London, United Kingdom
Masdar City, Abu Dhabi
Auckland, New Zealand
New York, New York
(Centre): Woods Bagot Melbourne Studio in 2007; (Right): Goodman The Hayesbery office in Sydney completed in 2021
Goodman The Hayesbery, Sydney, Australia
After spending more than a year working remotely, many employees are questioning the need to ever return to the workplace. Working from home highlighted some of the daily burdens we tolerated for so long: stressful commutes, open plan offices that made it difficult to focus or forced us to put on noise cancelling headphones to block out nearby banter (which then begs the question, why am I in the office if I can’t focus or enjoy the social company of my colleagues), and the challenging task of balancing workplace and personal commitments for dual earning households with children.
Suddenly, when you cut out that three-hour commute, you found time to go for that daily walk or run; you could drop the kids off at school, help them with their homework, and be available for family dinners. With greater control of our own time, it suddenly felt possible to do more.
Now as employers look to bring back their staff, they face the dilemma of how to encourage people back to the office given all the challenges associated with the pre-Covid workplace. There have been a variety of responses and approaches to the post-pandemic return to the workplace. Some organizations have opted for a return to pre-Covid working regimes, others are welcoming hybrid as the new norm, and others have decided to allow employees to work from home indefinitely and are even advertising it as a benefit to attract new talent.
Given all of this, it is not surprising many companies are reticent and asking: what is the new working model? At Woods Bagot we envision a new normal where the workplace plays a more active role in the communities of which they are part and where employers provide more of the perks that remote working has offered beleaguered staff. In this new normal we imagine a future where the workplace extends itself to do more for its local community and where the working environment works doubly and even triply to enhance the employee experience. We spoke to Woods Bagot’s Interior Workplace Leader, Amanda Stanaway, who is based in Australia where many of our clients and colleagues have navigated the tricky transition back to the workplace and have shared some of their timely insights from their own lived experiences.
80 Ann Street, Brisbane, Australia
Recognizing the importance of culture and social connection, we have adapted a 30,000 sq ft historic space with lots of character, created more open, informal spaces to inspire collaboration, brought nature indoors to instill a sense of ease, and reduced densification so that individuals can feel safe back at work. Sustainability, safety, and wellness have been a key focus and led to spaces which foster an environment for employees to grow, be inspired and engaged.
Even in the early months of Covid, it became clear that the cluster of businesses that existed to cater towards urban employees severely suffered the impacts of a new remote working norm. Discussions began between local governments, commercial property owners, and their tenants acknowledged the fact that our cities would only begin to recover with the return of the workforce.
The global pandemic has revealed many shortcomings and laid bare just how tenuous some of our social and support systems are. Many staff have faced traumas and pressures related to personal and economic losses born from the pandemic. As employers look to entice employees back into the office, they will need to offer far more mental and physical health support and make wellbeing a central aspect of the workplace.
As many companies accept the new hybrid reality, it is incumbent upon employers to provide the appropriate technology infrastructure to support hybrid collaboration and improve the work experience for everyone. The responsibility sits with leadership to effectively orchestrate the hybrid workplace, which now includes two different modes of work: in-person and remote. In the coming months, as the emerging culture of hybrid works itself out, leadership will need to be ready to adjust its expectations of staff, be prepared to clearly communicate workplace norms, and in time, assess what this means for the design of the workplace. And perhaps this could be one of those rare occasions where it makes sense to hold off on immediate physical changes in order to fully absorb unfolding employee preferences. In this evolving future, the organizations which figure out how best to implement hybrid work will generate the best outcomes.
Talk to Amanda Stanaway about Lessons From The Workplace Future
Amanda Stanaway is the Global workplace leader & principal at Woods Bagot Sydney. Amanda sits at the forefront of workplace design; currently working with a broad portfolio of corporate clients worldwide including NAB, CBA & Google. Her role encompasses strategy and interior design across the commercial, lifestyle and public sectors and this mix of skills and diversity of knowledge provides a unique, comprehensive and innovative approach to projects for her clients.
Amanda has been instrumental in creating some of the most cutting edge workplaces in Australia – which have delivered real business advantage and positive change for the organisation.
80 Ann Street