This section of the guidance draws on research and literature about the types of work that benefit from being performed kanohi ki te kanohi | face to face because agencies have told us they need help with this.

The suitability of different work activities to face-to-face or remote work is not absolute. This guidance aims to help agencies to determine which tasks, and to what extent, are best undertaken face to face.

We’ve broken down the types of work that are typically considered to require face-to-face interaction into four categories below. The academic literature and research is summarised for each category, along with a list of the most common activities. Sitting alongside those categories are some principles, also drawn from the literature, to guide how agencies can adapt this model to their context. We encourage agencies to use the tool provided in Appendix C to determine both the activities that will bring people together, and the frequency that is right for them. 

Appendix C: Assessing the level of work to be done kanohi ki te kanohi

This section does not describe work that is best undertaken in a remote setting. Agencies can identify work that falls into this category by considering the inverse of the principles identified below. 

Principles for determining what work needs to be kanohi ki te kanohi

  • Frequency

    Activities that are regularly repeated will need less in-person contact than activities that are infrequent.

  • Novelty/ambiguity

    Activities or tasks that are new or ambiguous (to the staff member, the team, or the organisation) will need more in-person contact than work that is familiar and undertaken often.

  • Individual/team experience

    Where the staff member or team is developing, they will need more face-to-face support than those who are fully proficient.

  • Trust

    Activities that build trust need face-to-face contact.

  • Task interdependence

    The more that tasks require the input of more than one staff member, the more face-to-face contact will be needed to complete the work efficiently and effectively.

Whanaungatanga and connection

Whanaungatanga at work can be conceptualised as a value and practice of close, family-like relationships. These relationships are built through shared experiences and working together, and they provide people with a sense of belonging. Whakawhanaungatanga is the process of establishing these relationships.

Face-to-face connection with colleagues grows these relationships by developing mutual understanding, reinforcing organisational norms, and building a shared identity. Connection gives us a shared sense of purpose and helps us to feel like part of a community. People are drawn to the Public Service by the spirit of service. Working in company with others who have the same motivation, and celebrating our collective achievements helps to maintain this sense of purpose.

Tikanga requires that pōwhiri, whakatau and poroporoaki are in-person wherever possible. As well as being important markers of an individual’s transition into or out of an organisation, these events provide an opportunity for everyone to come together. Because kai is such an important part of these ceremonies, such events also enable interactions for social bonding through eating and drinking together. Other organisation-wide events also fulfil this purpose.

Informal connections are also important. Some of the major challenges reported during the pandemic were lost camaraderie and isolation. In some studies, people reported feeling isolated and missed informal socialising and developing personal relationships with colleagues at the office. Agencies need to ensure that staff have sufficient time together to create these connections.

Connection is also important when a new team is formed. This can be through the change of team members, organisational change or the initiation and establishment of a new project or committee. Bringing together people who will be working closely to establish a shared purpose is important in the early phases. Once established, connections can be maintained remotely, but will likely still need in-person time to ensure they are strong and productive.


Collaboration is about people working together to complete work and is closely related to connection. During the pandemic, we saw that remote collaboration among colleagues who regularly engaged with one another worked well, and that work that was already underway was not impacted by the remote environment. 

What was missed during lengthy periods of working from home were the serendipitous interactions with others, and the challenge of collaborating with those where a strong connection hadn’t yet been established. 

In-person connections are important to innovation and knowledge sharing in organisations. The development of organisational knowledge, and the sharing of that knowledge across the organisation often depends on informal or opportunistic interactions. Agencies need to ensure that staff have sufficient time together to share their knowledge with each other.

Public Service staff generally carry out their tasks and responsibilities interdependently in their teams. Work in modern public organisations tends to be complex and interdependent. Organisations, and teams in particular, will need to establish ways of working that are clear about when, and for how long, people need to be on-site together, when they need to be available to their teammates, and how handovers will be handled. Individual staff members should also consider where they can best focus on their individual assignments and when they should be in the office to boost collaboration and team culture.

A quick word on meetings

Technology has transformed the way in which meetings are held and, in some ways has enabled more connection and collaboration than ever before. To maximise the benefits of this technology, it’s important to be aware of the drawbacks:

  • ‘Zoom fatigue’ — spending a lot of time focusing on a screen in virtual meetings is more tiring than being in the room
  • hybrid meetings (where some people are in a room, and some are online) can exclude the online participants.


Communication is about building shared understanding, relationships, and trust. This includes creating and understanding what is expected of a staff member in terms of the work they deliver, and their behaviour. 

Face-to-face communication allows for verbal and non-verbal cues that develop trust. The nuances of these cues can be lost in an online medium (particularly if it is audio only). Face-to-face communication is highly preferable for performance management and development conversations.

It’s important to remember that work is a social process that requires coordination. Jobs, roles, tasks, and projects are all embedded in interpersonal relationships, connections, and interactions. Assessing the suitability of different activities for face-to-face or remote work has to be done in this social context, not just at the individual task level.

There can be a perception that flexible work, especially working remotely, can result in under-delivery. Performance issues can arise with any work arrangement and being visible in the office is no guarantee that employees will deliver to expected standards. Managers should therefore be careful to not assume that the flexible work arrangement is causing performance issues when there may be underlying issues. In the event of poor performance, working from home may not enable the level of coaching required to bring performance back to an acceptable level.


Learning on the job is essential for staff to deliver the best outcomes for New Zealanders and to grow professionally. Most work-based learning is informal and embedded in work practices – ‘learning by doing’. Work-based learning also tends to be collaborative, with social interaction and sharing of knowledge among co-workers being very important.

Informal communication in the workplace, which often occurs face to face, facilitates the exchange of information, and helps to build a staff member’s knowledge base. People in the workplace have the opportunity to learn skills by being in close proximity to, and observing, co-workers. Remote workers in otherwise on-site teams may have difficulty in acquiring tacit knowledge due to missing out on informal conversations about the work of the team and will need to approach the acquisition of this tacit knowledge differently.

Informal learning and knowledge transfer can occur in virtual environments, if there are some face-to-face interactions to create and maintain trust and good interpersonal relationships.

Digital learning can be just as effective as traditional in-person learning. To achieve the best outcomes, learning should be delivered in social, informal, and formal ways to meet the needs of a greater diversity of learners. 

Studies that have compared the effectiveness of different learning methods have found that blended learning (combining digital and in-person methods) is generally the most effective method of delivery.

Onboarding is a critical type of learning. The first weeks and months of a new employee’s job are when they learn what their role is, what is expected of them, how the organisation works, and build relationships with their manager, team members, others in the organisation and stakeholders. Much of this is a social process that happens through observation and informal interactions. New workers who aren’t well supported during this phase of their employment are more likely to resign.

Importantly, onboarding requires the presence (at least some of the time) of not just the person being onboarded, but their manager, others in team, and other staff in the organisation with who they will be working closely. People who are new to the workforce or have had a long absence from the workforce, may need more time with others in their first weeks and months, than those who have had previous work experience.

Similarly, people who are leaving a team or organisation may need to transfer their knowledge to their colleagues before they go. Managers, teams, and staff should actively plan this knowledge transfer.