Offices - The Age of Fluid Collaboration

Thursday 16 July 2015

The way we work is changing. Where we work is also changing. In Australia and in many other advanced economies the CBD is a powerhouse of productivity, and an essential part of the local economy.

It’s an environment that’s exciting, intelligent, looking to the future and above all it's being built around collaboration supported by technology.

Where mobile communications have changed the work experience, with flexibility and adaptability are essentials.

Technology moves at an incredible pace. The iPhone was only launched in 2007 and by 2013 the number of mobile devices and connections surpassed the number of people on earth. Imagine the impact when, as predicted we have tablet devices costing just $10!

We are living in ‘The Age of Everywhere’ where Generation Mobile and Millennials may well have 12-15 careers in their working lives. And where and how they and others work can be as diverse as their career options.

In response to such leading demographics the work (office) space is changing on both a personal and corporate scale, becoming more creative, more accommodating, meeting the needs of very diverse generations from Baby Boomers to Millennials.


Growing Pains & Gains

Intuit’s new workplace at 1 O’Connell Street demonstrates this diversity. It has a games area with football and Ping-Pong tables plus a wellness room. Intuit’s Australian MD Nicolette Maury describes the space as being designed to mimic the look and feel of a startup’s office.

There’s the use of a lot of video conferencing worldwide and open collaboration zones.


Still Linked Face to Face

And collaboration usually means we all use more screens, big and small to help us work, still real face-to-face contact remains important, not only the Skype type but also the real flesh on flesh contact.

Working in this new office environment means personal interaction still remains important.

It’s easy to see just how collaboration is enhanced by technology, and

how key locations like the CBD give access to clients. That connection can be in a formal boardroom, meeting room or as is now common in a coffee shop, that are now a fixture across any business area.

We may well find ourselves asking just how many lattes does it take to secure a deal? It’s worth noting that world coffee consumption has been on the increase since the 2008/2009 GFC.

The reality is that with a Smart Phone you can invite along a fellow colleague from Melbourne or Mumbai, this one device has re-shaped how we work.


The Age of Everywhere

Technology is creating ‘The Age of Everywhere’ and Generation Mobile may well have 12-15 careers and these demographics alone will influence the fit between people and office space, presenting a greater challenge for planners, developers and employers.

Another big influence will be the sharing economy, described as a type of business built on the sharing of resources and allowing customers to access goods and services when needed.

Think AirBnb or Zipcar or Pier-to-Pier lending, whether it is a monetary or social paradigm shift, this type of open access economy is one of the big drivers of activity, and the shape of that activity is always going to change the character of office accommodation.


Business Clusters

CBDs also thrive on synergy and this includes how business clusters work and how they influence collaboration and in-turn commercial accommodation, one place to consider is the delivery of infrastructure.

The current rise in the urgency and need for infrastructure and the growth of technology are examples of the logic of business clusters. With major infrastructure projects, the diversity of professions required to deliver these big projects involves a lot of different services, professionals and industries.

Locally and across Asia we see the importance of new infrastructure, and if you stop and think about it, the number of services required to deliver for example a new airport, a new light rail or a bunch of new schools, then it’s easy to see how a vibrant and inter-connected and collaborative an environment that is.

Adaptation and collaboration enabled by technology still leaves room to create office space and locations with beauty, form and function in the context of creating space that is more personal, with mobility on a human scale.

Also as we see more contract employment there is a new trend towards the use of internal pop-up space in office locations, this might be for a particular project, but exhibits flexibility. There’s a need to accommodate the needs of a wide range of projects and generations – baby boomers (desire to keep them in work longer) to Millennials.

A balance of individuality and collaboration is clearly needed to support job satisfaction and productivity along with different work styles and lifestyles. Office space has moved headlong from a passive backroom function to a frontline business imperative, productivity generator and recruitment tool.