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Workplace design experts ThirdWay have launched Hybrid Working – a new programme to help businesses navigate their return to the workplace in three distinct phases.
The three phases start from an immediate response to get businesses workplace ready, through to a stable workplace solution for the future. The programme takes an outcome-driven approach, enabling businesses to discover the ideal home-to-work balance in order to support individuals to work safely and productively from the office or other remote locations. Hybrid working is a new approach to working life – the focus here is ‘life satisfaction’ according to ThirdWay.
‘We want to be honest with clients and tell them there is no crystal ball for the office of the future; but there is a clear assessment you can do to get your company totally engaged now – whilst also building a roadmap to lead you to the future outcome you need,’ says Ben Gillam, Founder and CEO of ThirdWay Group.
The holistic programme draws on all areas of design thinking and expertise offered by ThirdWay, including architecture, interior design, furniture design and workplace consultancy. Hybrid Working is a defined approach but is designed to flex with government alert systems and the levels of ambiguity we are currently facing.
‘The hard truth for clients is not about changing the layout of their office. It’s about the harder truth that the tools they have previously invested in for their people could now be redundant, and that the tools they provide them with now will almost certainly be redundant in 6 months, and the newer tools they provide them with in 6 months will, in all likelihood, become redundant again!’ Ben comments.
All the predictions for business regarding the use of one-way systems, thermal cameras and social distance working, are well intended – they just don’t tackle the real problem that businesses are facing
The first phase Fit for Now involves a raft of practical measures including social distancing marking, technology assessments, on-site adaptations, furniture removal, temporary signage for one-way systems and lift protocols, spatial evaluations and plans worked up over an intensive two-week period to deliver the fast-track modification of existing spaces, policies and procedures.
The second, Fit for Tomorrow phase, over six months, addresses more permanent adjustments and onsite refurbishment, including new furniture, technology AV and telecommunication upgrades. Instalment of touchless technology for contactless entry and working from home assessments and solutions will be carried out, to increase numbers with the workplace – and support and align remote and office-based working. ‘Regardless of whether you call it an office, workplace, workspace or engagement platform (my personal choice) it ceases to have any function the moment you remove the people from it,’ says Ben.
The third phase, Fit for Future, over the course of 12 to 36 months, involves a full building and cost evaluation based on an evaluation of the first two phases of Hybrid working – with the potential for wholesale refurbishments, relocations and the introduction of satellite workspaces, helping businesses to reduce property costs and increase productivity for the long-term.
‘Whether expressed or not, all good workplace design is about engaging the people who use the space. All the predictions for business regarding the use of one-way systems, thermal cameras and social distance working, are well intended – they do after all have people’s health and safety in mind – they just don’t tackle the real problem that businesses are facing,’ Ben continues.
‘The question is – how do I engage with my people? Speaking as business owner I find these predications unhelpful and disengaging. My chief concern is not how quickly I can staff my office again, but how I can give my teams the best possible tools to stay engaged with their job and our clients – both now and as the landscape changes in 2020 and beyond.’
The programme identifies four tiers of business to come out of the crisis: The Business as Usual, The Temporary Pivoter, The Shape Shifter, and the Re-Inventor, each requiring varying degrees of intervention. It is modelled on the basis that most businesses are currently operating on a 90:10 remote working ratio, as opposed to 10:90 pre-lockdown. Hybrid Working will require two recalibrations over the next 12-36 months, as social distancing measures and human sentiment towards them change.
The programme draws on ThirdWay’s decade of design and consulting experience, and is also informed by new primary research collected from over 1500 responses to a survey conducted during lockdown to understand individual responses to home working, carried out by ThirdWay, corroborated by an extensive survey of companies, and their workforces’ concerns during the pandemic, focusing on the return to work journey. The three stages of the programme are modelled on the remaining three stages of standard pandemic response: adjustment, re-evaluation and establishment of a new normal.
‘We are about to ease back into the office, but things will never be the same. We will always need to be prepared to work from the office, from home or from anywhere else – based on environmental, company and employee needs,’ Ben comments. ‘The emerging trust between employer and employee has shifted the balance of power which will see individuals requesting, if not demanding, a different working environment to what they have been used to. This is Hybrid Working.’
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