Making Workspace Work

Sara Mailloux Escobar
6 min readAug 26, 2021


Do your workspaces cause stress or happiness?

I like little tricks to help me feel like I have a path to plan, ensure I am thinking through all needs, and ultimately check off items. With workspace change impacting human dynamics so greatly, I came up with the following acronyms that work pretty well in helping to plan effective work within the workspace, wherever that workspace might be.

For companies that only have offices, the 6 elements of the office model are easy to address, but in the newly forming world of hybrid work there are 17 elements to consider (all below models) as it is quite possible people could be working in an office, at home, and in other virtual spaces. Additionally, employees need to think through these elements as they choose and operate within these additional types of workspaces.

Promoting effective Office Spaces — The O.F.F.I.C.E. Model

O — Official

F — Frictionless

F — Functional

I — Inclusive

C — Clean

E — Educated

  • Official — One big element of corporate office spaces that is hard to replicate is the representation of the brand. Many people join companies they believe in and the office space is the easiest place to feel immersed in that belief. One of the decision factors to go into the office should be a feeling of disconnect from the brand, so make sure it is there when they get there.
  • Frictionless — Corporate office spaces are almost always going to be central, but that means not super convenient to most. If you want people to utilize the space (especially in a world where doing so is optional), you need to make it as easy as possible to do so. Think through all the elements it takes to utilize an office, transportation, parking, access, food; these are just the basics. Make it easy or an employee would often rather not deal with it.
  • Functional — The standard work modes are focus, collaboration, socializing, and learning. While we all think focused work will be more easily done at home, this is simply not going to be true for all. Additionally, it’s inevitable that when someone is in the office for collaboration or learning there may also be times they need to focus. So, alas, the office does still need to do it all! Think through space for all work modes just maybe at different ratios depending on how often people say they will be there.
  • Inclusive — Research shows it is easier to build relationships in person, use the space to facilitate this. Help team members know the office space is a place where they can connect. Additionally, those in the office space will likely have an unconscious in-person bias. Think through how your company is going to continue to thoughtfully include those who join virtually in the day-to-day as well as long term (ie performance reviews show a bias towards staff seen more often by their manager).
  • Clean — The basis of every place and space we go to is safety. If we don’t feel safe (psychologically and physically) we don’t want to be there. Cleanliness, especially after a global pandemic is paramount but it actually goes beyond that to training, communicating and promoting safe practices, not only in cleanliness but also in actions.
  • Educated — The definition of work goes way beyond the deliverables on the job description. When people are in the office they have the ability to pick up on learnings they may not otherwise have been exposed to. Educate your team to be open where possible in the office, it will help many around them grow.

Enabling effective Work From Home -The H.O.M.E. Model

H — Harmonious

O — Obliging

M — Maintained

E — Effective

  • Harmonious — You need to be able to turn off while working from home or it isn’t sustainable. Companies can help set boundaries but ultimately the individual needs to hold themself to a sustainable standard and be supported in doing so. Set a schedule, share it wide, and protect that schedule. Also, take breaks! Keep your personal harmony.
  • Obliging — The option to work from home is great, being forced to work from home is much more challenging. Companies considering WFH should help your team make their home workspace great but recognize it is ultimately home and for some working at home just isn’t possible or desired; research is showing about 29% of workers want to be in an office most or all of the time. Just ask, team members seem happy to tell their company if they aren’t willing or are struggling to work from home.
  • Maintained — One of the biggest challenges people have in working from home is having the tools and resources to do so effectively. Workers are more productive and effective when they think through the space they are working from, tools they need and feel supported by the company in acquiring those tools.
  • Effectively Engaged — One of the tougher parts of working from home is having tough conversations and feeling connected. To work from home successfully, both the individual and their manager need to be fearless and effective in feedback, communication, and alignment.

Enabling effective Virtual Workspace (ie co-working, coffee shops, etc) — The V.I.R.T.U.A.L. Model -

V — Vigilant

I — Inclusive

R — Resourceful

T — Togetherness

U — Ubiquitous

A — Ambitious

L — Learned

  • Vigilant — One of the biggest challenges of working from an place with others outside of your company is the security risks. Tighter controls must be put in place to ensure property remains safe and employees must be trained in property safety and personal safety. It still feels like work to them even if the company doesn’t control the space, so this is a big opportunity to show care.
  • Inclusive — This is one of the few elements that overlaps with another model, there is also an inclusive factor to office work. Virtual work has to think through inclusivity in a different way, and it’s harder than it is in person. Brainstorm more often rather than delegating over quick meetings to promote partnership, connect on a personal level even though it is through video (celebrate milestones, have a happy hour, do an ice breaker, etc), listen to people’s needs and wants even though we know everyone is in back to back meetings (I even take notes about individuals so I can show them I care about what they have said in the past and refer to it later. If you are concerned this feels like cheating, I’ve found everytime I tell someone I take notes they think it’s nice I care enough to do so).
  • Resourceful — If your company is virtual only or virtual first, helping employees make decisions about where to work is imperative because the choices are endless. Supplying a worksheet to help the decision tree, negotiating with co-working spaces to ease access, and providing useful resources to ease virtual challenges are a few good ideas.
  • Togetherness — While many people who work virtually are comfortable working alone, but there is value in helping the team connect should they want to. Tools exist that can give employees the ability to opt-in and see if anyone else is working near them, they then have the choice to reach out. Additionally, if collaboration is an important part of the company values, finding a way to promote togetherness will ease collaboration as it is naturally easier to partner with those you have a personal connection with.
  • Ubiquitous — Virtual work can literally happen everywhere, so enable it to happen everywhere. If there are restrictive working hours, lack of notice for important scheduled happenings, or lack of access to tools, virtual work will just become frustrating.
  • Ambitious — It is easy to lose focus or get distracted in a virtual work environment, especially in a new workspace which could be often depending on how virtual work is executed. Companies that are virtual or virtual first need to 1) hire people who are self starters, 2) communicate top level goals really well so those self starters know they are working on the right stuff, 3) support those ambitious individuals’ growth (or they will get disengaged and leave).
  • Laudatory — Most employees focus on the negative and not the positive, this is even more true when conversations are scheduled and connection is less present. Managers, leaders, and frankly company representatives need to work in a virtual environment to make team members feel good, drive connection to the brand and its successes, and praise the work it took to get there or they risk losing ample engagement.



Sara Mailloux Escobar

Sara Escobar is a Workplace Leader with over 12 years of experience working with brands such as Hulu, Honey and Netflix. She believes work should be "human."