PODCAST: The highs and lows of designing JLL’s Sydney office

What’s it like designing a new office for your own colleagues? Christina Khoo lifts the lid on bringing a premium workplace to fruition

July 17, 2023

“It's kind of surreal because I get to see the office that we designed in action.”

Office designer Christina Khoo, from JLL’s Work Dynamics, delivered a career-defining brief in March in the shape of a new central Sydney office for the global real estate services firm, JLL – her employer.

The office, over three floors, in Sydney’s Circular Quay precinct is hospitality-driven in its design and meets the criteria for a six-star Green Star sustainability rating, as well as Platinum WELL wellbeing rating.

Customised LED lighting and acoustics optimise ‘focus’ rooms for video conferencing, and a suite designed for client presentations is wall-to-wall with 485-inch touchscreens.

“A lot of the feedback we got in staff surveys when we asked colleagues what they wanted out of an office was that they wanted to be able to bring clients in. That to me is being house proud, and I think that’s what we’ve achieved,” says Khoo, speaking on JLL’s Perspectives podcast.

JLL has 450 staff that would consider 180 George Street their main office, yet there are only 285 desks with monitors. ‘Touchdown’ spaces and soft seating areas capture any potential overflow of staff as well as invite colleagues – and clients – to meet and collaborate.

There’s barista-made coffee on offer all day, beer on tap and conversation-stopping views of Sydney harbour and surrounding cityscape.

A statement staircase connects the three floors and promotes spontaneous meetings as colleagues pass each other.

“Standing on the staircase, looking across the floors, there’s so much buzz and activity. It’s something other companies have been asking me a lot about as that’s what they’re trying to achieve in their own workplaces,” Khoo says.

“The line-up for the complimentary barista coffee is often long, but colleagues are meeting in the queue and saying, ‘Oh, I’m working on this,’ or ‘Hey, you should chat to this person.’ It’s huge for collaboration.”

With “many cooks in the kitchen”, reaching consensus with colleagues on aspects of the office design was not always a smooth process.

“When you’re an external design firm on a project for a client, you often don't see the nitty gritty of trying to fight for certain things, and you’re not really part of the conversations about budget. But this project was all open book so there was a lot of managing people's expectations and going, ‘I really love your idea about a vape room. Thank you so much, we'll just park that for now and get back to you’.”

Listen to the podcast with Christina Khoo, and other Perspectives podcast episodes, here

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