Issue No.04 — Hybrid spaces

01 of 04
April 2021

Spotlight Issue No.4
Hybrid Spaces

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Only 14% of US corporate employees want to return to the office full time post-pandemic. In the UK, 79% of the working population are keen to continue some form of remote working.

From a business viewpoint, this shift has considerable cost and culture implications potentially representing ‘the worst of both worlds’ according to Ethan Bernstein, a Harvard Business School professor who studies the workplace.

From an employee perspective, remote working is one of the few upsides to the pandemic although not without its challenges. Research last year revealed nearly a quarter believe distractions at home make them less productive and nearly a third find it difficult to switch off from work.

The loss of diverse human interaction that commuting and office life encourages also means the optimal model will be flexible in the future.

Adapting homes, offices and ‘third spaces’ to accommodate different modes of being will be vital in the long-term success of hybrid working for both employees and businesses. 


'My room in the garden' – courtesy of Boano Prišmontas


As restrictions ease, there is an opportunity for hospitality businesses, some keen to mitigate the dramatic loss of business travel revenue, to offer flexible or long-term remote working solutions as a respite from homeworking.

Very long stays cater to the most affluent who can afford to take themselves and their families away for months at a time. The Four Seasons Resort Nevis in the Caribbean now caters for extended work trips with virtual schooling and after-school activities as part of the package.

Dubai hotel, Vida Emirates Hill, is targeting digital nomads and re-positioning itself as a better, more cost-effective alternative to a yearlong lease with the introduction of ‘Long Stays at the Hills’.

More accessible are initiatives like Marriott’s ‘Work Anywhere’ program which allows check in and out from 6am-6pm without an overnight stay.

Pivoting to target this new era of hybrid workers as well as traditional holidaymakers will be a constructive way to boost RevPAR and diversify occasions within the sector.


'Work in nature' visa programme – courtesy of the Government of the Commonwealth of Dominica


Studies show that it only takes six one-on-one interactions to build trust in a face-to-face physical environment but almost three times as many when using virtual communications. An important reminder of why physical workspaces outside the home will continue to hold relevance even in a post-pandemic world.

But it’s clear there are new design priorities if employees are to feel safe and encouraged to go into the office. So how are offices cleaning up their act and evolving for the future?

Effective but slightly dystopian solutions include an airtight pod system with built-in purifiers that has been designed to achieve the same level of employee density as a traditional desk plan.

Less extreme is Studio O+A’s semi-modular, activity-based room types that can be integrated into open-plan spaces to manage numbers and behaviour.

Most human is what Wunderman Thompson calls ‘Office Sanctuaries’. A trend for offices to re-create the positive aspects of being at home through environments that are even better than their actual homes.


Goop’s ‘homey’ headquarters – courtesy of Goop