Blended workplaces and CIO’s rising role in property

BrandPost By Sunshine Coast Council
May 24, 2020
IT Leadership

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Credit: Sunshine Coast Council

The sudden impact of coronavirus has triggered a global re-think of just about every part of business operations.

And as the world debates the pros and cons of the traditional office environment, the CIO’s star is rising as a key strategic resource within organisations.

Before COVID hit, “remote-first” was a strongly emerging business model adopted by many new service organisations.

From the outset, these companies designed their service offering and built internal processes so that employees could work from any location.

Typical remote-first companies, like OfficeHQ on the Sunshine Coast, have both office-based and remote staff (more about OfficeHQ later).

Now that COVID has forced a mainstream shift towards exactly this blended workplace approach, the spotlight is on the best ways to re-model business operations to suit.

Location key to blended workplace

For years, Queensland’s Sunshine Coast has been a preferred location for remote-first organisations and their staff.

Self-isolation has prompted an increased curiosity about the region as a desirable place to live and work.

As a result, the Sunshine Coast is another rising star: increasingly regarded as an ideal location for accommodating the new blended office and home working model.

Real Estate Institute of Queensland (REIQ) CEO Antonia Mercorella says Queensland real estate agents have reported a spike in interstate residential enquiries, particularly on the Sunshine Coast.

“I think self-isolation has caused people to re-think how they live,” she says.

“Queensland has always been the number one destination for interstate migration. The Sunshine Coast in particular is highly desirable for people looking for that golden combination of liveability and affordability.”

How it rolls on the Sunshine Coast

Starting his workday cycling through the Sunshine Coast hills is par for the course for James Johnson. Rather than sitting in traffic or commuting to a city job, the Salesforce senior executive uses this time to get outdoors before starting work in his home-based office.

One of an increasing number of people already working “remote-first” in Australia, James thrives on the flexibility, balance and lifestyle advantages of working from home.

James has held several senior roles for major brands and is currently Salesforce Director of Retail Industry Strategy for the Asia Pacific region.

Salesforce is recognised for its values-based corporate culture and is consistently rated as one of the top companies to work in Australia. Lured by the Sunshine Coast’s outdoorsy lifestyle, stunning beaches and existing family connections, James and his family moved from Brisbane four years ago.

“We asked ourselves ‘if we could work anywhere, where would we want to be?’ The location needed to have a reliable internet connection, be close to the beach, have a good-sized block for our three kids to run around and a sense of community. The Sunshine Coast was the top of our list,” he said.

“Before COVID, I was in Sydney or Melbourne every few weeks. The Sunshine Coast Airport makes that pretty easy,” James said.


Location, location, data

Because location – and data – is everything, the Sunshine Coast is being touted as having the ideal characteristics for a working environment of blended office and home working.

Adding to the lifestyle appeal of the region and its booming economy is the fact that it’s home to Queensland’s first international submarine broadband cable.

The submarine cable was fully installed at the end of last year. It provides the fastest data connection to Asia from the east coast of Australia and the second fastest to the USA.

Soon a data centre will be established and the benefits of data speed, latency and affordability will begin to flow to business and residents.

For CIO’s looking at locations for infrastructure, the combination of affordable land and high-speed cable capacity means the Sunshine Coast is a must-look.

OfficeHQ, a national business providing virtual receptionist services to more than 10,000 clients across the world, employs 140 home-based staff on the Sunshine Coast.

Founder and CEO David Atkinson said many of his staff are parents with children at school, or carers. Others are able to pursue hobbies or interests because of the company’s flexible working arrangements and the time saved by not commuting.

“One staff member is a keen potter who works four to six hours a day and spends the rest of the day making pottery. Working at home means she can go straight to the shed when she’s finished work,” he said.

With slow wages growth and the costs associated with going to work continuing to rise, another advantage of remote-first working is that it costs less.

A 2015 report shows Australians spend on overage $320 a year on work-related clothing, up to $900 on lunches and close to $5000 on transport.

Fast data and competitive advantage

With accelerated growth in artificial intelligence and machine learning and greater reliance on data for business decision making, the need for access to high speed data is now crucial for business success.

James Johnson is keen to leverage the new cable infrastructure to meet future data needs.

“If we look at current trends, our collective data needs will continue to expand. We will see more applications moving to the cloud. My bandwidth needs will continue to evolve, with more video, larger file sizes and more complex use cases necessitating faster speeds.”

“Faster connectivity equals competitive advantage. The faster I can be connected, the more I can achieve and the better we can service customers,” he explains.

As for OfficeHQ, its IT team is mostly based in Sydney but many team members have been showing a keen interest in moving to the Sunshine Coast, following in the footsteps of some senior staff.

“It makes so much sense,” says David Atkinson. “Housing affordability has long been a challenge in Sydney and home ownership unattainable for many. One of our IT execs recently relocated to Buderim and is now a home owner on the beautiful Sunshine Coast. Living the dream!”

“We are super keen to leverage the opportunities offered by the Sunshine Coast International Broadband Network. We’ve just filled another senior IT position on the coast and will continue to recruit talent locally.”

Sunshine Coast Council welcomes and supports the growth of local businesses and the establishment of new ones in the region.

To find out more please email or call the Head of Trade and Investment on + 61 407 753 645.