Work from Home and Work In Office are concepts that are becoming blurred as employers and developers strive to build a workplace community which suits the contemporary needs of all employees. While the need for workplace flexibility has long been a talking point, the events of 2020 have underscored its significance throughout the mainstream community.
There was a time, not long ago, when a person’s home and their workplace were distinctly separated, both an oasis, and with good fortune each offering an enjoyable life experience. Now, the line between creating liveable communities and designing and building offices to the expectations of a COVID-savvy workforce, has blurred.
Surveys conducted throughout the pandemic indicate most people have warmed to the concept of work from a place other than the traditional office on a regular basis. This could be home or even a third space, one, two or three days a week or whatever suits both the employer and employee’s needs.
Here at Stockland, we have continued to seek our people’s views about how they wish to work and what they need to be most effective. This has helped clarify what they value about the office environment and particularly how critical the office is to the ongoing development of our culture. We have worked with our leaders to establish bespoke team plans that work for our people, our customers and Stockland. Notably, around 80 percent of our people already had some form of flexibility arrangement in place prior to COVID-19, so we had a strong foundation to build on and we are excited by the new ways of working we have been able to establish this year.
When it comes to our asset management approach, we strive to be as close to our customers as possible with satellite offices conveniently located at many of our properties. This ensures there’s someone on the ground when our customers need them.
COVID-19 has proved, more than anything else, that its impact is very personal. The downside of work from home for many people has been the sense of isolation. It can’t match the vibrancy of the office. So, as just one solution, we instituted Coffee Roulette at Stockland – an opportunity to e-match employees for a catch-up on-line coffee break. Each week, by algorithm, participating employees received an email to meet their next matched coffee partner - a different person every time. It’s not exactly a water cooler gathering, but our team members have enjoyed the creative way of staying connected.
Another important consideration is mental wellbeing. It’s no coincidence that as a solid corporate citizen, Stockland is supporting three worthy causes – Reach Out, Redkite and R U OK? - each contributing to mental health in the community at a time of uncertainty. They form the basis of our CARE foundation, committed to giving back to the community.
COVID-19’s legacy is evident in our plans for new workplace developments, particularly at M_Park in Sydney’s Macquarie Park. We are able to design elements that reflect changes appropriate to a post-COVID-19 world. Our focus is on the marriage of health and well-being requirements within building technologies. An abundance of green space for communal meetings and meandering walking conversations, taking advantage of the outdoors, is a key element. We know people enjoy the experience of an office or business park environment, so will look to contribute to the vibrancy of the commercial hubs in which we operate.
This is supported by our research partnership with Ernst & Young, which informs an ongoing commitment to understanding customer needs, as we help to define the future workplace. Keep an eye out for more on this in the coming months.
Understanding the changing needs of the office worker will keep businesses in control of productivity and employee wellbeing. As we all eagerly try to uncover the new normal, one thing is certain - teams work most effectively when they are able to apply the principles of flexibility in a manner that best suits individual needs.