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​Principles for office design

​There are eight principles that guide workplace design, implementation and management.

Each principle provides minimum standards and guidelines, designed to help those responsible for managing government office accommodation develop better, cost effective office spaces for their organisations.

  • The principles are compulsory in accordance with the current property mandate, and it is expected that agencies are required to meet at the soonest practicable opportunity.
  • The guidelines are designed to assist agencies and their advisors in workplace-related planning.
  • Each of the principles should not be considered in isolation. For a modern workplace design and change project to be successful, it is expected that an agency would achieve all eight principles.

These principles should be read in conjunction with the Government standard building performance specifications during fit-out. If you are a mandated agency you can request a copy of the specifications by emailing us.

1. Open-plan working environment

The open-plan working environment provides communal activity areas adjacent to team neighbourhoods. There are large collaboration ‘hubs’ to encourage group communication and unplanned interaction across the whole floor. The environment also provides a range of options for high concentration work.

The open-plan environment will help reduce the chance of a particular group becoming isolated unintentionally by the physical separation that multiple enclosed offices and walls can introduce.

Open-plan working environment and consistent design

2. Shared collaborative and quiet spaces

Creating various communal and collaborative ‘hub’ spaces that can be used for multiple purposes is the basis of modern working environment design. Groups (teams within a single organisation or staff from multiple organisations working in a co-location scenario) no longer ‘own’ particular facilities because such facilities are now situated in a communal space to be shared by multiple teams or organisations.

Teams blend together with no physical separation, such as screens or walls. Instead, particular work requirements dictate the delineation of space, so there are specific spaces for high concentration work and obvious collaborative ‘hub’ spaces where staff can interact and socialise with ease.

Choice of workplace settings and shared collaborative and quiet spaces

3. Use of technology

Staff need the right tools in order to do their jobs effectively. The use of new and mobility enabling technologies should be encouraged wherever practical and achievable. This may include training staff in the effective use of new technologies, and organisations will need to provide budget and time for staff to be adequately trained in the use of any appropriate new technologies.

Use of technology

4. Mobility and adaptability

The workstation is no longer considered the only viable work setting. Dynamic working environments embrace a wide range of technologies, spaces and settings that encourage areas for high concentration work, discussions and collaboration to achieve the best delivery of service. the organisational culture is focused on deliverables and not simply staff being present at their workstation.

Mobility and adaptability

5. Consistent design

Staff move while the furniture stays in place. A fixed, generic layout will be designed to maximise the efficiency of the floor plate. Teams should be formed and reformed around the requirements of projects and activities, not pods of desks. A consistent, generic workplace design enables staff to adjust and move to a different space more quickly and reduces the cost and time involved in the shift.

Consistent design

6. Choice of workplace settings

The design of the open-plan working environment should be dynamic enough to enable staff to choose from a range of work settings. Staff should be encouraged to use mobility-enabling technologies to give them the flexibility to use the whole building or the ‘rest of the world’ as their work point. The organisational culture should be based on deliverables and not simply on staff being present at their workstations.

Choice of workplace settings and shared collaborative and quiet spaces

7. Safe and secure environment

The government is committed to providing safe and secure work environments for all employees and visitors, including clients and contractors; considering the needs of people with disabilities in the design and fit-out of the working environment. Once security access has been granted, the open-plan working environment provides easy access to most areas within the premises.

Safe and secure environment

8. Spaceless growth

In any expansion, organisations should first maximise their current space before acquiring additional area. Some roles within an organisation may be able to work in a more flexible manner and may not need an assigned traditional desk for use throughout the day. If this type of new behaviour is supported by management, the current area could allow for staff growth without the need to lease additional space.

Spaceless growth

Adapting to change

By applying these principles, the culture of an agency will need to adapt and be encouraging of management and staff to try new ways of working with a high utilisation of space.

  • The working environment will be set up to encourage individuals and teams to choose the best place to work for the task at hand and this may not be at a traditional desk near their manager or teammates.
  • Where possible, leaders will be seated in the open plan.
  • Collaboration spaces will be shared by all users and not owned by a specific group.
  • Leaders will need to fully understand and model the new behaviours that support their staff working in this new environment.
  • A comprehensive change programme will need to be tailored for each agency to help them adapt to this new way of working and using space.