From the moment we switched off the lights in March 2020 to now, office life has changed forever. Nice to haves are now essentials, and full time is now negotiable. So if you’re locked into a long lease on a big space, what’s your plan? Here are three options to maximise team morale and ROI.

McKinsey, PwC and all the major news outlets have weighed in on the ‘new normal’ of offices post pandemic. While there’s endless research and countless expert opinions, the broad consensus is that working from home will be around long after the pandemic is history, requiring more flexible workspaces. According to a recent review by the Productivity Commission1, it is expected that most employers will experiment with a hybrid model, allowing workers to split their time between the home and the office.
“The hybrid model is intuitively appealing, balancing the benefits of working in the office — being able to collaborate, innovate and interact with colleagues face-to-face — with the flexibility, quiet and lack of commuting associated with working from home.”

So what happens to your office space?

With some working from home becoming a standard part of the working week, the question for businesses with office space in CBD areas is what should they do with an existing space that may be too large or require reconfiguration? Milton Kennard, Director of Vestra Workspace, has been fielding this question from business owners in the CBDs of Sydney and North Sydney as they plan for the year ahead.
“While many employees like the freedom of working from home, many employers we talk to find that a lack of real-life face time is impacting productivity, morale and creativity.” “Keeping an existing team running is one thing, but onboarding new staff, innovating new solutions and building culture in new teams is much harder.”

The death of the office is overstated

According to a recent PwC Australia report2, the decline of the CBD has been overstated. In their recent study3, 66% of respondents said they would prefer to connect with people at a physical workplace.
“Organisations will need to provide stimulating and inspiring spaces that are designed intentionally so that employees who choose to come into the office – in favour of alternatives – are equipped to do their best work.”

What’s your next move? Three options:

The return of the workforce to the office is inevitable, and it provides an excellent opportunity to take a fresh look at your space to create a safe, enjoyable, collaborative and productive environment.

1. Reconfigure and enhance

Now could be a good time to relook at your office footprint and see how it could best be used to cater for a more transient workforce. Below we have shared some practical ways you can optimise your existing space to create an environment that is enjoyable to work in and stimulates productivity.

2. Downsize and save

If you’re near the end of your lease or have flexibility, think about renegotiating your terms such as reducing your rent by using a smaller space or recovering some revenue by sub-letting the extra room. For example, if you had 50 full-time people in a 500m2 office space pre-pandemic, with more people working from home you may now be able to comfortably accommodate the same staff in say 300m2 area.

3. Move and start fresh

If your current lease is due to expire in the next few months, you might want to think about taking a fresh look altogether. Is your office in the right location? Could you get a better deal? Do you need a bigger or smaller space? Could you move closer to public transport for easy commuting? With excellent rent incentives being offered in the CBD, now could also be a good opportunity to make a move.

Features to consider in the new environment

There are plenty of things you can do to make your office space an inspiring and productive place to work. Here are a few ideas to save money, improve culture and retain flexibility.
  • Reduce the number of permanent workstations to free up more flexible space, and increase meeting room and shared spaces where communal desks can be more spread out
  • Add in soundproof phone booth pods for private calls and video meetings
  • Create storage and secure lockers and tote box areas so staff can leave their gear at the office
  • Improve your technology infrastructure for video conferencing and virtual staff meetings
  • Support wellbeing with features such as treadmills, standing desks, a meditation ‘break out’ room, a breakfast bar or espresso machine
  • Incorporate touchless design features such as sensor security, smart lighting and touchless bathroom facilities to make your workers feel safe and healthy

Your workspace. Reinvented for the new normal.

We love collaborating with businesses to develop a strategic plan that complements your organisation perfectly. Having created many commercial interiors in and around Sydney CBD, Vestra Workspace makes transforming your workspace easy with an integrated service from concept design through to project management. If you would like to brainstorm some options for your office reconfiguration or have any questions about the process, get in touch and we’d be happy to arrange a no-obligation consultation.

References:

  1. Productivity Commission: PC Working from home research paper, September 2021
  2. PwC Australia: Changing Places: how hybrid working is reinventing the Australian CBD
  3. PwC Australia: Thinking Beyond: How the Pandemic is rewiring a new world of work, 2020