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The innovative future of workspaces

The impact of a work environment goes well beyond office walls and furniture; the behaviour and experiences of employees can be fundamentally changed by physical space.


Companies now realise that refurbishing or relocating creates the unique opportunity to look at how culture, productivity, and functionality can be influenced and improved with workspace strategy and design. 

Commercial workspace specialist and co-founder of office interiors company Amicus, Andrew Holder, says knowing how your employees' work can be just as important as an efficiently managed budget, project timeline and the design process for a successful office fit-out project.

“Before pen hits the paper, we observe how our client's employees work, what their day-to-day tasks are, and then use that information to design the most functional, efficient and welcoming space for that organisation.” Holder says.

“We help companies set the direction of their culture and workspace goals by exploring how the management structure of companies operate. For example, they might be traditional or they might be more progressive.”

Holder, who founded Amicus with James Kemp in 2005 and has helped refurbish the offices of well-known companies such as Snapchat, Yahoo!, Mattel, Coles, DHL and Honeywell, among others, says organisations are often paying for more space than they need.

Some companies are better off reducing the size of their offices – and therefore their rent – by implementing an activity-based working environment, which helps management get the most out of a smaller space.

“We’ll survey our client’s staff to gain a better understanding of what their day-to-day functions are, and create a workspace that accommodates,” Holder says. “For example, teamwork might be a focus for staff, so collaborative spaces and meeting rooms will become a footprint of the design.”

The wellbeing of our client's employees is an important factor that we consider when designing and constructing a workspace, says Holder, workplaces are increasingly being styled like homes and hotels.

“Employees want to feel more at home while they’re working, they want comfort and they want to physically enjoy the place in which they work.” he says.

“We look at how furnishings, lighting, ceiling height and technology can achieve those things.”

Another trend is agile workplaces. More companies are including quirky aspects that help boost morale and the wellbeing.

“Companies are far more likely to think progressively with their workspaces these days,” Holder says.

Technology, advertising and marketing companies, in particular, are more adventurous with their fit-outs.

“For some of our client's we are incorporating facilities and spaces for things like massage and yoga,” he says. “Some companies even have their own barista.

“Younger generations coming into the workforce are expecting workplaces to be agile; desks aren’t fixed.

“They may also expect their workplaces to have wellbeing spaces and the latest technologies.”

Many companies are investing in breakout spaces such as kitchens. One example, says Holder, is Enero, a boutique network of marketing and communications businesses, who included a fully functional bar in their new workspace.

The company’s 3500-square-metre fit-out incorporates the old with the new; the timber skeleton of a heritage-listed woolshed combined with modern finishes.

While there is a hunger for workplaces to be more agile, many companies are nervous about being too quirky.

However, Holder can name one client that made the jump.

“Flight Centre is quite traditional, but they went with a slippery slide in the Brisbane office to embody their brand of fun and adventure.”

One project Holder is particularly proud of is the office fit-out for Snapchat in Sydney.

The image messaging app company’s workspace was transformed into a fun, bright and agile environment while ensuring a high level of security remained in place. There was a strong focus on the implementation of technologies and half of the workspace focuses on breakout and collaboration areas.

Another notable project is the fit-out of Amicus’ Sydney office in Bulletin Place, Circular Quay. The space was turned into a modern, bright and agile activity-based working environment, allowing staff more flexibility to choose their area for quiet work or for collaboration and creativity.

The past two years have been busy for Amicus, which employs 95 staff and reports $100 million in revenue. The company doubled in size to now deliver 120 projects across Australian and New Zealand each year.

Last year Amicus was ranked 39th in the Australian Financial Review’s top 50 most innovative Australian companies, and 13th in the Best Places to Work in Australia study, run by global research, consulting and training group Great Place to Work. In 2017, Amicus was recognised as an ABA 100 Winner for Business Innovation and as an Employer of Choice by The Australian Business Awards. 

This month, Amicus, alongside the Fourfront Group in the UK, launched The United Workplace, a group of like-minded businesses focussed on innovative design for workplaces. The network also includes Summertown in the Middle East and Ware Malcomb in the US.

“Two years ago we decided we wanted to bring global influences and benefits to our client's in Australia” Holder says.

“Each partner in The United Workplace network provides local insight. The network allows us to share market trends and key industry insights on a global scale, meaning clients have access to the latest industry knowledge.”

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Date 19 September 2017 By Andrew Holder
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