Why workplace leaders can’t afford to be shybrid

Nearly 60% of employees demand flexibility, yet more than half of employers don’t offer hybrid work options. That according to our survey of 1,000 employees. Is this a case of employers being “shybrid”, as Paul McKinlay, Vice President of Communications and Remote Working at Cimpress suggests? 

McKinlay defines shybrid as continually pushing back return dates without declaring on a future model and leaving people in this limbo. This state of limbo can have disastrous effects on employee productivity, happiness, and loyalty. 

To address these issues, we need to identify why companies are so hesitant and demonstrate how adopting a hybrid work strategy can help to deliver positive outcomes. 

Impacts of limbo

Shybrid employers who fail to plan an effective strategy for their team create confusion and insecurities across the company.

A lack of planning promotes the idea that leadership doesn’t care about what works best for their team, leading to employees looking elsewhere. The Great Resignation has proven that employees aren’t afraid to walk away searching for something better. 51% of employees surveyed shared they would quit their job if their hybrid work option was removed. 

This is why employers who listen, adapt, and change will succeed and build the foundation for a new hybrid workplace future. Ignoring the move towards a more hybrid workforce will not help to evade the challenges or consequences of being stubborn to change. 

These resistant employers also fail to realize the need for flexibility at work. Many employees have been challenged with combining once-siloed tasks and responsibilities of their personal lives into one shared experience. Childcare has changed. Education has changed. Each of these changes has forced employees to readjust their schedules and when they get their work done. The opportunity to spend less time commuting and work on a schedule that is most beneficial to all parties is one of the key differentiators of hybrid work. Employers who fail to offer this flexibility will risk their employees’ happiness and loyalty to stay. 

Hesitant to change

While the move towards hybrid work is apparent for some companies, there are many that are hesitant to change. But why?

Productivity comes into question, with many employers worried that working from home will give their teams the ability to slack off. Conversely, PwC found that 57% of companies have seen an increase in productivity since moving towards workplace flexibility, with some organizations almost three times more likely to see high employee performance.

Some employers worry their remote employees’ engagement and loyalty will wane if those employees continue to work away from the office. But an organization’s culture will not go away if people work remotely. Companies are thriving while embracing remote and hybrid work. BetterCloud is preserving its culture by giving every employee a voice and representation through a highly diverse management team. Ceros embraces the well-being of their workers with half-day Fridays. Dropbox generously provides 32 hours of volunteer time per year. Culture is not just what goes on inside the office’s four walls — it’s how your team thinks and feels about their value in your company. Companies should consider if the culture they once had and are trying to preserve fits into the future of work. ​​Perhaps erasing former hierarchies of walls and cubicles and incorporating workplace strategies is the environment needed to enhance the employee experience.

Combatting the hesitation

Companies don’t need to have all the answers. But they do need to communicate. Given the trends accelerated by the pandemic — the success of remote work on a large scale, the migration of workers to less-expensive locales, the redesigning of office space to accommodate social distancing — workplace leaders need to quickly communicate what working in the office is meant to accomplish. For example, Google has kept communication open through company-wide memos, sharing their hybrid word strategy allows for the balance of teams intentionally coming together to collaborate and connect in the office, and spending the other days working from wherever best suits their needs.

Why should your employees want to work in the office? “People don’t want to leave their homes and come to the office just to come to the office.” says Linda Foggie, EVP & Americas Head of Corporate Occupier at Turner & Townsend. If it’s to promote collaboration, then share that. If it’s to introduce new technologies, then share that.

That clarity will enable employers to bridge the gap between them and their employees. They can then reimagine how and where their work gets done, how much office space they need, and how to support employees effectively in any work environment. These workplaces empower employees to prioritize their personal lives by offering flexibility, thus increasing employee well-being, engagement, and retention. Understanding how to embrace your hesitancy and move forward with what will benefit the entire team can help shake that shybrid mentality.

The future of retention is driven by choice and communication

The impacts of being shybrid may be felt for years to come. With one of the biggest risks for employers being talent retention, it’s imperative to focus on what will make and keep your employees happy. 

With 77% of executives agreeing that their biggest growth driver for 2022 is hiring and retaining talent, workplace leaders lacking a desire to implement change will face the cost of losing their employees to more forward-thinking and flexible companies. Employees are demanding choice and are capitalizing on the opportunities available to get the options they want. Providing resources for the flexibility of remote work while effectively using office space and focusing on outcomes rather than output is key to retaining employees and attracting top talent. The way we’ve always done it is no longer a fallback, as employees have found their voice and demand change and improvement. 

How hybrid work creates equality in the workplace

Rethinking office space extends beyond desk configurations and coffee areas. It requires a focus on the inclusivity of space. Pre-pandemic culture and physical spaces were riddled with barriers for multiple groups.

The disconnect of equality in the workplace is now clear, and minorities, disabled workers, women, and working parents are the hardest hit. 

We spoke with workplace leaders experiencing these challenges to discover how they are using the hybrid work movement to create more inclusive spaces for their teams.

What made the old way exclusionary?

