As lockdowns and restrictions are slowly being lifted across the world, employees are returning to their offices, or are they?

In comparison to the pre-pandemic job market, employees have a different set of expectations when it comes to safety standards, the facilities offered by their workplace, and especially when it comes to flexibility. Where the office used to be the primary location of work, employees have become used to choosing their work location with a much larger flexibility – whether it is from home, the office or even from a different country, employees want to choose for themselves.

Recent surveys* have shown how flexibility, work/life balance and job satisfaction has improved while we’ve all been working from our homes. In contrast, respondents have also reported feeling less connected with their colleagues, that their motivation has dropped and even that they feel more stressed and depressed.

To accommodate these contrasting tendencies employers really only have one option, and that is a hybrid workplace.


Different types of hybrid workplaces

As employees are beginning their return to the office, we see companies handle the return in different ways. Either due to ongoing restrictions or to maintain some of the flexibility gained during lockdowns, many companies elect to convert to hybrid offices, with a mix of in-office work and work from home.

However, there are many ways to establish a hybrid workplace, each with its own benefits and challenges. For instance, a fully hybridized workplace poses different challenges (and different opportunities) than a semi hybrid workplace or a fully remote workplace.

Before we dive into the challenges of returning to the office and converting your workplace to a hybrid schedule, let’s look at a couple of the different options.



The fully hybrid workplace

As the name suggests, the fully hybrid workplace is just that – fully hybrid. Employees decide for themselves where they work, and in some cases even when they work.

This model gives the employee a large amount of flexibility, but it often also means that the office space will feel semi-deserted on days when most of the employees choose to work from home. This leads to many organizations either opting to establish a semi-hybrid workplace or reduce the size of their offices.


The semi hybrid workplace

A semi-hybrid workplace is also often called the 3/2 model or the 4/1 model. In essence it’s when the employer provides a set of boundaries to frame the hybrid work. In most cases it is a simple rule such as ‘two days at home, three days in the office.’ 

While we have bundled them as one, there are many different forms of semi-hybrid workplaces. In some cases, employees must work from home on certain days, while in others they simply have the option to do so but can elect to work from the office just the same. Further, in some instances employees need to announce their work location of choice days in advance, and in others they simply choose in the morning whether they commute or stay at home. 

This leaves organizations with several ways to optimize the hybrid workplace to their needs, as each choice provides both the employer and employee with different benefits as well as challenges. 


The reduced-size office

One of the big challenges of any hybrid workplace is empty desks on days when most employees are working from home. However, this challenge also presents organizations with a golden opportunity.

Reducing the number of desks in the office, as well as the size of the office, is an opportunity to not only cut back expenses, but also to make sure the office space never feels deserted.

Doing this does require a certain amount of foresight and planning, though. For instance, will you opt for a free seating plan, or will each employee have a dedicated desk, which they share with another employee on the day they work from home? How will you make sure the office never exceeds max capacity? And most importantly, how will you help facilitate collaboration?


The remote workplace

Another way to handle a safe and flexible return to the office is to eliminate the office altogether. Instead of maintaining an office, some organizations choose to simply let their employees book desks in shared office spaces if they need to, and otherwise work from home.

While this way of adapting to the new normal may be the most cost-efficient in terms of price per desk, it also provides several challenges related to collaboration, which needs to be solved as well.


Challenges of the hybrid workplace

The challenges of hybrid workplaces can be divided into two distinct areas:

  • Management

  • Collaboration

From a management perspective, the challenges of the hybrid workplace are both related to administering the workforce and the daily administration of the office.

Which employees will be in the office at what times? How many meeting rooms are needed, and when? How many desks will be occupied? How many people will need catering? And the list goes on. However, all these questions can be answered with the proper tools.

When it comes to collaboration, the overarching challenge is to make sure that the employees know how to get in touch with each other when they need to. One part of the solution to this challenge is related to the way your meeting rooms are equipped – do they accommodate employees working in the office collaborating with employees working from home? The other part of the solution, which is essential, is finding a way to provide your employees with a simple way of learning who is located in the office and who is working from somewhere else.


How desk booking can facilitate a safe return to the office

Anyone who has tried to track team availability or desk booking through a spreadsheet which each employee fills out will know just how overwhelming that task can become.

Whether it’s due to restrictions related to the ongoing pandemic, or because you are converting to a hybrid office on a more permanent scale, desk booking will be essential in overcoming many of the challenges related to having a hybrid workforce.

With the proper desk booking software, your employees will be able to find out which colleagues are in the office, to facilitate in-person collaboration; management can easily find out which team members are working from home; and facility management teams will be able to scale catering, equipment, room booking and cleaning to the number of people present on any given day.

This will let you facilitate your employee’s return to the office in a way which is both as safe as possible, while at the same time letting them maintain a degree of flexibility which is comparative to what we have all become used to over the past year and a half.



