Insight | WORKTECH18 by Keith Dougal

The importance of creating dynamic office landscape to deliver an engaging workplace experience.

The last few workplace conferences I have attended have generally highlighted how we, in our daily work / life blur, can be more mobile and more networked with the aid of lighter and more connected devices, hardware and applications. This new found level of agility also begged the recurring question of how do we create a team culture if no one is around?

Worktech18 Sydney was different.

The focus of many of the presentations was firmly targeted at creating great spaces for teams to work together, in the same room at the same time, to develop meaningful working bonds and a strong workplace experience (WX).

Although this is not ground breaking stuff, it was heartening to hear a number of recurring speakers touch on the importance of quality of space and how this triggers a need for new metrics.


‘We have digital brains but analogue hearts’

Our ‘digital brains’ crave and process constant stimuli. These connections we make are often fleeting and can unconsciously shift with the latest trend or app. We get bored quickly and we move on.

In contrast, the connections our ‘analogue hearts’ long for are much more grounded and enduring. We still respond to natural materials, daylight and views, greenery, fresh air and sense of wellbeing.

Ask anyone to name and describe their favourite place to work. You’ll never get an answer reflecting a one size fits all, grey workstation under a T-bar ceiling with cold strip lighting.

Ok, so that’s an extreme example but this connection to quality of space and the experience of place is real. Interestingly, the next generation of workers, who are the most digitally minded are almost certainly the most aware of how their surroundings matter. In fact it seems that they are putting this high on the list of requirements when they interview you for their next position or gig. That’s right, they interview you.


“78% of millennials see workplace quality as important when choosing an employer”


“69% of millennials will trade other benefits for a better workplace.”

(Staples: The Rise of Millenials in the workplace)


Essentially, a well-designed working environment can be as, or more, important than salary to millennials. Salary may get them in the door but may not make them stick around.

Being in a place that feels good, working with like-minded people to create good legacies is seen as more important than financial incentives.

What am I doing? Why am I doing it? And what will it mean to others?

Growing a strong culture was a dominant theme across many presenters. A strong internal working culture is critical and often overlooked asset. A strong and authentic Workplace Experience for the internal client (staff) is key as the demand for aligned values and working environment over salary grows.


So how do we create a good working culture and workplace experience?

A key message from the property team at Atlassian, one of Australia’s fastest growing software companies, is to take it to a level and get out the way!

Atlassian have learned to create a workplace that embodies their values and encourages certain behaviours to align with brand and then they let their teams take over and own the space rather than simply occupy it. This was tough at first to watch people creating murals on freshly painted walls and rearranging furniture but the net effect was a more engaged team who had a personal investment in the space and how it supported their daily tasks.

It became obvious to Atlassian that an overly curated space would stifle cultural growth and limit individuality which is key to developing well rounded teams. If everyone fits neatly into the same box and profile we don’t get the range of ideas that will lead to competitive advantage.

Micro managing and micro-curating is the best way to kill internal culture.


So how do we measure the new metrics?

Experience sits outside the traditional realms of cold hard metrics.

Measuring staff engagement, share ratios, density and staff turnover, are still relevant points of reference but need to be supplemented with new forms of data that may be unique to your organisation.

One example raised at Worktech was a business who measured the noise levels within the workplace. Acoustic reports are almost always created to understand how to reduce noise transfer and reverberation. In this case it was used to ensure an active buzz was building as teams became more collaborative.

An increase in face to face communication and discussion was a measure of success. This should result in more chatter across the office and a lively workplace vibe should develop.


In short, if a cultural target is to become more collaborative but you can hear a pin drop on the office floor something is definitely wrong.


Written by Keith Dougal, Senior Associate | Interior Designer at Studio Nine Architects
P — +61 8 8132 3999
E — [email protected]



My favourite Worktech18 quotes —

“I came to see, in my time at IBM, that culture isn’t just one aspect of the game, it is the game. In the end, an organisation is nothing more than the collective capacity of its people to create value”

(Louis Gerstner, Retired CEO – IBM)


“Companies now fit into two buckets: Either becoming a software company, or being disrupted by one”

(Scott Farquhar, Co-founder Atlassian)


“Don’t let the ‘cool’ distract you from achieving ‘authentic’ ”

(Allan Tranter)



My favourite Worktech18 statistics —

“15% of the workforce are actively disengaged in the workplace”

(Philip Ross, CEO Unwork)


“There is a 4 x Increase in profitability for companies that invest in employee experience vs those that don’t”

(Jacob Morgan, The Employer Experience Advantage)


“Less than a third of millennials expect to work in a ‘regular’ office”

(Staples: The Rise of Millenials in the workplace)


“78% of millennials see workplace quality as more important when choosing an employer”

(Staples: The Rise of Millenials in the workplace)


“69% of millennials will trade other benefits for a better workplace”

(Staples: The Rise of Millenials in the workplace)


“67.3% of Worktech presenters used big numbers and statistics to get their message across”


WORKTECH is a leading international workplace conference series. The event caters to the educational needs of Heads of CRE, Heads of FM and Chief Executives of the top Global 1000 companies, and has been held at locations around the world, including London, New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Shanghai, Singapore, São Paulo and Buenos Aires.  Find out more here