Remember the days when the most you could hope for from an office was a desk that didn’t wobble, a glimpse of sunlight from a far distant window and a photocopier that wasn’t permanently jammed?
Today’s top offices offer far more than anyone back then could ever have imagined. And some of those buildings offer benefits that are extremely surprising.
“What the millennial employee loves about the office environment is bean bags,” says Clayton Howes, CEO of digital finance firm MoneyMe, a tech-based consumer finance firm that caters predominantly to the Australian millennial market who want small amounts of cash quickly.
“I know it’s a shock, but they really do love them. They’re so back. And perhaps even more surprising for this digital generation is that we have blackboard-painted walls so people can write on them and express their viewpoints.
“You wouldn’t have thought of that for people who’ve grown up with computers, but it’s true.”
Getting around on a Swegway at MoneyMe, with part of the Brooklyn Whelan mural in the background.
Howes’ MoneyMe premises are at the forefront of the revolution in office design, with health a major focus.
The office comes equipped with a steady supply of artesian water for employees flavoured with ingredients like organic rose petals, blood oranges and lime, and, rather than a seamless inside-outside transition, he’s brought the outside in by having a wall of green grass as well as green grass on the office floor where tiles might more normally be.
Bean bag, table tennis and a green-grass floor at MoneyMe.
“You have to create an environment where people feel comfortable in order to attract the best employees and make them happy at work,” says Howes.
“If you’re happy to spend hours in the office than you’re bound to be more productive too.”
Other features include murals by Australian artist Brooklyn Whelan, recently commissioned by Justin Bieber, a table tennis table which often gets used during meetings, a barista coffee machine, ultra-high definition monster-sized screens for showing information, sales and traffic to the company’s website, high-backed sofas for private conversations and the latest addition, a Swegway self-balancing scooter, to make getting around that much easier.
The green grass wall at MoneyMe.
“A good office creates a close-knit environment and a real performance culture,” Howes says.
“I believe you’re a product of your environment and if an office isn’t cutting edge and bringing in different elements, then you won’t have such a motivating, creative experience.”
Google, of course, has been a leader in office fit-outs, with its Sydney HQ in Pyrmont having pods mounted on the walls for people to take a nap, an area for arcade games, table tennis and a Lego-building station.
The “Library” meeting and relaxation room at Google’s Sydney office. Photo: Google
There’s also billiards, hula hoops, a music recording studio and a rock-climbing wall. For employees in need of downtime, there’s a “chill” room with a water feature, while cafes offer all types of food and beverages.
It’s a transformation in the working scene that’s happening around the country, too.
In 2015, Sydney office tower Grosvenor Place spent $9.3 million creating Camerino – “dressing room” in Italian – which features Italian marble, floor-to-ceiling mirrors and red leather benches.
Camerino, Grosvenor Place office tower’s new $9.3m end-of-trip facilities. Photo: Supplied
In Perth, a new block of offices, Exchange Tower on St Georges Terrace, offers a gym, new state-of-the-art change rooms with showers, a towel service, hair straighteners and irons, while the secure bike storage area also has repair and servicing facilities.
In Melbourne, new end-of-trip facilities in a bank vault have just been completed in a Mirvac building at 367 Collins Street.
Mirvac development director Richard Bradley at the end-of-trip facilities created in the former bank vault. Photo: Jesse Marlow
In addition, workplaces are offering a range of classes and courses tailored to the busy professional’s working day, including corporate challenges, “lunch and learn” sessions, personal training, ergonomic assessments, dietitians and physiotherapist treatments.
End-of-trip facilities at Aurora Place, in the Sydney CBD. Photo: Misa Han
At architects HASSELL, specialist in workplace strategy and design Steve Coster says funky workplace design is now all about attracting new talent to businesses, keeping them there and nurturing their physiological and mental health to keep them in top creative shape.
Medibank Place at Melbourne’s Docklands, designed by HASSELL. The brief was to design one of the healthiest workplaces in the world. Photo: Earl Carter
“We have a big issue with mental health in the office workplace in Australia and absenteeism is higher for those issues than for everything else combined,” Coster says.
“So it’s about giving employees a sense of identity and purpose as no one identifies themselves as a homogenous office worker. They want to be passionate about what they do, and for whom.”
He says a huge amount of focus on office features is now about allowing workers to get together to talk over food, exchange ideas and enhance the social capital of an organisation. “So, basically, these days anything you can think of is potentially an element in an office,” he says.
“That might be so much flexibility that every element of an office can be wheeled out into the street and reconfigured for changes in work practices, mixing people to help them collaborate and trade information, allowing them to eat together, all the way to having slides and bean bags.”
Getting together over food to exchange ideas is part of the HASSELL focus. Photo: Nicole England
Another leading expert in the field is Nick Tennant, climate workspace planner at Schiavello Systems (Vic) Pty Ltd. He says a major trend in workplaces is looking after workers’ health and wellbeing.
“That means having sit-to-stand desking and stand-up desks and meeting tables to promote physical activity and minimise sedentary behaviours in the office,” he says.
“Then we also have inter-tenancy stairs which is a healthier alternative to using the lifts when only travelling short distance between floors, as well as providing increased opportunities for serendipitous encounters between colleagues when placed near or within community spaces.
“In addition, there’s a move towards having wellness spaces – more than exercise equipment – offering yoga, meditation and massage.”
Stairs between floors, such as those at Macquarie Group’s offices at 50 Martin Place, promote physical activity. Photo: Brett Boardman Photography
Tennant also singles out office diversity with retreat spaces within open-plan collaborative spaces.
“There’s also a shift away from traditional corporate interior design aesthetics,” he says.
“Now that work can be performed anywhere, (like cafes or at home) workplace aesthetics are increasingly reflecting these spaces, with residential and hospitality design influences continuing to inform modern workplaces that simultaneously feel relaxed, yet professional.”