The fit-out of Perpetual Guardian’s head office in central Auckland reflected Shape Commercial’s approach to creating long-term, flexible spaces that make good use of technology, materials and design to create spaces that work for people.
Except for the odd top-up, Perpetual Guardian’s last corporate office fit-out was more than ten years ago. Consequently, the office and workflows were shaped by old work methods that created issues around productivity and how the space was used, including the problem of ‘camping’ in meeting rooms.
A pioneer of the four-day-work week, Perpetual Guardian’s needs were defined by innovative working methods and new philosophies, such as better utilising hotdesking and more collaboration. At a practical level, the company wanted to downsize from three floors to two, which risked closer workspaces and more noise as the big corner desks gave way to tighter workspaces and a more paperless environment.
A hangover from the past was a cluster of meeting rooms in the centre of each floor. Many meeting rooms were often over-booked for meetings and single users (camping), or alternately, under-utilised.
For example, staff would leave their desks unattended while they joined a large meeting to, for example, share ideas. It was not unusual for more than 20 people to squeeze into a meeting room, but at the same time, large areas of desk space would sit empty.
The client needed to make better use of the available space while still creating a space that encouraged collaboration, focus and efficiency.
Meeting rooms, pods and noise absorbing partitions
The solution involved creating several different types of meeting environments, including two or three longer-term meeting rooms, plus pod-style spaces – with tables and audiovisual amenities – to accommodate short to mid-term meetings on each floor.
A series of soundproofed catch up nooks – equipped with audiovisual equipment and soft seating – were added to each floor to facilitate short five-to-ten-minute meetings.
The client also wanted to encourage people to meet at their desks without creating noise issues. However, while removing partitions and walls created a more open, collaborative environment, there was always the risk of increased noise and disruption.
Shape Commercial utilised polyethylene terephthalate (PET) technology – made from recycled bottles and pressed and combined into a board – to make branded screens (or desk mounted screens) as sound barriers. The screens are low enough to talk over the top but high enough to enable people to keep their heads down if they wanted to work. Shape Commercial also installed furniture made from acoustic nanofibre to help soak up sound.
Personalised hot desking
The problem with hotdesking is that many companies have found that their staff don’t like losing their personal space; hence hotdesking has rarely achieved its full potential.
Ideally, hotdesking, particularly in an age of Covid-19 lockdowns and increased working from home – as well as Perpetual Guardian’s pioneering of the four-day workweek – provides a practical but flexible space where anybody can work comfortably.
By applying Bluetooth connectivity to the hot desks, Shape Commercial enabled staff to make the hot desk more personal to their needs. Using RFID technology – already in use for individual lockers and building access – allows staff to sign in to a desk, automatically adjusting the height, seating and various audiovisual utilities to their personal preferences.
By making the best use of technology, including RFID, USB, AV and Bluetooth, along with cutting edge materials like PET and sit-to-stand desks, Shape Commercial maximised the client’s use of space to create a flexible, collaborative and focus orientated working environment.
Shape Commercial has an ongoing working relationship with Perpetual Guardian from work done around the country, which put the team in a strong position to work with the client on solutions from the ground up. The key to the project’s success was meeting and communicating with the architect and end-user to work through problems, challenges, mitigation, and solutions.