Social distancing, shutdown order, household bubbles. The pandemic has introduced a host of words and phrases you probably hadn’t heard of pre-2020. It’s changed the way we speak about the workplace too. From hybrid working to desk hoteling, there’s a whole new vocabulary you need to get to grips with as the world returns to the office and adjusts to a new normal.
Internet searches for ‘desk hoteling’ rose by 657% in 12 months. But what does it mean?
Just as for a real hotel, desk hoteling means booking ahead. But rather than a bed, employees book a desk in the office for a defined period of time, and check in when they arrive. Alas, unlike a real hotel you don’t get a buffet breakfast, mini bar or Egyptian cotton sheets.
Desk hoteling brings many benefits. From an employee perspective, you can choose when you work and who you sit with so you can make the most of your time in the workplace. From an organization’s point of view, check-in and booking data allows you to plan your workspaces based on actual and forecast usage. You can create an office that has just the right balance between collaborative and quiet space, and you can ensure desks are clean and ready for use when they’re needed.
It goes a long way to allaying common concerns around hot desking – from health and safety to not being able to find a spot to sit at. Desk hoteling is made possible through desk booking software such as Kadence. The software lets employees book a desk and check in through an intuitive app, and gives organizations a dashboard of usage data to help inform planning.
Before the pandemic, most white-collar workers sat in the same place 9 to 5, Monday to Friday, and the . the back and forth of communication was relatively synchronized.
But with people working remotely, that’s all changed. Expectations around communication have shifted, and increasingly it happens through online tools, such as Slack, MS Teams, Google Docs or good old-fashioned email. People’s working hours are also more flexible; if you like to start early or you need to pop out for the school run mid-afternoon, that’s often okay.
All this points to asynchronous communication, where it’s not necessary for both people in a conversation to be “present” at the same time. You send a message but accept it might not be read and replied to until later.
You’ll no doubt be used to it on some level already, but post-pandemic the balance between synchronous and asynchronous communication has tipped heavily towards the latter.
The pandemic has shown just how productive we can be working away from the office. No longer is the boss suspicious of anyone choosing to WFH. The productivity, wellbeing and financial benefits are clear for all to see.
With hybrid working, employees divide their working week between their home (or other remote location) and the office. For some, that might mean set days at home and set days in the office. For others, it might be more flexible, only coming in when there’s a team meeting happening, or if they want some peace and quiet away from a busy house-share or kids at home.
It’s a rare gem where the best of both worlds really is achievable. You get the benefits of home working without losing out on the benefits of office working.
Collaboration, idea generation and decision-making. Meetings are an essential component of a high-functioning organization, and they’re going hybrid too. With a workforce spread across different locations, hybrid meetings include both remote and in-person attendees. They’re a great way to ensure business continuity doesn’t suffer and hybrid collaboration is possible when you’ve got some of your team coming into the office and some working remotely.
In a remote first organization, working away from the corporate office is the preferred option. The organization still provides a central workplace for occasions when employees need or want to work from the office. It’s a type of hybrid working, with the emphasis on working remotely.
Remote working has become the new normal. It simply means working away from your organization’s usual workplace. Cloud-based software, always-on Wi Fi and video conferencing have made it all possible. Can you imagine if the pandemic had hit before the internet?
As we go back to the office amid potential new waves of the virus, contact tracing is a feature many organizations are factoring in. Desk booking and check-in software make it easy. You have data that shows you exactly who has sat at each desk, and at what times.
Data is a key component of an effective hybrid workplace. Because individual employees don’t have their own desk, greater responsibility falls to the office manager or workspace planner to create an environment that people enjoy being in and is conducive to good work.
Occupancy data tells you how a space is used by your employees. You can observe trends over time and – if you have desk booking software – look at usage forecasts. With data at your fingertips you can create a workplace that’s perfectly in tune with your people’s needs.
Occupancy sensors can tell you how many people are using a room, neighborhood or floor. They detect movement and count the number of people in a space. Unlike desk booking software, they can’t give you hyperlocal data on how each desk is used or provide usage forecasts.
A hybrid workplace using desk hoteling gives office managers and space planners the flexibility to create spaces attuned to employees’ needs – office neighborhoods are a way of organizing your office to ensure those needs are fulfilled. A neighborhood is a dedicated area where communities of employees sit – typically between 30 to 60 people – who require similar amenities or need to work closely together. Neighborhoods can be based around a variety of needs, including job function, project or activity (for example, some tasks might require quiet, calm space, others might demand more collaborative space).
If you ever dreamt of muting a co-worker, the pandemic made it a real-life possibility. “You’re on mute” became the workplace meme of 2020 – as we all watched colleagues mouthing silently and then scrabbling for their mouse to unmute – and it’s not going away anytime soon.
Water cooler chat
One of the casualties of the pandemic, the water cooler chat describes those unplanned, serendipitous encounters you’d enjoy with colleagues throughout the working day. The weather, the weekend or the family. Whatever the topic, they can brighten up a grey day, establish friendships and break down barriers.
For many workers, they’re one of the main reasons they favor a mix of home and office working.In a recent survey of 1500 business professionals we carried out, 55% described them as one of the best things about office work.
The pandemic has turned our view of the traditional office on its head. The future centres around a hybrid model with employees booking desks and rooms as and when they need them, rather than sitting in the same cubicle for five days a week. Get comfortable with the vocabulary that describes this new culture so you can start planning the way forward for your organization.