Research from WHF suggests the drain of code-switching is responsible for the desire for minorities to work from home. For example, Black workers feel the need to change how they dress, style their hair, and even speak, while at work.

While 21% of white professionals have a desire to return to the office full-time, only 3% of black professionals can say the same. Women are 30% more likely than men to want a full-time remote position, largely due to childcare issues. 

Disabled individuals don’t feel comfortable acting like themselves at work. This perspective is mirrored by the majority of employees and executives who want to be fully transparent about their disabilities.

Most employers believe they promote inclusivity — yet only 33% of employees agree. 


Studies have shown that when it comes to increasing diversity in the workforce, companies are making little progress. The main contributor to businesses not doing enough to diversify the workforce is a lack of incentive to make changes at a micro-level and little understanding of how and where to find minority talent. 

One benefit of remote work is the decrease of restrictions and barriers. “Remote work has certainly improved participation,” says Healthcare and Leadership Consultant Jamiu O. Busari. “By increasing access for the less privileged and reducing barriers, the threshold for inclusion has been lowered.”

Often times, these barriers are formed both intentionally and unintentionally. One person we spoke with, who wished to remain anonymous, shared, “One of the biggest barriers from companies is making every employee feel valued and building a culture where a non-white person or neurodivergent person is not scared or worried to speak their mind. During meetings, our manager assumed that myself and a colleague were shy because we were quiet, but in our Asian culture, it’s frowned upon to speak out of turn.” 

One of the positive outcomes of the acceleration toward remote and hybrid work is the realization that companies can hire employees without geographic barriers. This flexibility has opened up great possibilities for hiring more diverse talent.

People with disabilities

In 2018, Accenture estimated that the GDP could get a boost of up to $25 billion if just 1% more people with disabilities joined the US labor force. Unfortunately, businesses still fall short.

While the chance for remote work would seem like an opportunity for the disabled, economic crises are notoriously competitive, leading to recruiters giving priority to non-disabled individuals. As little as 11% of employers actively recruit disabled individuals, while a mere 1 in 8 recruiters makes hiring workers with disabilities a priority. 

With 83% of disabled remote workers only able to work because they do so remotely, the permanent shift towards a remote or hybrid workforce is a huge opportunity for greater inclusivity.

As tech stacks continue to grow within the hybrid workforce, innovations like brain-computer interfaces rapidly increased in popularity, giving options for supporting disabilities in the workplace that have never been feasible before. 

Companies like Capita have embraced the switch to remote working as an opportunity to create greater inclusivity by taking the time to develop neurodiversity employment initiatives and redesign their spaces. 

Working parents

Prior to the global events of 2020, mothers in the workplace appeared to be making progress in gaining an equal footing, yet one in three were still considering shifting their careers down a gear or leaving the workforce completely. The pandemic has put even greater strain on this demographic — struggling to juggle the sudden onslaught of increased household responsibilities, childcare issues, homeschooling, and concerns over rising unemployment rates. 

The pressure is even greater for those of color, with Latina mothers 1.6 times more likely to bear the brunt of additional housework and childcare needs, while such duties are twice as likely to fall to Black mothers.

As a result, 62% of working parents are emerging from the pandemic firm in their conviction that employers can either allow them to work remotely or lose them.

Flexible workplaces make childcare easier — and give parents more time with their families. For some of these parents, hybrid work is not just compelling — it’s a requirement. Employers who don’t embrace flexible work will fall behind.

An opportunity for change

The pandemic has forced a change in perspective for many businesses. Companies are significantly missing out on or losing top talent by failing to create inclusive workplaces. As a result, managers are reassessing their spaces, realizing how exclusive their working environments previously were for individuals with far more potential than they had room to express.

The question for companies and workplace leaders becomes how much talent have we lost out on due to overlooking existing unsupportive workplaces? The rise of remote-first working is a chance for us to reassess the culture of our workplaces and seek opportunities to broaden our inclusivity.  

The power of ongoing measurement for workplaces in 2022

Thinking of the office as nothing more than a building is as outdated as impractical. 

The workplace upheaval brought on by the pandemic has forever changed where, when, and perhaps most impactfully, how people work. With 1 in 3 companies offering flexible remote working options to their team, employees are working in novel ways. Yet, despite the proliferation of at-home work that hybrid schedules entail, there have also been drastic effects on how offices function, including giving more employees a voice in what they want in the workplace.

Because people no longer use their workspace as a daily destination, the office has become a place to commune and collaborate, innovate and interact. These new and fluctuating demands in what employees need make shifting schedules, varying workstations, and spontaneity necessary components of an office.

Workplace managers must devise creative solutions and integrations that keep their workplace agile, inviting, and productive. To optimize workplaces, real-time knowledge of how people use your space is essential. 

Understanding employees’ needs makes them want to stay

Gartner reports that over half of employees feel that part of their decision to stay with a company is based on their ability to work flexibly. 

