Mastering the Art of Tailored Open Office Design for NZ Offices

Open office spaces have a rich historical background, dating back to the early 1900s. The initial concept of open workspaces resembled factory floors, providing a communal environment for employees. However, these spaces were primarily designed for clerks, secretaries, and typists until the 1960s.

During the 1960s, American companies began exploring the idea of open spaces divided by cubicles. This approach aimed to reduce real estate costs, particularly in cities with soaring prices. Work stalls became common in American offices, balancing openness and privacy.

In contrast, European offices often utilised L-shaped corner desks, fostering collaboration among four to six individuals in a shared room. This arrangement allowed for efficient space utilisation while encouraging teamwork.

This blog post will focus on open working spaces, their implications for modern offices in NZ, and how to successfully create your open office plan.

Table of Contents

What are Open Office Spaces, and Why Are They Popular?

The Pros of Open Office Spaces

The Cons of Open Office Spaces

How to Design an Open Office Space That Works for Your Business

Best Furniture Elements to Use for Open Office Spaces in NZ


What are Open Office Spaces, and Why Are They Popular?

Open office spaces are the direct opposite of traditional office cubicles. Back then, members of the company were separated using stalls. This was the norm until some people realised that it hindered socialisation and communication, which were vital for productivity and sterling work performance. 

The physical barriers separated people’s desks and made them distant. They could only fully interact with one another during short breaks in the coffee or lunch room. 

On the other hand, a company that follows an open office plan removes those walls and provides long desks and benches where their employees can comfortably work in their style. Most open offices also have lounges or snack rooms where they can work. 

Not confining employees to cubicles encourages the free flow of idea-sharing and creativity.

The Pros of Open Office Spaces

Less tension

In a highly-structured office, the environment can be intimidating. Since we are more aware of human psychology, we know that people tend to excel more in places where they don’t feel too restricted. 

A relaxed working atmosphere will inspire more employees to be proactive and passionate in their work.


When your coworker is next to you, it's easier to build rapport and share thoughts about a project that you’re working on. When team members are not closed off from each other, they can form more genuine connections, and this can have a positive impact not only on their work but on their personal life as well. 

Healthier working style

Open working spaces encourage employees to take breaks, stand up, or walk around. This is healthier compared to sitting down in front of your desk all day. This is also helpful in facilitating impromptu discussions or meetings among staff members because it encourages initiative. Another way to encourage active working is to implement the use of stand up desks to avoid staff being seated all day long. 

The Cons of Open Office Spaces

Unregulated Noise Level

Noise travels faster in an open space. This can create quote a commotion and disrupt other workers who prefer to work in a peaceful environment. It may also be challenging to take phone calls or attend virtual conferences with many people walking around and doing their business also.

Diverse Distractions

Some employees may not be able to concentrate well on their work. Previous studies revealed that workers in open office environments experience an average loss of 86 minutes daily due to various distractions. A single conversation, even when carried out at a low volume, has the potential to divert the attention of more than 20 employees. Furthermore, additional visual disruptions include colleagues moving around, taking breaks to stretch, leaving their workstations to heat meals, and gathering nearby.

Potential Breach of Privacy

Within an open office setting, there is a constant flow of individuals passing by your desk, including colleagues, suppliers, customers, delivery personnel, and cleaning staff. Since only some people are familiar with you, ensuring the complete safety of your personal belongings becomes challenging. 

Suppose an item such as a phone, wallet, or other possession goes missing. In that case, it is natural to develop suspicions regarding potential culprits, and fellow staff members may also form their conjectures.

How to Design an Open Office Space that Works for Your Business

Planning Your Layout and Seating Arrangements

Your layout and seating assignment will depend on the number of employees that you have.

The essence of practical office seating lies in forward-thinking rather than focusing solely on the present. When devising your floor plan, consider establishing a sense of continuity, enhancing the employee experience, and fostering engagement. Moreover, it is crucial to incorporate scalable solutions that can accommodate your team's expansion beyond 150 members or the utilization of multiple floors. Keep an eye on the future to create a workspace that stands the test of time.

Choosing Furniture That Supports Productivity

The furniture you select for your open office space should not only be aesthetically pleasing but also foster productivity and efficiency. Invest in ergonomic chairs and adjustable desks to promote proper posture and reduce discomfort. Collaborative spaces can benefit from flexible furniture arrangements, encouraging teamwork and idea-sharing. Keep in mind that furniture choices can significantly impact the overall atmosphere and functionality of your workspace.

Using Soundproofing Design Strategies

Open office layouts often face challenges related to noise and distractions. Implementing soundproofing design strategies can help mitigate these issues. Consider incorporating acoustic panels, rugs, or partitions to absorb and minimise sound. Additionally, placing workstations strategically and creating designated quiet zones can contribute to a more focused and less disruptive environment.

Tips for Maximizing the Benefits of Open Office Spaces

Setting Clear Guidelines for Communication and Collaboration

Effective communication and collaboration are essential in open office spaces. Establishing clear guidelines and communication channels can enhance productivity and teamwork. Encourage employees to be mindful of noise levels and use appropriate discussion meeting spaces to avoid disturbing their colleagues. Emphasise the importance of active listening and respectful communication to maintain a positive and collaborative atmosphere.

Prioritising Employee Comfort and Well-being

Employee comfort and well-being should be paramount in your office design. Consider incorporating elements that promote well-being, such as access to natural light, indoor plants, and comfortable break areas. Encourage employees to take short breaks and provide spaces for relaxation to prevent burnout and boost morale.

Private Spaces for Concentration

While open office layouts encourage interaction, it's crucial to provide private spaces for employees to concentrate and work without distractions. Quiet rooms or individual cubicles can serve as retreats for employees when they need focused time to complete tasks or handle sensitive matters.

Best Furniture Elements to Use for Open Office Spaces in NZ

In crafting efficient and inviting open office spaces in New Zealand, selecting the right furniture elements is paramount. Agile Office Furniture is the leading provider of ergonomic furniture ranging from versatile workstations and ergonomic seating to innovative storage solutions.

Agile Stool

Agile Stool

Introducing our versatile height-adjustable stool, featuring a plush 50mm seat cushion for maximum comfort. Experience the convenience of a gas lift with a lifetime warranty. Personalise your space with Crown, Breathe, or Splice fabrics, or opt for sleek black PU upholstery. 

Helsinki Sit & Stand Desk

Helsinki Sit & Stand Desk

Use it as a utility desk or a stand-up work surface for your tablet or laptop. With a simple gas lift height adjustment, switch seamlessly between sitting and standing positions with 365mm of adjustability. Lockable castors ensure stability, making it ideal for mobile workers. Available in two sizes: 600x600 or 800x800.

Mascot Personal Pull-Out Shelving

Mascot Personal Pull-Out Shelving

This versatile Personal Shelving Unit is available with left or right-hand side pull-out shelving. Choose between lockable or non-lockable options, ensuring your items are secure. Experience stability and smooth operation with an anti-tilt wheel for added safety. Standard size: 1200mmH x 800mmL x 450mmD. Customisable finishes and sizes are available, but lead times and pricing may vary. 


Designing an open office space that caters to your business needs and supports employee well-being requires careful planning and consideration. By prioritising continuity, employee experience, and scalability, you can create a workspace that adapts to the ever-changing demands of your growing business.

Remember to choose furniture that promotes productivity, implement soundproofing strategies, and establish guidelines for effective communication and collaboration.

Finally, prioritise employee comfort and provide private spaces for focused work. A well-designed open office space can foster a positive work environment, boost productivity, and contribute to the overall success of your business.