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Team & Environment

Workspace design as a lever to lift engagement and productivity

New Zealand Trade & Enterprise

How might a redesigned space improve staff engagement?

When the new chief executive of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) started, he had a vision to dramatically improve staff morale and productivity levels.

The lease on the Auckland office was up, so he took the opportunity for change through a new working environment.

He contacted Empathy to help design a space that would transform company culture and increase employee engagement and productivity levels.

Collaborating with staff to help them engage and create

Using the new office as a blank canvas, we worked alongside the NZTE team to create a space that met everyone’s needs. We wanted to design a place that was truly a product of collaboration, where everyone from the director down to the intern had a say in what they wanted in a working space.

We set out to understand what made the people at NZTE tick. We also explored how the current physical office space impacted on typical tasks.

We shadowed staff in their activities. We asked them to delve into their past experiences. We gathered insights on everything, from what employees needed to function on a day-to-day basis, to what the office of their wildest imaginations looked like.

Our findings weren’t surprising. People needed different areas to collaborate, concentrate, socialise and call their own. But what was interesting was just how much, or how little, space they needed for these activities. The proportion of space dedicated to these tasks needed to be refined and tailored.

Using design thinking techniques, our team of experienced designers worked with architects to bring a new, personalised office space to life. All along the way, we constantly checked in with senior leadership and the wider team to test and iterate ideas and prototypes.

We also worked with the chief executive to help him understand the core needs of his people and carry out change in an efficient and empathetic way.

Increasing engagement by nearly 30%

The chief executive was so enthused with the outcome, he asked us to collaborate with the Wellington staff to redesign their space. This project also resulted in a beautiful and functional new office space and – more importantly – a boosted engagement rate and thriving company culture.

The outcome of these projects was enormous. In the first 18 months after the move into the new offices, employee engagement went from 65% to a whopping 92%.