In many ways, this has positive ramifications. For one, Forbes data shows that a hybrid work model increases productivity. And yet, it also means employee retention will be based on new demands, one of which is the flexibility and functionality of the workplace, as shown in our 2022 Employee Insights on Hybrid Work Report

Experts predict that we will see a rise in employers catering to what employees need in order to engage their team and attract top performers for future roles. As such, offices, more than ever, need to have the ability to meet the complex needs of a hybrid workforce. 

But what does that really mean?

It starts with understanding what teams need. Companies are reconfiguring spaces to meet the needs of their hybrid workforce and focusing on the collaboration that will inspire them to want to come into the office. 

And it makes sense — while people can get individual assignments done at home, what they can’t do is get the interactive, participatory experience that being in the office allows. 

Subsequently, workplace leaders need to account for the behavioral changes found in the office of 2022. Old designs with individual desks and small conference rooms won’t work the way employees need them. 

Seeing what employees need is no longer a matter of just looking around. Flexible work changed people’s relationship with physical space. By using office measurement technologies, workplace leaders can accurately define how needs are being met and use that data to make impactful decisions. 

For example, by knowing that specific desk spaces for solitary work are often empty while larger conference rooms are frequently booked, floor plan redesign can be made to accommodate bigger socially distanced groups. Similarly, there may be collaborative spaces that are going unused because there are fewer people in the office, and they might be better redesigned to reflect current needs. 

Without clear-cut metrics on how employees operate within the office, significant real estate and floor plan decisions are left to best guesses. Better and more practical spaces can be created when employee behaviors are seen and measured. 

Creating a space your team wants to be in

Not only do offices need to be functionally updated, but they also need to give employees a reason to want to come in. Because collaboration is such an important feature of the new office, managers need to consider how to create a space people want to be in. Of course, this is directly linked to ease of use and functionality, but it is also about excitement and company culture. 

Amenities that were once known only to top tech companies are now considered the expected norm across the board. While that doesn’t mean building tennis courts or napping pods, it does mean that attracting and keeping talent is still, despite hybrid schedules, based around offices that people want to work from. People need to be in the office to make the most of collaborative potential, so creating quality spaces is actually a part of employee needs. 

Ultimately, this comes down to better spaces. The skeletal office is no longer viable in any way. Focus must shift toward employee satisfaction and a culture with flexibility being top of mind. Better spaces means better output, and to do this successfully, robust office data is essential. 

If data shows that a workstation with outdated tools is left empty while another is overbooked, a few updates will go a long way. It may seem straightforward, but having data to make these kinds of changes shows a dedication to employee comfort, as it also cultivates creativity, ingenuity, and motivation. Spontaneous innovation occurs when people are brought together with the tools they need, which requires an optimized workplace. 

Implementing software to promote a better and safer experience

As offices are reimagined to facilitate the evolving needs of hybrid employees, workplace management solutions still must enforce social distancing, lowered occupancy levels, enhanced cleaning, and staggered schedules to create the safest possible environment. 

To do this efficiently and effectively, real-time workplace metrics are needed. Companies can adopt integrated workplace management systems (IWMS) to help create viable schedules that promote social distancing on a software level. Knowing which office neighborhoods team members use allows for planning that supports collaborative interaction while maintaining appropriate occupancy levels. Additionally, conference room and desk booking software can provide the right spaces for the right job while preventing overcrowding. 

When the data acquisition works in real-time, daily adjustments can be made to ensure optimal safety regulations. The reality of floor plan designs is that certain areas are likely to experience high usage while others may be underutilized. Understanding which is which can help workplace managers not only create more effective spaces but ones that prevent bottlenecks and avoid overcrowding. 

However it is accomplished, measuring how people are using their space is a fundamental tool to ensure a better overall employee experience with an emphasis on making teams feel comfortable in their workplaces. 

Measure your future 

Managing a workplace has become complicated in entirely new ways. These changes bring about a constant shift in what is necessary for workplace management solutions. While this creates exciting potential, it can also feel challenging to regulate in terms of decision-making and space management.  

Offices are chameleons, constantly adapting to changes in their environment. They are fluid and reactive spaces requiring an agile mindset to streamline evolving hybrid work demands. In 2022, workplace management needs to not just accept, but excel in considering how their office is seen, and space utilization is undertaken. 

Employees: Workplace tech is OK, invading privacy is not

Employees see tech as a way to create better, seamless workplace experiences. And they’re ready to embrace new tech in their offices. They just don’t want to compromise their privacy for it.

This rings true according to 1,000+ employees surveyed for our 2022 Employee Insights on Hybrid Work Report

Findings from our survey shed light on how employees are beginning to define their idea of the workplace now that offices are coming back online. 

Employees understand that adopting new technologies is necessary to make hybrid work. From the conventional (like Zoom) to the borderline surreal (the metaverse), technology has made it possible to work from anywhere — yet stay connected. These same technologies (and more) can also help workplace leaders overcome the challenges of an era where the office is essentially optional.

But which technologies you choose matters. Privacy was ranked by employees as the number one feature of the smarter workplace. 

Source: Density 2022 Employee Insights on Hybrid Work Report

Nearly 60% of all respondents also said they’d feel uncomfortable in the workplace if employers used camera-based technology to monitor utilization. 

