University of Sydney Study Demonstrates Healthy Workplaces are more than just a Mindset

Sydney’s International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three, a world-first case study for holistic workplaces

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21 March 2018, Sydney, AUSTRALIA: A world-first study by the University of Sydney’s Coaching Psychology Unit has introduced the concept of a Positive Built Workplace Environment (PBWE) – a holistic approach to workplace wellbeing where positive workplace psychology extends beyond HR functions into building design, interiors and the social environment of a workspace.

The study, “Towards a Positive Psychology of Buildings and Workplace Community: Delineating the Benefits of the Positive Built Workplace Environment”, was conducted by Professor Anthony Grant, Sean O’Connor, Ingrid Studholme and Ariella Berger. The paper includes an in-depth qualitative study conducted at International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three, at Barangaroo in Sydney as a case study for how a PBWE promotes sustainable high performance – that is both organisational performance and employee wellbeing.

The study describes “green” in the context of a PBWE as part of the key physical components of buildings and precincts that encompass design flexibility with a sustainable “green building” ethos.

Commenting on the findings, Professor Grant said: “For many years, we’ve seen the benefits of positive psychology in the workplace, including values-based leadership and values-based workplace environment or design on employee wellbeing. However, it is only now we are seeing the next wave of this workplace shift, where the two high-impact fields are brought together in a powerful integrated model.

“We are also seeing a more sophisticated approach to the structure of the workplace environment beginning to emerge where open-plan, flowing workspaces are balanced with accessible private rooms and workspaces. This is facilitating a shift from a hot desk setup to a more genuinely cooperative workplace environment.

“Beyond this, there are now fantastic examples of where this purposefully wellbeing-oriented environment is structured to allow serendipitous ways of meeting, which is of course where we see some of the best workplace innovation emerge.”

“In this next generation model, which is uniquely reflected within the International Towers environment, we can see the three basic human needs of self-determination or autonomy, competence and relatedness being brought together by the design and management of this new generation of workplaces – the Positive Built Workplace Environment. Lots of organisations have open-plan, free flow workspaces, but very few have also harnessed a specific set of human needs and values and encouraged the leaders to enact those values across all levels of the workplace,” Professor Grant said.

“It is the synergy between positive leadership, positive design, and positive values that makes the real difference. In today’s complex business environment, being high tech or ‘green’ is not enough – International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three, has shown Australia and the world how to combine sustainability, aesthetics, design and – most importantly – positive principles to create a truly flourishing workplace,” he said.

According to the study, a PBWE puts the onus on the building property management team to move beyond the mere profit motive to actively promote positive values such as inclusiveness, respect and engagement.

International Towers’ management has adopted this rain or shine – going as far as only sourcing lobby umbrellas from a company that could provide proof of ethical manufacture and supply chain. Internally, the results have paid off for Tower Two and Tower Three with turnover of security staff about 10 percent compared the industry average of 50 to 400 percent per year.

Key findings of the report were that a well-designed working layout and “green” working environment can:

  • Increase organisational productivity by 19 per cent
  • Increase individual performance on cognitive tasks by more than 61 per cent
  • Reduce respiratory complaints and headaches by 30 per cent and help people sleep better

These principles are in place across International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three, with work environments designed to encourage and inspire cross-functional team interaction – including open spaces, visible gathering spaces, transparent activity rooms and connectivity between staff areas and event tenancies.

International Towers General Manager Tony Byrne said the savings to industry couldn’t be underestimated.

“By taking an inside-out approach to wellbeing, employers would be rewarded with greater
innovation and customer-facing outcomes, while reducing work-related stress at the same time.”

Creating optimal conditions for employees, in collaborative settings such as International Towers, has an added bonus of being a drawcard for new and top talent, particularly millennials,” Mr Byrne added.

About Professor Anthony Grant
Professor Anthony Grant established the world’s first Coaching Psychology Unit at the University of Sydney where he is a Professor and Director of Coaching Psychology. The co-author of “Eight Steps to Happiness” and over 100 publications, Professor Grant won the 2016 Australian Psychological Society Workplace Excellence Award for Coaching and Leadership Development.

About International Towers, Tower Two and Tower Three
International Towers at Barangaroo fosters a tenant community that inspires innovative growth, collaboration, diversity and wellbeing. In July 2017, International Towers announced two new tenant partners under the curated tenancy model: sustainability specialists, Green Building Council of Australia (GBCA) and the Shopping Centre Council of Australia. These organisations join the community of established innovation leaders within Tower Two and Tower Three including: KPMG and its new Innovation Lab; Australian Law Firm of the Year 2016 Gilbert + Tobin; leading global reinsurer Swiss Re; Australia’s most innovative international property and infrastructure group, Lendlease who developed International Towers; and Westpac Group, who won the best workplace in the 2017 Property Council Awards. World-renowned Indigenous dance theatre Bangarra will relocate to International Towers in 2018.

Jodie Taylor
Senior Marketing & Communications Manager