How Wotif Group achieved phenomenal business success through a ‘people focused’ workplace

Angela Ferguson

First launched in the year 2000 the Wotif Group operates leading online travel brands across the Asia Pacific region. The company listed on the Australian Securities Exchange in June 2006 as Holdings Limited, trading under the ASX code “WTF”. The business has grown from strength to strength over the last 14 years; recently the US travel giant Expedia made a $700million offer to shareholders.

When Wotif first approached Futurespace to work with them on a strategy and design for their new premises, the physical environment was very clearly misaligned with the culture of the team. The initial driver for a new workplace was business growth; yet from our first meeting the disconnect between ‘people’ and ‘place’ was obvious.

Wotif’s people are young, dynamic, energetic and extraordinarily passionate about travel. They are collaborative and communicative with each other, both as individuals and teams, and the physical environment hindered rather than helped this process. The futurespace team individually interviewed key stakeholders and held group ideation workshops to capture people’s imagination and interest, as well as their functional and aspirational goals for the project.

One of the most successful strategies we implemented was a ‘secret’ Pinterest board where the Wotif staffers could share their thoughts, ideas, comments and inspiration for the new workplace. Through this initiative the workplace design evolved into a physical embodiment of the Wotif ideology. The ‘big idea’ for the workplace is (not surprisingly) based on the notion of travel. Throughout the workplace there areelements of surprise and discovery, so that just like when you travel, the environment reveals itself to you.

The choice of building was also an important factor in the workplace design. Wotif are now located in what was once a grain store in the western corridor of the Sydney CBD rather than a typical commercial building. The uniqueness of the building meant that we could take a more architectural approach to the workplace, with elements of intrigue being incorporated seamlessly into the existing building fabric.

Just as Wotif’s people live and breathe the brand, now the physical workplace also does the same. This tailor made workspace for Wotif Group has underpinned the organisation’s team and culture and has arguably contributed to their phenomenal business success.