Jan 23

A values-driven, people-centric approach to moving office

Planning an office move is a major exercise in logistics. But more importantly, moving can also create significant stress and anxiety amongst staff worried about the potential impact of this change on their daily working lives, impacting productivity. So, how does a group of workplace experts approach an office move? Read on to find out…

Back in 2010, 620 Bourke Street was perfect for our Melbourne team: spacious, a permanent desk for every person, extensive meeting facilities, nice wallpaper and loose-leaf tea almost on tap!

With consistent business growth and an increasingly mobile workforce, as well as technological advances which enable high security when remote working, we had outgrown the premises. Worklogic Melbourne needed a more flexible and collaborative space.

Like all we do at Worklogic, our approach to the office move was values-driven and focused on people.

Flexibility

Our support of flexibility and working from home meant that Worklogic consultants were increasingly operating both at client sites and at home, via secure IT facilities and document-sharing. Many meetings and interviews happen via Skype or teleconference. All our software operates in the Cloud, with secure VPN access to documents and case records.

This made our office move even easier: employees already work so flexibly that they were less concerned about consistency in their physical working space.

With ‘all roles flex’, and only three full-time employees of our 20-strong team, we needed fewer desks than total headcount. In a survey of the Worklogic team, they said they no longer felt strongly about having a permanent desk space, landline phone or in-house server.

Wellbeing

Everyone loves natural light and clean air. Our new space on Collins Street might not have ‘biodomes’ like Amazon’s new Seattle headquarters, but many plants and natural light for everyone were a must.

‘Biophilic’ office design has been found to reduce stress and improve brain function, and is a real investment in employee health and wellbeing. Even the relatively simple step of matching the light in the office to human circadian rhythms was recently found in a Dutch study to increase performance by 18% and work accuracy by 12%! We’re still thinking about how to encourage everyone to take breaks and exercise more – watch this space.

Communication

As soon as it became clear that 620 Bourke Street no longer fit our needs, we commenced talking with staff. We:

  • Gave them a heads-up that an office move was on the cards, and explained the intended process;
  • Ran an online survey of the team to understand their preferences for location, internal and external amenities and design;
  • Got together to workshop the survey results, and discuss the essentials, the ‘nice to haves’ and the no-nos;
  • Gave regular updates about the search for the new office, in meetings and by email;
  • Invited all staff to view the frontrunner of the office options, once we had commenced negotiations for a lease;
  • Surveyed the team again about their preferences for seating (which is often contested in office moves); and
  • Gave weekly email updates and had informal tearoom chats throughout.

Engaging in a structured and regular way with the team was a great exercise. Employees described their preferred ways of working, and explained that some things that we had assumed were essential (such as a large boardroom) were not needed at all.

People-focused

Discussions about the physical space naturally led to discussions about business strategy, future needs of our team and our clients, workforce planning and our values. We deliberately designed the new space for the Worklogic team of 2025 – and brainstormed together about what team members of the future will want and what will keep them happy and engaged.

The physical workspace matters. Employee wellbeing is strongly correlated to employee performance and productivity, and one of the largest factors of wellbeing is the physical workspace.

Space is also a key indicator of, and element of, workplace culture. How do people get together to solve problems? Are their ‘break-out’ spaces to take relax and socialise? Is there somewhere for rider commuters to secure their bikes and shower? There are constraints in every building, and tenants can’t always be choosers. But by thinking about our team’s experience of working at Worklogic, and finding out what they prioritised, we were able to shortlist office spaces on the basis of true needs.

Efficiency and Collaboration

Getting the balance right between encouraging collaboration on one hand, and avoiding distractions when employees want to engage in deep thinking and analysis, is crucial. The new office is relatively open-plan, but mindful of the need for confidentiality and enabling focus, there are additional break-out areas, discussion spaces and soundproof meeting rooms.

Next steps…

There are still some functional and decorative tweaks to make to our new premises, before we’ve fully settled in. We are encouraging our team to adapt the space to their needs and make the space their own. We want to make sure that the space enhances their sense of belonging and their ‘place identity’.

Moving Worklogic’s Melbourne team to a new space – that focuses on flexibility, wellbeing, efficiency and collaboration – is an important milestone for us. Next time you’re in Collins Street, come in and say hello!

About Rose Bryant-Smith

Rose Bryant-Smith is the co-founder of Worklogic and co-author of Fix Your Team‘ with Grevis Beard.

Rose is passionate about building ethical and productive workplaces. She leads Worklogic’s consulting projects on organisational values, risk management, business ethics and corporate governance. Rose also creates digital products to build better teams.

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