Long gone are the days when Silicon Valley-inspired employers felt they could win the hearts and minds of employees by investing in a ping pong table and a beer fridge. Not even Google's famous buffet was able to survive the ravages of COVID-19.
The pandemic has spurred a realisation globally that most people with established careers would rather work from the comfort of their homes, and if they're going to have to endure a commute to the office then it must be worthwhile.
Commercial property owners and employers are responding to this phenomenon in innovative ways, cognisant that mental health and happiness are far more important to their staff than eye-catching novelties.
A common strategy previously was to provide enough perks that staff would barely spend any time at home; now it's an uphill battle to get them to come into the office at all, with low employment levels and the so-called 'Great Resignation' making it harder to make demands.
The sleek 158-metre-tall office tower 1 Denison in North Sydney is an emblematic example of the changes afoot. Owned by Winten Property Group, the $1.4 billion tower has involved "heavy investments" in workplace benefits, amenity and service, including an holistic wellness space called Nest that spans 364.5sqm on level 23.
"Nest in 1 Denison represents a brave shift by including the wellness centre in a prime position within the building. A space with a focus on natural light, greenery, views and a more human-centric approach," says Mia Feasey, CEO at Siren Design Group, which designed the amenity.
"Nest’s design was inspired by the desire to create unexpected delights through enticing the five senses. A place where you can truly escape from the busy office environment and be able to harness that inner peace and mindfulness, we all thrive on."
Winten has introduced access to free wellbeing classes - from Pilates Reformer to Yoga and Ballet Barre to Bootcamp - as well as gap-free massage and chiropractor services as part of its welcome back investment.
The building's occupancy rate has almost doubled to 35 per cent since February and is rapidly rising, as tenants such as Microsoft, SAP and Qualtrics are progressively moving back in.
Winten Property Group development director Stuart Vaughan highlights a commitment to making the transition back into the workplace as smooth as possible.
"Providing free services in Nest is part of our responsibility to employee wellbeing," he says.
"The decision to include Nest was a very bold decision that has paid significant dividends by attracting high-profile national and global companies that firmly place employee wellbeing at the top of their workplace agenda.
"This space is helping to engage and invigorate employees that work at 1 Denison, whilst simultaneously maximising their workday from the office. The space offers a sanctuary as much as it does convenience with resident medical practitioners, mindfulness zones, exercise classes and educational seminars all on offer."
Meanwhile on the other side of Sydney, workplace operations company SafetyCulture has this month opened its doors to an ultra-modern new headquarters in the booming tech precinct of Surry Hills.
The $38 million nine-storey building has been designed to encourage greater collaboration and innovation amongst SafetyCulture's teams, with themed meeting rooms to replicate the workplaces of customers such as Cathay Pacific and Toyota, an on-site kitchen and chefs, state-of-the-art gym and event spaces.
The new office contains a glass atrium with public art designed by renowned artist Janet Laurence introducing colour and movement via movable coloured glass panels, and a sculpture from Junglefy in the shape of a tree with its own active bio filtration system.
The tech unicorn is clearly trying to make work at its office on 72 Foveaux Street a fun place to be, with a games room, three bars including one on the rooftop, and a rotating calendar of events such as cocktail hour, tapas, DJs and karaoke.
"We’ve built a new home that is uniquely SafetyCulture, customer centric and a really motivating place to work," says SafetyCulture founder and CEO Luke Anear.
"The space is a partnership with the City of Sydney Council, leading workplace designers, living infrastructure specialists and a local artist," he says.
"We’re proud that the building gives back to the community and inspires our team while also maintaining our sustainability focus to ensure we achieve our net zero targets."
Anear says it's fantastic that today people can work effectively from anywhere, but "we still need a place to come together as a team and collaborate".
"This is why we’ve put so much energy into creating a workplace that people genuinely enjoy spending time at," he says.
"It’s been a really emotional experience to see our dream come to life and see the positive reactions of team members coming through the door. As a business we continue to grow and are already thinking about our next Sydney office, due to open in 2024, and beyond - watch this space."
Flexible workplace provider The Executive Centre (TEC) has weaved in-person and virtual engagement into the design of its new flagship centre that will open in the Sydney CBD in mid-2022, with a focus on sustainable design and community.
Occupying the 17th floor of Angel Place, the new centre includes a community terrace and a barista café with a Modbar, as well as digital pods with pre-installed screen and cameras for virtual meetings.
The interior design for the new centre is inspired by Angel Place’s winding laneways and vibrant culture and evokes a sense of streetscape discovery.
"In the current climate of uncertainties, many corporations have shifted towards an agile and responsive business model. They are changing the way they take up space and are adopting elements of flexible workspace strategies to empower their corporate real estate portfolios," says TEC Australia country director Robert How.
"Adaptive workspace solutions that offer cost-efficiency and the freedom to scale up and down are favoured over conventional workspaces with long lease terms that can become a burden.
"The new centre will be fully furnished and equipped with height-adjustable desks and ergonomic chairs in providing maximum comfort for members, as in all TEC centres."
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