Designing the Hub Office: Tenants and landlords are paying attention to this trending office model
By Amy Tobia
This is a tale of two offices, but one concept.
That concept is the hub office. For companies that can offer workplace flexibility, the hub office is an intriguing idea.
FS Design Group is working with Envoy, a branding and digital marketing agency, and Select Quote, a life insurance firm, to create two different spaces that will accommodate both in-office and remote workers. Each firm is leasing approximately half the floor space they would have used pre-pandemic.
As part of its strategy for encouraging people to come to the office at least part of the time, Envoy’s leaders identified the coolest space they could find in a stunning location. Their office building is located on a pier and has access to outdoor seating areas and nearby restaurants.
Envoy is likely to have one or two people working in the office full time. The rest of the staff will work remotely and come in for training, collaboration sessions and pitch meetings.
Finding the most central location for its team was Select Quote’s first objective in choosing its new space. Their building also offers a good range of amenities.
A small, essential team of approximately six will work in the office full time. The rest of the staff will work remotely and use hoteling and meeting spaces on occasion.
Balancing demands and constraints
With their new spaces leased, our work to design new collaborative, purpose-driven hub offices presented many fun challenges.
For example, we needed to find ways to accommodate the entire team in the space for meetings, even though only a fraction of that number will work in the office full time. As part of our space planning analysis, we consider:
- How often will these meetings occur?
- Can people stand instead of sit for meetings?
- Will we be able to combine rooms?
- Does the building have amenity spaces like balconies, rooftop space or courtyards?
Once we have that information, we can find at least one good solution.
And what about private spaces? Will those be a priority or should the design concentrate on collaborative spaces?
The answer has to be customized to each company. For these two clients, we have a mix of small, unassigned rooms, medium-sized team spaces and larger meeting rooms.
Companies may be of two minds when it comes to including phone booth spaces. While the privacy may appeal, having more than one person in one of these booths could boost the risk transmitting aerosol particles. They also have to be cleaned thoroughly and ideally have good air circulation.
Speaking of health precautions, we also selected furniture systems and finishes that appeal for flexibility, comfort, ergonomics and branding but can be easily and frequently cleaned.
We’re also thinking differently about reception spaces. Reception areas are like the porches of homes. It’s the first impression, a great place to leave packages, a potential workspace and even an occasional meeting space.
Even with a reduced floorplate, most companies will still benefit from having a reception area. Dedicating that space doesn’t mean it’s wasted, though. Designed well, the reception area can be multi-functional and add to the flexibility of a hub office.
Also, if an employer wants people at the office, that space has to reflect a desirable company culture and brand. A reception area can communicate this information.
Moving to a hub office model may create a very different parking dynamic. While it’s wonderful that only a small handful of people need dedicated parking spaces, what do you do on whole-team meeting days? Will everyone be able to park?
The answer will vary by company and location, but as a multi-tenant office building gains more hub office tenants, demands for parking may dilute or balance out from day-to-day.
Landlords are paying attention. The pandemic taught people in certain fields that they can request a flexible schedule and workplace in a time of labor shortage. Many companies are responding by shifting to hub office designs so they can accommodate these requests.
If a landlord can offer interesting outdoor amenities, seating or art and can create a community vibe at the property, it helps attract firms moving to hub office models (and probably traditional tenants, too).
Many companies are still struggling with how to design their workspaces going forward. Not all companies are well suited to hub office models. Part of their decision-making process is also based upon accommodating different personalities, living situations and career stages.
The workplace of the future is a work in progress. As for the hub office model, we need multiple cycles of feedback loops to assess its success. That said, we think the evolution of work happening right now is fascinating to navigate and design. We welcome the challenge!