How to Futureproof Your Workplace

The experts at Architectus share their insights into design that caters for changing circumstances and team numbers – all while maintaining productivity

When Architectus relocated their Melbourne studio to larger premises, they realised they had a unique opportunity: here was a chance to design the agile, collaborative workspace they had been advocating to all their clients. And it was a necessity, too. Architectus knew only too well how unpredictable the design industry can be – case in point, their own team has grown by 40 percent since they first moved into their new office. The growth was significant, and yet, thanks to their design efforts, it did not affect the existing team or productivity.

Their new studio blurs the boundaries between commercial and residential space, and it circulates around a central core that features a large design review space and a social hub. It’s a comfortable, warm and inviting workplace that offers staff lots of different options when it comes to where and how they want to work. There are spaces for team work, quiet, solo work, events and more.

Senior associate Madeleine Joyce led the project, and here, she and Andrew Schunke, Managing Principal, share about what they learned from the project and how to create a workspace that can adapt to a company’s changing needs.

How do you futureproof the workspaces you create?

‘Flexible’ is an often-overused word to describe future workplaces, but it’s truly the most accurate way to describe the spaces we create. It’s foolish to believe we know now what a space will need in five years, let alone 20 years. Instead, our design approach is to create effortless elegance with a loose fit approach. Businesses need to own their workplace and we don’t want to impose restrictive conditions through design. Our clients must feel comfortable to mould and shape their space over time.

How do you cater to changing team sizes, while maintaining or even improving productivity? How did you manage this in your own workspace?

Changing staff numbers are an ever-present issue within any workplace. By not defining individual owned space, we allow numbers to flex within a defined area. Staff along a 6-metre bench may start with 2 metres per person, but this may change to 1.5 or 3 metres, depending on how many staff we have. Encouraging the use of shared spaces, activity-based and agile working mindsets and support for work from home further allow space to adapt over time. These changes and many others have allowed our studios to evolve.

How do you design to maximise productivity in the workplaces you create?

Productivity is about the right people in the right space for the right task. Our workplaces try to understand what the right space is for the needs of each business and to create the spaces to support them.

What changes are you seeing in workplace design?

The impact of co-working spaces is having a huge effect on how spaces are being planned and used. Typologies are being mixed and the lines blurred between residential, hospitality and retail, with many workspaces now incorporating them all.

We’re seeing changing leasing environments, technology-driven spaces and flexibility for staff – including the ability to work flexible hours, work from remote destinations and generally have more choice about how and where they work.

Businesses are spending more time, energy and money on how they operate and their offering to staff – much more than previously, and realising that it’s sometimes the small things like providing good food, coffee, flexible hours or good maternity packages that staff are more interested in than what colour the walls are.

What other changing circumstances do you take into consideration when you’re creating workspaces?

Environmental factors, technological factors and people are the ever-evolving elements that we consider with each project. Through our knowledge of activity-based work across the education and commercial sectors, we have an understanding of how to design a dynamic and diverse work environment. We anticipate change and believe a successful flexible workspace supports a range of work modalities and overall wellbeing.

Mobile working and agile spaces embrace activity-based work; therefore technology planning and design should be a consideration from the onset of a project. Technology should support the team as they inhabit and evolve in a space, team members should be able to work anywhere; roaming, touch-down and recharge points must be located throughout a space. Sit-stand workstations cater to a more formal work mode, but surrounding spaces should offer team members many options to work collaboratively or remotely. Successful workspaces should support changing practices, promote various working methodologies and encourage inclusivity.

Architectus won the Co-working and Collaborative Space Award at the Herman Miller Liveable Office Awards 2017-2018 for their work on their collaborative Melbourne studio. This is a new category for the biannual award, which raises awareness of the importance of good workspace design as a tool for companies to achieve their organisational goals. The Liveable Office Awards recognise and reward designers and organisations for creating innovative, agile workspaces that support the people working in them.

Senior associate Madeleine Joyce and Andrew Schunke, Managing Principal at Architectus received the winner trophy from the judges of Liveable Office Awards.