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Five things I learnt about the future of work at Worktech Melbourne

From hybrid that works, to hybrid that doesn’t, AI futures, buzz words explained, the roadmap to ROI plus more: Here are five workplace learnings from Worktech Melbourne 2023.

Five things I learnt about the future of work at Worktech Melbourne

Quay Quarter Tower, photograph by Adam Mork.

The hybrid office: does it work? Doesn’t it? How should it work? The conversation at Worktech’s Melbourne conference, really centred around this. Krupa Solanki, innovation director at UnWork, chaired the event, highlighting valuable takeaways and her own observations as she skilfully drew together the diverse cross-section of speakers who represented disciplines of architecture, design, strategy, experience, technology and AI, and so much more. As presenters they were each charismatic, contributing great value to the audience through their intersecting knowledge and experience.

Many of the models, approaches and strategies, as well as cases in point presented, were of the cutting-edge variety. It gave the audience an insight into what is possible and offered a stark counterpoint to what one speaker referred to as “original reality” (real life, as opposed to virtual reality).

Book your place at Worktech Sydney, taking place next Tuesday 4 April; read the conference agenda.

With so much to absorb across the 9+ hours of knowledge shared, here are five things that really stuck with me.

1. What does hybrid mean, anyway?

As ERA Co’s Nick Todd pithily pointed out (as he blew up and broke down common workplace buzz words): What does hybrid mean, anyway? There is no one-size-fits-all solution to a workplace adopting hybrid working. No one is winning in this space and there are a million different variables.

All the survey results that I have absorbed in the past month point towards roughly half of all workers choosing to work hybrid. Choice is the common theme here. And as Matthew Myerson of the Worktech Academy noted, there’s a real fight or flight energy around returning to work. Leaders are angling for staff to return while the workforce continues to express its desire for continued flexibility. One thing we do know is to dictate a return to work will leave leaders the losers.  

2. Don’t be scared of AI

AI is here and everyone who is brave enough to jump in feet first is having a dabble with it. The possibilities for what AI can do for business’ productivity and prosperity are indeed exciting. But a few things to take note of: know the AI’s limitations – because it does have limitations – and take advantage of its capabilities. AI is still gearing up in the area of ethics. In the long term, says Eduard Hovy, executive director of Melbourne Connect at the University of Melbourne, we will most likely see people with their own personal ‘chatbots’ which are individualised to tasks and users.

3. Why your desking must be awesome

Aaron Taylor-Harvey, creative director of Spaces Of, spoke about how the digital fluency and remote productivity of employees is leading to the extinction of the traditional office environment. He noted that most employees do want to come into the office, just not every day. More likely two to three days a week. Taylor-Harvey broke down the equation to present an office space in which only 22 per cent of space need be devoted to desking, while 78 per cent of the space can be used for something else. For those very willing to come to the office for specific desk time, we must make that desk time incredibly valuable. Make sure your 22 per cent of desking is really stand-out.

4. Employee experience is vital

We talk about this a lot in our upcoming issue of Indesign magazine #89, The ‘Magnetic Workplace’ Issue, contact us to pre-order your issue.

Culture and purpose, which have long been treated as intangible qualities that we experience and cultivate through our togetherness at work, have come to the fore as qualities that must be articulated and built out through storytelling and empathetic leadership styles. Melissa Marsden, director of COMUNiTI, and author of The Next Workplace, presented a roadmap for employee experience that involves the connection of heart (the collective emotion of a space; the culture), with mind (technology made easy, accessible and frictionless), and body (the physical environment put together for flexibility, agility, performance). When you get this right, it can lead to increased job satisifaction and performance, reduction in staff turnover, and an ROI in business.

5. Quay Quarter Tower won World Building Of The Year 2022 for good reason

This community-oriented vertical village in Sydney’s CBD has been touted as humanising the high rise. It’s also impressive for its carbon saving qualities. 3XN partner, Gry Kjær, presented a case study of the building and shared many statistics that reveal just how architecture has been able to redevelop this legacy high rise in an environmentally positive manner. 3XN with its projects partners retained 65 per cent of the original building structure (beams, columns, and slabs), and 95 per cent of the original core. This has resulted in an embodied carbon saving of 12,000 tonnes. That’s the equivalent of 35,000 flights between Sydney and Melbourne. And you can’t really argue with that. Read Indesignlive’s QQT project review.

Attend Worktech Sydney conference next Tuesday, 4 April, 8.30am-5.15pm at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney. Read the program here.


Courtesy of Worktech

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