Connectivity and access to knowledge are the defining features of contemporary business and society, helping to redefine how and where work is accomplished. Technology has enabled us to be connected anywhere and extending the locations of work beyond the office building, into a variety of public spaces.
Communal Atrium Space at Campus MLC, North Sydney by Woods Bagot
This fundamentally alters how space is used over time, by blurring functional boundaries and helping us reimagine the places where we work, live and play. It also suggests that we can plan cities to be more multi-functional and permeable and to transform office buildings from uninspiring containers of routine work into intensively used destinations of social connectivity and interaction.
Work today is being staged in environments which are dynamic rather than static and adaptable to change as often as work itself changes, by the hour, day and week. These new workplaces are constantly evolving, event driven, curated experiences in which space, tools, and technologies are provided to support the ever changing daily needs of groups and individuals, to create the successful conditions of their own work. This represents a big shift in expectations for commercial real estate and requires dynamic solutions.
The office begins to look and work more like a city – drawing to itself valued urban experiences and spaces: quiet areas for individual experiences, courtyards, cafes and social destinations. The successful characteristics of cities become part of the design language; permeability, diversity, overlapping experiences that surprise, delight and constantly change. Space no longer reflects hierarchical structures but supports dispersed networks and open source innovation. The nature of the city also changes as it becomes an extension of the office – a broad workscape in which key work functions move into parks and coffee shops.
Flexible floorplates at 80 Collins, Melbourne, designed by Woods Bagot in collaboration with UNstudio
Social spaces at the Metropolitan Redevelopment Authority offices by Woods Bagot
“When space is designed with people in mind and has a clear narrative, it can make our life at work more meaningful”
Coffee and work have always gone together. Coffee shops were the original social workplaces of the early 18th century in the City of London, and right up to the 21st century barista led operations, coffee is the preferred way for people to socialize and collaborate. Successful workplaces will embrace the sociability of where work happens and curate authentic experiences; ubiquitous wi fi, great coffee, healthy food , convenience services and events to enable people to connect with other like-minded people - to collide, collaborate and co-create value for themselves, their business and their community.
Australia has been at the forefront of delivering socially minded workplaces and the new QIC development at 80 Collins in Melbourne, embraces the urban workplace model by providing a permeable connection that reactivates and re-energises the east end of the Melbourne CBD and a destination that honours Melbourne’s thriving culture and commerce. Aiming to be an enduring mixed-use development that harmonises with its environment and fosters meaningful human connections. The provision of unique shared on demand collaboration spaces and flexible floor plates with inter-floor links facilitate workspaces that foster engagement and wellness. The state-of-the-art amenities, lifestyle services and ongoing program of cultural expression foster seamless transitions between work and play and provide daily experiences that allow people to express and engage their personal interests at work.
It is clear that this new approach requires that we bring the focus of the workplace back to people. We now have four generations at work and whilst they may differ, they are all aligned on their expectations of: choice and flexibility, teamwork and authentic sociability, knowledge, convenience and wellbeing. It is well documented that happiness and wellbeing are good for business and talented people today are behaving like demanding customers, choosing to work at organizations that care about them and will support them to actively improve their lives.
Challenger Headquarters by Woods Bagot
Recent research by the British Council of Offices on Wellbeing at Work found that:
- Nine out of ten workers feel their well-being diminishes if they don't have control over their day-to-day activities
- Over three quarters of people feel their productivity is hampered by a noisy open-plan environment and more than two thirds would like to see relaxation areas in their workplace to recharge and quiet places to focus
- Nine out of ten employees believe that better engagement with colleagues can enhance their wellbeing and makes them more productive
Designing workplaces that provide choice of environments to support a variety of tasks and offer employees flexibility of how and where they work, by trusting them to decide their own working patterns is essential, but it is also important to note that changes to the design of the workplace are only effective if there is an empowering workplace culture and behaviours to support it.
It is easy to see how over time, corporate real estate portfolios will increasingly become a dispersed network of social and adaptive working environments, empowering users and teams across different work contexts and collaboration modes. A workplace model that reflects the individuality of the people in it, while also meeting business needs, will be both more efficient and morale-boosting.
When space is designed with people in mind and has a clear narrative, it can make our life at work more meaningful. It can help make us be more aware of what we are doing and who we are 'being' at work; to more meaningfully connect with others, to share knowledge and ideas, to concentrate and focus, to activate our mind and body, to connect with nature, to recharge our energy and to inspire ourselves and others to thrive.