Buying office furniture for your company is a big responsibility. Choosing new products can be a major decision, not only because it contributes to the wellbeing and comfort of your workers, but it also impacts productivity and your ability to attract and retain talent.
Today, procurement teams and facilities managers care about much more than the cost savings they can achieve. They are taking a strategic approach to buying office furniture, as they recognise the impact the workplace can have on their bottom line.
In this blog post, we look at some of the themes driving decision-making when buying office furniture for 2022 and beyond.
Sustainability has never been more critical than it is today. It’s more than just the latest buzzword, as companies are becoming defined by the impact they have on the world.
When choosing office furniture, every decision you make impacts your carbon footprint. The environmental impact a piece of furniture will have depends on what happens at the beginning of its life cycle during the design process. So look for products made from raw materials such as timber and bamboo and environmentally friendly fabrics like wool, cotton and hemp. Look out for products made from recycled materials too. The Kirn chair by Orangebox, for example, is made primarily from recycled plastics.
There may even be some value left in your existing products that you haven’t considered. The most sustainable furniture items are those that already exist. It may be that reupholstering your current task chairs or replacing parts of your workstations will turn out to be a better option than buying new ones.
But when you do buy new, buy products built to last. The average task chair generates 72 kilos of CO2 over its lifespan. So every time you replace a chair, you’re pumping another 72 kilos of CO2 into the earth’s atmosphere. If you can buy a product that lasts 20 years rather than 5, you’ll significantly reduce your carbon footprint.
You’ll find more information about choosing sustainable office furniture in our eBook:
Post-Covid, people are more aware of what they need and want from the working environment to do their best work. They’ve become used to the autonomy of working from home, and their expectations of the office have increased. Ultimately, they want control over where they work and their environment within the office.
People want the choice to work from a dedicated desk, a comfortable sofa, or even outside. They want the flexibility to move furniture and tools around to suit their personal preferences and the tasks they need to do.
Height-adjustable desks like the Ology bench from Steelcase, give workers the freedom to move throughout the day and maximise comfort. Workers also want to be able to ‘hack’ the space around them, moving desks, chairs, tables, whiteboards and barriers around to improve productivity.
But it’s not just employee needs that warrant flexible furniture solutions. As Gensler points out:
“New workspace approaches must be more responsive to rapidly adjust to new ways of working with flexible spaces and furniture for newly emerging work patterns.”
3. The shift to hybrid working
There’s no doubting that hybrid working is here to stay. Employees want the best of both worlds: time at home and time in the office with their teams. And companies across the globe are giving it to them.
But the workplace has to adapt and change to support this shift in ways of working.
“66% of leaders say their company is considering redesigning office space for hybrid work, according to The Work Trend Index Survey.”
In this new era of hybrid working, the office becomes a social anchor where colleagues can connect face-to-face and feel a sense of belonging. But before you replace all your workstations with collaboration tables, remember that workers will still need spaces to focus.
Pods and booths, for example, can provide private spaces for individual work or one-on-one meetings. Meanwhile, acoustic barriers and screens can be used to create boundaries around collaboration spaces.
Consider also the types of interactions that could take place in the workplace, and choose furniture solutions that support them. For example, bar-style seats in the work cafe or paired seating outside meeting rooms create opportunities for on-the-fly conversations. In contrast, comfortable lounge seats clustered together in quieter areas will support deeper discussions. The Privé booth from Workstories, for example, supports in-depth conversations between colleagues.
Learn more about what workers need and want from the hybrid workplace in Steelcase’s latest research report:
4. Employee wellbeing
Only in recent years has office design thinking shifted to focusing on the needs and interests of the workers rather than the employer. Nowadays, the need to put employee wellbeing at the heart of office design is vital for any company wanting to attract and retain the best talent.
The post-Covid office needs to support the physical, mental and emotional needs of workers. Height-adjustable desks, lounge furniture in designated quiet zones, and screens and barriers to improve visual and acoustic privacy are just some of the furniture options to consider that will help support the holistic wellbeing of employees.
Employers are becoming more aware of the need to create workplace environments where everyone can thrive and feel valued, regardless of their age, gender, personality, learning styles and abilities.
Nichola Plummer, Design Director at Insightful Environments, says:
“Inclusive design isn’t just thinking about a person in a wheelchair. It covers everything; visual impairments to age demographics, and differences you can’t see. If you can design spaces that fully embrace inclusivity and give people choice, then you’ll get the best out of everyone. This is the optimum, utopia space people are striving for now.”
The furniture, tools and technology within the workplace need to be accessible to the full spectrum of employees. When buying chairs and desks for example, consider whether they are suitable for people of all heights and abilities, as well as wheelchair users.
From making sustainable choices to finding flexible solutions that support hybrid working and the wellbeing of a wide spectrum of employees, choosing the right furniture for your office space is a big task.
At IE, we’ve worked with hundreds of clients to identify office furniture solutions that meet their specific needs and agendas. We stay at the forefront of workspace design and insights, bringing together our deep knowledge of the UK market with Steelcase’s global R&D prowess to deliver smarter, healthier and sustainable work experiences.
To find out how we can help you with your project, get in touch and our experienced and friendly team will be happy to chat.