Consider Employee Needs When Buying Furniture

  August 26, 2011

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.


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