Top trends: the future of workplaces

26 Sep 2018

There’s a theme of questioning I get asked all the time, ‘What’s coming in the future for workplace? Will we even need offices? Won’t we all be working from virtual offices? I hate hot-desking, do we have to all do that in the future?’ Anything related to the future of working, I have probably heard it phrased one way or another

Natalie Slessor

General Manager, Workplace & Change

As Head of Workplace for Lendlease it is my job to understand what workplaces are going to be like in the future. At the core of this is listening to our largest customers occupying office space and delve into what’s driving their success and help them get the best out of their space.

At one level, a workplace is a simple space for work, but increasingly it has a critical role in modelling vision and values as the collective business agenda shifts towards customer focus and innovation. A workplace can create an idea that others want to be a part of, and we believe this is becoming increasingly important to businesses competing for talent and competitive advantage.

A workplace that produces great ideas, better speed to market, new products, lasting talent, and strategic advantage does not do so because of the spaces alone, but because of their culture and sense of belonging.  

I believe we’re leaving the ‘workplace era’ – one in which we ruminated over every stick of furniture and complicated ways of arranging and using them – and are entering into the ‘work life era’.  Work life is where life and work are in harmony not conflict. It’s an era where technology takes away friction and saves you time, where work is a place you choose to be, a place where your other life commitments are respected and you have time to contribute in more meaningful ways than ever before. 

Here are my top tips for supporting a great work life in workplaces to help people thrive. 

1. Place-making is work life-making

Don’t just choose an office building for your next workplace, choose a precinct, a great place. Beyond the simple mantra of ‘location, location, location’ the workplaces of the future are situated in mixed use precincts with incredible curated programs and access to green space. 

More than just a workplace, these areas need to be full of great experiences and conveniences, including providing or being positioned close to cafes, restaurants, shops, childcare, gyms, and open space. This empowers employees to leave the office and disconnect from work while still being close to the office. Nearby childcare makes drop-offs and pick-ups a little bit more seamless. 

At Lendlease, we are exploring the concept of mixed use in all our urban regeneration projects. Creating conveniences for employees is extremely important.

Growth takes off in rich diverse ecosystems, so make sure you plant your business in one. 

2. Healthy by design

Don’t only teach healthy work and life practices, design them into your workplace. Nudge people towards great choices without them really knowing it, like make standing meeting settings the norm, free healthy snacks easily available and put the stairs before the lifts. Top performing people mean a top performing business.

At our global headquarters at Barangaroo South, healthy snacks are provided on all floors, an internal stair case means you don’t always need to get the lift, standing desks and flexible working means people can work how they want to. Providing flexible spaces empowers people to choose the way the work. 


3. Look to nature

Now I have you thinking about health and wellbeing, reflect on the materials you are surrounding your people with. A report commissioned by Planet Ark found exposure to natural products and interiors create similar health benefits to those formed by spending time in nature. This includes improved emotional state and self-expression, lower blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels – it’s called the biophillic effect. 

Lendlease has a growing portfolio of timber constructed office buildings, with one currently under construction at Barangaroo, Daramu House.  

Daramu House will sit next to International House Sydney, the first office building in Australia to use engineered timber – Cross Laminated Timber (CLT) and Glue Laminated Timber (Glulam) – as its primary material. The six-storey building has delivered a range of economic, social and environmental benefits, including reduced construction time and less air, noise and waste pollution. 

4. Bring people together

When we asked people at Lendlease why they loved their work, almost all answered the people they work with and the legacies they create as a team. So, for us a ‘free range’ workplace was not going to be a great strategy. We wanted to do the opposite – deliberately bring people together.  

In an era when technology allows us to work from anywhere at any time, the role of the physical workplace enables people to be face to face. Make sure it’s easy for people to genuinely connect with each other and create a collective sense of belonging.


Lendlease Headquarters, Level 13 social area

5. Provide just the right amount of choice, but not too much

The worst workplace experiences occur when dysfunctional setups are imposed on people. Providing people some autonomy or choice can make a huge difference, but this needs to be done mindfully.  

Settings need to be chosen to mirror the way you want your business to operate. Make mindful decisions about a few great spaces or furniture that will help people feel valued, but also easily able to perform.  

Old school choices, like large tables for teams to gather around, and having an abundance of quiet spaces for solo reflection, can be powerful tools for your people and your culture.  

Our office at Barangaroo South has team tables, pods and smaller meeting rooms to give employees autonomy over their work settings. In an independent survey by the Leesman Index, Lendlease’s office at Barangaroo South was awarded a workplace score in the top 6% of workplaces globally, when measured in terms of how a workplace enables people to work productively.

With the end-user front of mind, keep it as simple as you can.