Hybrid offices are already pushing us towards fully remote models

Jan 15, 2022

Vered Gindi has worked on this for four years. But the result is there. The 46,000 m2 of the new Microsoft campus in Herzliya (central Israel, 20 km/12,4 miles from Tel Aviv) in many ways foreshadow the future of business premises. While the concept of hybrid offices is currently gaining ground, the architect has conceived the place as an open and flexible space "where you don't just go to work, but live a lifestyle".

That's why the campus has been designed as a real city divided into neighbourhoods, each with its own function: Downtown, an industrial-type area; Midtown, a playful space; The Garden, a green outdoor level; and Uptown, designed to feel like a delightful boutique hotel. There are many activities offered. The complex contains a music room (with real instruments), a gym area, a yoga area, and playrooms for children, to facilitate childcare.

FLEXIBILITY IS KEY TO HYBRID OFFICES

As for the workspaces themselves, acoustic partitions and shelving systems can be added or removed, allowing teams to combine or divide according to needs and the flow of incoming and outgoing employees. Desks can be fitted with casters and have extra long cables, so they can be moved easily, by anyone, if required.

Flexibility is the key to the hybrid office, a workplace designed to accommodate the daily fluctuating distribution of on-site and remote employees. As we now know, the Covid-19 pandemic has definitely legitimized teleworking. For companies, it is therefore time for a mix of face-to-face and remote work that will last and that must be managed.

Moreover, for Microsoft, the cause is understood. The American giant has no doubt about it. The year 2020 has definitely changed the way work is organized and the next big disruption is hybrid work. This is the title that the company has chosen to give to its 2021 edition of the "Work Trend Index" by asking this question: "Are we ready?”

MEETING THE DEMANDS OF GEN Z

Beyond the fallout from the health crisis, the report points to the sociological changes that are impacting the workplace and to which companies are now forced to respond. Clearly, there is an urgent need to respond to the demands of Generation Z. "Younger generations offer new perspectives and challenge the status quo. Their contributions are essential. Gen Z is the first generation to enter the labour market in a totally remote and large-scale environment. This experience will shape expectations and attitudes towards work in the future. Ensuring that Generation Z feels a sense of purpose and well-being is an urgent imperative in the transition to hybrid work.

HYBRID = REMOTE WORK

Quartz, the New York-based media company, began its transition to hybrid offices in June 2021, after a total closure of almost 15 months due to the pandemic. It chose to reopen its doors to employees living nearby, even though the crisis has transformed it into a 100% fully remote company. Employees are therefore free to work from home (or a third location) if they so choose.

On the company's website, Zachary M. Seward, the company's CEO, gave an initial assessment of this hybrid office experiment. For him, the very term hybrid is misleading. In reality, he explains, "hybrid actually means remote. Unless every employee lives in the same area, which isn’t true for us or most companies going “hybrid,” then what’s going on is really better described as plain-old remote work. (...)The point is there really is no such thing as “hybrid” work in a company that employs people in multiple locations, let alone one like ours with staff on five continents. Even when you’re in the office, the work itself is still best done with the assumption that everyone is remote."

WAITING FOR THE METAVERSE

What if this is precisely where the truth of hybrid offices lies? A phase of transition that will take more or less time, but will inevitably lead companies towards the adoption of a fully remote organization? The demands of the younger generation and the progress of communication tools are already driving it.

But there is more. A prospective example is the Metaverse, this parallel digital world that Facebook is concocting for us. Thanks to virtual reality headsets, we will be able to go to clubs or the cinema with friends, visit the pyramids of Egypt or even take part in work meetings without leaving our homes. If Mark Zuckerberg's dream comes true, will there still be a need for offices?

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