Much has been written over recent years about agile, activity-based working, and whether the concept truly delivers productive collaboration.
One new office - that of leading listed property company Kiwi Property on Level 7 of the Vero Centre - is single-minded in its support of enabling greater productivity and collaboration.
Love Your Workspace was taken on a guided tour of the new space in Auckland’s Shortland Street by Michael Holloway, Kiwi Property’s GM Commercial. He explains that the genesis of the move was to help the business come together.
“Until recently, we had 93 people on three floors in buildings in two locations,” he says. “So we were very pleased to move into a single floor of one of our flagship buildings, the Vero Centre, when a floor became available.”
The Kiwi Property team established a working group for Project EPic (a play on the company’s Exceptional Places, Exceptional People tag line) and a process to create an exceptional place to work. The design was continuously measured by how it delivered the workplace strategy.
The ensuing process led to the creation of an overarching workplace vision for Kiwi Property to guide the project: ‘Free to be, and inspired to do, our best together.’
“To deliver an ‘EPic’ workplace for ourselves we needed to set a vision for the new workspace that is all about collaboration, choice and trust, to provide the space for our own people to be exceptional,” says Holloway.
This vision was then broken down into five workplace aspirations: productivity, collaboration, energy, wellbeing and flexibility – to which could be added understated elegance, as this is the predominant impression when you walk out into the new space.
“We wanted the entrance to be non-traditional, welcoming and transparent,” says Holloway. “So instead of a traditional reception desk, a concierge stands up to welcome you after you follow a curved wall into the welcome area.
“And then there’s the orientation of the office. Traditionally in this building people come out of the lifts and face north towards the harbour. However, on the lower levels, such as level 7 where we are, we felt that the best aspect was towards Shortland Street.”
As you look around, it becomes clear that every area serves multiple purposes. The wider reception and kitchen area can be opened out to hold events such as results announcements, with screens dropping down, or they can be screened off from each other, providing space for public or private events.
And then there are the workspaces themselves, occupying a single, large, open space that curves around the floor and provides a variety of workplaces and spaces.
Holloway explains the different zones within the space, which contain neighbourhoods of roughly 20 people per area in a mix of traditional desks, sit-to-stand desks, high tables, dual work points, and a variety of collaborative meeting spaces.
“Our idea was to create home zones – where clusters of functional teams can feel grounded - and then encourage choice from there. And we have created ‘permeable’ home zones for people working with another team on a project - looser zones to enable multi, cross functional team working.”
These zones are supported by a wide range of meeting - and quiet - spaces, each with their own protocols. Holloway observes, “It became clear very quickly that ‘one size does not fit all’ and that different personality types draw energy from spaces for different activities. So we had to provide for more work-points for teams with lower levels of mobility compared to teams with higher levels of mobility as well as a myriad of different types of activity spaces to account for extroverts, introverts and even ‘omni-verts’!”. Quiet rooms have low, muted lighting levels and protocols to match, while the semi-enclosed, horseshoe-shaped meeting pods – with screens in the centre – are widely used for quick, bookable meetings.
“No-one has their own real estate here,” says Holloway. “Therefore, we had to compensate with more options – communal areas, meeting rooms, pods, and quieter spaces. And we’re finding that people are having quicker meetings when spaces are nearby and available.”
Among the new features are a ‘Tardis’ glass-sided phone booth, which is on trial and proving popular. As is a closed-off area with a glass wall and door: the ‘focus room’. No phones are allowed in this quiet space, and no interruptions are allowed. Next to it is a wellness room, complete with a low seating area that can be used as a bed – this helps with the organisation’s wellbeing initiatives such as neck-shoulder massage, flu vaccinations, or for day-to-day use as a breastfeeding station, or as a sick bay.
There is now also a high - and consistent - level of technology across the spaces and in every room, enabling greater ‘mobility’, says Holloway.
“When we studied the perception of our meeting room usage, people felt they were always booked. In truth, they were booked, on average, only 30%-43% of the time. However, the rooms with the best tech were booked out much more.As a result, we lifted the tech for all external meeting rooms and across the working spaces; now, it doesn’t matter where you are, it is all at the same standard.
“We are moving from paper to digital ways of working. Our people are able to project their laptops onto a meeting room screen and work in many ways – marking up a document by hand or via keyboard, drawing over images, and sharing/working with people in multiple rooms at the same time. Then we can save a single version of the result to the server, where it is shared with the participants. We really wanted to stop replicating documents – and when there is only one to see, one to use, and one to save, it simplifies things hugely.”
He adds that the thing he is most proud of through the move is how it has brought people together. “Our aspiration was to be productive and collaborative. We have seen so much informal and formal collaboration since we moved in; much more collaboration across teams, and the way the space is being used means that our business can evolve without needing more space.
“We’re on a journey, and it is evolving over time. However, the feedback to date has been phenomenal. The most satisfying thing so far is that our people are responding very positively to these new ways of working. We can already see that by providing our people with choice and flexibility to choose the location and type of space that best meets their needs each day, we are achieving increased productivity, collaboration and engagement right across the business.”
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