go for walking meetings. How do you take advantage of the coffee shop down the street or even civic spaces like our actual library that may be down the block? And so we're seeing that workplaces are now an ecosystem of spaces both in and out of the office.
And that's one of the reasons why we see these third places really surging, and think about that as an extension of your workspace and office.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin

The Bottom Line: A Good Hybrid Office Is All About People Experience

“Workplace performance is no longer defined solely by building efficiency or space effectiveness; it's also about the emotional response to space: the workplace experience.” This insight, from Gensler's study, resonates deeply with me.

Designing a hybrid office that fosters positive, engaging, and appealing experiences is crucial to encouraging people to come in and work enthusiastically.

“It’s an opportunity to reimagine how we gather together and create workplaces that are compelling destinations where everyone feels included and welcomed. It's about designing buildings that not only respond to but also anticipate our needs. Ultimately, it's leaving at the end of the day feeling healthier and happier than when we arrived in the morning, and contributing to more vibrant cities and neighborhoods.” - Janet Pogue McLaurin 

For more, check out our detailed guide to Hybrid Work and our eBook "Hybrid Work Best Practices."

And to level up your workplace technology, don't wait another moment to switch over to a more employee-friendly desk booking software and room scheduling software.

FlexOS | Future Work

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Hybrid Work

Hybrid work (or hybrid remote work) lets people combine in-office days with focused work-from-home days. How does that work? Read all about it on flexos.work.