Collaborative Office Spaces and Furniture for a Partially Remote Workforce

The working landscape has changed dramatically. Not so long ago we were getting our heads around hot-desking and now we’re working from home more than from the office. 

The shift was bound to happen, but a spoonful of pandemic, alongside generous dollops of lockdown have hastened the move. More people are working from home than ever before, but what will happen when we remerge from our bunkers? Will employees even want to go back to an office? They will, just not without some changes, it’s in collaborative office spaces and furniture that employees thrive.

Now accustomed to choosing our own hours, selecting our workspace depending on our mood and generally coming and going as we please, does not have to be lost when we decide to go back to the office. Moreover, your place of work needn’t be an all or nothing situation. You don’t have to only work at the office or only work at home. The best solution is a more flexible approach. Call it the alternative workplace. Here are a few tips on how to design and manage your new and unique collaborative office spaces and furniture.

A room filled with furniture and a large window
Photo credit: officesnapshots.com Dataiku Offices – Paris

Hot-desk Hotel

The whole hot-desking thing may have been unfairly represented. It appears uninviting, impersonal and generally awkward. People miss their stuff, their teams and their routine. Is that reason enough for us to keep so many empty desks in our offices though? Office space isn’t cheap so why not think of ways to just make hot-desking work better? Companies which have been successful with hot-desking have offered employees the option to book a desk for an hour, a day or a week. Referred to as hoteling, this allows those who travel frequently to ensure they have their spot. It also ensures teams can sit together to collaborate and it helps companies figure out how much of their desk space is used and needed. 

Of course, the personal aspect is very important. In our time behind the desk, we accumulate personal items. Books, stationery, photos, even plants. There are two brilliant solutions to this. One; employees are given lockers to store their stationery, files and folders. And two; teams are allowed to have small nooks desks or cabinets or bookcases where they can display photos and art, and keep plants. This way, we are free to move around the office irrespective of our stuff and we still feel like we have a piece of home even when we aren’t working from home. 

Home at the Office

One big reason for hot-desking is the fact that your employees work remotely. When you have many employees working remotely, arriving early from a red-eye flight, going straight to the office, they aren’t at their best. Offices designed with this in mind offer showers and nap pods to ensure employees are ready for client meetings and can nap when jet-lag sets in. This is not only an added convenience, it is an added comfort which removes the stress of getting to and from a hotel in time for work.

A picture containing an office bar with stools
Photo credit: officesnapshots.com Nutanix Offices – Sydney

Personal Interactions

The biggest emphasis on alternative workspaces is undoubtedly the ease of communication which comes from collaborative office spaces and furniture. We can sit at a desk almost anywhere but we can’t have an informal cup of coffee so easily. Bumping into colleagues and sharing ideas at the café serendipitously just won’t happen when everyone is working at home. This is why good lunch areas and soft spots are a must. These communal areas spill over into areas in which we can brainstorm, teleconference and very importantly meet for one-on-one meetings. Offices designed with emphasis placed on the working community are better suited to fostering comradery, creativity and higher morale. These are offices which people want to work in. 

Home Away From Home

What so many people love about working from home is the ability to move around. We may work at our desks in the morning, the dining room table for video calls and take a break on the couch for lunch and snack time. Maybe even the patio for some afternoon sun. Depending on the task at hand, we need the flexibility to change location as needed. The ideal office space caters for this. Over and above cafes and boardrooms, soft spaces like couches are great for breaks. What we seldom address though, is the need for a quiet private space, smaller meeting rooms and quiet rooms have proven an essential tool for employees to take calls without disturbing their co-workers and to concentrate for longer periods without disruption. This way we no longer need to sacrifice our privacy when we work at the office.

Iteration

Each company is different and so are their employees. This is exactly why a one size fits all approach is no longer the norm. When applied thoughtlessly, any office arrangement could fail, it’s in the details that we find what we can adjust for a better outcome. Those details are revealed by employees in the way they work, interact and what they say about their workplace, which will help uncover the best solution. Still as will any system, iteration is key. The tweaking and finetuning here and there will take hotdesking to hoteling and boardrooms into breakout areas.

A living room filled with office furniture and a large window
Photo credit: Ukhuni Office Furniture, ukhuni.co.za

Full Circle

Obviously, the cost-saving aspect of collaborative office spaces and furniture is entirely lost if no one ever goes home. If you find that your employees are not working from home when they can, it could be due to technical barriers and that they aren’t quite as comfortable at home. The technical criteria must be met in order to get the most out of a remote worker. Without the appropriate software, hardware and an internet connection work quickly become impossible. More still, they need comfortable furniture. We take it for granted that home furniture will just do the trick, but it is not ergonomic and can leave to all sorts of aches and pains. To address these needs Ukhuni has a number of home office solutions to ensure employees are comfortable and productive at home. Certain companies have even given their employees allowances to ensure that their technical needs and their furnishing needs are catered for. This brings the entire workplace full circle, allowing people to choose where to work based on what suits their needs on the day, not based on the drawbacks of any given workspace.
We know workspaces are changing, now at least we know how to adapt through collaborative office spaces and furniture and get the most out of them as well as our employees. After all, without happy employees, there is no company, to begin with. If you need assistance or advice in transforming your office space or your home office, feel free to get in touch.

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