New workplace territories: Unassigned seating, collaboration areas and quiet zones

Workplace transformation techniques are being implemented across offices, but often lack a strategic approach, according to a new report by CBRE.

A comprehensive workplace transformation process takes time that requires people and change management procedures, according to CBRE’s latest New Zealand Office Occupier Major Report.

CBRE recommends conducting internal research to identify how staff works best, according to their activity.

“Gaining insight and input from your employees into their working preferences means when you communicate and implement workplace changes, they have been consulted and can see their preferences demonstrated in the new working environment,” as per the report, which CBRE says was based on interviews with 160 office space occupiers.

This consultation is particularly critical for IT companies, where there is a shortage of skilled talent. “IT workers can afford to be selective about where they are employed," says CBRE.

CBRE says the average salary for the IT sector is around NZD$120,000 per annum, which is more than double the Auckland average. Smart IT firms should be paying close attention to how they will attract and retain talent, offering the best location and environment in which to work, it states.

The report notes there are two main groups in workplace change practices.

The first is the activity based working environment, which includes implementation of remote network access and other advanced communication tools.

The other group follows core elements of an agile workplace that include introduction of collaboration areas, quiet zones, increased number of meeting rooms.

ASB headquarters in Auckland

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Interestingly, the least implemented workplace change practice is unassigned seating, which the majority of respondents do not even plan to implement.

The report says the two most common reasons are its presumed unsettling effect on employees and that it is not easy to measure its effect on productivity in direct financial terms.

The survey, however, shows the proportion of organisations that rate the implementation of work change as highly effective increases from 37 per cent to 58 per cent, when unassigned seating is part of the change.

The organisations that also implemented unassigned seating reported greater increase in productivity, than those who did not.

“The survey can be summarised in a simple statement: occupying the right space, plus optimising the way work is undertaken in that space result in increased efficiency and productivity; and the costs of change can be more than offset by the gains of improved performance,” states Zoltan Moricz, senior director of New Zealand Research for CBRE.

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With technology continually evolving, people will only become more mobile, making the idea of stationed desks significantly outdated. Zoltan Moricz, CBRE

“Increased productivity is the result of a flexible workplace and the use of the latest technology to support flexible working. And in this respect we believe that unassigned seating has a pivotal role.”

The report notes for many companies, the main obstacle to a wider implementation of strategic change programs is the lack of clear cost benefit incentives.

The costs of higher quality space and workplace change are direct, easy to calculate, and need to be paid regardless of the success of the results. But benefits are harder to accurately measure.

“The challenge for workplace specialists is to make these benefits more tangible,” it states.

“With technology continually evolving, people will only become more mobile, making the idea of stationed desks significantly outdated, and flexibility and diversity more important than ever.”

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