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JM Focus

By 16 June 2022September 11th, 2023No Comments
Given the office sector is a large part of our core business, we along with our affiliate Joinery Makers (suppliers of bespoke office furniture and custom made joinery) have had an eye on the return of workers to the physical officespace both in other Australian States and internationally. Looking to the future, we are obviously interested in the impacts of this return on the office sector. Here we have compiled a selection of relevant articles, workplace trends and helpful information relevant to physical offices going forward in a post-pandemic world. We hope you find these useful.
This week has seen Victorian State Government restrictions ease with 25% of employees allowed to return to their bricks and mortar workplaces. But have they? This article by reporters Rachael Dexter, Rachel Eddie, Benjamin Preiss and Ashleigh McMillan appeared in The Age on November 30th.

Trickle of office workers return to CBD but most staff stay home

A trickle rather than a flood of employees returned to Melbourne’s CBD office towers on Monday, after restrictions were eased allowing 25 per cent of the private sector to re-enter the workplace under Victoria’s COVID-19 reopening plan.

Metro Trains added an extra 95 services on the morning and afternoon peaks so that commuters could stagger their travel, but many carriages had only a handful of passengers.

“We have made more space available should any of our people want to return to the office earlier,” an ANZ spokesman said.

NAB expects staff to start filtering in this week after a slow start at 500 Bourke Street, where thermal cameras are checking the body temperature of staff when they enter the building.

Nurses are on site, workers need to book a desk ahead of time, and crockery and cutlery have been removed from the communal kitchens.

Staff at KPMG need to book a desk ahead of time, and workers at PwC need to request access to the office to manage density requirements.

Telstra opened one of its Melbourne CBD offices on Monday for those who occasionally want the option of going in, while NBN Co has kept staff at home.

The state government has also taken a cautious approach. Public sector workers continue to work from home apart from those whose jobs must be done from an office.

Masks remain mandatory in workplaces and on public transport.


Lord mayor Sally Capp welcomed the milestone on Monday.

“Having more workers in the city will make a positive difference for so many local businesses that rely on high levels of foot traffic. Every extra worker in the city means the potential for more money in the cash registers of our city traders.” Ms Capp said.

The City of Melbourne, which has conducted temperature checks of staff, can have about 350 office workers on-site each week.

For the full report, please…

The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in the largest work experiment in modern history. In a paper delivered by Deloitte Consulting AU last month, the importance of employees being together in a physical workspace and the realistic impacts of working from home are addressed, with the question being raised “Going forward how do employers make the workplace a destination to attract and excite employees?”.

‘Re-architecting Work Models: Four Future Worlds of Work’

The workplace as a vibrant social hub

With 49% of workers wanting to spend around half their week working remotely in a post-pandemic world, this challenges organisations to question the role of the physical workplace. The global pandemic has demonstrated the viability of remote working arrangements and a strong desire from workers to continue remote ways of working. The purpose of the physical office is being fundamentally redefined – the workplace is recognised as a space to collaborate, connect, innovate and learn – a social hub for employees, teams and customers. Decades of research demonstrates the benefits of social relationships and co-location on health and wellbeing, productivity and innovation, and connection and trust. Workers are 4 times more likely to regularly communicate with others sitting within six feet of them, than those sitting 60 feet away. 


Five watchpoints to consider…in order to deliver the best experiences for workers, organisations and their customers.

1.    The hybrid tangle 
Organisations are tasked with determining a work model that leverages the best of remote and onsite work, to design experiences that truly unlock autonomy and flexibility for their workforce. Without careful curation of hybrid experiences, organisations risk an ‘all or nothing’ work model in which they land in either the physical or digital world. Concentrated effort is required to determine which segments of the workforce will require tailored interventions that support them to adopt hybrid ways of working. Organisations are challenged with understanding what the remote vs on-site work ratios are in order to design experiences that enable new work models. 

2. Over-productivity in an outcome-based environment 
Workers who opt into remote work may be at risk of working more to keep delivering outcomes and demonstrating productivity in a world where behind-the-scenes efforts are not visible to their peers and leaders. During recent COVID-19 lockdowns, remote workers experienced workdays that lasted 48.5 minutes longer than average, with the number of meetings increasing by almost 13%. 

3. The erosion of culture 
Without deliberate decisions around new shared rituals, symbols and behaviours for hybrid working worlds, organisations risk tearing apart the fabric of their organisational culture. The unique tapestry of habits, values and systems maintained while colocated in shared spaces, risk a transformation that lacks intentional curation when large cohorts of the workforce participate in remote work. Organisations will need to purposefully re-architect shared rituals, employee experiences and behaviours to promote hybrid ways of working that maintain and elevate their organisational culture. 

4. Career regression for offsite workers 
Out of sight, out of mind – does that mean less chance of a timely promotion? Proximity bias is the assumption that employees perform best when colocated and in the presence of their manager to been seen and heard doing work. These attitudes could have debilitating effects on employees opting into new work models. With an inclination for leaders to want to be present in the office, desires to work with increased flexibility and the Re-architecting uptake of flexible work arrangements may remain d uptake of flexible work arrangements may remain disparate. For years this has manifested in potential career regression for those who opt into flexible working arrangements, with recent research finding that parents who work part-time have a 21% chance of promotion within the next three years, compared to 45% for their full-time counterparts. While there are a variety of factors that contribute to these kinds of statistics, they to point to the risk of perceptions and potential realities of career regression for ‘off site’ workers. Organisations have an increased responsibility to address workplace biases and design career journeys and leadership capability to support a more hybrid workforce. 

