5 reasons to give your office a makeover

Good culture is a critical element when creating a successful real estate agency. REB caught up with BresicWhitney and Di Jones Real Estate to discuss how their in-house aesthetics have strengthened the businesses.

Anyone who has visited the offices of BresicWhitney knows that founders Shannan Whitney and Ivan Bresic have taken a unique approach to the way their business looks.

Enlisting the help of Chenchow Little Architects, the dynamic duo set out to create a modernised, urban feel in their Darlinghurst, Balmain and Hunters Hill offices.

1. Connectivity

“Art was introduced consciously quite early on. It was an important mechanism to connect customers with our brand within a physical space. It is also a nice connection piece for our staff,” Mr Whitney says.

“There are a couple of main things about the art. It’s unexpected, which is great. Like all art is supposed to do, it prompts a response which is valuable and it helps people connect our brand with our vision.”

2. Reflect your surroundings

While all three offices were designed with artwork at the forefront, the overall aesthetics differ slightly between each office location.

For example, Darlinghurst has been described as having a “very abstract and gritty interior”.

The designers at Chenchow Little say they wanted to appeal to the BresicWhitney staff of this particular office, where the average age is early twenties.

“[At the Darlinghurst office] we left the raw concrete walls, exposing the surface of the ceilings and the concrete,” Chenchow says.

“It’s axial and gridded. Art pods, meeting rooms and pergolas are all connected by ‘streets’, yet the facades are all transparent and very permeable.

“You can take short cuts around the space, and track through the rooms when they are open and not being used for meetings. You can also use curtains and sliding doors to screen meetings or create privacy.”

The Chenchow team say the detailing at Hunters Hill is much more refined.

“The materiality is richer, and with the use of timber and brass – [we] feel is suits the Hunters Hill clientele or that catchment area,” Chenchow says.

Meanwhile, Balmain is described as being “a lot more free form” and “a lot more fluid”.

“You can see the curved walls, the meeting rooms and the art pods. There is a more clearly defined front of house and back of house, but the artwork and the curved walls all help create a very different experience,” Chenchow says.

Each office has a different expression of the overall urban theme.

“Darlinghurst, with its regular shaped site, is very much reminiscent of a typical gridded street pattern, and that grid is quite rigid. Like Paris after Haussmann,” Chenchow says.

“With Hunters Hill, the street pattern is I guess a lot more Baroque. Like a medieval Italian hill town. There are kinks, there are twists, and the meeting rooms are all placed at an angle to each other.

“And then you have Balmain that is completely different, because that really isn’t about streets. It’s amorphous.”

Mr Bresic says the unique design of all three offices has prompted a healthy and productive workspace.

“Our staff enjoy coming in to work every day,” he says.

“We’d like to think that’s in part because our offices have lots of great breakout spaces and communal areas, where staff can meet and chat together informally.

“Our offices are also all architecturally designed. They have high ceilings, a great art collection and a sense of flow about them. It helps create a collaborative work space where everyone is accessible to each other.”

3. Attract top talent

Having a well-styled work space can increase positivity tenfold, Mr Bresic says.

“The great workspace at BresicWhitney supports us in so many ways. It helps us to attract great talent for a start, and enables more open communication between teams,” he says.

“Most people spend 50 per cent of their lives within indoor environments, which really influences their mental status, actions, abilities and performance.

“We want everyone at their optimum and the office spaces have been designed to help bring out the best in our people.”

Mr Bresic encourages other agencies to realise the value of making a conscious effort in how the layout of an office is designed, adding that it can significantly impact the team’s culture.

“Good design will go a long way. Plants, art and communal kitchens are key. Make it human,” he says.

“When you set up an environment, consider the furniture, the flow of noise, flexibility in layout and seating, the comfort of chairs, the ease of communication, plus things like lighting, temperature and the air quality.

“If you can get a great coffee machine and healthy snacks, that’s a nice way to look after people. People always instinctively chat when they come into a kitchen. It creates community and a collegial feel.”

4. Make yourself approachable

BresicWhitney is not the only agency to report positive feedback from its office layout.

The recent merger between Di Jones and LJ Hooker Wahroonga to create Di Jones Real Estate has resulted in a shake-up of styling and design aesthetics, enabling a strong culture to continue within the brand.

“Our Wahroonga office has recently undergone a facelift with a bit of a Ralph Lauren feel, which we absolutely love. It’s sophisticated yet approachable,” Di Jones Real Estate CEO Rob Ward says.

“Both the Wahroonga and Woollahra offices are open plan and encourage team interaction and support. The Southern Highlands office, however, will be moving from a hot desk to a permanent office in the near future.

“In terms of the actual environment and styling, we try and keep things light, bright and art-filled. As a keen supporter of the community and the arts, our offices feature works of art from local and international artists which are changed monthly. We introduced the Di Jones art wall just after the merger.”

5. Create a culture

Mr Ward says it has become increasingly important to design an office that fits your team’s culture the best.

“From my experience, when you are dealing with high-pressure sales environments, it is extremely important to create a space that invokes interaction, support and engagement amongst peers,” he says.

“We like to think that we have created a culture that not only encourages healthy competition amongst our staff, but also provides them with the support and encouragement they need to perform at their best.

“Our open plan team structure works really well for the teams and most importantly, my team knows that my door is always open.”

An open plan layout has also led to significant, individual achievement for Di Jones Real Estate agents, according to Mr Ward.

“We have personally found that our team’s open plan office layout has worked well and led to business innovation and advancement,” he says.

“At the same time, an open plan layout can benefit the business economically by reducing costs tied to construction, utilities and office equipment.

“An open plan space also encourages professional collaboration amongst team members.”

However, the Di Jones boss acknowledges that not every layout is designed to suit every office.

“I would encourage any business to implement a structure that was going to increase collaboration and performance amongst peers, however you have to find the model that works best for your staff,” he says.

“There is no one set formula for everyone.

“Your staff will all have different personalities and opinions. You need to take those on board and make the best decision for the group.”

Different office layouts:

Open plan: Devoid of enclosed private offices, this type of layout has all staff operating in the same large space, encouraging a transparent working environment.

Closed office: Arguably the oldest office design in the book, closed office means just that – a space which has separated, enclosed rooms where staff can work privately.

Hot desking: Currently seen as a big trend, hot desking is when staff are not allocated one single work station, but instead have to rotate work stations during selected interval periods.

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