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Duty calls: A return to hybrid workspaces

From creating green corners to introducing bunker beds, smart offices are the latest spaces to watch
Last Updated : 15 July 2022, 08:43 IST
Last Updated : 15 July 2022, 08:43 IST

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Air-purifying plants bring the outdoors into the workplace. Credit: SpaceMatrix
Air-purifying plants bring the outdoors into the workplace. Credit: SpaceMatrix
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Once you’ve worked from home, there’s no going back to the office. With two years of WFH, it’s now hard to imagine the post-Covid work life. The flexible hybrid work culture is here to stay, and companies are now investing in ideas to bring employees back to offices. Considering both comfort and intelligent design solutions, interior designers and architects suggest innovative ways to enhance efficiency in hybrid workspaces.

'Phygital' workspaces

Creating microenvironments that focus on specific aspects goes a long way. For example, using air-purifying plants brings a little piece of the outdoors inside a closed workspace. It impacts creativity, brings a sense of calm, and helps you replenish your energy, says Titir Dey, MD-Design at Space Matrix (a design firm).

“We have observed that the role of the workplace is changing from having a functional purpose to being a source of inspiration," she said to DH. "It needs to draw people out of the comfort and convenience of their homes and be looked at as a destination. The workplace then becomes a place for social and emotional connections. In a world of virtual meetings, a space that gives employees the ability to maximise face-to-face interactions has its advantages and appeal.”

Green corners

Post-pandemic, people are opting for a cosy yet vibrant ambience to create a conducive work environment. In the hybrid model, team members love to come back to a more open and green environment. People enjoy having plants around them as they give out oxygen, and fresh air reduces the chances of air contamination, believes principal architect Nilanjan Bhowal from Design Consortium.

“Using flowing water bodies and background music help create a welcoming atmosphere," he said. "The latest international trend is to provide flexible workspaces and workstations. Desks that are task-neutral and flexible and can be used by multiple users at flexible timings are the norm. Flexible workspaces are trending, where meeting spaces can be enclosed and used as conference rooms or where workstations can be used as cubicles.”

Pandemic after-effect

Post-Covid, modern seating solutions are focused on the well-being and safety of employees. While social distancing is important, one needs to ensure human interaction is not lost.

“Instead of creating seating for larger meetings, we will have to target seating for smaller meetings," said interior designers Hardesh and Monica Chawla, founders of Essentia Environments. "Seating will have to be spread out, cubicles will have to be distanced. Modular furniture systems will be needed to move and reconfigure seating as per requirement. Transparent screens added between cubicles can limit the spread of viruses while keeping interactions going. For furniture systems, we also need to use materials that are easy to clean, like laminates, metal, and glass. Employees feel more comfortable with organic and sustainable solutions. Hybrid workplaces will have to include remote meeting options like Zoom meetings and video conferencing to include the remote working staff. Technology will be used extensively to create a seamless working environment across in-office and out-of-office spaces.”

Tech savvy spaces

Office design and programming have been increasingly influenced by home design to make employees comfortable throughout the day.

“Open-office plans featuring large rooms full of open-office seating had already begun to fall out of favour before the pandemic, as companies have found that the productivity does not offset the cost-savings of tightly packed desks," said Rashi Bothra and Ruchi Gehani, founders of Azure Interiors to DH. "Post–Covid-19, greater importance is expected to be given to improved ventilation and high-end office climate control systems. The compartmentalisation of air ducts and air-conditioning systems, along with the increased installation of Treated Fresh Air Units (TFAs), is a common trend. There will be a demand for automatic doors, the need to eliminate doorknobs, and the use of touch technology for shutters and drawers. Foot-operated doors and shutters and the minimal use of carpets and fabrics to ensure less dust collection will be the norm. Washroom designs will undergo a major change with self-cleaning and disinfecting toilets, sensor-based appliances, sanitisers, and effective hand dryers.”

(The author is an independent journalist, free-thinker, and an avid traveller)

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Published 15 July 2022, 02:03 IST

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