5. Blurred lines between work and personal life 
The lines between work and personal life are blurring to a point not previously seen. 
Employees have experienced a 15% increase in their workday length, with 71% of working parents reporting managing distance learning for their children as a significant source of stress during COVID-19 remote work. Parents are at work and working while parenting, millennials are working from the spaces where they eat and sleep, and the savoured time to decompress on the commute home has evaporated, promoting an ‘always on’ phenomenon. Organisations are tasked with the challenge of designing the new ‘third space’, creating new norms around where, when and how work is completed, and applying the lens of employee wellbeing to new work model designs.

The Joinery Makers’ range of bespoke office furniture and custom made joinery are warehoused locally at our Melbourne facility and available immediately. We are seeing many clients taking the opportunity to reconfigure and refresh their workspaces, with particular interest being shown in the products highlighted below.
Oxford Privacy Screens
Joinery Makers’ privacy screens are made of an attractive noise-absorbing fabric that attach to our workstations with a simple clasp, and provide a sense of privacy as well as an acoustic barrier in open plan workspaces. Aiding with  social-distancing requirements in offices, privacy screens add a physical boundary between workmates and an element of personal protection. These screens fit with Joinery Makers’ Oxford and Bond workstations. Available in five different colours…

  • Grey fabric acoustic panel – OX-W1030 (1600L x 22W x 300H)
  • Charcoal fabric acoustic panel – OX-W1030 (1600L x 22W x 300H)
  • Grey acoustic panel – OX-W1034 (1600L x 18W x 300H)
  • Chocolate fabric acoustic panel – OX-W1044 (1600L x 22W x 300H)
  • Mint fabric acoustic panel – OX-W1045 (1600L x 22W x 300H)
Acrylic Screens
Joinery Makers has recently pivoted our business, as clients strive to make work environments safe for employees. Custom-made clear acrylic sneezeguards or screens have been added to the product range. These screens can be easily retro-fitted onto any desk or workstation with a clasp. Additionally, these see-through screens allow for open communication between employees, whilst providing a physical safety barrier.
Regent PU Leather Chairs
Joinery Makers’ range of PU leather chairs are not only easy to wipe down, but the cut-out backrest of the high back option allows for air circulation for improved wellbeing of the person seated. They are ideal for a breakout room or boardroom application. Available in low or high back, and either tan or black PU leather, these office chairs are not only comfortable, but stylish…

  • Tan PU leather – RE-C1007 (low back)
  • Black PU leather – RE-C1008 (low back)
  • Tan PU leather – RE-C1005 (high back)
  • Black PU leather – RE-C1006 (high back)
Trafalgar Individual Pedestals
Joinery Makers’ individual pedestals feature lockable drawers (with a pencil tray in the top drawer), and an A4 filing drawer to keep documents organised and safe. The powder-coated metal ensures this piece of equipment is easy to clean, chip-resistant and strong, and the five lockable supporting castors provide stability. The long-lasting classic colour finish is available in white or black.

  • White metal unit – TR-P1000
  • Black metal unit – TR-P1001
Oxford Workstations
Joinery Makers’ workstations come in a variety of sizes to suit the available floor space and social distancing requirements. Our high quality desks are available in a number of top and leg types, and are suitable for smaller spaces in single, 2 or 4 person configurations, or come in larger sizes for collaborative spaces in 6,8 or 10 person options.
With many workplaces reopening their doors amidst the easing of coronavirus restrictions, this has the potential to be a stressful time for employees. There are a number of reasons that you may be feeling on edge about returning to work. Beyond Blue have outlined some examples of these issues and how you can manage your anxiety.

Causes for concern

If you’ve been working from home for the last few months, you might be nervous about using public transport again. Given the government-issued direction on physical distancing has been based around reducing the spread of the coronavirus, this is a valid concern. The idea of going from keeping 1.5 metres away from everyone, including loved ones, to sharing a peak-hour train with dozens of other commuters, is understandably stressful.

Sharing equipment
The nature of sharing a worksite or office space is such that you’ll also be sharing a lot of the same stuff. In traditional offices, this ranges from communal bathrooms and kitchens (including cutlery) to meeting rooms, desks and computers. This is especially relevant for office workers who work for businesses that hot desk.
Construction sites, gyms and allied health studios will all face their own unique challenges when it comes to using the same equipment, as will a plethora of other industries and workplaces.

Changing routines
While many people will be excited to return to some form of normality, there will be others that have become accustomed to their new arrangements. For those who have been working from home, you’ve had the opportunity to sleep in longer and wear tracksuit pants all day. Parents who have had more time with their children as a result of COVID-19 may be apprehensive about not being able to do so moving forward.

What can you do

Voice your concerns
If you’re feeling uncomfortable about returning to work, don’t keep it to yourself. Be honest with your employer so you can work through any issues together. This is an unprecedented situation for them as well, and they may not be aware of things that are worrying their staff unless they are informed.

See if flexibility is an option
While many businesses are reopening their doors, it doesn’t mean that working from home is off the table completely. If your employer is still allowing remote working in some form, see if you can arrange a split between time spent in the physical workspace, and days at home. Even if it’s just one or two days, it may help ease the transition and offset some of the anxiety you’re experiencing.

Look after yourself
You might find yourself focusing a lot of energy into going back to work, and some things can fall by the wayside. Make sure self-care isn’t one of these. Continue to prioritise activities that keep you centred and happy, whether they be exercise, eating well, meditation or simply connecting with loved ones.

If you or anyone you know needs extra support with returning to work, please click below…

TOPIC Interiors and our affiliate Joinery Makers have been ReShaping, ReDesigning and ReWorking workspaces for over 20 years, and particularly in the current environment this expertise is invaluable.

To discuss our capabilities please contact Andrew Hicks on 0407 220 952 or find out more about our services here.