Furniture is often an afterthought when it comes to office design. So much so, that it’s not unusual to see businesses dedicate months to picking wood panelling with just the right grain, paint that’s the perfect shade, and the exact style of faux-Victorian lighting, only to rush choosing the furniture staff are actually going to have to work off.
The result is rarely pretty, but the problem goes beyond ugly furniture. The furniture your staff use is just as important as the overall design of your workspace. In fact, without the right furniture, you could end up undoing the positives of a redesign and miss out on a whole host of additional benefits. Here’s why.
Changing Working Habits
Home working is no longer just the preserve of a few liberal-minded businesses and freelancers. According to the TUC, nearly a quarter of a million (241,000) more people in the UK regularly work from home than 10 years ago. What’s more, there’s a growing body of evidence that — dependent on the job — people are generally more productive when working remotely.
Most people don’t work from home every day, so businesses are understandably keen to find ways of generating the same level of productivity on the days staff are in the office. One method gaining traction in the last couple of years is 'resimercial' — an approach that seeks to give commercial design a more homely and relaxed feel.
Furniture is key to this approach. While you can soften elements of the office design to make it feel less corporate or industrial, it’s your staff’s comfort that will really deliver results.
Of course, it’s a fine line. We certainly wouldn’t recommend you scrap desks altogether and replace them with sofas unless it’s right for your business and staff — Zoopla is a great example of a business for whom this approach worked, with themed rooms including a ‘greenhouse’ complete with potted plants and garden furniture
However, there is a middle ground, not everyone has the budget or inclination for something quite so out there. It could be as simple as providing comfy areas with sofas and beanbags for informal meetings and downtime, while retaining sensible workstations for day-to-day work.
The important thing is to create an environment your staff "want to spend time in, rather than have to be there". What’s more, it’s likely to become self-fulfilling: if your staff are happy and your offices suited to modern work, you’re also more likely to attract the best talent to your business.
We’re spending more time sitting at desks than ever before and, when combined with the sedentary hours we spend commuting and at home, the average Brit spends 9 hours a day sitting down.
All this sitting comes with a glut of potential health problems, including musculoskeletal disorders and an increased risk of heart disease. This means that ensuring your staff have furniture that minimises the risk to their health in simply coming to work is vitally important.
It could be that you need to consider adjustable desks to allow staff periods of standing work during the day or to cater to employees who aren’t average height or weight. You should take into account the needs of each member of your staff. For example, does their workstation support good posture? And, if not, can it be easily adjusted to cater to their needs?.
These needs will be different for everyone so it’s important you consult with each and every one of your staff on exactly what they need.
The benefits of putting your employees’ wellbeing first go beyond their health though. People who are comfortable and in good-health generally take fewer sick days, are more productive, and more likely to remain working for you.
Greater Flexibility and Collaboration
A 2015 report by British Land on ‘what office workers really want’ opens by stating the importance of open and connected environments — with Wi-Fi and communal meeting areas — to generations X and Y and this point can hardly be understated. A clear majority of today’s office workers favour collaboration and a sense of community in their working environment and the furniture you use is just as crucial as the overall design in creating it.
With many employees now working from home at least some of the week, businesses are increasingly adopting hot-desking to save on costs and space and your furniture should facilitate it. Can staff simply sit down anywhere and start working, and instantly feel at home doing so? Likewise, if staff want to sit together and work on a project is there furniture that allows them to do it? Or, are they forced to go and sit in the kitchen or try and cram onto one desk? The same applies to quiet zones: is it simply a disused room or corner that’s not really suited to working? Or, does it include a table big enough for a laptop, mug of coffee and any paperwork that needs to come along, with seating that’s as comfortable as a regular workspace?
These are just a few of the considerations you should make when picking furniture, keeping the maxim in mind that if it doesn’t enable the kind of working practices and environment you want to create, then it doesn’t work.
Enhancing your Brand
Finally, just as much as the colour of the walls and the layout of the office, your furniture can either enhance or clash with your brand. We’ve all worked with businesses who have a beautiful website, great ads, and a stellar reputation, only to visit the head office and find their staff work in a monochrome, plastic-chaired nightmare.
When your clients and prospects visit are they immediately put at ease and impressed by an environment and furniture that’s been carefully chosen and makes sense? If not, there’s likely room for improvement.
What’s more, the most important asset to your brand is your staff and the way they talk about their
How Do You Go About Picking?While we’ve outlined the considerations you should keep in mind when picking furniture, knowing exactly what your business needs can be tricky to pin down.
This is where a consultation with a specialist can be really helpful. At Rhino, we don’t just design a space for you, we’ll work with you to really get to the heart of what your space, staff, and business need. This includes advising you on the perfect furniture for your culture and environment.
To learn more about the importance of picking the right furniture for your workspace transformation, download our ebook on future workspaces.