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University of Sydney: Susan Wakil Health Building

A Leap into the Future of Higher Education

Case Study Overview

Case Study Overview

Reimagining higher education in a rapidly changing world

Organisation: Health Precinct, University of Sydney

Location: Sydney, Australia

Industry: Higher Education

Key Concept: Leading the world in student-centred education and person-centred research

The Back Story

The Back Story

The Susan Wakil Health Building (SWHB) forms the first part of a new Health Precinct at the University, and houses several health and medicine related schools and disciplines under the same roof. The SWHB aims to be a leader in interdisciplinary research, collaboration, and teaching, to become a world class leader in health innovation, learning, and policy.

"Activity Based Working has certainly enabled collaboration and there are many great examples where a more connected workforce, working from a shared environment has led to innovation and new connections. We have been able to create a sense of belonging for people in the building. This is done less so through the design of the space, but more so through the organisation of social activities."
Director Transition Program | Faculty of Medicine and Health

The Challenge

We experienced some resistance from staff and faculty who believed Activity Based Working to be incompatible with the way of working at universities.

To mitigate resistance, we created a pilot space for staff to gain a hands-on introduction to an Activity Based Working workspace and experience it for themselves. The support of high leadership buy-in also helped align and guide staff members on the future of work at the University.

Veldhoen + Company developed the change strategy and approach to support the transition program. We also played a significant role in delivering interventions, alongside supporting and coaching the integrated team.

Among our key considerations when designing some of the interventions was how to make the change scalable. We provided e-learning modules detailing the behavioural changes required to all staff and stakeholders and ensured that each individual’s learning could be personalised. These helped to minimise the strain placed on resources.

Veldhoen + Company also supported co- facilitation workshops to help build the University’s internal change management capability.

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The Results

The Susan Wakil Health Building opened in September 2020. ITs three office workspace levels accommodate numerous schools and disciplines that now form the Faculty of Medicine and Health. The space is arranged in a neighbourhood fashion where each school and discipline is anchored to its own part of the workspace, but staff can easily and serendipitously interact with colleagues from other areas of study. Enclosed and bookable rooms are available to facilitate cross-disciplinary collaboration, with a separate section exclusively dedicated to student-staff interactions.

People can navigate through the activity zones intuitively and understand the etiquettes around the use of each space. There are opportunities for both planned and ad-hoc interdisciplinary collaborations, which help foster the vision of being a global leader in health.

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“The beauty of Activity Based Working is that you can adapt the concept to whatever you need as an organisation. It is not one-size-fits all and you can tailor the variety of settings to your needs.”
Director Transition Program | Faculty of Medicine and Health

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Ultimately, we will work with you to create a unique culture and environment where people will have the space to thrive, the freedom to genuinely connect with one another and will proudly work as a part of your organisation.