We chat with Skelcon to find out how inspiring office spaces fuel creativity
Workplace culture is a term we’ve become familiar with in recent years, and if you’ve ever spent time in an uninspiring office environment you’ll no doubt be appreciative of this.
Businesses now see the value in creating office spaces that fuel creativity, increase productivity, and ultimately attract the right talent for their team. One local business which has taken workplace culture seriously is commercial building company Skelcon.
From the moment you enter the Skelcon office there are very few cues to the offices of old. The abundance of natural light, luxe interior furnishings and open plan layout all lend perfectly to this new era of office working.
Meeting with Skelcon director Joel Skelton at the Lambton office, Joel explained that whilst the increased investment into office spaces may be perceived to be a hangover from Covid, he had noticed the change taking place prior to this.
“We started to see the trend of businesses increasing their spend on office fitouts five or six years ago, Covid just accelerated it.
“Businesses can now see the benefit of investing in quality office environments, not only to encourage staff back to the office, but also to attract the right people into their team.”
Whilst it’s difficult to make direct comparisons between pre- and post-Covid, with the cost of construction increasing by up to 30% during that time, Joel said that despite these increases, people are willing to spend twice as much now, to achieve their outcome.
Is there a particular design aspect businesses are investing in?
The spend is tending to go towards items that you can touch and feel, those important items you use all day, like the quality of the chairs and tables.
Biophilic design has also become popular, which is effectively bringing the outdoors in, and using lots of natural materials, and greenery. By incorporating those inside outside spaces it provides that feeling of being in nature, which is something people connected with during Covid.
Are there particular industries you’re seeing this investment in, or does it cross all industries?
Very much so, investment has been across all industries. Medical, beauty, digital marketing agencies, hospitality and finance. We’ve also seen it in legal firms, who historically would always have staff in their own offices. They’re now embracing more open plan workspaces, with separate quiet rooms, and phone booths, which is great to see.
What prompted you to invest in the Skelcon office?
We had pretty much outgrown the previous office, and this time round we had more scope to play with when it came to the design and finishes.
We’ve worked on some amazing projects and I thought it was important that we showcase the type of work we can do. Also for our clients, they're not just walking into a shed, and they can easily visualise what they could have in their own space.
Did you have a lot of input during the design process?
No, I actually didn't. I gave full rein to Katie and Victoria, our in-house architect and interior designer. What often happens with projects is the client doesn’t always completely understand what they're getting, so they’ll pull certain items out and not realise it’s to the overall detriment of the final product. So to make sure that didn’t happen we went all out and said, ‘This is the ultimate project. Let's make it right.’
I was happy to have input, and it’s good for clients to be involved in design decisions as it gives them ownership over the project. Like with the mural wall. We worked through a couple of concepts with the artist, Brett Piva, before we came to the final outcome, which is very geometric and represents our business values. It was a really cool process to go through, Brett really nailed it.
Can you talk through some of the key design elements within the build?
The office area is very open plan, so we needed to incorporate a lot of breakout spaces, so there are phone booths, quiet rooms, informal meeting spaces as well as the board room which seats up to 12 people. Most importantly, we maximised the area as best possible to give all staff the option to work in the space they want to work in.
The kitchen is beautiful, something you would expect to see in a high end home or hospitality venue, not at a workplace.
Katie and Victoria did an amazing job with the kitchen design. They incorporated luxe finishes into a workable space, like the Cosentino Sensa - Sant Angelo - Indian Granite bench top, and it’s quite large which was important so we avoided the lunch time lineups. Most days there would be up to 10 or more people sitting around the bench having lunch or at one of the tables that sit adjacent to it. It has a really nice communal feel and that’s what we were wanting to achieve.
There are also some quirky elements to the office fitout, were they always part of the plan?
They were, we had the space so we thought why not create a breakout space and throw a table tennis, dart board and mini putt putt into it. There are no windows in this area, so it’s quite moody, which lends nicely to the area.
What about the rock climbing wall, whose idea was that?
Prior to the build we put a poll out asking everyone what they would like to see in the office. There are a few guys who are serious rock climbers, so it was their idea, and they all had input into how it would be set up.
The rock climbing area also doubles as a meeting room. The business has grown quite a lot since I launched it in 2012, we now have 50 employees, which crosses design and construction. We also do our own joinery and have a factory in Morisset, so at times we all need to get together and this space allows that.
Were staff hesitant at first to take time out of their work day to play table tennis or go rock climbing?
It took a bit to kick in, and when new people started they would need a little encouragement, but now it’s just a part of the work day. There’s no set times, it’s just whenever someone needs some time out. I think half the people here are probably semi pro at table tennis now.
The downstairs space is the display area, is this mostly used by clients?
Yes. We introduced our in-house design team three years ago, which allowed us to work more efficiently, and have much better internal collaboration. The display studio also helps with this, our clients come in and work through their mood boards.
We also have an extensive amount of samples on hand, which we call the ‘Finishes Library’, so clients can view the laminate, stone, carpet, fabrics samples. They can even touch the moss wall sample which sits above the stairwell. The benefit of this being that clients can substitute items in and out on the spot.
Has the new office helped with Skelcon’s workplace culture?
It has actually. I found productivity increased substantially when we moved from the old office to the new one. When staff take 10 minutes out of their day to go and play table tennis, it resets them, they then come back and punch out what they need to do.
There is, however, a lot more that goes into a company's culture than just having fun, or having a great workspace. I think the crux of it is that as a business we’re all heading in the same direction, we all understand our mission and what we're trying to achieve for the business and our clients.
Do you still have room to grow?
We've still got a fair bit of growth within the current office layout, but we do have plans to expand. Sadly this will mean removing Brett’s mural wall, but I don’t see that happening for another three or four or five years, so there’s plenty of time to enjoy it.
This article was produced in partnership with Skelcon.