Charter Hall is a leading Australian property investment and funds management group that owns and manages over 300 office, retail, and industrial properties to make up the country’s largest managed portfolio at more than AUD$20 billion. With a progressive approach to innovative workplace design and building technology, Charter Hall has brought on Comfy to help provide a first-class workplace experience for employees and tenants.
We sat down with Craig Rodgers, their Office Innovation Lead, to chat about everything from creating “activity-based workplaces” to how occupant-centered technologies like Comfy can be leveraged by corporate real estate companies to stay competitive in the market.
1. As Innovation Lead, what are your key areas of focus?
I’ve been a part of the Charter Hall business for over 15 years. A lot of my work has focused on improving operational performance of our assets—keeping them safe, compliant and, particularly, making sure that our tenant customers are having a great experience in the space. As one of Australia’s largest owners and managers of CBD office assets, we focus heavily on being the workplace experience provider of choice by putting our customers at the heart of every decision we make. This is why we are super focused on innovation that will improve our tenant customer experience.
2. What is your office like? What elements do you think help or hinder employees in doing their best work?
Our office at No. 1 Martin Place in Sydney is fully activity-based, which means there are a lot of different types of spaces throughout the office—collaboration spaces, task orientation areas, as well as high-focus zones. Employees can choose from and move between these spaces throughout the day depending on their needs. Personally, my favorite space is called “The Den,” where employees can slip in for some quiet time, put their feet up, and have a cup of tea. There’s also “The Yard,” which is a bit of an experiential space with grass and a workshop—really intended to take people out of their day-to-day environment and get them thinking a bit differently.
It’s been quite a journey making the office as well-functioning as it is today. We’ve tweaked and improved things over the years based on feedback from occupants, new research, and, of course, the development and implementation of new technology.
"Comfy is the first product I’ve seen that really taps into the individual users experience of the space."
3. What was your experience like before Comfy? Did people ever complain about the environment being too hot or too cold?
Before Comfy, we had very little information on how occupants were actually experiencing the temperature in the building. The traditional process for providing feedback is very manual and usually complaint-driven, so people would probably put on a jacket, wrap themselves up, or find some other way to get a little more comfortable in the space.
The standard approach for temperature control in buildings has been "one temperature for all occupants." To me, this doesn’t take into account the fact that thermal comfort and the way people feel temperature is a very personal thing, unique to every individual. Comfy is the first product I’ve seen that really taps into the individual user's experience of the space and opens up communication and control to better address their needs.
4. How does Comfy help you meet your goals?
I think it’s absolutely crucial for us to continually review new approaches to technology and customer experience. That’s the only way we can build on our service and make sure we’re constantly improving.
One of the key things that will help us achieve this is the ability to interact with and get regular feedback from individuals using Charter Hall office space. When I first heard about Comfy, I was really drawn to its unique ability to touch every occupant individually and provide transparency around how they are experiencing our assets. As I’ve said, we’ve experimented with a lot of different technology and systems, however Comfy is the first one that provides a level of transparency and customer insight that we hadn't seen before.
5. How’s your experience working with Comfy so far?
It has been fantastic! People are really embracing the product and seem to be getting value out of it—we've got users coming back and using the app on a regular basis and in different places throughout the office, which is great.
The satisfaction ratings and user feedback in Comfy Insights [Comfy’s data insights dashboard] look great and, for us, that’s a key indicator on the success of Comfy. The insights also give us a much better idea of how people are enjoying and interacting with the space and confirms that the product is working. Not to mention that the Comfy team—especially Brian and Neha—have been fantastic to work with the whole way. We've really enjoyed it.
"Using products like Comfy will help make it easier for tenants to engage with and personalize their experience within our buildings."
6. Looking ahead, what’s the next step for Charter Hall in driving workplace innovation?
The future for us is continuing to be focused on driving a better customer experience throughout our office portfolio, using products like Comfy will help make it easier for tenants to engage with and personalize their experience within our buildings.
I’d certainly like to see the Comfy/Charter Hall relationship grow and introduce the benefits to our tenant customers. I’m really looking forward to seeing how Comfy develops to provide even more insight into the occupant experience, especially around space utilization. The more we can unlock about how people are using the space, the better we can make decisions and design for the best experience.
7. What advice do you have for other workplace innovators?
If you want to provide a personalized experience and gain deeper insights into what your customers, employees, or occupants are experiencing in your assets, Comfy can help you achieve that. Also, the only way to see if a product—Comfy or otherwise—is going to work is to try it. Some things will be successful and some things will fail, but you’ll learn and improve along the way.
Read more in Fifth Estate, Australia’s leading business newspaper for the sustainable built environment, about how Charter Hall and Comfy are leading the charge for better workplaces.