Flexibility & Wellbeing In The Workplace

The workplace of the future is all about flexibility and worker wellbeing
 
An interview between Stephen Lacey and Architect Fred Holt. 

Anyone who has ever watched the TV show Mad Men will know what a 1950/60s office environment was like. Sure, the suits were sharp, but everything else left a lot to be desired.

While the managers got big, spacious, wood-panelled offices, everyone else was confined to their own desk in the middle of the room. By the late 1960s, managers still had a big, spacious, wood-panelled office, but now everyone else was confined to a tiny cubicle in the middle of the room. People worked beneath ugly florescent lights that cast weird shadows, the office was a pall of cigarette smoke, and ergonomic chairs? Ha! Forget about it.

These days, modern businesses, are a lot more aware of the value of their human-capital. And so, they constantly strive to attract and retain valued employees through clever office design and management.
A whole industry of workplace designers has evolved to create workspaces that generate employee engagement, happiness and well-being.

The modern office is a place of collaboration through seamless technology and agility, where workers have the choice of quiet spaces, social areas, stand-up hubs, and outdoor areas.

Elements such as access to natural light and greenspace, a comfortable temperature range, and clean air are all considered crucial in the modern office. As is the use of low VOC materials in furniture and finishes.
Fred Holt is a partner with 3XN architects, the designers of the new Quay Quarter Tower. Holt says good leadership within any industry should be about making your staff feel empowered.

“In the case of workspace design and tower design, many people say it should be flexible” says Holt “But, flexibility implies changing a space to make it work. We think what’s more important is variety. The variety of space, variety of work settings, enabling your employees to feel empowered to make decision about where they work and how they work.”

Holt says Quay Quarter Tower’s large 2,000sqm floorplate allows for a diversity of spaces, from the contemplative and focused to the more open, social and engaging. All linked by a common purpose.   
This carries over into the precinct itself.

 “No longer is your workspace confined to a desk or a single floorplate in the tower.  The workspace now extends from the precinct, into the podium market hall and the outdoor terraces.  Technology plays the role of connecting data, but a variety of spaces scattered throughout the precinct and the building that are conducive for a multitude of working styles plays the role of extending the workspace.”

One of the defining features of the tower are the atria. Holt refers to them as the tower’s ‘vertical social spine’. Not only do the atria allow daylight to penetrate deeper into the space, it also allows for more workspaces at the perimeter to provide more staff a view out to the harbour.

But it’s the way the atria encourage a sense of community that really excites Holt.

“With most high rises with multi-floor tenants, you have no connection with your colleagues on the next floor, with the atria stacked throughout the building in Quay Quarter Tower, you can actually see your colleagues; you can look down to the base of the atrium, and join your co-workers there for a formal or informal conversation in an informal environment, so there are a lot of advantages on a social level. It allows serendipity, which could promote knowledge sharing amongst teams and departments.

“Anytime you get colleagues talking with each other, you start to cross-pollinate ideas and that’s where knowledge sharing kicks in. I think when people feel they can share and express ideas, they feel like they belong to a community, something more than just sitting at a desk punching numbers. They feel more empowered, which makes for a happier more fulfilling workspace and greater productivity.”
So, is the atria like the modern-day office watercooler?

“I suppose it’s like a big water cooler,” laughs Holt. “Except it has coffee bars with a view and a variety of working areas, and gardens. Plus, it’s not for gossip (Fred says with a wink), but rather a new way to work in an informal setting.”
Fred Holt-  Partner, Architect 3XN