This poses a challenge for workplace leaders looking to make sense of the new workplace. With hybrid work comes this constant flow of confusion around when employees come to the office, how often, and for what reason. 

Technology that measures how people use your workplace can bring valuable clarity to your decision making. But the wrong technology can push employees away. 

It’s the challenge of every workplace leader in 2022 to find a non-intrusive way to measure how space is used. 

“Really, the question that every company should ask themselves is this — ‘What do I need this data for?’” asks Twilio Sr. Manager of Global Workplace Operations. “‘And does the identity of the individuals weigh into the data that will inform impactful change to what we do, how we do it, and why we do it?'”

Fortunately, technology does exist that provides objective data on how people use space – without compromising privacy. 

Below is a GIF of the Density San Francisco office during our product team’s full-day offsite last fall.

The above is one of the core features of Density — Heatmaps. Heatmaps unearth the story behind our space — how we vote with our feet and where we linger, collide, wander, and focus. 

And it’s all done without capturing any personal identifiable information. Simply put, Density sensors are not cameras. We use a millimeter-wave radar sensor because it can return accurate results without the capability of facial recognition or other analysis techniques that invade privacy. 

Technology like ours is making it possible for workplace leaders to create seamless employee experiences. 

Source: Density Open Area

This is exactly what employees want. Unfortunately, our research reveals that many companies aren’t responding to employees’ demands as quickly as they need to. 

According to your survey, only one-third of companies offer flexibility, while 59% of employees prioritize it. It’s up to employers to respond to how the future of work looks or risk losing their employees to companies that better meet their needs.

See what else employees see as the benefits and challenges of hybrid work in our 2022 Employee Insights on Hybrid Work Report.

Does your workplace need a Head of Hybrid?

Is it time for your company to create a ‘Head of Hybrid’ position?

According to Microsoft, 66% of leaders are considering redesigning their workplaces to support hybrid work. But, hybrid work is about more than your blueprint —  it’s about how your people use these spaces. How can you create the best hybrid environment for your people to thrive? Most of us don’t know the answer yet —  which is why 2022 may become the year of the Head of Hybrid.

While roles like GitLab’s Head of Remote, Darren Murph, and Facebook’s Director of Remote Work, Annie Dean, strive to help streamline the remote work experience, remote and hybrid are not the same. Designing a formal role focused on your hybrid work ensures you have a leader who can synthesize input from across the organization as different departments think through policies offering flexibility, digital investments, and other implications of this massive shift in how, where, and when we work.

Forging a united hybrid team

The pandemic caught everyone off guard, forcing a seismic shift in how we define work and revealing just how unprepared we are for change in this regard.

Now that the dust has settled, companies have the time and context to create new strategies for the hybrid era.

There is a need for leaders in the workplace that will drive those hybrid-work strategies. These individuals need to be capable of balancing the company’s needs with varying degrees of employee engagement and desire to return to the office. 

Hybrid wasn’t really a challenge when the pandemic first hit. Nearly everyone outside of essential workers was forced to work from home. But now, the workforce dynamic is changing. Some employees work from home. Some work — or plan to work — in the office. Many fall somewhere in between.  

The strategies employed months ago, when your entire workforce was remote, may not be effective any longer. In fact, they may become a cultural detriment that can easily lead to an ‘us vs. them’ mentality, pitting office workers against remote workers and leaving hybrid workers somewhere in between. “Managers of hybrid teams often need to make a concerted effort to ensure they do not associate with certain members of their team more closely merely due to location,” says Nick Deligiannis, Managing Director at Hays. 

This ‘us vs. them’ divide is understandable when you have individuals who predominantly work in the office and those who work predominantly (or exclusively) remotely. Negative and unhelpful attitudes can creep in, like the notion that remote workers do less or have it ‘easy’.

It’s easy for team managers and others higher up in the organizational hierarchy to see people in the office as one team and those working remotely as an offshoot. 

Current leadership roles will only highlight this divide. Appointing someone new to manage remote workers only emphasizes the belief that these individuals are ‘other’. A genuinely hybrid team — split between remote and office workers, with the locations of individuals changing day-to-day demands a new breed of leadership.

This person is someone who can bridge that divide and forge a united hybrid team.

“The worldwide shift to hybrid working models happening now is something most organizations have never had to deal with before,” says Ben Reuveni, CEO and co-founder of Gloat. “We’re seeing a number of new roles emerge within our talent marketplace that are designed to address this, with titles like Head of Hybrid Work, Head of Dynamic Work, and Workplace Environment Architect.” 

Elsewhere we’re seeing companies like Unilever create entirely new roles, like the VP of Future of Work, developed to oversee their evolving model for hybrid work. New roles of this nature seem to be focused on ensuring a technologically connected team while navigating the complexities of HR, cultural, and leadership needs in a hybrid world. 

What would be required of a Head of Hybrid?

This responsibility has naturally fallen on HR departments as a stopgap in the past. But with hybrid-specific needs, like maintaining employee affinity growing increasingly vital, it’s only natural that companies are beginning to evolve new roles to strategically manage their teams. 

