Developers of Australia’s newest CBD towers are aiming to provide ‘unique points of difference’ as they strive to coax employees from the convenience of home offices and back to workplaces.

With the construction of over a dozen major skyscrapers kicking off this year across Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane, Domino Risch, Global Sector Leader for Commercial and Workplace at leading design and architecture firm Hassell Studio, says we can expect them to offer “super charged amenity” in a bid to foster wholistic communities within organisations and the buildings they inhabit. 

“The opportunity to differentiate as a developer is to create a shared eco-system,” Ms Risch explains. “I don’t believe every workplace needs to be utterly unique but those standard facilities such as end-of-trip and cafes will become more slightly nuanced within the newest developments.”

Unique experiences

Building concierges within CBD towers for instance will eventually expand their roles from directing visitors to various elevators and floors to providing hotel-like services.  A concierge who can “recognise people’s faces quickly” and make lunch bookings for tenants and clients efficiently are the sort of features that will make for unique experiences, Ms Risch says.

Offices are also morphing into more comfortable and amenable spaces. A recent Hassell survey found while salary has the largest influence on the attractiveness of a job (45%), it is outweighed by the importance employees placed on workplace culture (32%) and physical facilities (16%) combined.

Hybrid working (in-office plus remote work) has seen offices redefined as places for ‘collaboration connection and inspiration’ rather than daily routine toil. As such, office fittings are increasingly designed to recreate the comforts of home: think plush seating, lounges, rugs and carpet, increased use of indoor plants and the glow of warm mood lighting replacing the harsh glare of yesteryear’s fluorescents and downlights.

In addition to the exercise facilities and full-blown gyms now expected in many modern office towers, developers are adding such drawcards as meditation and yoga rooms, outdoor terraces and unique food and drink outlets, encased in environmentally friendly buildings pumped with purified air.

Modern workplace design

Hassell Studio is among the pioneers of employee-friendly modern workplace design. One of its most renowned is the Medibank Place in Melbourne, notable for no less than 26 types of work settings for employees to choose from. These range from indoor quiet spaces to collaborative hubs, plus wi-fi enabled balconies and spaces with standing desks. Natural daylight is mimicked in certain areas of the building via circadian lighting design based on the body’s natural biorhythms. There is also a ground-level sports court on which to play games, exercise and re-energise.

For property giant Lendlease Global, the brief was to create a head office which inspired and energised its 2000 Sydney employees to collaborate naturally. The result was a workplace where employees are not tied to a particular desk but instead engage with others in ‘team studios’ or ‘neighbourhoods’ of up to 20 people. Brainstorming and quiet focus are both accommodated in separate adjoining sections, and working walls allow people to create visuals. Physical activity was encouraged by connecting the building’s 11 storeys with internal stairs, and a healthy environment created with floor-perimeter working retreats flooded with light and filled with plants. Lendlease Global was also the first workplace in Australia to be fitted with a ‘breathing wall’, a vertical feature brimming with almost 5000 plants.

The increasing emergence of unique workplaces comes at a time 13 major office towers in CBDs around Australia are under construction or slated to start in 2022.

Among these A-grade towers Atlassian’s 40-storey $1 billion -plus headquarters which will rise adjacent to Sydney’s Central Station.

Others include Mirvac’s addition to Melbourne’s legal precinct, a 31-level tower at 383 La Trobe St near Flagstaff Railway Station, and a $600 million 38-storey tower at 205 North Quay in the Brisbane CBD. Service Australia will be an anchor tenant of the North Quay building.