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May 29, 2012 -
Ceilings, Furniture & Walls
This is Casey Laughman, managing editor of Building Operating Management. Today's tip is that furniture selection needs to take the changing way we work into consideration.
The office furniture market is in a state of rapid change. Shifts in the way employees work are prompting developments in workplace design that facility managers who are in the market for office furniture will want to consider. Andrew Laing, director, North America, with design firm DEGW says furniture trends are being driven by the way people are working, including how they're working and using space differently.
Twenty to 30 years ago, cubicles largely replaced what were referred to as "bullpen offices," featuring rows of desks, with no walls or panels to separate them. Employees enjoyed little, if any, privacy.
Bullpen layouts gradually gave way to cubicles, whose panels offered several benefits. For starters, they offered workers some privacy. In addition, they provided a way to bring power to technical tools, including phones and personal computers, that were becoming ubiquitous across many workplaces.
Today, a new round of changes is well underway. As a starting point, employees' increasing mobility is affecting both the design and allocation of space within buildings. More employees work remotely, at least part of the time. In fact, some companies that have surveyed their workplaces have found that, on any day, a high percentage of workstations go unoccupied. To use both space and their facilities budgets more efficiently, more organizations expect employees to share desks or work stations. There's no need to provide a workstation with full panels and storage for an employee who may be in the office infrequently.
After all, costs are a significant concern in any discussion of office design and furniture. Real estate is a significant expense, and companies looking to cut costs often zero in on this budget item. Many organizations, particularly given the tight economy, have shown a preference for less tailored, less expensive furniture.