Staff mostly absent as CBA opens new Redfern complex

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, CBA chief Matt Comyn and Mirvac chief Susan Lloyd Hurwitz at the office opening.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, CBA chief Matt Comyn and Mirvac chief Susan Lloyd Hurwitz at the office opening.

The opening of the Commonwealth Bank‘s latest office building in the inner Sydney suburb of Redfern provided a stark glimpse into the future of office work.

The sparsely-populated facility, which is the largest commercial building at the heart of Mirvac’s revitalised technology hub, was promoted as its first “groundscaper” due to its enormous size and scale.

The complex is the largest steel building Mirvac has developed to date and its construction used 3km of balustrade, 2000sqm of skylights, and over 9,000 tonnes of steel.

The campus-style design and floorplates that span nearly 9000sqm — a space larger than two football fields — are part of a bigger complex that, with the neighbouring Axle building, will house more than 10,000 staff.

But very few were on site as bank chief Matt Comyn declared the facility open, saying that the bank was looking forward to welcoming back more of the 25,000 staff it had working from home at the height of the pandemic.

The bank boss said that more employees returning to work in corporate locations, with about 4000 people already working from its Sydney head office.

He acknowledged the preference of some people to work from home for now but said modern workplaces was “absolutely critical” to driving customer outcomes.

One positive from the crisis was having more than 2000 people from its contact centres working from home and there was chance to distribute more of the workforce, potentially to regional areas.

Mirvac chief executive Susan Lloyd-Hurwitz insisted the offices remained essential, and although their future may differ from previous forecasts, pointed to the importance of face-to-face interaction.

She said that staff missed being together, citing the importance of creating ideas and working with other people. “Its hard to do virtually,” Ms Lloyd-Hurwitz said.

“What we’re yearning for in coming back into the workplace is actually the very human connection of being together in a way that, as good as Teams and Zoom are, they just do not replicate the human connection and the casual interactions that you can have in the office environment,” she said.

But the near deserted bank building, while stylish, lacked the traditional office buzz as people keep to social distancing rules.

The developer says the future could be different.

Mirvac head of office and industrial Campbell Hanan said there would be clearer picture for all companies, including smaller enterprises, at the end of September when government stimulus roll off.

While Mirvac, like other large companies mainly serves big companies, this will be closely watched.

“That’ll be when the small end of town really starts to tell us what’s gone on,” he said.

He predicted there would also be a greater interface between home and work space.

“And people will use that quite flexibly,” he said.

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