The new workplace is still evolving and it is not just because of the Covid-19 pandemic.
Other significant social and economic factors are also at play and shaping where, when and how we work now and into the future.
Developing resilient buildings and creating adaptable office spaces “where people not only can function their best but feel their best” will be key, according to Charter Hall workplace strategy manager Tica Hessing.
“Even though an organisation can craft a strategy for now it may change in a few months’ time or in a year’s time,” she said. “There is uncertainty everywhere and so if you want to be resilient you need to be adaptable.
“There is no crystal ball, no one can say 100 per cent, this is what it’s going to look like going forward ... so we have to be nimble, experiment and learn.”
Hessing, who will speak at The Urban Developer’s The New Workplace vSummit on September 30, said that despite the work-from-home shift “the office will still be playing an important role for the majority of businesses going forward”.
“I actually think we can argue that the office has never been more important,” she said.
“We’ve never seen so many people talking about the office, the purpose of the office ... and a lot of organisations are really thinking about what their new way of working will be going forward, whether it will change after Covid and what that will look like.
“The word hybrid is used a lot. When we talk about hybrid in terms of behaviour we are talking about where, when and how people work and that, in turn, informs us what types of spaces an organisation needs ... there is no one-size-fits-all.”
Charter Hall recently secured a 10-year pre-lease agreement with Australia Post as the anchor tenant for its $410 million office development at 480 Swan St in the inner Melbourne suburb of Richmond.
To be purpose-built as Australia Post's new headquarters it is touted as a carbon neutral workplace “designed for collaboration, connection, inclusivity, wellbeing and sustainability”.
“Overall, I think expectations have changed. People have had time to personalise their home office experience so when they go back to the office, they may assume a certain level of comfort,” Hessing said.
“But, in saying that, there are also people who just can’t wait to go back to the office because that experience is so much better than at home.”
Hessing said Covid was not the only factor providing the impetus for change and innovation in the workplace.
“Look at employment and the growth in office jobs, which is rising significantly,” she said. “That also has an impact ... there are some really big things going on that are not so much in focus because Covid is so front of mind.”
But in a world still wrestling from the grip of the global pandemic, health and wellbeing are overriding priorities for organisations when it comes to getting their people back to the office.
“It needs to be a safe place but it also needs to address the mental and physical health of their employees,” Hessing said.
She cited two Charter Hall properties—60 King William Street, Adelaide, and 555 Collins Street, Melbourne—that are under development and have been designed with state-of-the-art wellness amenity, including hotel-style end-of-trip facilities and the utilisation of app technology to promote physical and mental wellbeing among tenants.
Hessing said there was another emerging trend also transforming workplaces.
“Organisations across the spectrum, they all need to find a way to up-skill their people to become more innovative, more creative, and have a continuous learning and development environment.
“Because there is so much competition everywhere you need to stay on top of your game and I think this has an effect on what the workplace looks like as well.
“It needs to facilitate learning by having spaces that are highly adaptive so they can be used for all types of learnings ... even just having a library space to inspire people to read and learn.”
Hessing said the incorporation of open space not just for the tenants that use the building but that "invites" the wider community also was key to the new workplace.
"It's important to be able to look into the building, it needs to be welcoming ... with curated spaces to enable that connection with the wider community, where people can relax together, have a coffee or a bite to eat.
“A lot of these things, of course, were happening before Covid but the pandemic has just accentuated and accelerated them.”