Catering for today’s workforce with tomorrow’s office

The key to a modern workplace is to make it a place where employees want to be and you’re already a step ahead in attracting and retaining talent, writes Graham Kristiffor.

Office [ aw-fis, of-is ] a room or a part of a building where people work sitting at desks. Wrong. Today’s businesses are ripping up the dictionary definition of their place of work, breaking down barriers to performance through embracing the blurred lines that now exist between work and life.

With geography or traditional professional experience no longer such a defining factor in employment, successful businesses are focused on identifying and retaining talent wherever it can be found, no matter age, gender or culture. To do this they are having to up the ante considerably from just providing modern tools for staff. 

A fully collaborative workplace with integrated amenities and technology is becoming increasingly crucial to engagement, productivity and loyalty – and we are really just at the start of the trend curve. So how can you future-proof your workplace?


Home sweet home

It takes more than a ping-pong table in a breakroom to impress these days. In this high-stakes business environment, landlords are collaborating with organisations to raise the bar and provide workplaces that employees actually want to spend time in. 

As such, an increasing number of new fit-outs are blurring the lines between residential and commercial, particularly through interior selection.

Businesses are bringing in more material selections like wooden ceiling tiles, wallpaper and even chandeliers. From start-ups to corporate offices, these residential textures are serving to support morale and pick up the tempo on how employees engage and work within the space.

Rethinking interiors includes enabling the flexibility for where employees want to work, whether this is at their desk, lounging on a beanbag, at a leaner in the kitchen or even while drinking coffee in a nearby café. 

Cutting the cords and removing the landlines can enable an agile neighbourhood-based work setting that will boost productivity and sentiment within the office.


An expectation for amenity

With the millennial generation soon to make up the bulk of the workforce, there is an increasing priority placed on work/life balance. This makes access to amenities absolutely paramount.

Five years ago, hospitality in the work place was simply a by-word for after-hours client entertainment. But increasingly businesses are seeing the tangible benefits of genuine hospitality-style amenities in their workplaces. 

Not only are these amenities valued perks that help attract and retain talent in an incredibly tight labour market, they also make employees more engaged.

Modern landlords have quickly grasped this and in addition to providing quality food and beverage options, are reacting by offering new and extended end-of-trip facilities like showers, bike racks, laundry resources, and even access to gyms and other health facilities. 

From a tenant’s perspective, allowing employees to exercise at work creates wellness and a staff member that is healthy, fit and engaged is more productive.

Tenants surveyed by JLL who have moved to modern workspaces within the last two years reported seeing significant reductions in absenteeism.

This is a true cost benefit to a company and should always be considered. The rental may increase through an upgrade to superior premises, but the reduction in absenteeism and higher staff engagement can more than counter-balance this.


Public transport nodes

Big, heavily-populated cities around the world have traditionally clustered offices around major public transport nodes. And now, even in old car-loving New Zealand, we’re catching on to this trend. 

As our public transport system improves and we collectively embrace the need to de-carbonise, we’ve seen a major push to the waterfront in Auckland – with Britomart and Wynyard Quarter benefitting from proximity to train, bus and ferry services and the promise of even better public transport integration through the City Rail Link. 

The corollary of this geographic and mental shift is that car parks – or the promise of a parking space as part of a remuneration package – are gradually losing relevance; which in turn is supporting the growth of attractive, people-friendly shared spaces around these office clusters. Surely a win-win development.


Rise of co-working

The co-working idea has evolved significantly in recent years, from just ‘hot desking’ for start-ups to more of a community environment that established businesses are increasingly tapping into. 

This has been instrumental in providing productive and creative work spaces that encourage co-creative innovation, networking and collaboration.

Tenants seeking to become more efficient have found huge cost savings in honing their workspace and utilising co-working operators and spaces. Do you really need to be paying rent on a dedicated boardroom that you use once a month? A storage room that remains half-empty for 10 months of the year?

Co-working’s rapid growth and its appeal to tenants has led to developers leasing whole or part of buildings to co-working operators. This approach effectively acts as an insurance policy by freeing the developer from managing leasing of the building and providing flexible office firms with large amounts of space to meet growing demand. Businesses in close proximity can leverage the space when necessary for events or for project teams to scale up and down.


Technology trap  

According to a recent report from Progress Software, around 85 percent of global decision-makers believe that if they don’t digitally transform within the next 24 months, they’ll fall behind the competition and take a hit on their bottom line.

Integrating this digital transformation within office design is therefore key, and so building owners who want to compete for high quality tenants are responding with the next generation of tech-based initiatives. 

The demand for data, cloud-based services and smart building IoT devices is increasing exponentially and this isn’t expected to slow down anytime soon. 

As long as buildings have a strong fibre optic backbone, then landlords and tenants can implement whatever technologies deliver the best value and the best experience at the time. Apps are providing convenience and personalisation to the end user, as well as providing landlords and employers valuable real-time data. This can help them make appropriate adjustments to things such as temperature and lighting, and also help them determine the profile of building users so they can tailor retail and amenity offers.

However, these innovations do come with costs, which need to be balanced with the needs of individual businesses. 

It’s important to ensure that what goes live solves real problems, rather than perceived opportunities, as every day new technologies emerge and it’s very easy to get caught up and obsess with the world of possibility.


Human experience

In JLL’s Workplace – powered by Human Experience global survey, roughly 70 percent of employees said that happiness at work is the best ingredient for a unique work experience. It’s clear that treating employees as they should be treated – like valuable resources – resonates. 

Find out what your employees need in the workplace to be supported in their daily work, and empower them by getting their input on workplace decisions. 

Provide the best workplace solution that meets your business needs and engenders engagement, empowerment and fulfilment.

Workplaces used to be functional above all else, which often made them dreary. The new focus on experience has the opposite impact. It’s about eliminating any sense of drudgery associated with being in an office by stacking the workday with crave-able experiences.

And herein lies the key to a modern workplace – make it a place where employees want to be and you’re already a step ahead in attracting and retaining talent.   


Graham Kristiffor is head of Auckland office leasing for JLL NZ.

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