4  FM quick reads on furniture

1. Consider Employee Needs When Buying Furniture

I'm Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is to consider how employees work before investing in furniture.

Here's a piece of good news: The days of the cubicle farm appear to be drawing to a close, and a new generation of furniture is taking its place. Andrew Laing, a director with the design firm DEGW North America, says most organizations today want a variety of work settings.

Several shifts in the ways in which organizations work are driving the move away from cubicles. For starters, employees' ability to collaborate has become key to many organizations' success.

Developing products and services as quickly as possible often requires that employees collaborate with people on different teams as needed. This contrasts with the conventional wisdom of a decade or two ago, which skewed to focused concentration. Workplace designer Lisa Bottom described the former work style as "go to your office, close the door and think big thoughts."

Today, few employees sit at their desks for eight hours each day. While they may spend some time answering emails or working individually on a project, the rest of the time they are up and about, working with colleagues and visiting clients. What's more, the increasingly mobile nature of technology means that many employees no longer are tethered to their workstations.

As individual workspaces have shrunk, meeting areas have become more prevalent. In some offices, these can take the form of a "pantry" or break area. Another option is groupings of soft seating areas throughout an office. In either case, these allow for chance encounters, enabling employees from different areas to cross paths and exchange ideas. Many areas also incorporate technology, such as tables with plug-ins for computers, which allow employees to work away from their desks.

Flexible, Ergonomic Workstations

The increase of mobile work programs and sharing workstations means that facility managers should offer occupants appropriate and ergonomic systems furniture.

Many people with different job descriptions may need to use the same workstation when they come into the office. Therefore, it's necessary to accommodate different body types and work styles.

Desk, chair and table top heights should all be adjustable to accommodate employees of all heights. Accessories such as monitor arms, keyboard trays and file holders should be adjustable or removable altogether. Furniture manufacturers are aware of the growing number of mobile office workers and are offering systems furniture with smaller footprints, more options and integrated electrical and IT systems.

Special Furniture Requirements for Mobile Workers

If your organization is looking to implement a mobile work program, where some employees work almost exclusively out of the office, it's important to examine the systems furniture you have.

With fewer people in the office, fewer workstations will be needed on any given day. Generally, workstations for mobile workers are smaller than typical stations.

In addition, mobile workers will have many mobile devices, such as laptops and cell phones that will need to be charged and connected to the company's network. Therefore, workstations for mobile workers should have ample and easily accessible electrical outlets and IT data ports.



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