So what exactly would be required of a ‘Head of Hybrid’? Speaking of the possibility of a ‘Chief Hybrid Work Officer’ Gartner’s research director, Alexia Cambon argued, “Anyone in that role is essentially asked to shed the assumptions of the past and rethink work altogether. Hybrid work is going to involve a lot of experimentation…it makes sense to have a dedicated source.”

This thought helps form the outline of the skills required for this role — revolving key areas like emphasizing the ability to adapt, evolve, and grow with the emerging needs of the role.

Open communication

With the need to bridge the gap of managing team members in-person and remotely, communication skills will be vital. A flare for both synchronous and asynchronous communication is necessary to accommodate multiple locations, varying working hours, and different time zones. Seminal to this role would be the ability to ensure every employee enjoys equal voice, agency, and recognition — regardless of whether they’re communicating with the team in real-time or not, whether they’re physically present or not.


With so many solution-based tech offerings being developed for hybrid work, anyone in a Head of Hybrid role will need to be technologically savvy. It’s important for them to welcome and streamline the tech systems used by their teams, with the latest innovations, for the most efficient workflow. 

They will also need the practical administrative chops to ensure all employees can easily access the required amenities. For example, a fast, quality internet connection and good bandwidth while working remotely are essential. Realizing this and ensuring the installation or payment of quality service for everyone in the most cost-effective way for the company is an essential base skill for such a role.

Confidence to be open-minded

Anyone stepping into a role of this nature needs to be inherently open to its newness. The need for a Head of Hybrid is emerging and will continue to evolve alongside hybrid working environments.

A fixed mindset of how things need to ‘get done’ will no longer be an advantage. Rather, a person comfortable and confident in both embracing and shaping new paradigms is in order. Someone capable of juggling the practical need to meet business objectives with the abstract nature of an evolving hybrid team, all while holding a role that is still being carved out. 

Those currently occupying roles such as Head of Creativity or Innovation Manager have faced similar challenges. Yet they have forged and solidified these roles as vital elements of modern business development.

We no longer challenge prioritizing creative thought and innovative exploration over fixed practices and efficiency. Business evolution has always required us to periodically break the currently accepted status quo to discover a superior way of working. 

Change is uncomfortable, yet evolution is necessary and would likely be a constant driving force behind any Head of Hybrid.

What would a Head of Hybrid role look like?

In a practical sense, it seems likely a Head of Hybrid role for most companies would be an evolution of existing management merged with the new roles – such as Head of Remote – that emerged during the pandemic.

For example, when Facebook was hiring a Director of Remote Work, they specifically sought ‘a strategic thinker who understands distributed and virtual teams, an outstanding relationship builder, and a change agent.’ This speaks to a company looking to the future and anticipating further evolution and change in the way we work and the manner in which teams interact.

Zapier, on the other hand, recently sought a Remote Communications Manager who could ‘design and maintain company-wide norms for our internal communication and collaboration strategy, tools, and processes.’ A natural evolution of such a role would be a Hybrid Communications Manager, who considers communication as a whole, rather than viewing remote as a separate entity to manage.

Such a role would require a person with a reasonable level of autonomy who is comfortable reporting to leadership and higher levels of management while maintaining enough altitude to view the company as a whole. Collaboration with HR and technical departments would undoubtedly be a necessity in order to ensure new policies were adapted and new technologies integrated to support the hybrid working model.

This would also extend to collaboration with workplace teams to ensure the best possible use of space within the physical office. Discussions across the board can help gain insight into what is and isn’t working in the office. Incorporating smart tech stacks into the workplace can be used to analyze and optimize these spaces, showing how our spaces are actually being used.

This would seem to be supported by existing requirements of companies hiring for similar roles. Cloudflare, for example, specified in their job description while seeking a Head of Distributed Work their need for someone capable of ‘working with our leaders and managers in creating a work environment where people can do their best work and teams can thrive, regardless of their work location or work mode’.

Does your company need a Head of Hybrid?

While some companies are opening themselves up to the need for new roles that effectively manage the practical needs of a hybrid team, it doesn’t automatically mean that every business will need to appoint someone to such a role.

On a basic level, however, with big names like Facebook and GitLab already having individuals in place to head up their remote efforts, with others like Gloat, Unilever, and Gartner, investigating the potential for a Head of Hybrid role, it seems likely this is another inevitable shift in the wake of the pandemic. 

Like the need to work remotely, followed by employee reluctance to return to the office full-time, the integration of such a role into your business may simply be the next unavoidable opportunity of the pandemic.

How empty offices can help you build a better workplace

Hybrid work will change our relationship with physical space. But the persistency of the pandemic is a significant reason why fewer people are coming to the office.

Source: https://www.forrester.com/blogs/how-employees-feel-about-coronavirus-now-a-pandemicex-survey-update/

When the pandemic passes, people will return.  The questions we’re all looking to answer is how many will return, how often, and what do they hope to accomplish while at the workplace?

