Workplaces of the Future: Will the office look like my son’s bedroom?

Oliver’s ’Big Boy’ Room by Jug Jones, on Flickr One of the questions raised at the Green Building Council’s Workplaces of the Future Summit held on 12 April, was will my office look like my son’s bedroom? The answer is apparently Yes. Now I like to think that this relates to all those cool crazy things like the car bed pictured, and not the mess of a teenagers room, but possibly it could be either! Today I’m covering the second half of the summit, if you missed my post on the first half of the Summit – Freerange Working, click here.

Psychology and the Workplace
Natalie Slessor – Lend Lease
Natalie is an environmental psychologist and talked about what is needed to design places that connect with people, attract staff and promote well being. The workplace should to be synonymous with the organisational culture and values.

Using clever groups of three words beginning with the same letter Natalie identified key issues in designing workplaces to achieve these outcomes.

Competence, Control, Confidence – does the environment facilitate work/productivity, can the occupant control the environment, does the environment make the occupant comfortable, safe and give confidence.

What is the vision? What is the experience? What is the question we need our workplace to help us answer?

End State, Engagement, Evidence – understanding and addressing both organizational and individual drivers and fears, honesty is important as part of the engagement strategy, strength of evidence based research to help in decision making.

Bruce Precious – GPT Group
Bruce was a self admitted naysayer of activity based working – until GPT moved into their own refurbished offices in the MLC Tower, and now he is a dedicated convert.

As a major property owner and landlord, GPT Group embarked on a major fitout of its own space within the MLC tower to demonstrate that existing buildings can indeed keep up, with a showcase fitout designed by Woods Bagot. Bruce spoke on the process of behavioural change management, moving from an environment which housed “more paper than people”. There were certainly many staff for whom the move to non allocated desking and only 1m of storage  space provoked fear and anxiety, Bruce himself among them. However by starting the conversation with staff early and the CEO taking a leading role, the shift has been successful. Within the first 3 months, 88% of employees would not have gone back to the previous environment. The idea of the ‘biggest loser’ competition where staff competed to reduce paper/storage brings some fun into the change management process (I wonder if ‘gamification’ could perhaps be taken further in the context of stakeholder management?)

Whilst research suggests that an office environment in itself might not be motivating it can be demotivating according to well known psychologist and “pioneer of job enrichment” Frederick Herzberg. After the staff had moved in extensive post occupancy studies were undertaken using BUS occupancy survey method and compared to previous studies for the old GPT offices (also in MLC but on different floors). GPT now rank as the most satisfied office occupants out of the offices surveyed in Australia! Bruce believes the GPT fitout may not be motivating but it is certainly inspiring.

GreenStar Interiors – Beyond Office Interiors
Jorge Chapa – GBCA
The uptake of the GreenStar Office Interiors tool and its impact on the market for environmental products has been significant. However rather than just update the existing tool, the GBCA has extended the reach of this rating tool with the release of the new GreenStar Interiors Tool. The new tool takes GreenStar interiors to other environments beyond the office being applicable to any type of interior – education, healthcare, retail, industrial (I must say I was left wondering what an industrial fitout might be?) and is currently in pilot version.

The new Interiors tool focuses on sustainability for people. It is also a simpler tool with less documentation and instead of prescriptive metrics defines criteria that design teams can use to find solutions to suit their projects.

Brett Pollard – HASSELL
The new HASSELL Sydney Studio fitout is aiming to be the first project certified under the new GreenStar Interiors tool. The new tool has a more human centric focus and will help improve a wide varitety of work environments. A wide range of spaces such as healthcare buildings, retail environments and law courts are covered by the tool – and are all workplaces too.

HASSELL has long been a supporter of the GBCA and have designed many GreenStar projects including SA Water House, which achieved a 6 star rating for both Office Design and Office Interiors tools. HASSELL has also obtained ratings for its own studios in Melbourne, Brisbane and Shanghai (LEED rating), which are also located within refurbished industrial buildings rather than new building stock.

Brett spoke of the human need for choice and how we can design the likely choices to be more environmentally friendly, ideas coming from the book Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness (by Richard H. Thaler and Cass R. Sunstein).  This book uses the term ‘choice architecture’ to describe how human choices can be ‘nudged’. For example if we design the default settings for a meeting room to have the lights and air conditioning off instead of on,  many users will then simply leave it off, only turning on if needed, resulting in energy savings.

Amanda Steel – Stockland
Amanda spoke of how the use of retail space is changing and already includes spaces such as art galleries and community rooms. Shopping centres have become a social hub and are no longer just for shopping. All Stocklands Centres now include community rooms which are used for a wide variety of purposes. Wifi in shopping centres is essential. Shopping centres may already act as a third workspace, and in the future it is likely that coworking spaces will also become part of a retail environment (I am aware of The Milkbar in Canberra which is a coworking space in a former retail space/strip, not in a centre).

25% of people are in shopping centres to do something other than buy a product. Unlike in office spaces, the outcomes of sustainability and human centric measures in shopping centres are easily measured in terms of sales and time spent in centre. For example with an increase in daylight, shoppers will increase time in the centre by 30%.

Image Credits:

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Acknowledgements: Image by Jug Jones
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2 Responses to Workplaces of the Future: Will the office look like my son’s bedroom?

  1. hello there,i read your blog the other day
    and it was really useful to me..i
    liked it very much.the way you described each
    topic..is really very impressing.

    Please visit my website to know more information- http://www.futurefitouts.com.au/

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