Adaptable Offices

Is your office adaptable? Can you convert your office layout quickly to accommodate the changing needs of your workforce? Or, do you have more of a traditional office space that is fixed and hard to change? With a hybrid work model, which allows employees to divide their time between remote work with in-person work, and activity-based working environments on the rise, having an office that can quickly adapt to different settings will become more and more important in the years to come. Read on as we take a deeper dive into what exactly is involved with creating an adaptable office space.

WeWork, a company that provides flexible shared workspaces, has published extensively on this subject.  A recent post by journalist Steve Hogarty on WeWork’s website reads in part, “Flexible workspaces can be easily rearranged to accommodate changing business objectives, or quickly scaled up and down to fit teams of different sizes. These kinds of dynamic office spaces are typically designed to be used in conjunction with flexible working arrangements to provide teams with the freedom to work where, when, and how they want.”

Smartway2 enables you to implement hybrid working with ease. To see for yourself how to create a touchless, on-demand, adaptive workplace, book a demo.

Setting up a More Flexible Office

Creating a more flexible office is not something that happens overnight. Designing an adaptable office takes a lot of thought and consideration because each company has its own individual needs. Floorplans, furniture, individual workspaces, conference rooms and space for socialization are just a few examples of things you will need to consider.
Digiday, an online trade magazine for online media, recently posted an article about this subject by Managing Director Jack Marshall. According to Marshall, “Companies that have the luxury of designing their own office spaces are no longer doing so for needs they have today but are instead attempting to create spaces that are ready to adapt to technologies, job functions and business models that may not yet exist. This dynamic is particularly pronounced in the fluid industries of media and technology.”
Marshall continues on to say, “For companies, flexibility is about more than just flexible desk arrangements, breakout areas and collaboration spaces, however. Rather, it’s about creating spaces that can not only serve multiple purposes but can be easily reconfigured. At a practical level that often means simple changes like less drywall and more non-fixed furniture that can easily be rearranged.”
The Receptionist, a company devoted to improving office operations, put together the following list of ideas to get more value from your office space: 
  • A Flexible Floor Plan
  • Adaptable Furniture
  • Better Connectivity and Equipment Access
  • Paper-Free Spaces
  • Flexible Style and Décor
  • Usable Outdoor Space
WeWork also compiled a list of aspects to consider including in a flexible workspace:
  • Open-plan designs
  • Quiet areas
  • Adaptable workstations
  • Shared amenities

More on Adaptive Furniture

Furniture that can easily be moved or used for multiple purposes is key when you consider what it takes to create an adaptable workspace.
Houston Installation Services, an independent provider of office furniture installation, published an informative blog post on this topic written by its CEO, Tommy Twardowski. Twardowski, who has worked in the furniture industry for over 40 years, shares a list of types of furniture that are easy to use for multiple purposes:
  • Modular Soft Seating
  • Modular Workbenches
  • Desk Pods
  • Meet-Point Tables
  • Collaborative Breakout Furniture
  • Acoustic Elements
There are of course many other elements you can incorporate into your office to provide flexibility, such as using movable screens and walls or partitions that can easily be repositioned.

Flexibility is Key

We know employees crave flexibility. This was true before the pandemic and will flexibility be even more important after most employees have spent more than a year working remotely. In fact, a Capital One survey found that “85% of office professionals surveyed believe flexible workplace design is important and 83% said they have their best ideas when working in flexible space options. Flexible schedules also prove to be crucial to talent attraction and retention – 73% of workers say a flexible schedule is in their top two reasons to stay with a company…”

The opinions found by Capital One’s research appear to be the rule rather than the exception. A recent global survey from the HR and recruitment firm Adecco found that 75% of workers say it is important for companies to retain this flexibility, not roll it back.

How to Create an Adaptive Workplace

In our February webinar on Preparing for the Adaptive Workplace, we provided a simple, 3-step process that you can follow to achieve an adaptable work environment for your own company. While you can learn more detailed information by watching the webinar, we are sharing the 3 steps below:
Step 1- Automate access to the workplace, bottom-up, by making everything in it – desks, spaces and so on – bookable in advance. This includes automating social distancing and other COVID safety measures. As only then can we reassure our people that we’re focusing on their health and safety as our top priority.
Step 2 – Leverage utilisation data to drive continuous improvement and inform design thinking approaches to optimising the employee and specifically the workplace experience.
Step 3 – Challenge entrenched dogma by combining data and storytelling to get buy-in for people-focused initiatives that will have a transformative impact. 

Activity-Based Work

The whole concept of adaptable offices is connected to the notion of implementing an activity-based work environment (ABW).
In a recent blog post on our website, Smartway2 explains ABW in the following way, “Activity Based Working (ABW) is a concept built on the idea that office work no longer needs to be in a fixed location. It disregards the idea that employees need assigned work stations and desks, and instead supports employees by viewing work as a fluid activity that can change on a daily basis.”
Activity-based work environments typically offer employees different logistical options within an office so that employees can pick and choose the best area to work, depending on the particular assignment or task that they need to complete. 
In the post-COVID world of work, where many companies will be adopting some type of hybrid model, ABW is particularly helpful. Companies can take the time to determine the individual needs of their employees, including what logistics and equipment are unavailable to them in a remote setting, so they can offer those specific items in the office. This will ensure employees maximize the time they spend when returning to the office. For instance, a lot of research shows collaboration and social interaction are two of the things that people miss most about the office because face-to-face interaction cannot be replaced through technology. Based upon those findings, this could result in a company reimagining its layout and constructing dedicated spaces in the office for coworkers to collaborate, since group work and socialization are why employees will return to the office.   
Smartway2 offers unique workplace scheduling software for modern, agile and collaborative companies. Our flexible software can enable you to increase productivity, optimize your space and reduce your carbon footprint. 
Stefania Vatidis

Stefania Vatidis

Last updated April 29, 2021