Companies are using this downtime (which Omicron has extended) to make meaningful infrastructure changes that will answer these questions and prepare them to lead the shift to the dynamic workplace.

Take-Two’s Larry Charlip, for example, used the downtime created by the pandemic to install Density sensors during working hours, shortening the time from install to deployment.

“We wouldn’t have been able to do that prior to COVID,” he said. “And we’re changing to Zoom rooms, and that’s going to be done during working hours. We would have never been able to block out 12 conference rooms to do that in three days. It would have taken us four weekends to do it.”

Other companies are using this opportunity to upgrade their HVAC systems without impacting the employee experience.

Regardless of the infrastructure changes you do make, what’s becoming increasingly clear is if physical spaces are a part of your future workplace strategy, now is the time to start taking action on preparing for that future.

Minimize the time and money spent on infrastructure changes

Even with fewer people in the office to contend with, making major infrastructure changes across your portfolio is an enormous investment of time and money.

At Density, we minimize this investment by starting small — one floor, in one building. Customers choose one of their most widely used spaces — headquarters, for example — to start with.

This minimizes the time and money spent on installation and lets our customers see — within days —the value of knowing how their space is used.

Based on these initial findings, we work with our customers to determine how many sensors are needed, and how that will look distributed across their portfolio.

Prepare for and lead the next “normal”

We all seem stuck in this time in between the past and future. But this period of purgatory offers you an opportunity to invest in your future with minimal disruption to business as usual.

Many workplace leaders have seized this moment to invest in the future of their physical spaces.

Schedule a chat with our team to see how quickly you can deploy Density sensors in your workplace to discover how your people use your space.

6 ways innovation is shaping the future of work

Having a hybrid workforce can make cohesion and effective communication problematic.

Meetings are a prime example. In a pre-Covid world we relied on conference rooms. During lockdown we saw everyone dialing in remotely to video conferences.

But what does a hybrid conference room look like?

With existing technologies designed for either fully on-site teams or fully remote workers, hybrid teams have to cobble together collaboration solutions. But perhaps not for long.

The technological gap hybrid teams experience is rapidly being filled by emerging technologies and — more frequently — tech that isn’t new but has been rethought to create solutions to hybrid working problems.

Virtual reality

Savvy innovators have taken advantage of recent advances made in VR technology to create solutions for hybrid and remote-first teams.

As Oculus would say, sometimes you just need to get in the same room, even when you’re miles apart.

Virtual reality is fully capable of scanning your workspace — and you — into a virtual reality that can be occupied and experienced by all members of your team.

Whether your team members are in a conference room, sitting at individual desks, working from home, at your favorite cafe, or a combination, everyone experiences a single, virtual room. The team interacts and sees each other virtually through a simple headset.

VR is opening up a new realm of possibilities, giving workers a more engaging, interactive, and memorable working experience, regardless of location. Unsurprisingly, Microsoft is at the forefront of this new wave of VR with Microsoft Mesh.

Spatial chat app

After the pandemic led to the failure of their original startup, the folks at Wonder started thinking about what people really needed in the face of the new world order. While online group chats are a long-established and handy tool, it’s not yet possible to physically meet online.

This robs us of a seminal part of the meeting experience, leaving us inherently disconnected. To solve this, they created Wonder, a prototype browser-based spatial chat app.

They asked, “How do we make up for a lack of physical team connection?”, and answered with Wonder.

Simple but effective thinking like this will shape how we work in the future.

Rethinking online collaboration

Online team collaboration tools like Slack have been around for years. But they can be clumsy (particularly if misused) when you’re working as a hybrid unit. A handful of companies are looking to optimize this legacy technology for the hybrid era.

Zoho Cliq, Miro, Mural, and GitLab are all great examples of this type of ‘old into new’ thinking that’s seeing existing technology repurposed and refined specifically for the hybrid workplace.

Sustainable business travel

Travel solutions like TravelPerk are making business travel smoother and more sustainable. With real-time updates on COVID restrictions, travel safety advice, and information, you can ensure a simple, safe travel experience for your team, no matter where they are.

TravelPerk is also one of many companies embracing a new wave of sustainability initiatives, as it allows you to reduce your business’ carbon footprint. If you’re embarking on a carbon offset journey, TravelPerk allows you to offset 100% of your business travel carbon emissions.

Automated and AI office cleaning

The pandemic has certainly raised our awareness of the need for cleanliness in the workplace. Hybrid work means the specific times and days individuals are in the office are in flux, requiring a rethink of how office cleaning is managed.

Can we rely on a ‘clean your own space’ policy? Or employing an office cleaner for a space that’s no longer used as it once was?

Neither scenario is ideal. But new smart technology is emerging that includes AI, robotics, and automated systems to support cleaning staff, or even fully handle office cleaning needs.

Apps that utilize alert systems to notify cleaning staff that a meeting has ended, or a hot desk is no longer in use, are a simple means of utilizing this type of innovative technology.

A more comprehensive way is to turn to smart technologies and robotics to physically clean office environments instead of human workers. For example, automated robots that can hoover, and UV lighting that’s capable of disinfecting the surfaces in a room.

