The contract and office furniture industry has been expanding steadily in recent years, with much of its growth attributed to the increasing success of smaller furniture firms. As the sector remains on track to exceed 2016 sales, a number of factors are influencing the spaces where companies choose to set up shop, as well as the furnishings they choose to fill them with. Here are the growing trends in modern office furniture and design today.
Seeking to harness the innovative spirit and team-oriented culture of successful Silicon Valley ventures, many companies have borrowed the open-office floorplan seen at a number of prominent tech startups. This is led to a drastic decline in individualized space—while the average amount of office space dedicated to each employee was approximately 400 square feet in 1965, now, companies allocate just 151 square feet per each employee. Moreover, a much smaller portion of today’s office spaces are separated or obscured by walls. Cubicle clusters and multi-person workstations are common in today’s offices, and some companies are opting not to have assigned seating at all.
While moving away from private offices to open workspaces might require an adjustment period for more seasoned professionals, open floorplans present a number of potential benefits. They encourage workplace cultures that are not only more collaborative and creative, but also more transparent and egalitarian. For example, many executives are choosing to set up their workspaces within the open office environment, and those with their own offices are more likely to work within accessible, open-facing spaces. In addition, the use of glass walls—particularly to enclose conference rooms—is helping firms create working environments that feel collaborative and transparent (literally and figuratively).
As the tools employees use to complete their work become more advanced, their workstations must evolve to accommodate them. Office furniture designers are continuously responding to the needs of today’s tech-empowered workforce with considerations such as wire management systems, USB charging ports, and adjustable desks. As technology has allowed many workers to untether themselves from the traditional office, many companies are also incorporating temporary workspaces into their office designs. These unique spaces might exist as hubs to be used by remote employees when they visit the office, or they might be collaborative spaces where employees can gather together to work on a project using their laptops or tablets.
As modern businesses become more digitally empowered, they will need to rely on technology such as cloud storage to keep their information safe and secure. For this reason, firms will likely require less physical storage in their office spaces going forward, thus demonstrating just one way how technology impacts not only what office furniture a company purchases, but how the office operates. Essentially, the advent of smart objects and the Internet of Things has resulted in modernized office spaces where functions like lighting, security, and even meeting-room scheduling are controlled by an intuitive, interconnected network.
As technology enables employees to adopt increasingly mobile working strategies, companies are making efforts to ensure that the time spent in the office is as worthwhile and productive as possible. This necessitates choosing furniture that adds value to the workplace, whether by enhancing efficiency or improving employee comfort and morale. Standing or adjustable desks, temporary laptop docking stations, and other forms of flexible furniture are emerging to accommodate the basic day-to-day needs of the 21st-century office.
Although individual employee spaces are dwindling in size, they are also becoming more specialized. While private offices were once reserved for a company’s leadership, some business organizations are beginning to allocate space by need rather than seniority. For example, a product development engineer who spends the bulk of his or her time in the office would benefit from a dedicated workspace, while an executive who spends the majority of the workday meeting with clients and partners might choose to make use of the office’s temporary workstations.
This trend is representative of a larger move toward activity-based office design. Rather than furnishing their offices to accommodate individual employees or departments, companies are planning their workspaces based around functions. For example, a modern office space might feature a blend of cubicles, large media-enabled meeting rooms, smaller collaborative spaces, and private hubs for temporary individual work, as well as dedicated spaces for employee fun and relaxation.
Culture and creativity
Firms are going to greater lengths to incorporate their unique value propositions into every aspect of their business, including their office spaces. It’s become more common for companies to choose unique, eye-catching furnishings in hues that match their brand color schemes, and to incorporate artistic aspects that reflect the organization’s philosophy and “personality.” In addition to inspiring employee engagement through collaborative seating arrangements, companies are also integrating design aspects that encourage networking and creativity (e.g., whiteboard or chalkboard walls, game rooms, and open lounge areas) to further enhance their organizational cultures.
Comfort, wellness, and morale
There’s no doubt that the workplace environment can have a significant impact on employee mood and productivity. In one survey of LinkedIn professionals, 77 percent reported feeling happier in office spaces with art, 74 percent described it as inspiring, and 27 percent noted that thoughtful décor had a positive impact on their productivity.
Companies are making a greater effort to design workspaces that promote a productive, open, and casual environment that is conducive to overall happiness and health. Many employees are benefiting from the option to use standing desks and spend more time moving throughout the office, reducing the numerous detrimental impacts of sustained sitting. In addition, businesses are striving to incorporate design principles that inspire a sense of serenity and counter the sterile office stereotype. For example, natural lighting, loft-style architecture, and the use of wood and other organic materials are becoming popular ways to enhance the office aesthetic while creating a more open, “natural” environment.