As the definition of workplace is redefined globally, everyone is discovering their preferred work setting. While working from home, we were all allowed the choice to work where we want and when we want. For some that was the couch, others the kitchen table, maybe even the bed some days. It may have even shifted throughout the day depending on the task. In 2021, as workers shift back into working at the office, they expect to have the same level of choice in their workspace at work as they did at home.
What does your organization need to provide its users with in order to help them transition back into the workplace?
One way you can make a huge impact is with furniture. Furniture can provide employees with different postures and settings for working. Much like the different settings, we enjoy while working from home, you can create similar areas in your office space. Areas with soft seating can act as a living room setting. Break areas can be like your dining room. Areas to socialize such as collaboration or game areas. Softer textures and comforts of home in the workplace will ease and encourage a transition back to the office. Much of this can be achieved with furniture alone.
Where do you start? What is the process for making furniture selections for your office space?
Whether it is an architect, interior designer, facility manager, or furniture vendor selecting furniture for your workplace, planning usually starts with a workplace survey or meetings with focus groups to determine your needs.
Identify which stakeholders to involve.
Determine the types of spaces to implement:
What types of spaces do you have? What types of spaces do you need?
What does each of these spaces require and how are the spaces used? Consider-
Create an RFP (Request for Proposal). Engage a design professional, owner rep, project manager, or a furniture vendor directly.
From here, your chosen professional will work with you on budget, design, schedule, and installation.
When it comes to furniture there are many different styles and price points. Selection will be based on your company culture and workplace standards. Each organization is different, and so is their furniture, which should reflect the culture and how your people work.
Furniture modifications can be a stand-alone change or take place in conjunction with an office renovation. With many companies still navigating what the future of their workplace will look like, you may not want to invest in a full-fledged renovation right now. In that case, investing in different furniture might be the right investment for now.
For more information on cost/budgeting and options for reuse, see our post A Series: How Much Will it Cost to Renovate or Remodel my Office? A Deeper Dive into Furniture.
Getting people back in the office is important for many firms, but safety first! Many employees have concerns over coming back to the workplace and risking exposure. A few considerations should be kept at the top of your list when considering office furniture in pandemic times:
Density – Times are uncertain. Flexible furniture solutions are a great option so you can be ready to change the density and configuration without purchasing new furniture as the number of people in the workplace may ebb and flow.
Separation/Distance – You may have the right furniture solution for your workplace, but traditionally things are designed to maximize space. Consider adjusting layouts to provide more social distance or provide separation using a panel. Even adjusting the orientation of workstations can change the perspective of distance.
Materials – Having materials that can easily be wiped down and sanitized between uses is important in maintaining the health and well-being of your employees. There are many new and advanced materials to consider for providing a safer and cleaner environment. Try laminate surfaces instead of hardwood, solid surface counters instead of granite or marble, and bleach cleanable fabrics or vinyl upholsteries.
As we look to the future, what does the workplace look like post-pandemic? That is the age-old question, and many are still developing an answer that makes sense for their organization. For any organization, furniture can engage people back into the workplace by providing a variety of settings and it can make its users feel safe wherever they choose to work.