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New ways of working: flexible office environments

Office spaces are being adapted for our modern lives, not only to foster greater collaboration, efficiency and innovation, but also to make best use of technology and connectivity, driven by a desire to empower staff to work flexibly in different ways in different spaces, with a leadership style of trust. 

Government is increasingly moving towards a model that encompasses new ways of working with the expectation that its agency offices are flexible, productive and cost effective. The Government Property Group (GPG) leads discussion with, and can work alongside government agencies planning to move to flexible office environments.

There are eight principles that guide workplace design, implementation and management. These are: an open plan working environment; shared collaborative and quiet spaces; utilisation of technology; mobility and adaptability; consistent design; choice of work settings; safe and secure environment; and future proofing for ‘space-less’ growth.

Applying principles, standards and guidelines, is only part of the approach. The organisational culture often must adapt to enable and encourage new ways of working and using office space in different ways to suit work needs. Leaders understanding and modeling new behaviours, and a strong change management approach to the people side of moving to flexible working is often the key to the success of implementing flexible office environments.

Flexible working environments will be set up to encourage individuals and teams to choose the best place to work for the task at hand. Traditional ways of working are static desks with staff sitting near their manager or teammates. Flexible working may mean moving around a floor or office to use different areas and spaces depending on the need. This can include using collaboration spaces, moving between floors to sit at other pods, making use of quiet spaces, booths, and using technology to support this mobility. Where possible, leaders should also be seated in the open plan environment.

In essence, flexible working allows staff the freedom to organise and decide where to work, how to work, who to collaborate with, what information and tools are needed for the job, and teams and individuals decide how workplace environments can work for them.

The benefits of flexible working environments includes moving to performance based deliverables, taking advantage of technology and fostering efficiency, innovation and collaboration. Other benefits include encouraging cultures of trust, minimising desk space redundancy, and contributing to staff satisfaction, recruitment and retention.

Recent changes to the government property mandate will also require a standardised approach to office fit out and design in the future and we will be updating agencies about this as this programme of work is developed. The changes to the mandate will help drive a portfolio of flexible and modern government office accommodation that contributes to regional growth and promotes better outcomes for New Zealanders.

If you would like to find out more about how GPG can support your agency move to flexible working environments please email info@gpg.govt.nz. You can read about some government agency insights into flexible working environments here.