Corporate Culture & Productivity

Neighborhoods: the perfect solution for hybrid work

David Spence
May 12th, 2021

Adapting to hybrid work is a huge challenge. With employees splitting the week between home and HQ, the post-pandemic office needs to support a variety of different needs and schedules. To help you meet the challenges of hybrid work head on, we’ve made some huge improvements to the way office neighborhoods support workplace teams and individual employees

Read on to learn how neighborhoods can help you provide next-level flexibility and make the transition to flexible work less stressful for employees. 

First things first: what are office neighborhoods?

If you’re unfamiliar with office neighborhoods, here’s a quick refresher.

Office neighborhoods are areas of an office dedicated to specific departments, activities (e.g. quiet work), or job functions. Instead of being assigned to a single desk, employees are assigned to a neighborhood—a group of desks that they can use in the office.

Before COVID-19, workplaces typically used neighborhoods to:

  • Fit more employees into fewer desks. By assigning 10 employees to 7 desks, companies could maximize space utilization without having to add more desks or expand into additional facilities.
  • Allocate a group of seats to a specific team. For example: a Sales Team neighborhood.
  • Allocate a group of seats to a cross-departmental group. This can help employees from different departments work together.
office neighborhoods

If neighborhoods are so great, why weren’t workplaces using them more pre-COVID?

Great question. The problem with old-school neighborhoods is that:

  • They only worked for non-bookable seating. A group of employees was assigned to a group of free addressing desks.
  • They weren’t always convenient for employees. To use a neighborhood desk for the day, an employee would simply sit down at any available desk inside their assigned neighborhood—no booking required. Ideally the employee would get the seat they were hoping for. But often, employees wouldn’t get the desk they needed. Sometimes, if the neighborhood was over capacity, the employee wouldn’t even get a seat for the day at all.
  • Reporting wasn’t great. It was difficult to get insights on who was using each desk inside a neighborhood, which made it hard to effectively improve seat utilization, desk availability, and sharing ratios.
  • They were hard to maintain. Updating desk permissions and adding/removing employees from a neighborhood was a tedious manual process. Doable if you’re a small startup. Impossible if you’re dealing with hundreds or thousands of employees. 

These limitations made neighborhoods a great solution for few specific use cases, but not so great for everything else.

hybrid neighborhoods

Here’s why neighborhoods are perfect for hybrid work in a post-COVID world

After listening to all of the challenges our clients were having with the return to work, workplace teams told us they needed a better way to:

  • Adapt entire offices to hybrid work
  • Efficiently manage a variety of flexible seating on their floor plans
  • Eliminate the painstaking admin that’s involved in setting up desk permissions, managing bookings, and matching employees to neighborhoods
  • Control and track how seats are being used
  • Provide seating for teams with diverse seating needs and in-office schedules
  • Give employees more flexibility in where they sit and how they work while they’re at the office

To solve all of these challenges and help workplace teams meet the demands of hybrid work head on, we upgraded what you can do with neighborhoods. By A LOT.

Here’s why neighborhoods are the perfect way to give your people full flexibility and reduce administrative burden (yes, really) without losing out on insights or control over your seating.

Let teams manage their own seating

In a team-managed neighborhood, a designated seating captain is in charge of managing seat assignments, moves, and booking requests. You can assign multiple seating captains to a single neighborhood. And because the team is in charge of managing their own seating needs, they’re better placed to decide who should sit where.

Facilities can step in to support a team-managed neighborhood whenever a seating captain needs help. But they aren’t burdened with the task of overseeing every booking request or seating change—a huge win for workplace teams that are going to be stretched to their limit during the return to work.

See OfficeSpace in action!

Use a variety of seat types (including bookable desks)

In OfficeSpace, you can create a neighborhood with any type of seat—hot desk, hoteling, by request, assigned-bookable, free addressing—to give every team the exact setup they need.

For example, let’s say you’re organizing seating for your marketing and design team. Some of the team members need specific tech setups at their desks. Others want to be in the office full-time. And the rest are hybrid workers who split their week between the office and home.

