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Flexibility and choice have become two non-negotiables for a growing number of employees if they are to be enticed back to the office.  

Most people see workplaces as fostering collaboration and team productivity, according to a survey from CBRE. According to the recent Future of the Office survey, 83 per cent of respondents believe this.  

But flexibility is essential. Another survey report from Hub Australia and WORKTECH Academy found that 56 per cent of workers would consider switching employers if increased flexibility isn’t an option.

Trevor Boddy, CBRE’s senior director of office leasing at the company, says his company’s survey showed 72 per cent of respondents had implemented changes to their remote working procedures.

It’s a balancing act that companies will need to navigate as they seek to create workspaces that provide a greater degree of flexibility while maintaining a culture of in-person collaboration, he said.

So, what else can businesses and building owners be doing to improve workspaces, stand out from the competition and improve employee retention? 

The challenge, Boddy says, is to create “dynamic, safe and connected spaces that staff choose to come to, not because they’re told to but because they want to”. 

He points to five trends based on the survey results that will shape the future of work spaces.

1. Hybrid workspaces

Demand for good work-life balance means workspaces are adapting.

For instance, tech giant Atlassian has implemented its “Team Anywhere” approach. Its 5700 global staff can now elect to work from anywhere in the world, while the company is working on developing its $A1.4 billion new headquarters in Sydney’s Tech Central precinct. 

This is “a great example of a company that understands how their staff value the in-office experience,” Boddy says. 

It’s expected the new headquarters will be able to attract staff with a high quality in-office experience.

At Atlassian other new features include:

  • Fixed desking is out. Unassigned/shared seating is in
  • Space management software, desk booking systems and in-house concierge 
  • More collaborative zones, breakout areas and third spaces to work from

2. Environmental, social, and corporate and governance (ESG) 

Boddy says ESG is becoming an increasingly important business consideration globally, and for many, it’s top of the corporate agenda. 

It’s also an important talking point to attracting and retaining staff. 56 per cent of workers consider a brand’s sustainability actions when choosing their place of work, according to a new report from Mobium, Republic of Everyone and The Bravery. 

And purpose-led organisations with emotionally invested employees are more likely to succeed

The Business Council of Australia’s Achieving a Net Zero Economy Report 2021 shows approximately 50 of the top 200 ASX-listed companies have made net zero commitments in the past 12 months – a 300 per cent increase from the previous year. 

When it comes to sustainability, building age is no barrier. According to CBRE’s NABERhood Watch Report, 24 per cent of all office buildings constructed pre-2000 now have a 5.5- or 6-Star energy ratings, and these buildings enjoy an 11 per cent difference in occupancy when compared to their 4-Star or less counterparts. 

The environmental aspect is in part addressed by choosing high performing, energy-efficient buildings, however corporates are also being challenged to increase contributions to the social and governance aspects of ESG by: 

  • Implementing policies that improve diversity, equity and inclusion (DE&I)
  • Diversifying contractor and procurement relationships
  • Enhancing transparency in reporting
  • Paying staff a liveable wages to align with inflation 

3. The digital workplace 

Disruptive technology continues to be the greatest driver of business transformation and smart buildings that deliver superior digital connectivity are in high demand, says Boddy. 

“Smart buildings are already analysing data to anticipate the needs of occupants, before they’ve arrived for the working day ahead.

“Smartphones are allowing interaction with access systems, air-conditioning and vertical transportation, while sensors are optimising operational performance.”

To showcase a building’s digital capability, many leading property owners are turning to third-party certifiers such as WiredScore, which provide a scorecard assessment that measures a buildings resilience, future readiness, mobile coverage, choice of providers and the overall user experience. 

There is also increased investment in collaborative technologies such as smart video conferencing facilities with speaker-tracking and digital white boards, smaller conference rooms for virtual meetings (“zoom rooms”), and soundproof pods are also becoming an office staple.  

Meanwhile, “health and safety advancements such as contactless access systems, temperature screening, automated cleaning of high traffic areas and the installation of UV air-filtration technologies are rising in popularity”.

4. Wellness is the new green

There is a growing body of evidence highlighting the links between our physical environments and our overall health and wellbeing.

The “wellness revolution” has led to the creation of the WELL Building Standard, a benchmark that evaluates a building’s ability to enhance health, well-being and performance through concepts such as air, light, nourishment, movement and mind. 

Brisbane’s 25 King Street timber tower claims to be Queensland’s first building to receive a Platinum WELL Core and Shell Certification. Anchored by Aurecon, developed by Lendlease and owned by Impact Group, it’s a building that was created with the overriding philosophy that the wellbeing of employees leads to a better employee experience and ultimately drives customer engagement and satisfaction.

5. The “hotelisation” of the office 

The battle for talent has intensified and businesses are creating spaces that attract the best and brightest into their organisations. 

“Well-connected buildings with good public transport links, excellent on-site amenity and a variety of choices in popular bars, cafes and restaurants are the pick for switched-on corporates, who are taking a leaf out of the hospitality playbook by creating curated experiences for occupants from Monday to Friday,” says Boddy.

“This includes full concierge services that collect and deliver your dry-cleaning, VIP meet and greets, morning yoga, evening wine tastings, mid-week puppy playtime and Friday BBQ’s. Anything goes!

“It’s about creating sustainable spaces that foster connection through community, technology and wellbeing.

“In short, your office needs to be seen as worth the commute.”

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