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Designing for Flexibility: How to Create a Hybrid Workplace that Works for Everyone

The past two years have shown the remarkable adaptability of humans, with many corporate organisations responding quickly to remote work and undergoing years of digital transformation in just a few months.

Not to be confused with lockdown working — where most had no choice but to work from home — hybrid working will endure long after government health eased, as will the new behaviours we’ve developed these past two years.

This will undoubtedly see workplace design shift towards more social and collaboration spaces, but there is one room few are mention when discussing the future of work or hybrid design, and that’s whether we’ll see more ‘production studios’ or ‘maker spaces’ within the office.

Multi-Channel Communications

During the pandemic, a client found they had adjusted how they communicate with their staff. Sending the standard all-staff emails and newsletters was no longer enough, so to reach younger generations and make the content more engaging they began filming more and more video content.

Multi-channel communication is important because the combination of different methods allows the employee to chose their preferred medium. The format of the content itself should be tailored, so a quick leadership message will likely be more impactful via video, however, learning and development or marketing content may be better suited as a podcast.

To date, many organisations have settled for filming around the existing workspace or home office — though this can require content to be recorded out of hours (when it’s quiet) and is lengthy to set-up and remove at the end of each session — whereas a dedicated studio speeds up the filming process. That’s not to say the studio only needs to be reserved for filming often a happy medium can be found where the setting can be professional and aesthetically pleasing studio can continue to be used as a typical meeting room outside of filming.

Lights, Sound and Scene

As with every room, the lighting, acoustics and design are important. Lighting can transform a dull space into a vibrant space and makes your subjects look brighter, clear and in focus. Standard office fluorescent and LED lighting will often cast shadows, whereas ring lights and soft box lighting will create a warm glow around your presenters.

Most offices have hard surfaces, whether it be walls, desks, floors, etc. Because of this, sound will bounce back and forth between these surfaces leading to unwanted noises being picked up during filming. Wall cushions are light and foam-like material used to absorb sound, especially echoes, when they’re installed within the room, they also absorb any background or unwanted external noise.

Just as we’ve all become used to background images on Zoom or Teams calls, a green screen can help bring focus to your presenter and offer a better picture-in-picture experience if the filming is incorporating a slide deck. Whilst pop-up green screens are great for on-the-go filming, they’re often flimsy and may not work for tall subjects, so it’s best to explore drop-down ceiling-mounted screens for a studio.

Balancing the in-office and remote experience

It’s likely hybrid working is here to stay, so as large occupiers look to adjust, redesign, or relocate, I encourage them to consider whether they need a dedicated studio. Often the interactions between property and HR teams is predominately about headcount when it comes to design, so it’s worthwhile engaging with the marketing, communications and learning and development areas of the business to understand their needs and how they’re planning to deliver content to employees and clients. Sometimes you may find the only reason content wasn’t being created in the past was just because there was never the space to do it easily.

It’s hard to say whether this trend will gain traction more broadly — though it’s more realistic than my suggestion to one client that they design an escape room within their office, that’s a story for another time. There certainly is an opportunity for co-working spaces to differentiate themselves from other providers by offering dedicated studio facilities, as this is a service most creative co-working spaces already provide. Podcasts have ground in popularity, and are now an important part of marketing and connecting with your audience and clients.

Last year, I had to do some filming remotely at home and the experience wasn’t great. I had to prop up my green screen because of my height, the lighting cast shadows, and the space felt cramped. Throughout hybrid we’ve said that employees will chose to return to the office if they find the experience better and the facilities allow them to undertake activities more productively than they can do at home.

Hopefully, as we see occupiers experiment, test and learn we’ll begin to see spaces like this pop-up and become a reason people visit the office, yet continue to connect with those who work remotely.


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