Making an office fit-for-purpose

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New ways of working have highlighted the need for office workplaces to be more flexible.

As the pandemic’s tail whips its way through our work psyche and habits, business owners are being challenged on what constitutes a viable, market-relevant workplace in the bid to retain staff and attract new recruits.

Bayleys’ national director office leasing and real estate advisory, Steve Rendall says after an extended period of flux and staff routinely working from home, business owners are now grappling with what today’s office should ultimately look and feel like.

“We’re seeing a distinct flight to quality with companies seeking better functioning spaces to help get staff back to the office to collaborate and build culture.

“Some decision makers are trying to better understand likely working trends in the longer term before making wholesale changes, while others are reducing their footprints or clipping on flex space where required.”

Jonas Brodie, director and head of client relations at workplace strategy, design and construct firm StudioDB, says before designing or refitting an office space, the questions to be asked of clients are: what are the overall project objectives, how would you define success and why have an office?

“It’s a progressive journey and we encourage our clients to be transparent and share their business strategy which gives us considerable insight into how they may look to transition into a new way of working or remain status quo.

“We need to have tools that measure efficiency and performance because what can be measured, can be managed, so for a project to be successful, it is vital to come up with a data set that does this.

“We also delve into the roles of those within the office and ask what’s best for the individual, their team, and the business overall so we can take an unbiased balanced approach and understand how activities are best done across those pillars.”

Brodie believes sustainability is the next big thing for office workplaces to nail and says, “our industry needs to be making measurable progress on sustainability while making it less complex and more affordable for all.”

Tim Ray, commercial manager for Platform Consulting Group says every business it works with has a unique way of working in the hybrid environment and requires a purposeful space built around work flow and human connection.

“The office environment now needs to be measurably better than the home office and be a place to reconnect with people so we design spaces with a welcoming entrance incorporating a high end hospitality experience for employees, and multiple collaboration points to make the commute worthwhile and to support the office day.”

Ray says new and remodel fitouts are investing in more flexible, multi-functional spaces with adaptable furniture and integrated technology.

“Think technology-enabled stand up/huddle spaces, digital whiteboard spaces for a visual connection in the open plan environment and smaller meeting rooms with better integration for video conferencing.

“Equally important are spaces to disconnect from tech’, with informal collaborative lounge space, and open areas in the office with casual seating arrangements encouraging a play-work-rest workplace.

“With a 70-80 percent occupancy rate, clients see that more space can be dedicated to a structure that’s best for a team approach rather than the individual.”

Scott Compton, who leads interior design for architects Warren & Mahoney says the firm’s broad and connected team knows that every client group is a unique amalgam of many things.

“The key questions we ask clients now are essentially the same as they always were, but are perhaps more relevant today and revolve around presence, purpose, and innovation.

“Why will your people come to the office, what will the office need to do and provide for your people, and what is the unique aspiration for your workplace?”

Compton says individual productivity, collaboration, team culture, and wellbeing are all inextricably linked and businesses need as much of each of those as they can get.

“Collaboration is the pillar that’s still a work in progress, as virtual collaboration can be isolating for individuals and ideal hybrids do not yet exist.

“We urge each client to think carefully about the big, aspirational, unique idea for their office environment that will excite, inspire and engage their people.”


Related: Life in the fast lane

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