What does the Ideal Workplace look like in a Softer Economy

In New Zealand's professional landscape, a metaphorical red herring is diverting attention from a pivotal issue. Historically, red herrings were used to mislead hunting dogs, and similarly, the ongoing discourse concerning the workplace setting - whether at home, in an office, or a hybrid arrangement - is a diversion from the core matter.
20 Nov
Studio DB

According to the Gallup State of the Global Workplace 2023 study, which encompasses New Zealand, the crux is not the location of work, but rather the quality of the work experience, which significantly impacts productivity, engagement, talent retention, and ultimately, the financial outcomes.

Amidst a softening economy, rising expenses, and low productivity, New Zealand confronts a competitive talent market. Yet, the solutions that enable business leaders to effectively navigate these turbulent times might be more straightforward than anticipated.

Productivity, the war for talent and the irrelevance of location

As we hit the middle of 2023, New Zealand's not just dealing with a recession; our productivity is also lagging, ranking 24th in the OECD. Plus, we're seeing more Kiwis looking for better-paying jobs overseas, adding to our economic challenges.

Key insights:

  • Stress and engagement impact employee performance 3.8 times more than location (Gallup).
  • Enhancing workplace experience can increase productivity by up to 25% with just a 10% improvement in employee experience (Accenture).
  • Purpose-driven employees are 54% more likely to remain for over five years (Imperative and NYU).
  • Addressing employee burnout, a major cost factor, can reduce payroll expenses significantly (McKinsey).

These findings suggest that an optimised workplace experience is crucial in both remote and office settings, particularly in a softening economy.

What are workplace experience and culture?

Workplace experience is influenced by culture and other factors such as individual preferences, expectations, motivations, and goals. It is shaped by the organisation's purpose, mission, vision, values, leadership style, communication patterns, feedback mechanisms, and reward systems.


In the modern workplace, leaders' commitment to employee wellbeing is pivotal. Gallup's 2023 study emphasises that beyond compensation, workplace engagement, experience, and wellbeing are paramount. Employees seek recognition, care, and respect.

Key strategies for leaders to enhance workplace wellbeing include:

  • Implementing flexible work arrangements.
  • Offering mental health support.
  • Enhancing physical work environments with ergonomic furniture, air purifiers, and efficient layouts.
  • Fostering a culture of employee recognition.
  • Maintaining transparency in operations.
  • Prioritising physical health initiatives.


Embracing neurodiversity in the workplace not only enriches culture but also leverages unique perspectives. Neurodiverse individuals often perceive connections and patterns that are less obvious to others, fostering innovation and diverse problem-solving approaches.

Cultivating an inclusive environment involves educational programmes for awareness, alongside mentoring and feedback mechanisms. Additionally, adapting workspaces to meet neurodiverse needs is crucial. Such initiatives contribute to a culture of comprehensive inclusion, respect, and psychological safety for all staff members.


Infusing work with meaning and purpose, such as adopting a sustainability focus, can significantly enhance company culture. This approach not only demonstrates ethical and responsible global citizenship but also attracts and retains high-caliber talent.  

Research from Yale and Cambridge suggests that individuals drawn to environmentally conscious organisations often exhibit greater creativity, curiosity, and openness to new ideas.

Safe Spaces Boost Productivity

Creating spaces like gardens, lounges, and cafes away from traditional work areas not only fosters employee wellbeing but also encourages openness and collaboration, crucial for innovation and boosting productivity.  

Integrating lifestyle elements, such as relaxation areas and biophilic design, goes beyond just boosting employee enjoyment; it shows care for employees' overall lifestyle needs, leading to a more engaged and motivated workforce.  

This approach to workplace design enhances mood, cognitive function, and fosters a sense of autonomy, making the workplace an inviting space for everyone.

Smaller spaces

The shift towards a less materialistic view of success and the rise of hybrid work cultures allows for effective utilisation of smaller, cost-efficient office spaces. Key benefits of compact, well-designed workspaces include:

  • Enhanced employee satisfaction and focus, as smaller spaces reduce distractions (Journal of Environmental Psychology, 2013).
  • Increased job satisfaction and productivity due to the ease of personalising more compact work areas (Journal of Applied Psychology, 2019).

Pitching to the board: overcoming key challenges

A PwC survey indicates that 40% of executives identify planning and strategy development as the primary challenge in post-pandemic workplace readjustment.  

To address this, executives could consider pivoting part of their business strategy towards internal factors, particularly workplace wellbeing and flexibility. This shift acknowledges the growing evidence that a focus on work experience and employee wellbeing not only results in cost savings but also boosts productivity and innovation.

How Studio DB Can Help Your Organisation

In today's evolving business environment, a well-designed workspace is key to fostering employee wellbeing and productivity. Studio DB delivers an integrated, end-to-end commercial interior design, build, and delivery office fit-out service. With our Futureproof . Sustainable . Deliver™ methodology, we make it easy for our clients to create environments that increase peoples’ wellbeing and productivity.  

Explore how Studio DB can transform your workspace into a hub of innovation and efficiency. We’d love to chat.

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