Tower One | App-based working

Workplace designers are looking to our smartphones as inspiration for creating more efficient and productive work spaces.

Smartphone technology has revolutionised the way we live and work. The pocket-sized super computers we’ve all become inseparable from give us the power to have any information we need at our fingertips and to enjoy a multitude of experiences at a single swipe and click of the finger. And what have made this possible are apps. Think of all the apps on your own phone. Each performs its own unique function and it makes perfect sense to have a collection of specialised apps that each serves a specific purpose. We certainly wouldn’t expect one app to deliver everything we need.

That same principal is now being applied to the workplace with, unsurprisingly, enormous success. In the office scenario, the “apps” are the dedicated work zones and spaces, designed to cater to a specific need. So for instance, if you need to avoid distraction in order to focus on writing a report, you “click-in” to a space that will give you acoustic and visual privacy. When you’ve completed that task, you “click-out” of that space and perhaps move into a more collaborative setting, re-connecting with your colleagues. Later in the day you may be in a space created exclusively to foster creative thinking and collaborative problem solving, where beanbags have replaced office chairs and a healthy dose of natural light kicks the brain into a higher gear.

In some ways, it’s no different to our homes. The spaces we live in are almost always divided into specialised spaces based on their function – relaxation, food preparation, cleaning, work, sleep – so it’s taking these same principles of functional space from the home and applying them to a work environment.

The idea certainly isn’t new. Activity-based workplaces have existed for many years. However rather than open plan workstation areas with a small number of different sized meetings rooms, the modern concept of activity-based working effectively turns the entire office space into zones, with teams clustered into ‘neighbourhoods’ and all the activity-based spaces easily accessible.

The defining idea is to have people move to different spaces according to their needs and not expect them to do the many things that are required of them in a given day from a simple workstation space.

“The typical open plan workstation that most people sit at is an “average” experience that is trying to accommodate multiple functions,” says Natalie Slessor, Head of Workplace, Lendlease. “. What we’re doing now is creating areas of specialised purpose, and have people move to those spaces, rather than keep people confined to a single work area.”

Apart from the well-documented health and wellbeing benefits of increased mobility, when people move around more they see more of their colleagues, meet new people and create deeper connections in the organisation.

Business leaders of today want their people and their customers to feel deeply engaged with their business. That’s the measure of successful productivity. “Our business, and space is changing,” says Marcus Moufarrige, Chief Operating Officer of Servcorp. “We’ve taken this opportunity to use the vertical village space within Tower One, International Towers Sydney to build our biggest co-working space anywhere in the world. We’ve got test cases for co-working in NY and London and Tokyo, but this will be the first one we’ve built in Australia. We’re really excited that it’s going to be the next step in changing our business.”

Workplaces that emphasise social connection and foster collaboration increase engagement. When people are highly engaged, high performance swiftly follows.

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