‘Double the experience and half the space’: The new breed of city office

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Xero, a fintech company known for its accounting software, faced a challenge in bringing employees back to the office post-COVID. Many of its staff had become used to working from home part-time, and a boring old office wasn’t going to cut it any more.

So, Xero acted to ensure the brand-new office it was building in Hawthorn suited the way its employees work now. The office is stunning, with suburb facilities like a gym, coffee shop, bike storage, and special rooms for well-being.

Xero’s Hawthorn office features top-class amenities, including a fully equipped gym, coffee shop, bike storage, a towel service and wellbeing rooms.

Before, Xero had two outdated offices nearby, but it combined everything under one roof in the new one. It is spread across six floors, nearly 10,000 square meters, with three levels of parking underground.

The company smartly adjusted the design during planning to fit employees’ changing needs.

One impressive feature is a fancy black steel staircase right in the centre of the building. It helps people on different floors to work together and collaborate.

By creating a modern, employee-friendly office, Xero hopes to make coming to work more appealing and enjoyable for its team.

‘Many office developments now include cafes. It’s something that’s common, as people prefer a more informal space to work and socialise.’

“Post-COVID, it’s important to foster relationships, whether staff are changing levels or catching up in one of the many breakout spaces,” says Chris Idle, director of Idle Architecture Studio, which worked closely with architects Antony Pintaudi and Evan Cooper on the design project.

Areas such as the main kitchen, on the same level as the reception area, with its trestle-style benches, or the lounge are prime examples, Idle says.

Xero’s office boasts light-filled spaces.

There are also private meeting areas, banquette-style seating and what is referred to as “runways” – long, slender desks.

Even at ground level, there are areas to catch up with colleagues, including a café that is open to the public.

Companies that provide environmentally friendly buildings with a focus on health, wellbeing, and sustainability are more likely to attract top talent. Buildings in the best locations with excellent amenities are now much-prized by employees.

“Many of our office developments are now including ground-floor cafés,” Idle says. “It’s something that’s becoming common, as people prefer a more informal space to work and socialise.”

“The mantra you often hear from building owners now is, ‘double the experience and half the space’,” Idle says.

Xero initially intended to occupy the entire building, but changes to the way people work since it moved in last year meant there wasn’t the need for all the space, as its office staff numbers shrank, with so many working from home.

The solution was to allocate the two lower levels – the ground and the subterranean lower floor – to designer furniture, homewares and lighting company, Trit.

“Our concern, particularly with designing the lower level, which is partially below ground, was to ensure that there was sufficient light,” says Idle. The team created a feature brick wall, with a built-in planter on the lower level, and an atrium that connects offices spread across the top four levels.

The classy new Xero home features deep angled windows that are concertinaed with bluestone blade walls – reducing harsh sunlight, particularly on the western side.

“People need to be excited about returning to work,” says Idle. “This building enables staff to move around and find a space that works for them,” he says.

Whether they choose a lounge, have a coffee in the kitchen or even place their cups on one of the ledges encasing the planters at ground level, there is ease of movement and a pleasant place to work.

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