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Reimagined workplaces


With business owners and corporates encouraging – and sometimes mandating – a return to centralised offices after pandemic-induced remote working models, the look and feel of the office environment is playing a pivotal role in the attraction and retention of staff.

The flight to quality continues as the office workplace increasingly becomes packaged as a “destination” rather than feeling like an obligation, with the form, function, quality and quantity of space paramount to bottom lines and staff morale.

Chris Farhi, Bayleys head of insights, data and consulting says various corporates have been right-sizing their office footprints, including some subleasing transactions, but the overall sentiment seems to endorse the centralised office as being crucial to productivity, brand reinforcement and team culture.

“In talking to our clients and observing movement within the office sector, there has not been a wholesale slashing of occupier space and key players in the market are prioritising A-grade buildings as part of their overall real estate strategy.

“For small to medium enterprises (SMEs), there’s been notable growth in demand for turnkey office suites which gives them better quality office spaces with more flexibility on lease terms, while minimising their investment in fitout.

“The data shows that ‘work from home’ has primarily impacted lower quality or secondary office spaces, particularly those located away from high amenity areas and landlords with those buildings are faced with a choice of either accepting lower demand and therefore more vacancies, refurbishing to a higher standard, or changing use.”

Banking on it

The foundation of BNZ's workplace strategy is flexibility, and providing space that meets the individual needs of its staff and teams says Kristina Martin, BNZ’s workplace experience manager.

“This approach was valuable during the pandemic, and moving forward will enable our staff to balance their work and personal lives and allow them to do their best work.”

To support this strategy and to create operational efficiencies, the bank has committed to remodelled or new high-quality CBD space in Auckland and Wellington where it will bring teams together for modern ways of working.

At 1 Whitmore Street, Wellington, on a prime central city site that was formerly a service station, is the new-build 12-storey headquarters for BNZ undertaken by Auckland developers Newcrest.

Occupying a full city block, the new building is targeting a 5 Green Star rating and will be one of the most seismically-advanced developments in New Zealand.

Martin says the building is nearly finished and floors are currently being fitted-out, with the bank expected to begin moving in this August.

“We're really excited about the building's unique design features, like the curved corners and large glass panels that reflect the city and harbour surroundings.

“Meanwhile in Auckland, we're still in the early stages of planning and design for 80 Queen Street, with improvements being done in a way that's least disruptive to our people, as we'll be occupying the building during construction.

“We can't wait to get cracking on the redevelopment and to see the BNZ logo shining bright in the Auckland skyline once again.”

With technology changing the way its teams work, BNZ is creating more dynamic and flexible workspaces within these two buildings.

“For example, we've added acoustic pods that allow our people to connect virtually with others while minimising disruption to those around them, and our meeting rooms are equipped with the latest technology to create an equitable experience for both in-person and virtual attendees,” explains Martin.

“Our walk-up tech help desks are always available to assist with any technical issues and these changes allow us to work in modern ways and to adapt our workspaces to fit the needs of our people.”

Martin says in recognising the crucial pillars of staff wellness and connectivity, the bank is increasing the amount of space in its workspaces dedicated to communal amenities.

“Like a grandstand for gatherings and a rooftop terrace to encourage social connection,” she says.

“We're also creating restorative spaces, including a retreat for rest, a yoga studio and a gym to help our people look after their minds and bodies and be their best selves at work.”

Optimising Auckland Council’s office footprint

Over the past five years, Auckland Council's overarching property strategy has been one of space optimisation, taking an ‘’all of group” view to its properties.

Rod Aitken, council’s head of corporate property says some of the key decisions along the way have included the sale of several legacy office buildings to enable it to transition to a modernised portfolio of fit for purpose offices, aided by increased digitalisation efficiencies.

“These decisions have unlocked substantial cost savings, a lower carbon footprint, and network locations that better suit our staff and our communities,” he outlines.

“More recently, the expansion of hybrid working models since the pandemic has presented the opportunity to optimise our footprint further by leveraging the flexible working strategies that were in place prior to the pandemic.”

Council has committed to leasing around two-thirds of a new-build campus-style high-amenity office building for its new northern service centre at 6-8 Munroe Lane, Albany – a development project being undertaken by NZX-listed company, Asset Plus.

Situated in central Albany within walking distance to bus links, Park & Ride facilities and with motorway access nearby, the project is expected to complete in the second half of 2023 with Aitken saying integrated fitout works are currently underway, alongside the wider works programme being undertaken by Asset Plus and its lead contractor, Icon.

“Elsewhere across Auckland, refurbishment and extension works are also being progressed at the Manukau Civic Building where council will consolidate staff, creating a single Southern Hub,” he says.

Harbour Grounds leads the way

Bayleys manages Harbour Grounds, the large property portfolio in Wynyard Quarter spanning seven premium Auckland waterfront office buildings with around 7,000 tenants across circa-88,000sqm of space.

Harbour Grounds (previously known as the VXV precinct) is home to some of New Zealand’s leading national and global brands, and incorporates the flagship Air New Zealand, Datacom, Fonterra, Bayleys, Auckland Transport, Microsoft and KPMG buildings.

Zahid Al-Abayechi, Bayleys’ senior property portfolio manager oversees the day-to-day property management of the Harbour Grounds portfolio and says the current focus is on the regeneration of 22 Viaduct Harbour Avenue, Microsoft House, which is undergoing a comprehensive building upgrade designed by architects Warren & Mahoney.

“The refurbishment works for the ground floor Anchorpoint retail area have been largely completed and we have been showing prospective tenants through,” he says.

“The broader Anchorpoint plaza development is also nearing completion, having been delayed by recent weather events and we expect this to be completed in Q1 2023.”

With the return to the office movement gaining momentum, and corporates becoming more comfortable about real estate footprint decision-making in the post-pandemic environment, office precincts like Harbour Grounds support productivity while having the points of difference that tangibly aid the attraction and retention of staff.

“Going above and beyond the provision of high-quality office accommodation with large floor plates, strong sustainability credentials and pivotal location, Harbour Grounds offers workplace connectivity and socialisation that the pandemic eroded,” says Al-Abayechi.

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