Key features of Workspace

With Workspace you get a series of features which let you ease the transformation into a hybrid workplace.

  • Quick booking

  • Dedicated Who’s in the office tab

  • Dynamic floor maps

  • Weekly overview

  • Single sign-on for Office 365


Quick booking

With quick booking you can plan your week in one simple flow. This will eliminate situations where you need to locate an available desk after you get to the office. And if you don't come to the office every day you can easily skip desk booking for those days. 


Who’s in the office

As more work becomes activity-based, and workplaces allow for more flexibility in where employees choose to work, the need to find out when your colleagues are in the office is ever growing. Which is why Who’s in the office is a key feature in the Sign In Workspace's desk booking software. This lets you easily coordinate your time in the office to match key colleagues and make sure that you book a desk next to them. With the option of requiring desk check-in, finding out who’s currently in the office becomes even easier.


Dynamic floor maps

The dynamic floor map included in Workspace makes it easier than ever to get an instant overview of your office. The floor map is based on your organization’s physical location and will depict which desks are currently occupied and by whom. Further it will let everyone know where each desk is in relation to key features such as meeting rooms, kitchen, windows etc. 


Weekly overview 

The weekly overview is a quick way for office managers to find out how many people will be using the office on any given day, allowing them to plan office services and scale catering to reduce food waste. Further it allows management to easily find out which employees are in the office at what times. 


Single sign-on 

With single sign-on for 0365 users, employees can log in with their Microsoft credentials eliminating the need for additional passwords. The only thing you need to ensure is that the Workspace application is added to your Azure AD. 


How you can use desk booking tools to solve the challenges of the hybrid workplace 

Before the days of social distancing, hybrid workplaces and flexible seating in the office, your desk was your fortress, but those days have changed. During a recent survey* 55% of respondents said that they wanted to keep working from home to some degree, and these days we’re seeing an increasing number of organizations making their workplaces hybrid. 

While deciding that your employees can work from home, or the office presents you with several benefits it also presents several challenges depending on how you have chosen to implement hybrid work. 


Booking your desk  

There are few things worse than showing up in the office, only to realize that there are no available desks, leaving you with the option of returning to your home office. 

With the emergence of hybrid workspaces, flexible desk seating and reduced-size offices, desk booking has become a focus for everyone, and if your office maintains social distancing, desk booking is doubly important, as it becomes a matter of health and safety as well. 

With Workspace you can easily book a desk ahead of time, so you don’t shuttle your way to the office in vain. All it takes is a few clicks. Further you can use the who’s in the office and floor map functions to make sure you book a desk close to any colleagues you need to collaborate with. 



Where are your colleagues? 

One of the bigger challenges when working in a hybrid workplace with flexible desks is finding your colleagues. Planning meetings and in-person collaboration requires you to know who’s planning on working from home and who’s in the office on which days. But with hybrid workplaces and flexible desks becoming more common, you may also need to find out where your team is located in the building. Especially if you work in a large office or a multi company building. 

With Workspace you can keep track of other members of your team when you book your desk, but also when you arrive at the office. The feature Who’s in the office lets you see which days other members of your team will be present, and the Floor map feature gives you a visualization of where in the building they have booked desks. 



Booking and checking in  

One of the challenges that desk booking introduces is last minute change of plans. If a colleague calls in sick, or simply decides to stay home for other reasons, their desk will sit empty. This becomes an issue if you work in a reduced-sized office, as the desk may be needed by other employees.  

However, by enabling the check-in in Workspace you will be able to see whether a desk that was booked is in fact being used, and having employees check in gives employers the ability to carry out very detailed contact tracing.



Planning your week 

Whether you work with facility management, HR or manage your own team, knowing who’s in the office and when is an essential part of the hybrid workplace. With Workspace you get a Weekly overview of not just how many people will be in the office on different days but also who. 


Managing your team  

Trying to track your team’s availability with shared spreadsheets stored in the cloud can quickly become tedious, and even for small teams it’s more work than it should be. 

When your employees use Workspace to book their desks, you can use the weekly overview and who’s in the office features to make it easier to catch up with your team, and make sure everyone is happy and productive. 



Managing your office 

No single job has been complicated more by the transition to hybrid workplaces, than that of the facility management professional. You need to be able to scale cleaning and catering on a much finer level because employees can now freely choose where they work. Some days the office may be filled, others it may seem deserted.  

However, with policies to book desks an amount of time in advance, you use the weekly overview available through Workspace to easily scale catering to minimize food waste, make sure your office space is equipped to handle the number of people using the facilities on any given day, and carry out contact tracing in case someone in the office has been infected with COVID-19. 



What’s next? 

Converting to a hybrid workplace demands a larger focus on how we bring employees together both digitally and physically. While it does present certain challenges, the benefits more than make up for it. 



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