Opinion: Creating a space worth the commute

Grant Heighway, Director of Catalyst and Property Council Wellington Regional Committee member shares his view on attracting people back into the office by creating a space that is worth the commute.

Part of my role as a Director of Catalyst is working with a diverse range of corporate clients across the Wellington market, typically discussing their business and property needs.

The question I get asked the most is: how do I attract people to work in the office? 

Everyone agrees that people are the most important part of a business, although it is becoming increasingly difficult for businesses to maintain or develop a strong company culture with more of their staff working remotely. Over the last 4 years, we have seen a drastic change in the corporate office landscape, with the adoption of a new hybrid way of working. Working from home and video conferencing has become the new norm over meeting face to face or working the conventional 9-to-5 in the office.

This shift to hybrid working is not surprising, following the pandemic and the convenience remote working serves in commuting to work. This begs the question: how do we embrace the new hybrid work environment and balance it with delivering business objectives?

Many businesses are opting to reduce their floor area and office facilities in response to the decrease in people working in the office. While this makes sense from a financial perspective, it certainly comes at a cost. It is important to consider whether these decisions will provide the best, long-term solutions for both individuals and the business as a whole. 

If the question is how to attract people back into the office, what message are we sending if we are compromising on space or investment in the office environment? If our spaces are not physically able to accommodate our people or provide the functionality they need, how can we expect to earn their commute? 

How do we create a work environment that reflects the most important part of a business, the people. What does the environment need to look like to ensure our people thrive? 

As far back as the 1960’s, the development of the modern office has been streamlined by businesses to provide their people with the best environment to work in. This was done by investing in an office design equipped with the right technology, tools, and ergonomic furniture. Simply, the best place for people to do their job.

While working remotely can have its advantages, the office creates important learning opportunities that come from the cross-pollination of ideas, those overheard conversations, mentorship, social connection, and ad-hoc conversations at the coffee machine or kitchen table. It is designed to be the best place with all the ergonomic design, technology, and furnishings to do the job.

So, how do we ensure we are not missing out on these key benefits?

I believe a successful hybrid work environment has the office at the centre of it. An environment that is exciting and inspiring with all the additional amenity that only an office can provide. Getting people back into the office is about understanding what office environment is right for the people, and it begins with investment in the right office space, the right technology for the business, and creating a great culture. If we invest in our people by creating thoughtful and functional work environments, and really take the time to understand what amenities our people need, we can create a space that people actually want to go; a space that is worth the commute. 

The hybrid work environment is now the reality for office working – but there is opportunity for businesses to make their space the home base that everyone wants to work from. 

Grant Heighway

Director, Catalyst

Grant has 20 years’ experience working in the design and construction of the build environment, with clients in both the public and private sectors. With a design background and previous roles working as a Designer and Project Manager he brings a broad range of skills and experience to projects. Grant has comprehensive knowledge of what it takes to manage large and complex fit-outs for new builds and building alteration projects.  

In his current role, he is an owner and Director of Catalyst working from the Wellington office. 

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