A world-first study by the University of Sydney has introduced the concept of a Positive Built Workplace Environment (PBWE), where positive workplace psychology extends beyond HR functions into building design, interiors and the social environment of a workspace.

The paper includes a 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, which includes organisational performance and employee wellbeing.

“We are 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 hot desk setup to a more genuinely cooperative workplace environment,” says Professor Anthony Grant, who co-authored the study.

“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.”

According to the paper, a well-designed working layout and “green” working environment can:

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

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