To support this team, you could create a neighborhood with:

  • Assigned seating: employees who need a specific desk setup when they’re at the office get a dedicated, assigned seat.
  • Bookable seating: 10 hybrid workers could share 5 hot desks.
  • Open seating: provide a pod of open seats for last minute drop-ins.

With employees checking into desk bookings each time they use the office, you’ll always know who’s using every desk.

And by including bookable desks in neighborhoods, employees can book desks in advance. So they won’t arrive at the office only to find that they don’t have a seat for the day.

Get hyper-specific about who can use each desk

To manage flexible work efficiently (i.e. plenty of freedom for employees with zero day-to-day upkeep for facilities teams), companies need more control over who can use each desk. 

With OfficeSpace, you can restrict a neighborhood’s desks based on a variety of filters—team, department, job title, and more.

These advanced permissions benefit workplace teams and individual employees:

  • Facilities has full control over who can use each seat, and when/how every desk can be used
  • Facilities will always know who’s using (or who’s used) which seat
  • It’s easy for every employee to see which desks they can and cannot book on your floor plan
neighborhood desks

Save hours of time with automated permissions

If advanced desk permissions sound daunting to you, that’s probably because you’re familiar with the old-school method of managing desk permissions. In the past, updating desk permissions was a painstaking process.

Permissions had to be set manually for every single desk. So any time employees joined the company, exited the company, or simply switched teams, your already-busy facilities team had to go in and update the desk permissions for those employees.

We solved that problem by linking desk permissions to your employee record system. Now, whenever an employee’s record changes, all of the desks that employee can use are updated on your floor plan automatically.

Here are two quick examples that highlight how convenient this feature really is:

  1. New hire Elaine Benes joins your company. Because her employee record says she’s a member of the Sales team, Elaine can immediately book all of the desks and neighborhoods on your floor plan that are designated (or “permissioned”) to salespeople—without facilities having to lift a finger.
  1. George Costanza moves from the accounting team to your HR team. The second his employee record is updated, George will be able to use any desk or neighborhood allocated to members of HR, and he won’t be able to use desks designated to accounting—without facilities having to go in and add George to a desk.

Access better insights with neighborhood reports

Finally, we’ve added neighborhood reports to help you set and track allocation, sharing ratios, and capacity targets for each neighborhood.

With these insights on hand, workplace teams can:

  • Monitor desk sharing targets inside a neighborhood. Need to allocate 1.4 employees per seat? Set that as a target inside OfficeSpace, and monitor how each neighborhood is performing against that usage ratio.
  • Identify underutilized desks inside a one neighborhood and move them to another neighborhood that desperately needs some extra seating.
hybrid neighborhoods

The benefits of using neighborhoods in a hybrid office

There isn’t just one reason we’re extremely excited about this update. There are many. Here’s why neighborhoods are a huge win for you and your employees as you transition to hybrid work:

Create hybrid work zones to support any type of team

Neighborhoods are great for clearly defined teams (e.g. “Hey, Marketing! This group of bookable desks just for you.”). But you can also use them to support ad-hoc teams or cross-departmental teams that need to work together for a set period of time.

Block off desks for specific types of work

Let’s say you have a group of designers that need in-office access and large desks that come with sewing machines and materials to use throughout the workday. Offering this team a neighborhood of desks tailored to those specifications would be an excellent solution. 

Deliver an exceptional employee experience

Giving your teams customized seating setups and the autonomy to manage their own seating is a win for employee experience—something that’ll be hugely important during the initial stages of your office reopening.

Help your (extremely busy) facilities team save time

Even before COVID-19, workplace teams had a lot to do. These days, to say that facilities are extremely busy is a bit of an understatement.

By decentralizing seat management with team-based neighborhoods and seating captains, your facilities team can save time. They won’t need to spend all of their time setting up seats, approving bookings, and moving employees from one desk to the next when things change.

FREE GUIDE: Using flexible seating in your COVID-19 return-to-the-office plan

Want to see neighborhoods in action?

If you need a better solution to create a hybrid workplace, book a quick demo with our team. We’ll show you how neighborhoods work and share how OfficeSpace can help.

Photos: Austin Distel, Proxyclick Visitor Management System, AllGo, Arlington ResearchProxyclick Visitor Management System