New design centre encourages staff to get away from desks and spend time together.

Staff breaks at Fisher & Paykel Appliances' new design centre are more than an opportunity to grab a quick cuppa - they are a chance to test products and brew up new ideas.

Custance design director Jonathan Custance was in charge of designing the appliance maker's new centre, which opened in August last year and in October won gold for its spatial design at the Designers Institute Best Awards - an annual showcase of excellence in graphic, spatial, product and interactive design.

Custance said the modern trend away from office cubicles to hotdesking - where staff move between desks - was on the right track, although it did not suit most office environments.

"I think there's a band of reality that we've struck," he said. "Because people need desks for technology such as computers, and for spending time interfacing with their team."

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Instead, Custance said the focus needed to be on providing a range of areas to suit the different needs of staff. His focus when designing the Fisher & Paykel building was on creating break-out areas and meeting rooms, as well as introducing natural light and greenery in the office.

The transition to break-out areas, where staff could go for meetings or to get away from their desks, was a growing trend, he said.

The social kitchen at the heart of Fisher & Paykel Appliances' Auckland design centre in East Tamaki.
The social kitchen at the heart of Fisher & Paykel Appliances' Auckland design centre in East Tamaki.

"Break-out areas are really important and we've seen that over the last decade with the increased amount of space and expenditure being put into the break-out zones," he said.

"So we're saying productivity isn't just sitting [and] not shifting for eight hours at your desk, you need to get up and get circulation to be sharper."

"We're seeing it from government departments right through to corporates and boutiques and so forth. So, the issue of collaboration and innovation, a lot of that comes through with interacting with people.

"The social break-out gives it an informality for left-field conversations to be more prevalent than sitting at a desk."

Fisher & Paykel chairman Keith Turner said one of the highlights of the new building was a spacious kitchen in the building's centre, which created a social environment and enabled staff to test and adjust the company's latest products.

"Fisher & Paykel recognises the kitchen as a site of sociability, collaboration and creativity," Turner said. "It signifies our shift from focusing solely on products, to focusing on the people who use them."

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Custance said the kitchen highlighted the company's products, which was essential when designing a workplace.

"If you are going to spend the money, why not make sure that your environment does echo, not only from a functional point of view but from an emotive and communication point of view, what the company is about and where it has come from and is going."