If you thought the future of work was being able to fire up a laptop from home, then think again.
Datacom’s new Wellington headquarters has sweeping views across the city’s harbour, sound-proof meeting capsules, endless places to perch for spontaneous chats, a staff kitchen area that’s more like a cosy cafe, and an event space that can accommodate up to 300 people.
Futures Insights and Experience associate director Tracey Cotter-Martin said “the future of work” had become a bit of a cliche.
Covid-19 sparked a global conversation around remote and hybrid work but Datacom wanted to dig deeper.
Datacom research found that workplaces of the future should be designed around specific mindsets or work modes people are in on any given day.
Cotter-Martin said they identified four mindsets - focus, clarify, create, and learn - which the physical office space has been designed to reflect.
Datacom employs more than 3600 people across New Zealand, of which nearly 1300 are based in Wellington where the company has had a presence since 1968.
The Wellington team works with private and public sector clients to help them navigate technological change from generative AI to evolving cyber threats.
Datacom jumped at the opportunity to take up two floors at the Asteron Centre as its lease on Jervois Quay was about to expire.
The most striking thing in the public entrance of the new office is a large blue sculpture made up of three links twisted together that doubles as a squishy couch.
“Everything in the office promotes those random collisions,” Cotter-Martin said.
“This idea of being able to perch in multiple spaces rather than needing to book a dedicated space or find something. This is a very artistic example of that.”
But if a meeting room is what staff want, there are plenty of those too. They can be booked on the spot using a QR code by the door of each one, rather than the faff of having to go through Outlook.
The rooms have old-school whiteboards with a twist and are for the “clarify” mindset. There’s a device installed above them that records what is being written on the whiteboard in real-time and can be embedded in Microsoft Teams for Datacom staff across the country beaming in.
“It’s thinking about how we can take that tangible experience and make it digital so other people can interact with it in the same way,” Cotter-Martin said.
Next to two of the meeting rooms, there is a lone pod looking out on to stunning views of Wellington’s harbour, designed for the “learn” mindset.
There is a tendency for people to do quiet work at home and disruptive work in the office, but Datacom research shows this leads to a loss of productivity because people miss out on in-the-moment conversations and opportunities, Cotter-Martin said.
The pod has sound insulation, so people feel like they are in a bubble while being part of the wider office with a lounge and coffee area right next to them.
“If I wanted to learn and do some blue sky thinking on my own, this is a great space to do that,” Cotter-Martin said.
She said they didn’t want to separate the different spaces with solid walls so they used floor-to-ceiling ropes to allow the different work mindsets to converge.
While working from the office never looked so good, Datacom still supports a hybrid model.
Datcom New Zealand managing director Justin Gray said he has received positive feedback from the Wellington team.
“Overall, we consider it to be a worthwhile investment as we now have what we call a ‘dynamic’ space that is set up in a way that allows us to easily alter it should we want or need to (all wireless, fully flexible and moveable workspaces etc) in the future.”
One thing Gray is particularly proud of is the incorporation Te Ao Māori principles in the design, which has been guided by Hinerangi Edwards and Kiwa Hammond from AATEA Consultants.
Athfield Architects and Custance Associates were also involved to ensure there was a focus on a locally-owned and humble design with the use of natural materials, Gray said.
Georgina Campbell is a Wellington-based reporter who has a particular interest in local government, transport, and seismic issues. She joined the Herald in 2019 after working as a broadcast journalist.