How a next-generation office experience can help win the war for talent.
You arrive at work, parking your electric car in one of the charging bays in the underground carpark and powered by the solar panels on the office tower’s roof. After dropping off your pup at the on-site doggy day care, you pop into the lobby café to pick up some avocado toast and tea with honey (both thanks to the trees and bees in the rooftop urban farm) and bump into someone who works in another organisation on your floor. You agree to catch up again later in the coworking space to brainstorm a possible collaboration between your companies.
In the elevator up to your office, you quickly use the building app to make a lunchtime appointment with the onsite health centre and organise to pick up dinner from the deli next door as you leave this afternoon. While in the app, you sneak a quick peak at your fur baby via the doggy day care webcam and smile - he’s settled in nicely.
You get ready for your first meeting in the designated space you’ve booked and where the room’s AI-controlled sensors have automatically adjusted the temperature and lighting to your needs – but then you and your colleague decide to take your discussion outside on the garden terrace, and maybe even do a few laps around the walking track. Why waste such a gorgeous day?
Maybe your working day is not quite like this – but it soon could be. Demand for premium office space is up across Australia and Asia, with companies keen to create this new kind of office experience that boosts productivity and innovation and acts as a powerful weapon in a fierce war for talent.
It’s a workplace that is flexible, convenient and social, and built around three Cs – culture; community; and collaboration.
The number one ingredient to create a desirable workplace environment is a strong culture, driven by purpose, and expressed through behaviours, mindset and practices that makes people feel proud to belong to an organisation. "No office experience, however well designed, can compensate for poor culture," says Simon Hunt,Managing Director, Office Leasing | Australia, "But the right place and space can amplify a positive one."
“The right features and design that reflect a brand's culture and purpose can enhance that culture, making employees feel proud to belong.”
Simon Hunt | Managing Director, Office Leasing | Australia
Amit Oberoi, Head of Occupier Strategy | Asia, agrees that more organisations are connecting culture and interior design through, for example, egalitarian open plan spaces. “We see more of an emphasis on the use of design layouts, colours, lighting, materials and texture, to align with an organisation’s values like empowerment, innovation, collaboration, transparency, sustainability,” says Amit.
For example, open plan offices can signal egalitarianism while use of glass walls that allow lots of natural light can indicate transparency. A use of environmentally sustainable materials such as bamboo flooring can reflect a company’s B-Corp certification. Displaying art by local artists can demonstrate commitment to supporting the local community.
In Australia, this can include a commitment to recognising the traditional owners of the land on which an office sits. Domino Risch, Commercial and Workplace Sector Leader at HASSELL has helped AMP incorporate the art, language and culture of the local Gadigal people in the redevelopment of the iconic Quay Quarter Tower at Sydney’s Circular Quay.
“This includes commissioning art by local artists, using language to name the meeting rooms which even incorporate circular design to reflect the yarning circles important to Indigenous culture. This was all done in consultation with the Gadigal people and with AMP’s own purpose in mind – it was about strengthening their teams’ connection to the organisation and their Circular Quay location,” says Domino.
Creating a community
The best office experience creates a feeling of community and connectivity—but not just within your own organisation. We see more premium office precincts purpose-built as integrated communities, with built-in opportunities for diverse organisations to make the most of working side by side in a place that feels like a destination in itself.
Curated retail, entertainment venues, shared courtyards and community events bring workers from different offices together. “We’re seeing demand for common areas that are styled like luxury hotels – including high end cafés, bars and restaurants and business lounges for meetings with clients or office neighbours,” says Simon.
Onsite health and well-being options, as well as quality childcare – and doggy daycare – help ease people’s mental load, supporting their well-being and productivity—and it makes people feel proud to belong to, and spend time in, an inclusive community they feel connected to.
“It's about making people feel like all their needs are being met in the same integrated location.”
Domino Risch | Commercial and Workplace Sector Leader | HASSELL
This sense of community can encourage the collaboration and connectivity that employees say they value most in coming to work. There is a greater recognition that sometimes the best collaboration comes from connecting with people outside your own organisationbringing together different perspectives can generate the most innovative ideas.
The new office experience is built to encourage interactions between companies within the same building or the same precinct. One of the biggest trends we see is a growing demand for co-working space, which sometimes occupies up to 10% of the total business areas in new buildings. This is partly a reflection of a desire for what Domino describes as an “elastic” working space, that allows organisations to accommodate fluctuating numbers of onsite workers in a hybrid world. But it’s also a recognition of the value of working with others, particularly those businesses in adjacent industries or with aligned brand values.
In a working world moving towards ecosystems of businesses solving more complex problems, it’s a trend we expect to see more of and will be a bigger factor that organisations consider where to locate their business. Does the proposed new office space have neighbours we could potentially collaborate with?
Looking after our people and our world
Even the most well designed, innovative office spaces cannot neglect the basics that can make or break the ability to work well. Well-being is even more highly valued in a world changed by COVID-19. Natural light, control over temperature and air quality are critical. For example, Colliers’ new Mumbai office has an AI-controlled heating, ventilation and air-conditioning (HVAC) system that maximises fresh air, CO2 sensors and air quality monitoring, as well as biophilic greenery that acts as a natural air purifier.
Offices that consider the health of our planet are also important. Sustainability credentials have long been considered standard but now environmental, social and governance (ESG) initiatives are moving to a new level of innovation, and offering opportunities for business to maximise space while living their purpose.
We see commercial space being repurposed for new needs – for example, carparks are becoming hubs for autonomous cars, rooftops are going green to host community farms and bee hives and basements are home to end of trip facilities that offer more than a shower and bike rack. In Melbourne, 101 Collins includes a multi-million-dollar resort-style wellness experience that includes hydration stations and individual grooming areas equipped with hair straighteners and artisan soaps – alongside 500 bike stations and lockers. Sustainable commuting never felt so good.
The truth is that these kinds of features reflect the increasingly green lifestyle choices of employees, especially Gen Y and Gen Z workers—and many prospective employees will ask about such amenities at job interviews.
“We expect ESG to be an increasingly strong driver of office design that helps meet the changing expectations of workers.”
Amit Oberoi | Head of Occupier Strategy | Asia
Fundamental principles underpin the optimum office
While business goals remain the same in 2022, the way employees work since returning to the office is different. Companies are aligning new needs and expectations by repurposing the office to ensure more convenience and flexibility; to improve productivity; and achieve their sustainability and wellness goals.
How will the office continue to evolve? Our experts agree that, while pandemic taught us that predicting the future can be difficult, keeping in mind some fundamental principles can help design offices that meet the needs of employees and organisations alike:
At Colliers, we know one size doesn’t fit all when it comes to creating office design. That’s why we start by developing a deep understanding of each clients’ needs and then combine our specialist knowledge of different real estate and office markets, design and emerging trends to create office solutions that accelerate business goals.
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