NZ Office Design: Key Principles of Open Plan Office Layouts

Open plan office layouts enable collaborative work environments but can also offer quiet and private spaces for deep work and sensitive meetings.

The days of corner offices for senior executives and individual offices for management team members are long gone, as New Zealand businesses have embraced the open plan office and more collaborative workspaces for decades now. If anything, open plan office layouts are increasing in popularity as furniture solutions and smart tech enable collaborative work environments that also have quiet and private spaces for deep work and sensitive meetings. 

As Kiwi companies move from valuing Intelligence Quotient (IQ) to Emotional Quotient/Intelligence (EQ), we are increasingly aware of our teammates strengths, soft skills and different working styles. Developing EQ in the workplace can radically improve company culture, increase productivity and create a more inclusive work environment where everyone thrives.

What are different working styles to consider in office design?

Working styles can vary from day to day and person to person. You may be someone that needs intense focus time in the morning to action large tasks, or to concentrate on completing technical documents. Perhaps you enjoy having your meetings in the afternoon or collaborate best over a shared meal or a coffee.

Great office design should consider the below working styles in their open plan environments, to cater for different personalities and ways of working, and to be able to support employees as they ebb and flow from one task to another.

  • Collaborative – meetings and brainstorming sessions require informal meeting spaces and comfortable furniture to invite relaxed conversations.
  • Individual – desks with acoustic panels and meeting pods are ideal when a highly technical task needs to be completed.
  • Formal – meetings with clients, boards and SLT meetings can necessitate formal meeting spaces that remove distractions and encourage focus.
  • Informal – breakout areas and bar learners are perfect for inviting informal conversations and building new relationships.

Let’s take a look at some of the unique aspects of New Zealand office design and how the open plan office layout caters to the needs of employees in 2024.

Five Key Principles of Open Plan Office Layouts

  1. Flexibility and Scalability

With hybrid working well and truly established in New Zealand business, open plan office spaces need to easily adjust to varying volumes of employees in the office on a given day, or to accommodate a fast growing team.

Fast growth businesses and startups often have a need to grow and flex quickly as team structures change dynamically to support a rapidly moving business environment. Flexible office layouts are crucial for businesses who work in this way.

Key to flexibility is modular furniture. Adjustable height desks, extendable tables and reconfigurable desk layouts, teamed with acoustic panels are the go to workstations in an ideal open plan office.

  2. Collaboration and Communication

A primary reason drawing employees back into an office environment is the drawcard of collaboration and in person conversation with work colleagues. Making the office an inviting place to share ideas, and problem solve together is a key principle of open plan design.

Collaboration is important desk to desk, as well as in communal ‘off duty’ areas and informal breakout zones. Creating spaces for informal meetings and impromptu brainstorming sessions is where some of your team’s best ideas will happen.

  3. Privacy and Focus

The one drawback to open plan office design is ensuring there are quiet zones and private spaces for sensitive or deep work. This is where modern commercial furniture design really comes into its own. Acoustic panels, privacy screens and meeting pods are all great ways to reap the benefits of open plan design, while solving the private zone issue.

Ergonomic furniture will be key to ensuring comfort while detailed tasks are completed.

  4. Natural Light, Nature and Ventilation

Maximising natural light in an office design, bringing in elements of nature and ensuring fresh air flow can be difficult in some office settings. This is where an experienced Workplace Design Specialist is worth their weight in gold to ensure your work environment is as healthy as possible, and energising for your team.

Our workplace design focus incorporates health, wellbeing, sustainability and biophilia principles into our design ethos, to ensure we provide a people-first workspace that your team will want to spend time in.

  5. Technology Integration

Modern commercial furniture will ensure you don’t hit any roadblocks with your technology configuration. Whether you need a Wireless Smart Locker, an ultra thin whiteboard or integrated power and data cable access from workstation to workstation, there are a number of smart furniture solutions and integrated power and data access points.

What Makes New Zealand Offices Unique?

  1. Biophilic Design

Incorporating elements of nature into office designs is known to boost employee wellbeing and productivity. Common ways to do this include indoor plants, green plant walls and the use of wood and stone internally.

In New Zealand offices, our natural beauty often inspires our office interiors. Soft, organic furniture shapes, incorporating nature’s colour palette or using textiles that are reminiscent of the outside world – these all serve to bring a little of the outside, inside.

  2. Sustainability Practices

Commercial furniture providers should provide environmentally friendly furniture options and products that use sustainable materials.

Office design is increasingly taking sustainability practices into account and working closely with procurement and sustainability teams to ensure that final office designs hit sustainability standards.

  3. Cultural Consideration

Incorporating Te Ao Māori principles into open plan office layouts has been increasingly adopted in recent years. Local businesses are wanting to ethically reflect Aotearoa New Zealand’s history, our culture and create an empathetic sense of place for their employees.

  4. Work-Life Balance

Designing open plan office spaces that support a healthy work-life balance can be a priority for some businesses. Think about offering private retreat spaces for meditation or breast feeding, shared spaces for lunchtime yoga or coffee areas for comfy couch zones for breaks or power naps.

If you’re thinking of changing up the design of your office to create more open plan space, why not have a chat to one of our Workplace Design Consultants about your options?

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