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‘Office as an oasis’: The digital age drives new ways of working

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OPINION: NEW research from Mirvac, in partnership with WORKTECH Academy, shows the role of the office in a post-COVID world is no longer defined by four walls in a commercial tower. Discussing the whitepaper, From office to omni-channel: The rise of the omni-channel worker in the digital age, Mirvac General Manager Strategy and Customer, Paul Edwards, outlines the future of work and the role of office as an oasis.

Technology has long been a driving force behind the changing role and purpose of the workplace. As companies worldwide quickly pivoted to working from home due to COVID-19, we saw the rapid acceleration of digital working and its impact on the office.

As we emerge into a post-COVID environment, the role of office and our ways of working have been redefined.  At the heart of this new definition is the employee.

Mirvac’s latest whitepaper, developed in partnership with the WORKTECH Academy, shows that while most of us enjoy the flexibility of working remotely some of the time, the blurred lines that come with working from home can put pressure on individuals. Another impact reported during the pandemic was the loss of learning by employees, with people missing the ‘over-the-shoulder’ transfer of knowledge and expertise.

This means that for many employees in 2021, the office has become an oasis. A place they connect with their teams, learn from their peers, collaborate over challenges, and focus on new ideas and innovation.

The omnichannel worker

Our research revealed that while most employees want to return to the office, it is on a part-time basis and for specific reasons. Demand remains for workplace flexibility, including work from home, and purpose-built spaces, such as membership clubs, local satellites, and client sites as office portfolios become more sophisticated. Each of these different venues becomes a working channel that the employee can tap into and use when they choose.

There are clear parallels between this trend and the shift in the retail sector in the past decade, where brands broadened the customer experience beyond bricks-and-mortar stores to seamlessly integrating shopping from both physical and digital channels. Our learnings from the retail sector have helped Mirvac to anticipate the changing office environment and proactively adapt our portfolio to meet our tenants’ needs.

The corporate office channel will remain critically important but not the only location for work. The digital enablement for workplaces to ensure this seamless connectivity between the individual and work network will be even more vital.

The redefined role of the office

The physical office will change its use, evolving into several work channels with specific functions for employees, providing a strong reason or drawcard for workers to use it. For example:

  • A ‘Destination Office’ will be the place to go for creating culture, building social capital, and connecting to the mission and values of the organisation.
  • A ‘Training Office’ will provide a dedicated learning and mentoring environment.
  • A ‘Specialist Office’ will accommodate production and Research & Development activities with the requirement for regular attendance, such as life science lab facilities.

Underpinning these new functions and new models of working will be high-quality workplace experiences that are becoming the key differentiator expected by tomorrow’s best talent, demanded by leading organisations and created by designers, architects, and developers.

An example of a ‘destination office’ is Mirvac’s 80 Ann Street in Brisbane, which responds to the experiential and flexible needs of its future office workers. In partnership with anchor tenant Suncorp, Mirvac has focused on authenticity, nature, and a range of shared experiences in its core strategy. The building comprises 35 floors, and nearly 60 per cent of the ground level is dedicated to public space, playing into the idea of bringing a range of people together through different channels. The new workplace precinct will provide areas for socialising, leisure, health, wellness, and traditional work.

Supporting new ways of working

Collaboration, connection, culture, and innovation are critical to an organisation’s success and are all activities that are best facilitated in the physical office. The office should be viewed as a tool for employers that can enable their staff. By creating a workplace that is a desirable destination to come to each day, there will be more drive and eagerness amongst employees to do so.

Commercial property and tenancies will need to be rethought and redesigned. There will be a growing emphasis on social community and culture, with a greater focus on offices providing flexibility, community, and building social cohesion through experiences. Planners and developers will need to recalibrate where workplaces fit into the urban mix.

There are some key considerations Mirvac is looking to as we explore this new landscape of work:

  • Portfolio as a platform – View your real-estate portfolio as a platform to provide a range of services and experiences for omni-channel workers – and not as a generic set of office buildings.
  • Embracing the digital – Mirvac has focused on creating an intelligent infrastructure that enables our tenant partners and their workforces to plug and play; data from sensors also give tenants access to data to support their business operations.
  • Curating all experiences – Workplace experience has been on the corporate agenda for some time. However, with employees working more flexibly, focusing on creating different types of experiences in the physical office– for learning, collaboration, social interaction, and culture-building – will support the return to work.

For a copy of the full whitepaper, please register here: https://rebrand.ly/0ib789r

By Paul Edwards, Mirvac General Manager Strategy and Customer.*

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Mirvac General Manager Strategy and Customer
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