Australia's best offices

Melbourne Docklands
Chris Sheedy By Chris Sheedy, CA Today

31 May 2016

You likely spend over 50 per cent of your weekday waking hours in an office, so make sure it’s a good one, Chris Sheedy says.

Each year in the business media there is an endless stream of reports and tables, surveys and rankings that rate the best places to work in Australia. Interestingly, the winners are rarely all about ping pong tables and chill-out rooms, although such funky inclusions are often a feature.

Instead, great offices mix a positive environment with a feeling of staff trust and empowerment to create a culture that’s difficult to replace or replicate.

What is it that the winners do right?

According to the annual Great Place To Work Australia survey, which speaks with around 28,000 Australian workers before handing down its findings, a truly great workplace must be seen as such by employees and managers. And it all begins with trust.

Staff must feel that they are trusted and respected by the people they work for, according to the Great Place To Work Institute, a global research, consulting and training firm. And managers must be able to trust that their staff will always work together as a team, in much the same way that a person will know that their family members will always be there to support them.

The other major contributing factors that add to the development of a great workplace are pride in the work that staff do, enjoyment of the company of the people they work with, organisational objectives that are achievable and the knowledge that all staff are giving their personal best.

Then, of course, there are the ping pong tables and chill-out rooms…

So who is at the top of the list right now, and why?

Interestingly, if you look at surveys of organisations that Australians most want to be a part of, it is quite a different result to businesses that have been proven to have great work environments.

Recruitment agency Randstad in 2015 surveyed 12,000 Australians and discovered the top five organisations they’d most like to work for are:

  1. Virgin Australia
  2. ABC
  3. Department of Immigration and Border Protection
  4. Seven Network
  5. Qantas

Virgin Australia

Image credit: Peter Gudella /

So the perception of jobs that involve travel (and, in the case of Department of Immigration and Border Protection, jobs that may stop others from travelling!) is a positive one.

But Great Place To Work Australia says the actual best places to work are:

  1. Atlassian (IT & software)
  2. Mecca Brands (retail)
  3. Optiver (Financial services & insurance)
  4. Stryker (health care)
  5. Nous Group (professional services)

What does Atlassian do to win top spot? It breaks down barriers between departments and between staff by using custom-built communications software that allows staff to not only collaborate, but also to openly convey congratulations and kudos. Management regularly clearly communicates organisational strategy as well as the roles of individuals in making that strategy come to life. And yes, the office also has some fairly cool inclusions, including a video gaming room, a pool table, fully stocked kitchens, yoga classes and a charitable foundation that allows staff to give back to causes they care about.

Perhaps most importantly, the organisation’s leaders are obsessed with the creation of a positive work experience for their staff. “I want to ruin employees so they never want to work anywhere else,” co-founder Scott Farquhar told the Australian Financial Review. “I want them to rue the day they left Atlassian."

Office space and organisational performance

But cool work digs are not only the realm of successful tech startups. In terms of buildings and architecture, and their effect on staff morale, NAB’s stunning and futuristic headquarters in Melbourne’s Docklands has been recognised as the best in Australia (pictured below).

National Australia Bank

Image credit: Nils Versemann /

The airy architectural marvel offers informal meeting spaces, flexible and agile hot-desking, quiet rooms and collaboration areas for staff, as well as collaborative spaces for local professionals and businesses that hold NAB accounts (offering them a free Central Business District meeting location) and much more. The bank’s head office was recently awarded, thanks to research conducted by the University of Sydney and the University of Technology Sydney, first place in the Building Occupant Satisfaction Survey Australia.

The building’s air quality, temperature, comfort and noise levels, the researchers said, have a positive effect on staff health, happiness and productivity. And the effect is measurable - adding up to an increase of 17 per cent in satisfaction and 11 per cent in productivity.

Office space truly matters to organisational performance. It will be a thought that is kept at the front of mind as KPMG’s Sydney head office moves to the new building next door, in Barangaroo by the harbour, over the coming months, and as other firms compete for talent and continue their search for the ever-elusive edge in performance.

Main image credit: Nils Versemann /

About the author

Chris Sheedy is one of Australia’s busiest and most successful freelance writers. He has been published regularly in the Sydney Morning Herald, Virgin Australia Voyeur, The Australian Magazine, GQ, In The Black,Cadillac , Management Today, Men’s Fitness and countless other big-brand publications. He is frequently commissioned to carry out copywriting and corporate writing projects for organisations, including banks, universities, television networks, restaurant chains and major charities, through his business The Hard Word.


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