Healthy ecosystem of work: making the hybrid possible

An effective ecosystem for hybrid work which blends home and office will need to meet a variety of employee needs, as the facilitators of an expert workshop discovered

As we advance rapidly toward a more blended working world, what does a healthy, hybrid ecosystem of work looks like for knowledge workers?

That was a question asked by a group of three designers – Namrata Krishna from Heta Architects, Muriel Altunaga from CBRE and independent consultant Yvonne Pinniger – in a virtual workshop which they planned and facilitated as part of the Healthy Cities Design International Congress 2020.

The workshop was set in the near future, when widespread vaccination has enabled us to adapt to a new normal. A group of expert participants drawn from across the disciplines of health, architecture, design and planning were asked engage in a human-centred and interactive approach to understand what makes an ideal ecosystem possible.

Series of insights

The workshop explored what an ideal working ‘day in the life’ might look like for two extreme personas at opposite ends of the age spectrum: Adele, aged 54, and Lee, aged 23. A series of insights into employee needs in the hybrid working world were drawn from the exercise, including:

Peace and quiet: The need for a separate environment or workspace played a higher role at home, beyond just creating boundaries between personal and professional. Preventing noise and distractions throughout the day was felt to be a necessity, whether undertaking focused work or participating in a group call or collaboration. The fear of being interrupted or disturbed became in itself a distraction from work, requiring more preparation and negotiating one’s environment with fellow habitants

Convenience and proximity: Closeness to amenities, such as specialist workspaces, outdoor environments, food prep/eating facilities, exercise facilities, and life admin resources (such as deliveries, dry cleaning, etc) are important on a daily basis. Business districts are designed around worker needs, but when working solely from home, people found they were missing some really valuable services.

Negotiable time: Given the experimentation and challenges around scheduling work time during the pandemic, continuing to have flexibility and control over managing time has, in many cases, become critical. Flexibility around start times at home to factor in negotiated quiet/private workspace allowing for longer lunch breaks to make the most of face-to-face hours with colleagues and adjusting work hours to make the most of daylight for outdoor activities and exercise all rated highly.

Supportive culture:  At home, this tended to be more about leadership, training and support from the organisation, and in the office, it was more about autonomy, identity and belonging. This is likely because these are the areas that people feel are more lacking in the opposite scenario – for example, when working from home most people automatically have more autonomy because they’re less visible, but they could feel more isolated and disconnected from their colleagues.

Read a paper about the findings of the hybrid ecosystem workshop here.

Read a piece by the designers on the process of running a workshop remotely, which is set to be a growing feature of hybrid working, here

WORKTECH Academy is a partner in the annual Healthy City Design International Congress. The 2021 theme is Back From the Brink: Designing for Climate, Community and Social Value.  Access the Call for Papers here.
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