21 May 2024

Want to create an office space people love to work in? Here's how

| Dione David
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Blurred, time-lapsed effects show employees engaged in a variety of daily office activities

Light and bright aesthetics, open and collaborative floor plans and a few extras might be all you need to create an office people want to work in. Photo: AnVr.

COVID undeniably changed the way we work, but while commercial landlords and employers are realising this is one genie they can’t cram back into the bottle, a better office space goes a long way towards luring employees back to the workplace.

With more than one vacant Canberra office, there’s been a marked uptick in certain revamp, refit and rebuild trends that create workspaces people want to be in, according to Moltus Construction director Mayukah Senanayake.

He says gone are the days of compartmentalisation – it’s all about spaces that organically bring people together.

“As few as five years ago workplaces still had this kind of hangover of the days when people favoured separate offices and cubicles. But people got a gut full of isolation during COVID, and now the office space must facilitate connection and an exchange of ideas. That’s invaluable to productivity, but also employee wellbeing,” he says.

“Modern offices tend to embrace a more open concept. The new fitouts we’re working on tend to do away with a lot of internal walls, and even for meeting rooms people are opting for glazed partitions rather than opaque plasterboard walls.”

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Aesthetic considerations impacting employee wellness, such as natural light and even something as seemingly superficial as colour, are equally important considerations when making a workplace an attractive alternative to the home.

Part of the reason is a shift in the average office footprint.

“We seem to be moving away from the 500 square metre-plus areas we used to fit out to half that average size. Perhaps that’s because the hybrid model a lot of employers are embracing now, where staff spend part of the work week at home and part in the office, means fewer desks that people share,” Mayukah says.

“In those smaller offices it becomes even more important to optimise the space, so dark colour schemes and using up precious space on, say, a corridor through the centre of the office, can hinder that open feel people want. The same goes for furniture.

“People are favouring fitouts that draw in as much natural light and moving away from those black and grey carpets commonly used in high foot traffic and common areas, opting for more of a timber look.”

But it doesn’t stop there. In a competitive labour market where flexibility is a major drawcard, employers want an office space that empowers them to answer the siren call of working-from-home convenience – and that might mean adding a few “extras”.

This may include more breakout spaces for employees to gather in or take a quiet moment, better kitchenettes and exercise facilities. End-of-trip facilities such as showers, which combine the prospect of avoiding traffic in the commute while getting in your daily exercise, are also popular.

“We’re upgrading a fair few commercial buildings with end-of-trip facilities,” Mayukah says. “Anecdotally, landlords for commercial office spaces are saying this is one of the facilities a lot of employers are looking for.”

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People previously looking to lease commercial office spaces favoured “cold shells” – a blank canvas they could fit out themselves. Mayukah says more clients are now looking for turnkey solutions, where they can “hang their signage and move right in”.

But go too far with a “speculative fitout” and you might find you’ve not only overcapitalised but also limited the pool of potential lessors. It’s a tightrope walk.

“In terms of feasibility, you have to kind of work backwards. What’s the rent per square metre you hope to achieve for your space, and how many workstations do you need to fit in to achieve that? That’s how you land on a budget,” Mayukah says.

“Most construction companies won’t offer consultation on that until post-engagement, which can be problematic when you’re trying to figure out what you can realistically do with your budget.

“We take a collaborative approach. We offer our clients free front-end consultation, and create something called a ‘test fit’. Basically that means providing potential floor plans of fitouts for cold and warm shells, which clients can show potential lessors, knowing up front what the cost and design would be.”

For more information, contact Moltus Construction.


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Sugar Glider1:33 pm 16 May 24

This is not news! It’s advertorial for Moltus Constructions! In any case, they’ve got it all wrong. As someone who has worked in offices for big and small agencies across the ACT since 1989, I can confirm that I HATE open plan offices and hot desking. This is a view shared by the majority of people with whom I work. We choose to work from home to avoid the unnecessary noise and distractions caused by open plan arrangements. How about some real news, and not shameless advertorial.

I am all for more sunlight, more attractive colour schemes, better kitchenettes and showers. However, please spare us the open plan office space. This is a disaster for productivity and is actually bad for collaboration, as people avoid conversations so as not to disturb colleagues working in the same space.

I really think he’s dreaming when he says “As few as five years ago workplaces still had this kind of hangover of the days when people favoured separate offices and cubicles. But people got a gut full of isolation during COVID, and now the office space must facilitate connection and an exchange of ideas. That’s invaluable to productivity, but also employee wellbeing,” he says.

People being upset at how the lunatic response to covid stopped them socialising with the people they wanted to socialise with is not at all the same as people wanting to be in contact with work colleagues. From the clear resistance office workers have shown to going back to the office, it’s fair to say nobody could give a stuff about people from work. To then conclude from that that people in offices don’t want private offices and cubicles could only be agenda driven and not reality based – although I don’t know exactly what the agenda would be.

In support of this, every person I know that works in an open plan office hates it, thanks to having ones (perfectly healthy) boundaries eroded, and because the noise in the open plan is distracting.

Why does it always have to be extreme, i.e., either full isolation or full contact? Why not a balance between isolation and contact, where people work together in an office but have some personal space in the form of a private office or cubicle?

Leave it to the “change for change’s sake” squad to screw yet another thing up

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