The Coronavirus has brought about significant and sudden workplace change, but emerging research suggests that while enforced isolation has been a boom for the growing work-from-home trend, transforming millions of commuters into remote workers almost overnight, it may not be a positive move for all workers and productivity.
Nicholas Bloom, an economics professor at Stanford University, who has written extensively about working from home and who has been pretty bullish about its benefits is now less optimistic about the inundation of enforced working from home. His two-year study of 1000 people who were offered the opportunity to work from home has revealed some interesting key learnings.
While only half of the people offered the opportunity to work from home in his study took the opportunity, the results seemed to speak for themselves – 13% more productivity and 50% improved staff retention. However, it’s important to understand that these workers volunteered, only worked 4 days from home and one day within the office to maintain a feeling of belonging to a team – and, this fact also is key: they were all doing activities that weren’t team based.
So, when Covid19 passes, what will that mean for the future of workplace thinking?
“Connectivity to the workplace helps with creativity. Most creativity is done in face-to-face environments. It encourages you to be ambitious and motivated. Full-time at home can be pretty miserable. Most people don’t enjoy it week in week out,” emphasises Bloom.
While working from home will continue to be a more accepted practice, and many companies have road tested the technology sufficiently to support that long-term, it’s likely that a return to the workplace will be welcomed whole heartedly by many. Equally, the recent lack of face-to-face interaction has seen us all place greater value on the ability for people to interact and collaborate. So, in the upcoming return to workplaces and workspaces, it is likely that the ‘bump factor’, the power that a workspace has to induce spontaneous interactions between peers, both within their own work groups but also between colleagues who work in entirely different divisions, will be more revered than ever.
However, employers have much to consider: How to re-engage staff who have grown to like working from home and many of the benefits that entails – avoiding commute times, fitting in exercise, and having the ability to have lunch with their family, or start dinner early.
Many employees have also had the opportunity to re-evaluate what they value in their workplace and it is likely we will see a shift, post-pandemic, to employers placing a much higher value on workplace design that focuses on wellness, productivity and the facilitation of collaboration – especially with the emerging workforce of the future, Gen Z.
According to Nielsen’s Total Audience Report, Gen Z makes up about a quarter of the world’s population – and it’s unlike the previous demographic. Human resources commentators generally agree that Gen Z workers show a preference for interaction with peers in person. The test will be how businesses create a work environment to attract and keep the best of both their current talent pool and the new breed of talent.
It’s a future business imperative that has played a large part in shaping Blight Rayner’s design response to Jubilee Place, the state-of-the-art 14-storey commercial office tower currently under construction in Brisbane’s Fortitude Valley, at the gateway to the King Street precinct, a naturally growing area as the CBD expands.
If it is indeed the role of the office to create spaces where workers can interact face-to-face, more organically, and more regularly, then Jubilee Place more than delivers both functionally and sustainably, but more importantly it does it exceptionally well.
“The building is designed as a six-star green star building and it’s just good passive design in the way we’ve approached this,” asserts Jayson Blight of architect’s Blight Rayner. “The core is a linear core that faces north-west so it’s taking a lot of the direct heat out of the floor through that approach. The façade on each floor is as high volume as possible with 3.4m of vision glass to the South allowing the natural light to come into the floor. That’s just good practice. But all of these things do add up to a very advanced approach in the idea of a six-star green star future workplace. The idea of engaging with your environment. Cross ventilation is important, so in the foyers and lower levels, the louvres are mechanical and they draw air through those lower levels. In the podium, there are pop-out balconies where people who are working in the podium can break out into landscaped decks. At the top of the building, tenants within the tower can come up and break out onto a 600sqm outdoor roof terrace with the exposed pergola, perfect for agile working and intertwined with sub-tropical landscaping, shady trees – a very lush, calm and re-energising environment that looks back over to the city.”
Jubilee Place is a true side-core design, offering 100% contiguous 1,536sqm floorplates. The remarkably clean design, with only four on-floor columns, provides the ultimate flexibility to respond to tenant design drivers while maintaining sight lines, visibility and connection across teams.
Jayson Blight reiterates the benefits, “There are not too many buildings in the city that are truly 100% contiguous space, a side core that opens out onto a wonderful flexible floorplate, offering tenants the opportunity to design from the inside out.”
Watpac was engaged early in the process to construct Jubilee Place and their collaboration in the planning of the complex steel diagrid structure so impressed CEO Jean-Pol Bouharmont, that Watpac are relocating their headquarters to Jubilee Place post-build. When asked if the build set a new standard for the workplace of the future, and set a new workplace trend, his response was telling, “I would have hoped that Watpac would be big enough to take the full building, so that we could call that building the Watpac building. But we are not yet in that situation and so there are certain floors available to other tenants. To me, it is really the type of commercial building we should be looking for today in the new environment we are in. And its location, prime location, not being in the centre of a congested city, easy access to a lot of different clients, easy access to public transport and side facilities – going for a coffee, to a training centre, going to a totally different type of business partner – were quite important for our team and to ensure that we would continue to attract the young generation to our business.”