The new home away from home

As the boundaries between work and play blur, and as more people work from home or their favourite café, design needs to offer even more to entice people into the office.

Digital advertising giant REA Group has recently moved into its new 950 sqm ‘home-styled’ office in Sydney – a workplace that looks more like a coastal retreat than a commercial centre.

Designed by Futurespace, the office layout evokes the comfort of home with mood-based lighting, a soft colour palette and spectacular views.

Visitors leave the lifts and enter a reception area, styled with low-slung couches and soft textured rugs, which feels more like a lounge room than a lobby. Progress through the spaces and you’ll find a lush greenhouse, a games room, workshop space, dining room and even a wine cellar.

Futurespace’s managing director Angela Ferguson, says “it’s almost like living in a penthouse on the coast”.

REA Group’s office reflects the changes to the way people work, as “the boundaries between our work and social lives blurred and there’s no longer a clear delineation between work and play”.

While homes now accommodate small home offices, our workplaces need to be more flexible, adaptable and provide space for relaxation and reflection, as well as creativity and collaboration.

And as more people choose to work from home or café hop, offices need to be even more attractive to lure people in.

REA Group’s office is “much less corporate and much more a space that looks and feels like a quintessential beach side Sydney home that you would expect to see for sale on realestate.com.au,” Ferguson explains.

“There are still the choices available like any activity-based working environment, but it’s a little bit more human. There aren’t rows and rows of desks jamming in as many people as possible, but spaces that give people the level of amenity they need to feel at home.”

REA Group, a digital advertising company that operates several property portals including realestate.com.au, wanted an office that “reflected our innovative culture,” says executive general manager for media, Libby Minogue.

“We have a growing workforce and wanted to give people places and spaces to think, create and connect, and to support our highly agile and mobile workforce.”

The office embraces agile working, with lockers, sit to stand desks and spaces for open team meetings, but it also echoes the company’s values and purpose, which is ultimately about connecting people with property.

“It’s a true reflection of who we are as a company, and it’s really changed the way people feel about their workplace,” Minogue adds.

Google has inspired a generation of office workers to demand slippery dips and hammock swings, lego rooms and putting greens, and brought with it a new lexicon of buzzwords, like collaborative hubs and huddles, caves and campfires.

But Ferguson says building an inspiring workplace environment isn’t about “being the next Google”.

“A lot of clients come to us saying ‘We want an office like Google.’ And I always say ‘You aren’t Google – you are unique and different, and you need to design an authentic workplace around your identity and culture’.”

While Minogue is proud of her team’s new space, she thinks this is far from the final word on office design.

“I often think about the office environments my children will work in. I think we’ll see more mobile and flexible places, but the way we work will keep changing and evolving, and the spaces will as we do.”