In Architecture, Commercial property, Design, Interiors, Property Development

Unispace design lead, David Drover, discusses the confluence of hospitality and workplace design trends

David Drover, Unispace design lead

The most forward-thinking employers today recognise that creativity and productivity are directly linked to workplace comfort, socialisation and collaboration. So perhaps it should come as no surprise to find that many of today’s most innovative workplaces bear more than a passing resemblance to hospitality venues, both in look and feel as well as the nature of the facilities available to employees and customers.

Increasingly, it’s the hospitality sector that is driving the evolution of workplace design – from professional services firm Herbert Smith Freehills implementing a health and wellbeing space for its employees to enjoy yoga and mindfulness, to TripAdvisor’s immersive ‘destination meeting rooms’.

 

The goal is to create compelling environments which support direct and personal connections between businesses and their internal and external stakeholders. Client-centric facilities are being incorporated into contemporary workplaces to encourage customers to experience a more personal side to their supply-chain, for example, within ‘quality of life’ spaces such as lounge areas, cafes and recreation spaces – all of which mirror the type of environments guests enjoy in hotels.

Many organisations are even installing their own bars as a great way of encouraging people coming together to socialise, such as Coca-Cola Amatil, which has equipped its headquarters with a bar, retreat lounge and even a drinks emporium and terrace. Not only do these facilities impress clients, reward staff, and create a more convivial workplace atmosphere, but they can double as informal working environments or training areas.

 

Woodside's Headquarters - Perth
Woodside’s new HQ, by Unispace, challenges the traditional notions of how a workplace should look, feel and function through considered interventions that promote healthy behaviours, social connection, collaboration and importantly, focus.

 

On the largest scale, the workplaces themselves even start to resemble hotels. Mia Yellagonga in Perth, home to energy company Woodside, is a vast campus that boasts an overhead 800sqm multi-function space, a 1,265sqm wellness centre and a 25m heated pool, not to mention a 4,000sqm outdoor terrace, a 400-seat auditorium and dedicated floors for dining and entertaining. It’s a description you could easily find on Trivago or Booking.com.

 

Woodside’s campus by Unispace

 

Catering to  a diverse audience

What’s critical to understand is that this trend is not being driven by employers’ desire to keep staff from leaving the office. Instead, it’s being led by employee demand for richer and more rewarding experiences.

Over the last decade, varied work styles such as activity-based working, agile working and co-working have all emerged as part of the quest to find more efficient, responsive and task-appropriate ways of working and collaborating, based on individuals’ needs and preferences. This is particularly important given that, in many organisations, there are now multiple worker profiles – and indeed, as many as five different generations of workers[1] – all occupying the same physical location. A tech-savvy millennial in sales may want to work in a completely different way to a baby boomer in the finance department or a recent parent returning to work for a reduced-hours role.

Businesses that cannot provide environments to suit these different profiles – and the working styles they necessitate – are going to struggle with both recruitment and retention. So how can the hospitality sector point them in the right direction?

 

Enabling everyday ‘experiences’

Hospitality companies are experts in the art of successfully supporting diverse environments and multiple customer profiles under a single roof. They’ve made personalisation a core part of their offering – they’ve had to, given that for many audiences a generic hotel in a generic location simply won’t cut it anymore. The market for bespoke holiday experiences has almost doubled in just six years, rising to $183 billion in 2016[2], and there are lessons that can be taken from this for businesses across a variety of different industries.

Just as a hotel might now have different rooms for different types of guest, or different swimming areas to support families, couples, watersports fans etc., businesses should be looking to provide a more experiential working environment. This could be creating a variety of working spaces – from hot-desking areas to working lounges and creative hubs – but it could also be offering a broader range of supportive facilities, from kitting out state-of-the-art gyms for staff to providing themed dining experiences with high-quality catering.

While this type of workplace experience may once have been perceived as gimmicky, it is now viewed as increasingly essential. Just look at the likes of Google, Atlassian and Facebook, who have all been able to demonstrate significant reputational, brand and talent advantage as a consequence of creating great everyday workplace experiences.

 

Woodside's offices - Perth
An experiential working environment

 

Working both ways

While modern workplaces owe a lot to the hospitality sector, we’re also seeing this influence occurring in reverse, with more venues are looking to support the rapid growth of ‘bleisure’ travellers, who may be hard at work one minute before shutting down the laptop and seeking out the hotel’s other amenities. Nearly 80% of executives now add leisure travel onto their business trips[3], which is why hotels are investing in the provision of better professional facilities such as co-working spaces that – while not always profitable themselves – end up increasing the patronage to their bars, cafes and restaurants.

 

Where next for hospitality-influenced design?

The move towards more agile, flexible and scalable workplaces shows no sign of relenting, while it’s also clear that future workspace designs must be fully sustainable – younger workforce entrants demand and expect nothing less. For all of its incredible facilities, the 64,000sqm Mia Yellagonga campus also features the highest Green Star rating possible in Australia. These high standards will be the norm for workplace design going forwards, and this is another area in which there may be a confluence with the hospitality sector, which has long been under pressure to improve its record on sustainability.

Ultimately, workplaces play a key role in creating an affinity between people and brand, providing the physical embodiment of an organisation’s values, culture and overall approach to business. At a time when people are actively seeking more flexible and more rewarding day-to-day experiences, any organisation looking to embark on a new workplace project would be wise to look to the world of hospitality for a helping hand on how to truly make its employees feel comfortable, looked after and valued at work.

 

Where next for hospitality-influenced design?

The move towards more agile, flexible and scalable workplaces shows no sign of relenting, while it’s also clear that future workspace designs must be fully sustainable – younger workforce entrants demand and expect nothing less. For all of its incredible facilities, the 64,000sqm Mia Yellagonga campus also features the highest Green Star rating possible in Australia. These high standards will be the norm for workplace design going forwards, and this is another area in which there may be a confluence with the hospitality sector, which has long been under pressure to improve its record on sustainability.

Ultimately, workplaces play a key role in creating an affinity between people and brand, providing the physical embodiment of an organisation’s values, culture and overall approach to business. At a time when people are actively seeking more flexible and more rewarding day-to-day experiences, any organisation looking to embark on a new workplace project would be wise to look to the world of hospitality for a helping hand on how to truly make its employees feel comfortable, looked after and valued at work.

 

1] https://hrdailyadvisor.blr.com/2018/02/26/handle-5-generations-workplace/
[2] EyeforTravel: The Global Luxury Travel Consumer 2017
[3] https://www.smartbrief.com/original/2019/05/workplaces-hotels-see-bleisure-growing-norm-business-travel

 


 

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