Cheat sheet: solving problems for the hybrid office

News just in: plenty of small businesses have moved – or are moving – to a hybrid way of operating their workplace. The practical realities of that will bring a few headaches to solve.
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Every business is likely to take its own approach to managing a hybrid workplace, and *spoiler* there isn’t one playbook to follow (yet). We spoke to Marco Minervini, an organisational design researcher at INSEAD business school, to lay out potential issues and suggest solutions – plus we reveal what Courier’s doing at our London HQ.

1. Deskspace

The Problem 

As many businesses opt for smaller spaces and fewer desks, how do you manage capacity issues?

Possible solutions

Reconsider the primary purpose of the office. Maybe you only go in for specific reasons, such as interaction and collaboration with an increased focus on breakout space.

Consider co-working spaces. ‘There could be a third option – a space devoted to work outside home that might not be the office,’ says Marco.

Courier: Decide what roles require permanent desks (for equipment and privacy) and who can hot desk. Then create sufficient seating in three desk-space tiers: permanent, put down spots (like stools) and casual spots (like sofas).

2. Office dynamics

The Problem 

With employees coming in in varying amounts, factions might form – what Marco labels ‘in-groups’ and ‘out-groups’. 

Possible solutions

Courier: Encourage employees to come in at least one day a week by incentivising specific days, and over-indexing on those days for things like socials, team lunches and group work. 

3. Meetings

The Problem

With video meetings now the norm, noise, synchronicity and distraction issues can come up with other members of the team who are sharing the same space.

Possible solutions

Arrange larger meetings for specific days when you expect most of the office to be in (or when attendance is mandatory).

Courier: Introduce phone booths – allocated, private spaces for conducting remote calls and meetings.

Prepare to embrace a bit of nineties office culture – where calls in the office were commonplace.

4. Training

The Problem

On-boarding and training can lack structure when done remotely – it can also be difficult for new employees to get an understanding of company culture.

Possible solutions

Courier: Elongate – and codify – the training process. ‘You can take advantage because you start thinking carefully about what a person should know,’ says Marco.

Segment the things that you think are replaceable at a distance and what isn’t, placing an additional focus on in-person, casual meetups. 

Create an additional step in the hiring process that critiques whether potential employees are compatible with your company’s way of working – and whether their roles are suitable for being largely remote.

5. Perks

The Problem

There’s likely to be a disparity between the perks that employees who more regularly attend the office will get, compared to those who don’t.

Possible solutions

Marco has seen some companies create personas profiles (eg, the office person, the home person and the hybrid person), then creating a set of policies for each persona.

Courier: Allocate a perks budget to each employee – leaving it up to the individuals to decide what they spend their allocation on, but offer some guidance on this (like tech tools and ergonomic WFH set-ups). 

This article was first published in Courier issue 41, June/July 2021. To purchase the issue or become a subscriber, head to our webshop.

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