Tower One | The reinvention of working

Showcasing the important new role office space is playing in connecting and engaging workers.

“One of the most common requests by our clients,” says Natalie Slessor, Head of Workplace, Lendlease, “is ‘I want a workplace that doesn’t feel like a workplace’”. What they usually mean is they want a work environment that feels authentic, even homely, and not clinical or manufactured.”

The internet has permanently changed the retail landscape, and bricks and mortar retail businesses have had to profoundly re-think their reason for being. For innovative brands it has meant placing greater emphasis on experience, on telling a brand story, on providing opportunities for social interaction. Other institutions, such as universities and education providers, have also had to reinvent the use of their physical spaces. When courses are available online, campuses are being put to better use in order to service the needs of students in new and innovative ways.

The professional workplace is going through a similar phase of examination and reinvention. If people can work from anywhere thanks to new technologies, and are demanding greater flexibility in how they work, workspaces of the future need to be smart enough and flexible enough for people to choose to be there.
Westpac Group were the first in a long line of organisations that are using the relocation to International Towers Sydney at Barangaroo to completely rethink the use and function of their workspace.

In 2012, in preparation for new workplaces in Sydney and Melbourne, Westpac commissioned research into workplace trends and what the future of working might look like and surveyed its workforce to explore how they wanted to work. The resulting data and intelligence shaped the formation of WorkSMART - a program designed to improve employee collaboration and flexibility. “WorkSMART is a philosophy; it’s a culture of working that reflects our changing world and the demands of our future workforce” says Sandra Casinader, Program Integration Director, WorkSMART for Westpac. “Our new workplaces are being designed on the agile principle that work is something you do, not somewhere you go.”

It’s still early days, however initial results, including a 15% reduction in sick leave and survey results that show 2 in 3 employees reporting to feel proud to work for Westpac due to the agile work environment and use of new technology, are encouraging.

Almost without exception, every organisation moving to Barangaroo has adopted the concept of activity-based or team-based working for a more integrated and connected workforce. “Workplace can be a very powerful communicator of brand, culture and values,” says Natalie Slessor. “It can say a lot about a business without using words.”

Innovative organisations understand this well, and also see the benefits to the bottom line of having a workspace that supports productivity, creativity and efficiency. The expectation for people to perform a multitude of different tasks from a simple open-plan desk for eight hours a day is being replaced with the idea that the workspace is best designed as a series of zones and spaces, each serving a very specific purpose, allowing people to move to the areas that best support the outcomes they need to achieve.

In addition, smart organisations are choosing precincts as much as they are choosing buildings. They know that a workforce that has easy access to transport and a range of authentic, quality, supportive amenities will deliver higher levels of engagement and satisfaction. “When people ask me what the workplace of the future is,” adds Natalie, “I say it is the place itself. Companies are choosing to be in the best places. Places that offer great experiences for their people. In essence, the precinct becomes your wider campus, an extension of your office.”

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