Office Design Report: Cyclists helped more than mothers in Workspaces

Why are Middle Aged Men in Lycra Catered for in the Workplace; Not so Mothers Needing Childcare?

Right now, there are plenty of bike racks and shower rooms in CBD workplaces – not to mention cafes, prayer rooms and wellness centres — but little talk of childcare centres. Changes in legislation could soon fix this imbalance.

Where did they go wrong? With all the benefits in the new workplace is it a case of the squeaky (pardon the pun) wheel getting the oil, or is there something else happening that’s giving cycling males more support and leaving mothers/parents out in the cold when it comes to childcare in the workplace?

Considering that a 2013 Ernst & Young (now trading as EY) survey found women working part-time were the most productive employees, wasting just 11.1 per cent of their time at work, compared with 14.5 per cent for the rest of the workforce, childcare centres are surely worth the effort.

However, of the 33 Australian buildings in a survey by services and investment management firm JLL, only six per cent – the equivalent of just two buildings they manage – had childcare facilities.

When you consider the millions of dollars spent on so called ‘end of trip facilities’ for the increasing number of office workers who cycle to their jobs, there has to be a reason women/parents are being left out of the picture.

An article on Commercial Real Estate reports end-of-trip facilities for the Lycra-clad are an established feature of office buildings in Australia and overseas, while childcare resources that make it easier for mothers and part-time parents are “much thinner on the ground”.  

“The JLL survey found 68 per cent of buildings surveyed provided extensive bicycle storage, shower and locker facilities,” Mike George, JLL’s head of premium assets, property management is reported as saying.

The results were based on a snapshot of 62 properties that the real estate agency manages in eight countries and, of these, says George, in contrast, “only five per cent provided childcare”.

There is a perception among employers that providing everything they can for bicycle riders attracts and retains top talent, however, creating childcare facilities is a tougher task and the reason given is that they’re harder to retrofit than showers and bike racks.

The JLL report says working mothers should not be underestimated as a driver of productivity, diversity and innovative thinking and childcare is often a significant barrier to women returning to work, or a key differentiator when choosing an employer.

DEXUS Property Group senior executive Deborah Coakley says providing more childcare and childcare solutions has been a “challenge” for the property sector and the government in Australia.

She says it’s easier to design a childcare facility into a new development as there are guidelines relating to outdoor space requirements which need to be taken into account.

As for retrofitting, until recently, planning guidelines relating to outdoor space requirements restricted the retrofitting of buildings to accommodate childcare centres.

However things are changing. Property companies and other employers are attempting to attract more part time employees.

Coakley agrees, and the DEXUS managed building in central Sydney at 1 Bligh Street, which was not included in the JLL survey, has a childcare facility to help attract tenants to the premium tower.

“The childcare centre was a factor in attracting high-calibre tenants,” says Coakley.  “Being in close proximity to childcare is a significant benefit to our tenants’ employees, providing them convenience and flexibility which translates to higher productivity and assists in attracting and retaining talent.”

With changes afoot to planning rules in Sydney to make it easier to retrofit childcare centres and improve the supply, mothers/parents returning to work will be able to look forward to childcare support and to feeling more valued in their workplace.

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