As people begin to return to the office environment there is much talk about what the new work-life will be like. Employees may feel apprehensive: they want to experience interaction with others, but they also want to feel comfortable and safe.
The truth is that the office will still exist, but it will look and feel different. The trend towards more flexible work arrangements isn’t new, it was already a factor pre-2020. Having experienced working from home, employees may be unlikely to embrace working a full traditional five-day week in an office. What can you expect? There will be:
- a new focus on personal space and privacy
- a bigger emphasis on health and wellness
- more attention to sustainable furniture design and finishes
- more efficient use of conference and training rooms
- a rethink about communal spaces
Most offices need to be reconfigured right now. This is a great time to consider making the new spaces more user-friendly, vibrant, and comfortable as well as functional. Open-plan designs have been a feature of office life for more than 20 years, providing better socialization of people and higher productivity. Now is the time to implement lessons learnt and take the best of the ideas forward when sourcing new furniture or repurposing what you have. Furniture construction and design have come a long way. Raw materials are lighter, cleaner, easier to work with and more durable.
Personal Space & Privacy
Employers need to strive for the right balance between personal space and opportunities for collaboration. A new term has emerged to describe a solution for safe person-to-person interactions: privacy furniture.This refers to both the design and positioning of furniture, using natural dividers and screening accessories. Free-standing semi-transparent desk privacy panels and protective screens are light and moveable. They should be high enough to protect a person if someone were to cough or sneeze at the next desk.
Health & Wellness
Companies who want to bring their employees back into the office need to reassure employees that they will be safe, over and above good sanitation. People will want to “own” their space, even being prepared to keep it clean and germ-free. Specific attention is needed to ensure safety and cleanliness when refurnishing shared areas such as kitchens and relaxation spaces. With an increasing demand for hygienic and contamination-free surfaces, the use of self-cleaning protective materials is growing.
In addition to the safety and cleanliness of a worker's space, companies need to consider the physical wellbeing of their employees. Good ergonomic solutions, furniture designed specifically for workers' personal body comfort and efficiency, can lead to greater productivity and an overall healthier workplace.
Furniture Design & Finishes
Furniture that is easily movable, flexible and lightweight will ensure that you can reconfigure and rearrange layouts as floor plans change. The latest microfiber fabrics are being used for couches and chairs as they are less expensive and can withstand heavy use. They can repel stains and spills, inherently reducing maintenance costs.
Employees also care about going “green”, they want to know that their furniture includes sustainably sourced organic materials, is non-toxic and recyclable. Sustainability is based on the principle that socially responsible products are not only good for the environment but good for society and for business.
Conference & Training Rooms
The way we use conference rooms is changing. There is a shift from large-group conference rooms to spaces that are smaller and more flexible, more in quantity, with moveable dividers or acoustic panels. Conference tables will be smaller and more adaptable for more effective use and to accommodate the need for fewer people per square foot
Social distancing is also changing the way we set up training rooms and spaces. Moveable desks and stackable chairs that are easily cleaned mean that small groups can still join in a group training session.
Common spaces such as employee lounges, kitchenettes, cafeteria tables and water cooler spots will have to change. Rest areas will be smaller but there will be more of them. They will need to strike a balance between being cleaning-friendly and still being warm and inviting. Working at shared tables, eating lunch at a communal may not be possible, at least for a while.
What Does This Mean For Procurement?
Procurement teams that understand the changing dynamics of the modern office can add great value to the purchasing process. There are cost-saving opportunities through applying space planning technology and expertise to a refurbishment project. The many styles, materials and price points require sorting through a lot of options to figure out what works best for your specific needs and budget. A Group Purchasing Organization (GPO) offers a range of services to help manage your project timeline, considerations, and cost.
OMNIA Partners realizes that furniture procurement is more complex than buying desks and chairs. Knowing what to look for when buying office furniture can be confusing. That is why we have a 30+ year furniture industry expert, Lisa Merder, Vice President of Workspace Solutions, on our team readily available to advise.
Lisa can help navigate our multi-faceted furniture solutions that are designed to meet a variety of our procurement’s needs from design requirements, complex installation project management to providing flexible furniture options, to ensure all your workspace needs are solved.
Vice President, Workplace Solutions
Meet Our Furniture Expert
With over 30 years in the furniture industry, Lisa understands the furniture design and buying process and can help your organization navigate anything from an office chair to a complex new construction build-out. As Vice President of Workspace Solutions at OMNIA Partners, Lisa uses her furniture expertise to help members address their unique requirements with innovative furniture solutions. She identifies potential suppliers that would be most appropriate for your project while delivering the best overall value through an OMNIA Partners contract.