The hybrid model is causing confusion for workspaces in South Africa

 ·25 Feb 2023

Employees in South Africa are slowly changing their approach to work life, with many opting to return to the office – but only if it is worth their time, says Linda Trim, director of workplace design company Giant Leap.

This has led to the adoption of many hybrid work models, which is causing confusion in South African workplaces, she said.

To get people back into the office, workplaces are having to change in layout or structure to best suit “the new normal”. However, because of the rapid shifts in expectations and practices over the last few years, there are now many needs and different work styles that businesses have to cater to.

“Business leaders recognise the best place to do work is in the office– where energy, collaboration, engagement, connection and shared accountability take place. And they want that back,” said the director.

She said the most fundamental need is to help people get work done better and faster than they could at home – meaning providing better technology, tools and spaces for employees.

However, a new hierarchy of workplace needs has emerged after two years of working from home.

Through the pandemic, people learned remote work techniques, tools and enhanced technology which helped them feel greater control over where and how they worked, said Trim.

“These two dynamics collided to create a fundamental shift in what people need at – and from – their workplace as they return to the office for part of the week.”

She said it is important that the right spaces are created for hybrid employees to that they can help frame a coherent hybrid work policy.

Giant Leap has found hybrid workers fall into three distinct categories which need to use the workplace differently, including:

Anchored worker

These employees’ role requires them to have a personal, assigned workspace which is tied to a specific workplace process.

According to Giant Leap, these workers should have privacy and silence.

This role can also be helped by having places to ‘get away’ for privacy without leaving the office, said Trim.

Untethered worker

The untethered worker doesn’t have a dedicated workspace, but their role requires them to be in the office for a set amount of time per week, said Trim.

“This person could work in unassigned team spaces or find themselves in shared social settings, which invite interruption but promote engagement. They need flexible environments to support their varying work modes and to allow them to go from social settings to more private focused areas.”

Destination worker

“This person’s role gives them flexibility about when, where and how they work.”

“They typically come to the office to participate in collaborative work such as meetings, complex problem-solving, or mentorship,” said Trim.

The destination worker gravitates toward collaborative spaces that can be arranged in various ways to be more visible or have greater privacy. Although the need for collaboration, diverse spaces for individual work are also needed.

Read: What the law says about severance pay in South Africa

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