Returning to Collaboration in the New Hybrid Office

Twelve months ago, in response to COVID-19, many offices switched to a nearly 100 percent work from home model. Now, employers are preparing the workplace for a large-scale return to the office; however, the office will look and function differently than before.

Rather than mandate 100 percent attendance, employers are switching to a “hybrid” office model that attracts everyone back—but not at the same time.

There are obvious benefits to being in the office. Collaboration is at the top of the list. In fact, according to research by Gensler, the dramatic shift toward work from home during the pandemic has dealt a significant blow to collaboration.

In her recent guest column for Fortune, Diane Hoskins, Co-CEO of Gensler, wrote: “The startling decline in collaboration from 2019 to 2020 signals that there could be considerable downside to working environments that are entirely virtual.”

Gensler has tracked workplace needs and behaviors for over 15 years including multiple studies done in 2020 yielding data from both before and during the COVID crisis. Gensler’s research reveals that before the pandemic, U.S. workers spent an average of 43% of their work weeks collaborating either virtually or in person. That number fell to 27% for workers who worked from home in 2020.

Hoskins notes that high-performing people at top companies typically do individual work and collaborative work in equal measures—45% each, according to Gensler’s research—with the remaining 10% comprised of learning and social time. This appears to be the best recipe for dynamic organizations in today’s marketplace.

How do we get there? It’s not as simple as just scheduling all focus work for “at home” days.

Gensler’s research suggests that the hybrid office model will need to consider the following: the ideal mix of focus and collaboration work should allow for planned and informal interactions; and these modes will vary for each individual from week to week.

Employees will expect plenty of collaboration hubs where they can be comfortably distanced. They will also be looking for a quiet spot to do focus work, and now their expectations will be even higher as they compare the experience in the office to their [quiet] spot at home.

As companies move forward implementing the hybrid office, acoustics will be even more important than before. When only some of us go back to the office, it will be noisier even though occupancy will be decreased. This is because people absorb sound. Clothing does as well. We also tend to speak more quietly when others are nearby.

Without people, all the hard surfaces we've been specifying reflect sound, and the reverberation time (RT) goes up. When room surfaces are highly reflective, sound continues to reflect or reverberate, creating a live space with a long RT. This in turn causes a buildup of the noise level in a space—and acoustic discomfort.

Snowsound’s fixed and movable panels combine elegant Italian design with patented technology that addresses RT better than any other product on the market. Variable-density construction is engineered to reduce reverberation and echo in a space by selectively absorbing sound from all frequencies. In fact, they are the only acoustic panels that selectively absorb low, medium, and high frequencies. Snowsound is more effective than felt or PET, because Snowsound panels absorb 100% of sound waves that hit them.

Snowsound's large range of product offerings and applications includes ceiling-hung modules, desk dividers and space-dividing fiber textiles. See them here.

Employees are ready to venture away from home for part of the work week. Retaining the best talent will be tied to the quality of the hybrid office experience. Snowsound can help with technically advanced acoustical solutions that encourage collaboration, the lifeblood of the organization.

Like this article?

Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
Share on Linkdin
Share on Pinterest

Leave a comment