Design Trends – Microsoft Wellington

The Microsoft Wellington Office has transformed a tired, uninspiring space into a hub of collaboration that accommodates different working styles and is also a better reflection of Microsoft as a global leader.

The previous office space was described as an ‘ocean of screens’ or a maze of segregated ‘work holes’, swallowing staff and discouraging communication – at odds with the company culture. Working closely with Microsoft staff, including a survey about their optimal working style, the design team developed an open-plan solution that is flexible and forward-thinking.

greeting HubThe office is divided into four distinct zones of activity. The Greeting Hub at the front of the office is the first glimpse into the company’s “heart and home.” Organic elements were included into the design to give the office a more residential, welcoming feel, including slatted timber screens and prints of trees on the front desk. The colours in each zone reflect the focus of each area; the blues of the Greeting Hub are both sophisticated and welcoming.

The Kinect Zone is a customer lounge for staff and clients to meet, featuring a curving, S-shaped sofa, a kitchenette and even an Xbox Kinect gaming system. The space also displays Microsoft’s leading-edge technology with full wall pinboards, 360° projections, touch screens, movement sensitive cameras, and mobile devices.  Separated meeting rooms leading off the main area provide options for privacy, while movable walls and simple, adjustable furniture layouts provide more meeting options.

This area leads through into the Cafe Hub – a warm, multi-coloured space which can be used for informal meetings or transformed to host more formal functions for both staff and clients.  A range of seating arrangements and elevations is on offer – soft seating, low or high tables, bar leaners and stools – to facilitate whatever style of conversation and communication is helpful.

Kinect ZoneThe workspace is divided into the Active Workzone and Quiet Workzone.  Unexpectedly, staff did not want dedicated desks but did want access to quiet work zones where they could work uninterrupted. This perfectly aligned with S&T’s view that instead of emphasising conformity, workspaces should accommodate individual work styles and preferences, which may vary depending on the nature of work at the time. It also fits with current trends in workspace design around the globe.  As Telework or telecommuting becomes more popular, mobile technology enables staff to work productively away from the central office setting. Microsoft is in an ideal position to implement their cutting-edge mobile technology to enable staff to work more flexibly while saving costs in office space.  As a result, this particular office needs only 20 desks for a staff of 40.

The Active Workzone is where more fast-paced, active work takes place. There are no fixed offices, cubicles, or desks. Each workstation is equipped with a monitor, mouse, and keyboard, so that people can use a single USB cable to quickly and easily plug in to a comfortable and productive desk arrangement.  Staff are allocated a locker where the door is also a blackboard – easily personalised while adding a bit of fun to the workspace.


Quiet ZoneThe Quiet Workzone flows from the Active Workzone, separated by a “pinch in the floor plan”. It is where concentrated, detailed work takes place and workstations are set up to provide more acoustic separation between users.  Its colour scheme is cool, calming green – a retreat for staff looking for a quiet space to work without interruption.  Cocooning furniture in the “library” and the hanging bubble chair are alternative spaces to sit.

Cafe HubThe results can be summed up by the staff members, who love the flexibility of their new office and say that it helps them be more productive:

“The design of the office helps me to achieve more – whether it is the conversation zone where people can work together and share ideas or the quiet zone where people can focus on their work independently. You choose the room to suit the work you have to do and each area provides a flexible mix of technology to facilitate the many different work and meeting styles and needs. It makes the office a more enjoyable place to work and I feel like I am getting more done.”

– Mark Rees, Microsoft NZ National Technology OfficerGreeting Area

Active Workzone

For inspirational design ideas for your office, Contact Urban Fitout