17/12/2019 - 09:08

Boosting productivity through design

17/12/2019 - 09:08

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A fundamental shift in commercial property leasing is continuing to provide opportunities for flexible providers.

MOVING: Balder Tol says WeWork is responding to a fundamental shift in commercial real estate. Photo: WeWork

A fundamental shift in commercial property leasing is continuing to provide opportunities for flexible providers.

Flexible office provider WeWork is focusing on increasing the productivity of its members at its two Perth locations, tapping into increasing demand from employers as well as employees for alternative ways of working.

WeWork opened its second Perth facility in Northbridge in November, with its premises at 45 Francis Street vaulting it to the top of the BNiQ flexible workplaces and startup spaces list.

The Perth premises have expanded WeWork’s Australian network to 17 locations, with more than 10,000 members signing up for a flexible office solution.

WeWork Australia general manager Balder Tol said the global company was responding to a fundamental shift in commercial real estate, with uncertainty over space requirements a key component of the growing demand for flexible offices.

“When we talk to executives, they are unable to forecast their headcount requirements 18 to 24 months out,” Mr Tol told Business News.

“But with traditional commercial real estate, you still have to sign a lease for between seven and 10 years.

“So there is only a very short moment in time that you have exactly the right space.”

Mr Tol said the WeWork business model of being an owner, operator and a tenant allowed it to give its members the needed flexibility.

He said the core attractor of a WeWork facility was the increased productivity that working in a flexible office environment could bring.

“With the rise of information, the new pool of talent is vastly more aware of how their surroundings have an impact on their happiness, engagement and productivity,” Mr Tol said.

“Therefore, they are putting a lot more pressure on their workspace, and demand from their employers that their workplace should be productive, should offer choice and contributes to their wellbeing in the space as well.

“For our enterprise members, attracting talent and retaining talent is one of their first priorities of moving into a WeWork space.”

He said productivity was the top priority for WeWork’s in-house design team when fitting out a facility, a strategy evident in its Perth operations.

“In terms of design, it is inclusive, inviting and should really inspire collaboration,” Mr Tol said.

“That goes in both the layout of spaces but how people move through the space as well.

“Productivity comes through lots of natural light and fresh air in the space, but places of choice.

“Just in this location, we have about 25 to 30 different options to work at that point in time.

“Whether that is a phone call in our phone booths, whether that is socialising with co-workers in a common area, or a dedicated space to do head down, deep work.

“All of the design elements and the materials that we use are really conducive to productivity and happiness as well, because those two go hand-in-hand.”

Mr Tol said WeWork was also conscious of attracting a diverse range of businesses, in industry and in size, to ensure a beneficial mix in its office environments.

“Diversity is absolutely key to collaboration, because it becomes genuine collaboration instead of competition.

“Therefore, diversity of both industry and of company size is really important for us to attract a member base.

“If you have all startups that are solving problems, maybe in other industries, the level of trust is low.

“Yet if you have more established businesses and you can see what the outcome of their solution has been, there is a higher level of trust.”

And while there has been some conjecture over WeWork’s ability to expand going forward following an announcement in November that 20 per cent of the company’s global workforce would be cut following its withdrawn plan to list on the New York Stock Exchange, Mr Tol said he believed there was potential for more WeWork facilities in Perth in coming years.

“We always invest in depth in a city,” he said.

“If you think about shared workspaces in Australia, I don’t think we even cover 3 per cent of total commercial  market, and that’s all platforms, not just WeWork.

“In terms of how far we go, our expansion in Australia has always been demand-led.

“With that, we are really focusing on the member experience and giving our members the best and most productive environment to work in, and from there on we will focus and see what’s next for Perth.”

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