First-time visitors stepping out of the elevator at level 17 into Melbourne property group PDG's Swanston Street headquarters might think they've been delivered into a high-end hotel, restaurant or even a swish cafe.
Faced with an elegant reception area that's a doppelganger for the lobby of an exclusive resort complete with marble-clad, front-of-house desk and chic rug-defined seating zone, the spaces segues into a sleek kitchen kitted out with top-notch appliances, bistro-like dining area plus several stylish breakout zones.
Work, rest, resort
Capturing the positive vibe surrounding hospitality and holidaying, and transporting it into the workplace, is the latest trend being early-adopted by forward-thinking employers eager to attract, and retain, top talent.
It's not all altruism: besides being an investment in millennial wellness, performance and reducing absenteeism, upscale interior architecture value-adds by favourably influencing client relations.
Studio Tate was the interior architecture practice behind the redesign of the PDG spaces. Principal designer, Alex Hopkins, says that the objective was to create a workplace that employees loved being in, facilitated productivity and, most importantly, didn't feel at all like an office. "We drew inspiration from materials, textures and colours that are more commonplace in luxury hotels as they evoke warmth, calm and a general feeling of wellbeing," she says.
While there's a palpable atmosphere of energy evident in non-corporate-style workplaces, according to Simon Pole, Global Director, Design, at business interior design firm, Unispace, just as with the best hotels, there equally needs to be an overall feeling of calm and focus.
"The blend between workplace and lifestyle is becoming increasingly mixed as advances in digital communications see people always available for their jobs but needing to do more domestic chores in the office as a result," Pole says.
Thus, when TripAdvisor commissioned Unispace to create a high-energy, highly productive workplace on Sydney's CBD fringe, it was an opportunity to bring TripAdvisor's other local businesses Viator and Dimmi, under the one roof and make available a dedicated Office Experience Manager for all staff in order to organise a concierge-type service, provide healthy snacks, catered meals every Friday and ensure the wine fridge is stocked for after-work collaboration and socialising.
The entire Trip Advisor space is highly collaborative with no private offices. A café-style kitchen is the social heart of the office, and there are ping pong tables, a pool table, gaming console plus free snacks and beer on tap. Two large landscaped terraces offer al fresco spaces for casual meetings, focused work, or social events with one modelled on a Balinese retreat.
Typifying the "resortification" of the workplace, according to Greg Barnett, MD of WMK Architecture, is that of Allianz Worldwide Partner's Gold Coast premises. Barnett points to the strong beach influence at this laid-back project: white, aquamarine and terracotta furniture and cushions plus colourful wall-mounted signposts.
In contrast, for the Sydney and Melbourne offices of commercial real estate services company, CBRE, WMK designed a sequence of seamlessly connected spaces similar to those of a sophisticated, urban boutique hotel which allow for adaptable client entertainment in-house rather than needing to outsource functions to external venues.
Similarly, in Sydney, for Westpac's new Barangaroo headquarters, Geyer Interior Design took cues from hotel and hospitality design with their styling of several smart Qantas lounges also firing them up. Westpac Barangaroo features many diverse spaces in which to work, relax and socialise. "Integrated hospitality zones disarm people and break down barriers so they can come together, share ideas and form impromptu communities," says Melinda Huuk, the project's lead designer.
"The Level 3 café is an expansive eating area that is a staff destination by day and at night it converts to a function zone. It directly opens onto an exterior terrace where fresh herbs are grown that are used by the two head chefs and their team.
"There's also a working café on Level 15 which promotes collaboration; a commercial kitchen that services a diverse suite of meeting spaces plus a formal dining area with panoramic views which can host a catered experience for over 200 people."
Balancing work and leisure
The blurring of the lines between lifestyle and hospitality ingredients with office environments was also the ethos driving Siren Design's blueprint for Maximus, a sales and leadership programmes company headquartered in Jones Bay Wharf, Sydney. "An elegant monochromatic palette was chosen featuring highlights of Carrara marble, brass detailing and whitewashed floorboards," says Siren's CEO Mia Feasey. "Elements such as oversized globes, café-style furniture, delicately-framed glazing and a communal dining table sets the tone for a warm space that's inviting and comfortable with a refined twist."
Piece de resistance is the seriously cool, fully-stocked central bar which is visible from every part of the two-level workplace making it a natural meeting point. Besides being a beautiful place in which to conduct business, Maximus strikes just the right balance between work and leisure with comfort and productivity harmoniously co-existing.
Check out the gallery above to see some of the coolest office spaces in Australia.