5 Mar 2015

Medibank’s ’healthy’ new Office

Medibank has cut absenteeism since it moved into a new building in October that was specifically designed to improve the employees’ health.

The 20-level building at 720 Bourke Street that brought 1600 staff together from six disparate offices in Melbourne was built as an activity-based work environment to encourage people to move around during their working day. It has a multi-purpose court in the middle for sports such as netball, soccer and basketball.

Medibank occupies the first nine storeys of the Cbus-owned building, which measures 25,863 sq m and was designed to accommodate up to2610 people.

“We are occupying less space, however, more importantly, it’s a fundamental change in how we use that space,” said Kylie Bishop, Medibank’s executive general manager for people and culture.

The company says that since occupying the building, absenteeism has fallen. As many as 79 per cent of staff say they are more collaborative than before, 66 per cent say they are more productive and 71 per cent say they are better connected to the insurer’s ethos of “for better health”, company research says.

The $200 million building also focuses on mental health and social health by giving staff quiet spaces and outdoor spaces to work in –such as an edible garden – and interacting with the community by linking with the primary school-focusedStephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Program.

The building has two stairwells rather than the one that would be normal in such a commission, architect Anthony Dickens said.

“It was the strategy to encourage movement,” said Mr Dickens, a Hassell senior associate. “You don’t often get [a request for proposal] saying ‘We want as many staircases as possible to put in’. It’s a different way of thinking.”

The workplace interior was a collaboration between Hassell,Chris Connell Design, Kerry Phelan Design Office and Russell & George.

The building has circadian lights in the training rooms – similar to plane cabins – to mimic the natural light outside.

“It helps people regulate their body,” Mr Dickens said.

Predictably perhaps, the building has end-of-trip facilities to accommodate the many staff who cycle to work. But unusually, rather than going in through the basement, cyclists enter through the building’s main Bourke Street entrance. They walk their bikes up a large circular ramp into the storage area.

“It’s about celebrating the fact that people ride to work,” he said. “You don’t have to hide in the basement.”

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