Smart buildings

An extension of the automation/AI thinking is the construction of buildings with the latest tech fully integrated from the ground up. Smart Buildings like those from Arup, which utilize 5G, the Internet of Things, and Building Information Modeling (BIM) to collect real-time data are allowing companies to make smarter decisions.

The result is buildings with efficient HVAC systems, cleaner air, and healthier working environments, all down to automated systems.

The ‘work from wherever’ mentality has huge benefits, but also makes it more challenging to help employees see the value of coming into the office.

Creating an environment that’s as clean and healthy as possible, while requiring as little effort as possible to maintain is crucial. Meanwhile, workplace sensors can be used to give team members a real-time view of office capacity before they decide to come into the office.

This effectively eliminates the fear of returning to the office and finding it impossible to practice social distancing or maintain comfort levels. It also enables real-time updates to be sent throughout the day to notify staff if occupancy reaches unsafe levels.

Final thoughts

We’re not quite sure yet what the future of work holds. It seems certain hybrid teams are the way forward, but precisely how these will function is still being determined. An existing technological gap is driving innovative new solutions that cater specifically to hybrid teams. It is these emerging innovations that will determine the shape of work to come.

The goal is to not only make hybrid work and remote first viable but better.

Better Spaces for people, places, and the planet

At Density we’re on a mission to reduce our footprint on the world, but that ambition starts with understanding how people use the spaces they occupy.

And to do that, we have to understand people.

“There’s no escaping our spaces. They’re all around us. They impact everything we do.” – Aleks Strub, CMO — Density

On December 1st, we partnered with Pop Up Magazine to host Better Spaces, an event exploring all the ways spaces influence personalities, identities, generations, the natural world, and, of course, workplaces. Better Spaces is the culmination of creative minds working together to answer the question of “How does space shape self? And how could those spaces be better?”

Creating better spaces is about serving you and your life without barriers. It means gaining the insights necessary to provide environments that enable and support you. Spaces that unlock your true self while fostering an inclusive community.

“We’ve all been there: an environment that made us feel left out, and sometimes that’s because it was designed intentionally or not to exclude,” says Michelle Lee, Strategy Director at Gensler. “An inclusively designed built environment is an essential component of belonging.”

Better Spaces connects people stories, work stories, and environmental stories —  all to more fully understand how we’re shaped by the world around us.

Discover how the impacts of collegiate laziness and the drive to enjoy a fresh Coca-Cola created the start of what we know as the Internet of Things. Hear the personal story of Uncle Spanky, a successful Filipino musician, who left a life of excitement and fame to chase the American Dream, only to land in a 9-5 as a baggage handler at an airport.

Each of these stories vary greatly but they all encompass one theme — our spaces define us and in one way or many, those spaces can and should be better. You can relive the magic of Better Spaces and experience these wonderful stories here.

“There isn’t a rule book for how to use a building. There isn’t a guide on the right way to use a city. Designers, politicians, city officials, and people take a best guess at what they think people might need and what they might want. And then… people just vote with their feet.” — Derek Gordon, Chief of Staff — Density

Photo credit: Jenna Garrett

Designing Inclusive Workplaces With Tech: A Conversation With Nellie Hayat and Darren Graver

Nellie Hayat and Darren Graver, two of Density workplace experts, held a webinar to talk about how workplace and real estate teams can use technology to design better workplaces. They discussed the impacts of the pandemic, the transformation of the workplace, and the role technology and data play in creating better office environments in the future. Below are highlights from their conversation. Watch the full webinar here.

Key takeaways

  • Workplaces are competing with homes, coworking spaces, coffee shops, and anywhere else employees want to work. To win and get employees back in the office, they have to provide real value to workers.
  • Data and employee feedback are essential to the successful innovation of the workplace. 
  • Companies have to find the right office design strategy for their team rather than looking to industry leaders to follow. 
  • The pandemic made it clear that traditional workplace design wasn’t inclusive. With sensor data, companies can make more informed decisions and create offices that make all employees feel welcome.

The workplace is now a product, and employees are the consumers 

During the initial pandemic lockdowns, workplace professionals worried that the office (and their jobs) might be rendered obsolete. The dust from this upheaval has settled now, and it’s official: The workplace is not dead. 

It’s going through a metamorphosis from a static destination into a dynamic product, and the employee is the customer. Products must cater to their consumers, so the post-pandemic workplace needs to focus on the employee experience. 

Much of the pandemic’s office impact is tied to workers no longer being what Nellie calls a “trapped audience.” In pre-pandemic life, she says, “We didn’t need data because our audience was a trapped audience. They had to be in the office five days a week. Workplace and real estate leaders didn’t need to continue iterating or innovating to attract the audience.” 

Now that employees can work from anywhere, offices have to compete with homes, coffee shops, and coworking spaces. With this new flexibility, “they’ll choose what works best for them,” Nellie says. The key to attracting employees back to the office is “to find out what is so unique and original about our workspaces that those other places cannot offer.” 

