A Hybrid Approach to Workspace Design
The oppressive nature of the ubiquitous “cubicle farm” and the noted failures of open office plans beg the question: how can offices retain their collaborative nature yet minimize distractions and preserve privacy? Reverting to traditional closed offices is tempting, but costly. UK Architects finds a more productive, and cost-effective, solution in hybrid office design that balances workplace privacy with a sense of community to foster creativity and collaboration.
A hybrid office space features a diversity of workspaces and offers employees the autonomy to move through the spaces throughout the day depending on their needs. UK Architects focuses on the specific needs of clients, typically including open areas for collaboration, semi-private spaces for smaller groups, and private areas for individual work.
Chris Kennedy, Principal at UK Architects, can relate to the competing demands of a workspace. “There are instances when I need to focus on a task alone,” he explains, “but a lot of the time I want to be aware of what’s happening around me and absorbing information by osmosis.”
Workspace design involves competing elements, such as cost and company culture, that must be balanced. Office spaces typically do not directly generate revenue, so cost is of primary concern in designing and building the space. Open office plans may fit more people per square foot at a lower cost, but employee productivity often decreases without private spaces to independently explore ideas and to hide from the inevitable distractions of the open office. Hybrid offices may have a higher cost per square foot, but the design often has a lower cost per person.
On a recent high-density office space project, UK Architects recommended creating individual, three by five foot office spaces (35 square feet) with three frosted glass panels that could slide partially or fully open, creating the option for visual openness and audio privacy. When the cost of the sliding panels became prohibitive, UK Architects re-imagined the design with one sliding panel and two fixed panels. The new design was more cost-effective for this particular client, but it maintained the element of optional private spaces for the 42 employees in the office.
Given the flexibility of the hybrid office plan, Kennedy finds it is easier for employers to pitch it over a completely open office plan. “In this case, the glass panels really sold it,” he says. “You can tell the staff: the space is still yours, but now it’s really modern and refreshing.” By tailoring the design to the needs of a company’s unique culture, UK Architects creates collaborative spaces that are a major departure from the early days of open office floor plans synonymous with startup companies and Silicon Valley.
According to Kennedy, the shift away from traditional or fully open offices towards hybrid workspaces is exciting. “It’s like moving from the suburbs to the urban center of town.” A hybrid office affords companies the opportunity to implement collaborative, productive spaces that suit the needs of their employees and culture.
Contact UK Architects today to discuss the unique needs of your project.