Office workers are driving the evolution of the workplace and demanding more out of the office experience.
Winston Churchill once said, “We shape our buildings and thereafter they shape us”—but this seems to no longer be the case.
Cost per seat has always been the rule of thumb for office tenants’ financial considerations when taking up a lease, but the post-panedmic sands have shifted, according to Colliers national director of tenant advisor Sarah Hughes.
“In 2019, financial considerations for tenants were largely dependent on the cost per seat, which ultimately led businesses to want to maximise the number of seats they could fit in the office,” Hughes said.
But now, Hughes says, tenants have other targets they need to meet, including the employee experience and values alignment.
In this labour-shortage landscape, recruitment and retention are key considerations for businesses looking for new premises.
“Landlords are proving quick to respond to new occupier priorities, reshaping their offices to be competitive in the post pandemic world of work,” Hughes says.
“Tenants are placing a growing focus on other measures outside of the traditional norm, for example, the cost impact of a building’s ability to help the tenant meet their environmental, social and governance (ESG) commitments.
“This is part of a shift redefining the value of office space for enhanced employee experience and value alignment, which also incorporates an increasing emphasis on diversity elements, including gender-neutral bathrooms and multi-purpose rooms for prayer and breastfeeding, in addition to recreational areas and residential/hotel style fit-outs.
“The office is now much more than a tool to facilitate work—it is now a place you go to undertake tasks that you cannot complete from your home whilst enabling collaboration and connection and providing a sense of belonging that ultimately fosters a positive culture, in an era of varied working styles.”
Even the top end of town is shifting gears.
Deloitte is moving to AMP’s Quay Quarter Tower in Sydney and the new Dexus Waterfront Precinct in Brisbane in 2027 in pursuit of bigger footprints with strong ESG values.
Deloitte chief human resources officer Tina McCreery says the move will support the firm’s commitment to providing state-of-the-art workspaces and dynamic design to make collaborating in-person and virtually a seamless experience.
McCreery says the firm’s Flex framework underpins the way in which people approach work at Deloitte.
“People are empowered to live and work in a way that works best for them,” McCreery says.
“Deloitte Experience empowers our people to make choices about where they work based on their client, team, and individual needs and how they connect with clients and each other.”
But it’s not just the agile tech and media companies that are tackling the demands of the new workplace.
Kane Constructions recently moved into a custom-designed workplace with some out-of-the-box design, including the removal of a reception area.
ARM workplace design lead Tanya Hillman says inviting and flexible workspaces are the future of office design and ARM is incorporating “disruptive thinking” in their design approach.
ARM was engaged to reimagine the workplace for Kane’s corporate headquarters spanning an entire floor at 510 Church Street in Melbourne. The office has more than 100 work points, including flex-desks, focus rooms and dedicated offices in what is a bold fit-out and experiential focus for a construction firm.
“We really wanted to break the mould … it’s something we’ve been thinking about for a long time,” Hillman says.
“Workplace design has really become so vanilla, it’s so transferable in terms of the types of spaces you see—collaboration spaces, open plan, work cafes.
“We really wanted to provide Kane with a workplace that responded to who they are and how they work … we really created a whole new vernacular.”
“We wanted to take it back to looking at how you can demonstrate your expertise as a construction firm so materiality was really important.”
Hillman says Kane Constructions moved from an older fit-out where everyone owned their desks and there was a lot of paper and clutter.
“They saw this as an opportunity to hop forward and adopt agile working, a clean desk policy and reduce the number of offices.”
They also got rid of the reception-desk concept, opting instead for an inviting flow through the office from lift core to the facade with the use of lighting and wayfinding.
Office fit-outs are also looking to capture a more residential or hotel feel with a greater focus on vibrant and biophilic design with relocation costs weighing into the decision-making for organisations looking for premium workspace.
“The cost of relocation means that occupiers are preferring spaces that are already fitted out with modern and inlusive features that optimise the employee experience, whilst providing flexible workspaces with dual purposes, catering for fluctuating headcount,” Hughes said.
“Some of our clients even have ESG goals tied to their bonuses, which really reinforces how seriously businesses are treating their commitments, and a general shift in business drivers as it relates to real-estate decisions.”
As the flight to quality continues to permeate the office-leasing market one thing is certain—hybrid working is here to stay and employers are embracing it.
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