Can an office make you a better team player? It can and will . Today’s workspaces are being designed to put remote and in-person workers on equal footing. In the new world of hybrid work, teams anywhere can collaborate around virtual whiteboards, brainstorm in totally immersive environments, and work productively together at the “office”—whether that’s company headquarters, a satellite location or booked workstation, a café or airport, or your own home or car.

The move to hybrid work is underway, driven by new tools and technologies to make virtual meetings easier and more inclusive, as well as by demand from both employees and managers for more flexible work models and schedules. Many people want to go back to the office when they can. But just as many want the option to work from home at least some of the time , while others may never want to return. The workspace of the future will need to accommodate all of them.

“A year from now, hybrid meetings will be the norm,” says Shiraz Cupala, product leader for Microsoft Teams Meetings Platform Innovation. “So the question becomes: How do we connect the pieces so that when we’re all in that hybrid room together, everyone has equal access to information and an equal voice at the table?”

Here are some tips for how to foster collaboration in the new hybrid workplace.

Think team-based spaces—wherever your team members are.

The move to hybrid work doesn’t mean that offices are going to disappear. Workers will still want and need a physical space to come together and connect. But the office spaces of the future will shift away from cubicles and corner spots to collaborative team spaces that address the needs of both remote and in-person workers. “We’re moving even more to a team-based space approach where we’re giving the employees a variety of spaces to use,” says Michael Ford, Microsoft’s vice president of global real estate and security. Options range from conference rooms and smaller focus rooms with enhanced audio and video capabilities for hybrid meetings to “concentration zones” for one or two people. Within those spaces, the technology allows seamless and immersive interactions among remote and in-office workers.

Meeting spaces are going to be much more fluid. I'll be able to have content or people on any of the walls in the room.

Design for people who aren’t in the room.

Fully in-person meetings have worked for years; during the pandemic, Teams facilitated fully remote ones. The challenge of hybrid meetings will be to create a space in which the seven people, say, calling in from home have the same interactive experience and access to information as the five people, for example, in the conference room. Equal participation and presence are the goal, says Kori Inkpen, principal researcher at Microsoft Research AI. Spatial audio and high-quality video will allow everyone to be seen and heard, while improved functions like “raise hands,” chat, and reactions will allow remote workers to participate in more natural and expressive ways. “Meeting spaces are going to be much more fluid,” she says. “I’ll be able to have content or people on any of the walls in the room, while richer, spatialized audio will create a more immersive experience both for those in the room and at home.”

Make content sharing seamless for everyone.

Just as digital documents created more efficient ways to annotate and collaborate, new digital tools are offering new and more effective ways to share content and information during the flow of a meeting. “We’re working together, we’re commenting together, we’re having a conversation, and we’re making the changes in real time,” says Cupala. “Coauthoring and cocreating are going to be one of the biggest shifts that people and companies make.” For hybrid meetings, enhanced PowerPoint features will allow speakers to see and interact with their remote audience members, while those working from home will have better access to that content, thanks to features that promote inclusivity (high-contrast views for hard-to-read slides) and interaction (the ability to go back to previous slides you may want to view again).

Microsoft Teams Rooms use Intelligent Capture processing to focus, resize, and enhance whiteboard images and text, so remote attendees can clearly see brainstorming in real-time, even when someone is in the way.

Reimagine brainstorming for the digital era.

Whiteboards have long been essential for collaborative work, from the scribbled notes and concepts on the physical boards themselves to the on-the-fly spitballing and building upon one another’s ideas that happen around them. In the past, remote workers often couldn’t see the boards—either there was no video or the presenter was standing in the way. Now, both on-site and remote workers can draw on the same shared digital canvas; with Intelligent Capture, remote attendees can see the images and text through the person writing on the board. And unlike physical whiteboards that can be erased, these digital boards can be saved as a virtual artifact. “In the future, we’ll be able to take that artifact and continue sharing and collaborating on it after the hybrid meeting is done,” says Cupala. “You’ll be able to ‘play it’ over time and watch it being created.”

Make office life easier through one-stop apps.

In the office of the future, many of the most needlessly burdensome tasks will be simplified. Tools like Microsoft Viva use machine learning and artificial intelligence to offer each employee a curated collection of onboarding resources, contextual explainers, tutorials, and continuous learning options from third-party companies. It can even leverage AI to create a vast Wikipedia-like resource, pulled from relevant information from across your organization. Smart companies will create a digital concierge that increases efficiency in ways both large and small. Microsoft’s MyHub app allows its employees to nab a parking spot closest to the building where their first meeting of the day takes place, book seats on Wi-Fi–enabled connector buses, reserve desks and conference rooms, adjust the temperature of their workspace, navigate their way through the building—and even check the queue lengths at on-campus cafés and cafeterias.

We're working together, we're commenting together, we're having a conversation, and we're making the changes in real time.

Offer employees resources that foster connections.

One of the biggest complaints of the pandemic era has been the loss of a sense of camaraderie among coworkers—as well as the random sparks of creativity that used to happen during casual chats around the water cooler or lunchroom. How do we capture the freewheeling nature of these informal gatherings in the new hybrid future? “If we go back to the building and only focus on the people we’re seeing in person and forget the ones who are working remotely, that’s a loss,” says Inkpen. That loss can be huge, both in terms of the mental health of employees and a company’s lack of innovation. Virtual chat rooms and Teams channels allow for more of these informal gatherings for both in-house and remote workers. “There are virtual spaces where I can see that, oh, so-and-so is in, and I can just jump in and chitchat.” In addition, companies can foster a sense of belonging with engagement tools like Viva Connections, which presents each employee with a personalized assortment of resource groups, communities, and conversations that they may wish to take part in.

Move workspaces to where your people are.

Rather than returning to one mega-office when the lockdown ends, workers may be spending more time in coworking spots closer to home or in satellite facilities built along a hub-and-spoke model. These options will attract people in talent-rich places away from the company’s headquarters and allow for more scheduling flexibility and shorter commutes for hybrid workers, as well as opportunities for in-person collaborative work for those employees who might be working from home nearly all of the time. “I think companies may say, ‘Hey, if you’re only coming in two days a week, I’m not going to assign you an office,’ ” says Scott Weiskopf, director of the Center of Innovation in Microsoft’s real estate and security division. “But I may create outposts closer to where you live, so you and your team can meet in a shared collaboration space.” Another positive impact of a hub-and-spoke approach: the ability to “hire from everywhere,” expanding the potential talent pool for companies that in the past would have required new hires to relocate.

The key takeaways for companies looking to design their offices of the future: Enable collaboration, think team-based spaces, and support workers at home and in the office. “Don’t build what you think your employees want,” says Ford. “Build what they need by communicating with them.”