It’s pretty clear by now that the way we work has changed forever and the office has to adapt. It needs to become more agile, dynamic, and flexible in order to make collaboration easy and accommodate different needs. That’s where office neighborhoods come in. In fact, they might be the key to your successful transition to hybrid work.

Hybrid work is great for most people but very challenging for companies to implement and keep running smoothly. To start working in a hybrid way, you can’t just turn all desks into hot desks and let your employees book them. We’re all different people, with individual objectives at work and various workspace requirements.

For example, engineers need a quiet space with less movement, which is also fully equipped with monitors, keyboards, etc. On the other hand, those of us who spend half our time talking to customers in phone booths and meeting rooms, well, we may be okay just sitting on an empty desk in a more dynamic area. One size does not fit all. We need tailored office neighborhoods!

What is an office neighborhood?

Office neighborhood seating is a way of organizing your workplace so that people who need to collaborate or who have similar workspace needs, sit together in one area. It’s a very simple but effective way of organizing your office around activities, projects, or functions. The typical neighborhood is between 10 and 50 desks.

Office neighborhoods can be based on a variety of needs:

  • Functional neighborhoods group people together, based on their departments, such as marketing or sales.
  • Project-based neighborhoods bring employees across different departments to one place to work on a specific project.
  • Activity-based neighborhoods are set up based on the demand for specific working conditions, like seclusion and quietness or collaboration. You can read more about Activity-Based Working here.
  • Amenities-based neighborhoods group equipment like monitors, keyboards, or whiteboards in one place, where communities can easily access them.

Regardless of the type, office neighborhoods try to ensure everyone’s got access to the people, spaces, and amenities they need to get the most out of their time.

How do neighborhoods work?

Office neighborhood seating is usually organized in zones using desk hoteling or hot desking.

Please, note that desk hoteling is different from hot desking and both terms shouldn’t be used interchangeably. Hoteling is reservation-based unassigned seating, whereas, hot desking is reservation-less unassigned seating.

That’s a pretty big difference, especially for your employees. Hot desking usually means you don’t know where you’ll sit when coming to the office, while desk hotelling involves a proper reservation in advance.

Although neighborhoods can work both ways, we firmly believe that desk hoteling is the nicer option for your employees. With desk hoteling, people assigned to a neighborhood can choose a desk upfront and reserve it for an hour, day, or week. With the proper technology, they can also make the reservation recurring, see who else will be in the office beforehand, and come to the office stress-free.

The benefits of office neighborhoods

When done well, office neighborhoods can be hugely beneficial to your organization and increase your teams’ productivity, efficiency, and collaboration. Here’s why.

1. Easier adoption of hybrid work

Switching to hybrid and other flexible work models can be stressful. Not knowing if there will be enough workspaces if your colleagues will also be in the office, or whether you’ll have the required space to concentrate can quickly make you rethink going to the office.

By evaluating your employees’ needs and building tailored neighborhoods, you can relieve all of that stress. It’s so much easier to come to and be productive in a space that’s built out for your personal work needs.

2. More opportunities to learn and collaborate

We commute to the office for one simple reason – community! In other words, we want to have face-to-face contact and work with other awesome people. Of course, sitting next to others is not a goal on its own. Just being around people won’t make magic overnight but in the long term, it helps us in so many ways.

For example, working closely with other professionals makes us better at what we do, helps us learn faster, grow faster, and advance our professional life faster. We learn by osmosis, by absorbing the experience of other people. Also, working physically together helps us unlock our combined creativity and spark ideas that are otherwise so much more difficult to come by.

We also learn crucial collaborative skills that help us become better coworkers.

On that note, the neighborhood can be the foundation of a strong community, stimulating collaboration and giving us more opportunities to learn from others.

3. Increased productivity

Noise and distractions are two of the main objections against people coming back to the office. While that’s a reasonable critique, properly organized neighborhoods are an antidote to the issue.

Building out quiet neighborhoods for people who need secluded spaces is the solution to the noise and distractions problem. Also, tailored spaces, in general, are the foundation of activity-based offices which are proven to massively increase productivity.

4. Improved space utilization

Office neighborhoods (and hybrid work as a whole), by definition, lead to two very important benefits:

  • You need less office space. For instance, you can easily get your 1000 employees into an office with 400 desks.
  • Your office space is utilized much better. Desk hoteling in particular leads to so much more efficient space usage.
  • You can also better organize and utilize your meeting spaces (which requires a better room scheduling system) according to your neighborhoods.

On that note, OfficeRnD Hybrid can help you easily implement a hybrid way of working and give you advanced analytics of how your space is used. As a result, you can manage your hybrid workspace and make data-driven decisions to improve its utilization.

5. Higher employee buy-in for the hybrid work transition

If anything, COVID brought the topic of employee engagement to a whole new level. The Great Resignation is here and will cause many businesses to suffer serious losses. On the flip side, organizations that put people first will always be ahead of their competitors.

You can certainly make your employees much more engaged and happier with the move to hybrid by tailoring neighborhoods to their needs. Besides setting up the right spaces, you can adopt an easy-to-use employee booking software that makes their office experience much smoother. For example, OfficeRnD Hybrid allows your employees to reserve desks in several ways – from within MS Teams, through Outlook, or with our Mobile app or Web portal.

Getting started with office neighborhoods

Your very first step in implementing office neighborhoods should be a research project. Start by collecting as much data as you possibly can on how your employees work – everything from their current and future projects, to their requirements for amenities, phone booths, quiet spaces, etc. Then, you should be able to segment employees into groups or communities that can be translated into neighborhoods.

On paper, this process sounds easier than it actually is. In reality, this is a very complex undertaking, involving a lot of research, management meetings, and brainstorming. However, the results are more than worth it.

When you’re ready to start implementing your ideas, technology can make the whole experiment much simpler for everyone. For example, you can use OfficeRnD Hybrid’s floorplanning tool to quickly try different layouts and neighborhood arrangements.

Once your layouts are ready, you continue the setup by:

  • Providing the right amenities for each neighborhood;
  • Setting booking policies, such as whether recurring bookings are allowed, or if limitations apply to some neighborhoods;
  • Setting up privacy settings like team or employees’ limitations to book desks within specific neighborhoods.

Lastly, when you’re done with the setup, your employees can easily book desks in the right neighborhoods based on the rules you’ve established. There’s no uncertainty in terms of desk or space availability.

If you want to see this process in action and implement hybrid work in your organization, signup for a free OfficeRnD Hybrid demo and consultation here!

Miro Miroslavov
CEO and Co-founder of OfficeRnD
Miro Miroslavov is a software engineer turned into a tech entrepreneur. In 2015 he co-founded OfficeRnD - a leading flex space and hybrid work management platform. As a CEO at OfficeRnD, he grew the company from inception to a leading software vendor that serves thousands of customers worldwide. He is a big fan of flexible working and is on a mission to "Making Flexible Working the Way of Working".