Office Designs Shaping the Future Workplace post Pandemic

Office Designs Shaping the Future Workplace post Pandemic

With the pandemic coming to an end, office spaces and design which have been re-evaluated over time are springing into action. According to a report published last year by EY and the Urban Land Institute, Future of Work – A Global Real Estate Player’s Point of View, major changes are expected in the office market in the next three to five years. There will be an enhanced focus on the quality of space, not only office space but also housing and third spaces, locations other than the home and office space, where people can work or meet”.

As predicted, this year, according to Cameron Williams, Colliers Office Leasing national director, there has been a huge interest in office space in recent months and a lot of that interest is for core CBD offerings. “Decentralising is not a major trend, companies are looking to centralise and there is strong demand for quality premises in quality locations such as Sydney’s CBD and North Sydney, for example.”

While the big full-time work-from-home trend looks more like a reaction to the pandemic than something long-term, there has been an enduring change in how we work and the way we use offices. For Williams, some of the narratives spun around the new way of work can attribute to organisations using the pandemic as cover to dump space as they looked to “right-size” their workforces while going through structural change

Kylies Rampa, Lendlease Property chief executive, says we’ll see a big shift towards places with purpose. “Workplace designs will continue to evolve as people work away from the office more regularly, and this will bring a laser-like focus to the purpose of the office,”

According to the report by Urban Land Institute, physical offices are key for work to be successful and will continue to provide the spaces we need for physical interactions, team building and collaboration. Rampa says people have, by and large, missed place, not space. They have missed the collisions, interaction, engagement and sense of collective effort. “Our strategy is to continue to deliver place and experience-led design, and to continue to quantify the value of these factors for our customers.” She says businesses are increasingly “seeking high-quality environments to align with their culture and brand and to attract and retain talent. This is likely to create a divergence in performance between best-in-class portfolios, and generic and increasingly obsolete stock”.

A case in point is Lendlease’s current development at 180 George Street in Sydney. Although Salesforce will be the anchor tenant, Lendlease says it will also encompass “a collection of new urban laneways hosting retail, dining, and the first major public square on George Street in decades”.

Flexibility is the keyword, both for employees and corporates as well as for the activity of work and space and location. Ian Opperman, NSW Chief Data Scientist, says the trend is towards humanising cities more. “we’re seeing a slowing of the remote working trend but what the pandemic did was show us we can do it and “things don’t break”.

Opperman says the developing view is that a three-days a  week in the office and two days at home is close to the optimum level for ensuring people collaborate and remain productive. This is backed up by recent research undertaken by the NSW Innovation and Productivity Council. The research, employing a combination of tools – data from artificial intelligence platform Faethm, and a survey of 1500 NSW remote workers – found if done in a balanced way, remote working can strengthen the NSW economy and improve lives. The study found only 5 per cent of us can perform all of our tasks remotely but nearly 50 per cent of the population can work remotely for at least two days a week.

According to the Council, Sydney’s CBD will remain the state’s employment hub, but offices could be reborn as spaces for collaboration and innovation. Rampa agrees and says that if you want to drive culture, you need an office. “The workplace of the future is likely to be more of a ‘clubhouse for culture’, focusing on fostering connections and the embedment of purpose and values. It will be a place to engage with leaders to understand strategy and priorities and to learn, share and socialise with colleagues – and get some sanctuary too,”

As the office space undergoes recent changes, some challenges for organisations were detected by Williams. They include:

1. Managing populations in the office as their people work more flexibly: He suggests working from home two days might see people use Mondays and Fridays as those days, which would make things more difficult mid-week.

2. Managing the demographics of remote work: Although young people might be happy to leave their city apartments for the office, more senior employees living in comfortable homes might not be so keen to return to the office, especially in service industries like law and finance.

3. Potential for an increased demand for parking spaces: For example, as they commute from regional boltholes.

 “There’s no denying the effects of the pandemic have changed the way we work. The stigma on workplace flexibility may have been permanently removed, and we do expect the office sector to evolve to accommodate that shift.

“While technology and flexibility adoption has accelerated, the office remains on a long-term evolutionary path,” Rampa says.


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