Human Rights Commission

Opting for less costly premises when existing lease expired has prompted a move to open plan and the benefits of increased communication.

New lease of life for Human Rights Commission

Human Rights Commission logoAfter 20 years in the same building, moving into new premises has given the staff at the Auckland office of the Human Rights Commission a fresh start, as well as making considerable savings.

“There were a few drivers to make the change,” says Tanya Gannon, Corporate Services Manager at the Human Rights Commission. “Our lease was expiring and had to be renegotiated, so initially I was actually just researching the rental property market to renegotiate our existing space.” However, as she looked into it and spoke to different organisations, she realised more investigation was needed, including exploring the option of moving into a new space. It was clear that the configuration of the existing office was not ideal. There were lots of individual offices taking up floor space and acting as barriers to communication.

Engaging the assistance of commercial property consultants, Colliers, was very helpful. After ascertaining that their advice would be at no cost, “I commissioned their services and looked at a few buildings with them,” Ms Gannon says.

“The consultants were able to take part in negotiations with new potential landlords, as well as our existing one. They could play hardball and then I could negotiate with them. It just worked well.”

Getting a more appealing deal on a nearby office space, Ms Gannon negotiated some favourable incentives from the new landlords, including a $610,000 fit-out. Although the new office is smaller, the open-plan format uses the space better. The Commission is also saving $120,000 a year on rent.

Effective is delivering the results you intend. Efficiency is the best use of your resources with no or little waste.

In addition to the changes from the move itself, staff members have had to adjust to working in an open-plan office.

“Some people embraced the change and others were more concerned, especially about moving to open plan,” says Ms Gannon. “They didn’t like parting with space they had been in for many years. At times, it was quite intense.”

The Commission held a number of meetings to discuss the changes both before and after the move. “We discussed the protocol of working in an open-plan environment, the mechanics of talking to people in open plan, telephone calls, and when it is appropriate to go to a quiet room.”

On the whole, staff members have adjusted to the changes well, and the vast majority of staff much prefer the new environment. “Our staff would not hang back. If they were unhappy, I would know about it.”

She says the open-plan format has instigated improved communication within the organisation. “I know from my own team, we are more aware of the things that are going on. For example, if there is a discussion going on to which we can add value, we will contribute.

“There’s just a greater general awareness about what’s going on around you.”

Ms Gannon, who has been involved in moving three other Human Rights Commission offices in the past three years, says that, despite her experience, this move has taught her the value of engaging a property consultant. “Although I was very careful this was at no cost to us.”

Based on an interview with Tanya Gannon, Corporate Services Manager, on 25 June 2012.

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