Why a flexible workforce needs a hybrid office

The hybrid workplace is here to stay. So businesses wanting to attract employees back to office spaces need to consider how their workspaces offer what a home office environment can’t: physical places to connect with colleagues, collaborate and enable company culture. Here’s how industrial design can help make the commute worthwhile for workers.

For all the challenges the pandemic created for businesses, it was also an opportunity for employees. For the first time in decades, office work was no longer tied to the office. And flexible, remote workers are likely here to stay – at least in some form. (Recent surveys indicate that 74% of Australians favour a mix of remote and in-person work).

The question now becomes: in a post-COVID world, how can companies create workplaces that stimulate connection and collaboration? How do you fit-out a commercial space when it might be empty two days a week?

In short, what does the future of office work, and the hybrid work model actually look like? 

Working from home is appreciated for its time-saving utility and quiet focus, while the corporate office provides a valuable space away from our home lives where we can not just work, but socialise and build bonds with colleagues. More and more employees want the best of both worlds. To cater to these workers, businesses will need to carefully think through amenities like meeting rooms, hot desks, kitchen and lounge facilities, and industrial design.

“Industrial design is an artform – an industry of beautiful things – but it’s also a science,” says Koskela co-founder Sasha Titchkosky. “The science of how people, objects and places interact. As hybrid work and flexible workspaces become the norm, these in-person interactions are more important than ever to build workplace culture and community.”

“The science of how people, objects and places interact. As flexible work becomes the norm, these in-person interactions are more important than ever to build workplace culture and community.” - Koskela co-founder Sasha Titchkosky

With this in mind, Koskela is primed to help businesses take advantage of the opportunities of hybrid work and flexible office spaces. “With our agile team of specialised industrial designers, project managers and installers, we’re uniquely positioned to create the hybrid office solutions needed for the ever-evolving nature of work,” says Sasha. 

So what does this look like in practice? As Philip Ross shares in his book ‘Unworking: The Reinvention of the Modern Office’, desking – while still important – now makes up less than 30% of a business’s floor plan. As deep, concentrated work happens at home, the office becomes the new ‘off-site’ for hybrid workers. For most businesses, there is a huge opportunity to reconfigure and ‘hack’ existing floor planes by introducing unfixed furniture that can easily be arranged and dismantled to suit the size of the teams coming together. Think stools, rolling chairs, ergonomic chairs and bean bags for private spaces. Modular sofas and modular furniture encourage relaxed gatherings, while a ping pong table is all about play.

This is just one example of how industrial design can shape office culture – where people work, where they talk, and how they interact with one another. Versatile, well-designed flexible workspaces can breed camaraderie, autonomy, creativity and belonging – the invisible threads that, in turn, build employee wellbeing, engagement and retention. By embracing flexibility, you’re making the business more agile, too. With hot desks and unfixed furniture, you can quickly scale resources up or down as needed. 

For this to work, you need to invest in quality furniture and design that will stand the test of time as it fulfils its many functions around the office. That’s why Koskela only works with leading local manufacturers. By sourcing locally, we can save our clients time, money and supply chain headaches, while also delivering a premium product. And that premium product won’t just attract workers back to the office; it can also be maintained, repaired and eventually diverted from landfill as part of our Future Fit sustainability program. It's all part of our commitment to the circular economy.

“We’ve found it’s not that people hate office work – they just hate uncomfortable, uncompromising and poorly thought-out offices,” Sasha says. “This is what flexible, human-centred design really means. It means creating a sense of culture and community by configuring your spaces to your people, rather than the other way around. If you can offer your workforce an exciting, functional and hybrid alternative to working from home, they will return to the office.”

It’s just like the old adage: build it and they will come.