How will commercial property accommodate an ageing workforce?

By Greg Bell

Baby boomers are working longer, and we're not adapting commercial spaces to fit them. You may remember that back in 2014, then-Treasurer Joe Hockey announced plans for the retirement age to be pushed back to 70 by the year 2035. 

That's a huge change, and it's going to mean an older workforce right across the country. As more people work for longer, how will our workplaces develop to make sure they can still function to the best of their ability? These are the question every Gold Coast commercial buyer needs to start thinking about.

The state of Australia's ageing workforce

In a 15 May release from the Green Building Council of Australia, some interesting statistics on the workforce were put forward. For example, from 2000 to 2016, people aged 55 and over took on nearly half (1.3million of 3million) of newly created jobs. On top of this, management consultant Peter Drucker told the organisation that by 2025, half of the entire workforce would function on a part-time basis. 

This creates a new framework for the national workforce – one that commercial real estate has to represent and adapt to. 

Intergenerational design in commercial spaces

Designing commercial office space for older workers is going to be so important in the next 10 to 20 years. As work from Jones Lang LaSalle (JLL) has pointed out, flexibility should be a focal point. 

"There is a trend for having standing desks and it's good to have that choice, but they're not for everyone," explained JLL Director of Workplace Strategy John Symes. "Flexibility is important to support all employees especially in a tightly-packed office."

For Gold Coast office space, that might mean securing more seating options, and providing more square metreage to improve accessibility. Ergonomic seating and equipment, high quality lighting fixtures and sensible noise management will all be key considerations. 

Securing space for a mobile workforce

Further to the point about a part-time workforce, commercial investments may have to account for an employee base that doesn't actually go to the office all that often. 

Sue Wittenoom, founder of The Soft Build, told the GBCA that "organisations need to think about how they can create workspaces that let people decide for themselves how they work and where they work".

Think the shared working spaces that are currently an emerging trend. By providing a platform for employees to work when they need to and where they need to, the traditional office space is morphing into the conceptual tabula rasa – a blank slate upon which any business can make its mark. One space can hold multiple companies, and simply needs to provide the base infrastructure for them to operate. 

For commercial investors, this could actually prove beneficial – open, blank slate office spaces may need less internal outfitting, although upkeep for a large office with significant infrastructure could prove expensive. Multiple sources of rental income will also have to be balanced. 

Are you ready for tomorrow's commercial landscape?

Right now, the office market on the Gold Coast is lacking in supply. While this has kept demand red hot, it also means we don't have a picture of any new developments and whether they have these concepts in mind. 

More than likely, adapting offices to a mobile and ageing workforce is something that can happen through retrofitting existing spaces as required. As our Commercial Director Greg Bell has pointed out, many investors are looking to buy entire commercial blocks and renovate one floor at a time – this could be where the change occurs. 

Whatever your commercial interests are, it's always important to work with the experts. For more information, call the team at Ray White Surfers Paradise

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