THE FUTURE OF OFFICE DESIGN AND FUNCTIONALITY

04 March, 2016

Everywhere I turn I hear about this company ceasing operation, that company reducing personnel, or that company having their people work outside the office from home to eliminate the need for expending money on a place for them to work.  I have been in the office furniture for 37 years and the changes in the field continue to make it more difficult to do this for a living and support a family. 

 

The number of people working outside the traditional office setting is rapidly increasing. Today there are more than 96.2 million mobile workers, and by 2020 this population is estimated to grow to an all-time high of 105.4 million.  That is a lot of cubicles, chairs, tables, files, etc. that will not be purchased.  I did a lot of work from home when I first got started in the business and I never purchased one piece of office furniture, instead sitting on my couch, watching television and working on my laptop.  I of course was single, and had only my mouth to feed, so things were easy then.  Cubicles were the new thing and actually were needed, and valuable, so a small liquidation then would feed me for months. Not so today, and I believe that the cubicle is very much like the dinosaur.

 

Today’s Furniture Promotes Collaboration and Conversation

 

This trend has really been picking up steam in the last year. We are slowly but surely moving away from cubical segregation into a more open working environment. What is new is the introduction of privacy pods and nooks. This is a natural occurring trend to promote distraction free spaces for workers that just need to be in the zone for a while. It is really an organic mix collaboration and personal space.

 

The Boss office has also changed as the result of this trend.  Executives’ offices are smaller in size and some also double as a conference room. It is believed that with today’s technology, an executive does not need to be tied to his or her office to get the job done. These office furniture design trends allow for more flexibility and movement.

 

Convertible Workstations

 

Some companies have taken the common sit to stand desk and turned it into an entire sit to stand workstation on wheels. It has the ability not only to be stable, but mobile for easy redesign of the office.  This is great for startups who need office furniture that can expand and grow with them.

 

Also, many companies are opting for standing meetings instead of seated. Businesses want their workers on their feet for a portion of their work day and standing during a meeting also reduces the chance of employees zoning out. A plus in standing meetings is that they are significantly shorter and more productive. Having a cup of coffee or a cold drink is also pleasing to most employees.  Standing conference meetings will be big in 2016 and beyond.

 

 The Workplace Gets a Homier Look

 

One interesting trend that is huge is the introduction of residential style furnishings in the office. This includes solid wood desks that look more like dining room tables or lighting that would look more at home. It is believed that a more inspirational or comfortable workplace will help employees feel more creative and motivated.

 

Integration of Technology

 

Today many new desks come ready to become one with technology. In addition to power outlets, USB ports, and USB charging ports can now be found on task lights. This makes for ease of connection so workers can quickly plug in and get to work. Future office furniture design trends seem to be technology focused and that is not a bad thing. Real Estate is moving toward communication and power being in the floor for easier hook up.

 

What is really driving this downturn?

 

Sure, it’s easy to point the finger at “economic conditions.” We haven’t seen the growth of jobs in the commercial sector that historically meant 'butts in seats,' the lifeblood of our industry.

 

But would you believe that a larger impact has actually been the shrinking workstation? In the 1970s, the average workspace was 12 feet by 12 feet. By 1995, it had shrunk to 10 feet by 10 feet. Today? A worker’s space averages a mere 6 feet by 8 feet… And it is shrinking rapidly.  Continual change is to be expected, so if you are in the liquidation business as I am, you better change your direction and anticipate less income as the new stuff is definitely as expensive as the cubicle era.

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