(Centre): Woods Bagot Melbourne Studio in 2007; (Right): Goodman The Hayesbery office in Sydney completed in 2021

Goodman The Hayesbery, Sydney, Australia


Insights from the workplace future:

What’s Next?

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.

Not only did remote working highlight the consistent challenges, but it also introduced the possibility of flexibility and productivity once we cut out some of those daily stressors.

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.

The extended workplace:

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


Culture is king: Fostering organizational culture and a sense of place

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. 

Example: The Hayesbery for Goodman Group was an opportunity to relocate its offices from the central business district to a new headquarters at Hayesbery, a collection of four single-story heritage industrial buildings linked by a common courtyard. The workspace incorporates holistic sustainability initiatives with wellness in mind, and Goodman employees can access them at any time of day.  


Urban Crisis: Kickstarting our local urban economies

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.  

Example: Principal Amanda Stanaway worked with the New South Wales government in Sydney to invest $50 million to entice workers back into the central business district and help re-invigorate the local urban economy. The initiative entitled, Fantastic Fridays, puts $100 vouchers into the pockets of employees to encourage them to spend on CBD businesses each Friday.
City of Melbourne in partnership with Victorian Government: Melbourne Money – offered 20% back on a dining bill at participating cafes, bars and restaurants. For a cost of $8.4 million paid in rebates the highly successful scheme saw more than $40 million flow back into the hospitality sector at a time when businesses in central Melbourne needed it most.


Designing for wellness: Making wellbeing a central feature of the employee experience

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. 

Example: Rising from 80 Ann Street in Brisbane for Mirvac is Suncorp’s new headquarters, a carbon neutral building equipped with solar power roofs to generate its own power. Situated within a historic district, the 32-story office building pays tribute to  local history and positions itself as a progressive solution for the city’s subtropical climate. The building’s core is located on the side allowing for more lighting to enhance the wellbeing of employees. And with the post-Covid acceptance of hybrid as the new norm, the company has reduced the amount of office space, and increased the amount of collaboration space to support positive interactions.


Policy and Purpose: Intentionally laying the foundation for hybrid work

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.

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