Once workplace professionals discover their office’s unique selling points, Nellie says they have to “really revamp towards that direction and continue getting feedback through sensor [data] and through individual feedback. [Workspaces] need to attract people every day, and if they’re not trendy, they’re not sexy, and they’re not bringing value, people will stop showing up.” 

Darren explains, “What we’re really saying, in a nutshell, is that the workplace is now a product.” It has to have features and benefits that appeal to employees and add value to their lives. 

How sensor data supports hybrid work and better offices

A hybrid model is part of delivering a workplace product employees want, but that doesn’t mean the transition will be easy. To ensure the office space is still being used well, a hybrid work model means reconfiguring desks to make way for collaborative and reconfigurable spaces. 

Transitioning from assigned seating to unassigned seating is a “huge cultural change,” Darren says, “and it comes with a lot of negative connotations. People always think, ‘Oh, it’s going to ruin my work experience. It’s going to make my life horrible. I’m not going to want to come into the office.’” 

It’s a change that requires employees to break a habit that’s been formed over many, many years. The key to easing this transition is to “do it in a thoughtful way, and data can really help us articulate that and be transparent with how we go about it,” explains Darren. “You’ve got to work out how you deliver a space that performs and doesn’t give people a negative experience.”

Sensor data can help workplace and real estate teams better understand the type of space employees need. It’s also essential in convincing company leadership to invest in an updated office environment. With the assigned seat model, it was easy to see when another desk or additional square footage was needed.

For example, if a new employee is coming in and there’s no free desk, you know you need to add a desk. If the team is growing and the office feels cramped, you know you need to expand into the next suite. It’s not as simple with hybrid work models and unassigned seating. It requires technology that can provide deep insights into which areas of the office are underutilized or how many people are in the building at any given time.

Nellie explains that workplace designers “have to have data to show conclusively that this or that is needed. Leadership wants to see real evidence before making an investment in the office space.” Sensor data shows that the choices designers make aren’t arbitrary. They’re essential for creating an office employees want to be in. 

“In the future, no leader will be able to say, ‘Oh, I didn’t know that my office experience sucked.’ You have the data. You have to be real and say, ‘Yeah, I know people haven’t been showing up, so I need to do something about it if I want to continue using this space as a tool to create bonding, collaboration, community, and socialization,’” says Nellie.

Using data to design inclusive workplaces

The pandemic has proven that data is key to creating offices that support workers. In the past, workplace data wasn’t seen as essential. Offices were built based on anecdotal evidence such as, “The office wasn’t busy when I was there” or “People don’t like that type of space.” Based on this unreliable word-of-mouth evidence, employers assumed that the workplace was well designed for everyone.

“I think the pandemic has revealed that it was not perfect, and it was not working for everyone,” Nellie says. “For me, it’s been striking to read the [employee] surveys…Minorities are saying, ‘You know, I’d rather not come back because I never felt I could bring my best self.’” 

Part of creating an inclusive work environment includes addressing factors beyond the physical space. You have to factor in data and feedback from the teams that are focused on people. Nellie says, “It’s not surprising to me that people and workplace [teams] are now merging because we do need data from both categories to help design better than ever before.”

In the employee surveys, Nellie also found that women were less willing to come back to the office than men. They felt the space wasn’t designed for them and didn’t “encompass their womanhood.” For example, few offices have lactation rooms where breastfeeding mothers can feel safe and comfortable when they need to pump. 

She continues, “If we want to design for a larger audience — something that is inclusive and diverse — we need data to know what is working and not working.” It’s data, rather than the old method of unreliable anecdotes, that will help workplace professionals design offices that serve everyone. 

“As we move into the future, I think the employee experience comes front and center. I think we transition from this sort of anecdotal feedback to much more of a dynamic feedback loop where technology and data can really help,” Darren says.

Companies have to innovate, not copy

“The pandemic opened new doors for us to reinvent, reimagine,” Nellie says. But reimagining an office space that’s been stagnant for decades is no simple task. Some workplace professionals question if it’s better to let industry giants such as Apple and Google figure out the post-pandemic workplace model and then follow suit. 

For Darren, the answer to this question is an emphatic “no.” “We really have to push past this fear of failure, because the reality is, no one has the answer about what the future looks like,” he says. “We should hypothesize as workplace professionals, and we should test it using data. I think for at least the next 18 to 24 months, we’re going to be in this perpetual beta [test].”

There are several issues with trying to carbon copy another company’s workplace strategy, no matter how innovative and impressive it is. Every company is different. It has a different mission and different employees, so there can’t be a one-size-fits-all approach. 

Darren also believes that the companies that don’t look at the data, listen to their employees, and reimagine the office for themselves will fall far behind their competitors. As they’re busy copying another company, that company is continuing to iterate and create something new and better.

Nellie says, “This is a very new path for us, but we can learn a lot from other industries [such as restaurants and hospitality] that didn’t have a trapped audience. They’ve moved to a system that requires them to look at the data often to stay up with the trends and to continue iterating. It’s challenging, but the silver lining is it’s giving us a breath of fresh air into this industry.”

Hear more of Nellie and Darren’s conversation by watching the full webinar here.