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‘Office sweet office’ – why office furniture looks to the home to improve productivity

05 Dec 2017

In the 1980s, the office became synonymous with function.  The image of a large office space, carved into dozens of identical cubicles with identical desks and chairs, became the shorthand for 9 to 5 culture.

Today, the office cubicle is increasingly a thing of the past. Big changes in workplace design are driven from fresh thinking on how to get the best out of your employees fuelled by the societal shift of the technology age.

With that, comes a huge freedom of choice when it comes to office furniture.  Workplace design is a battleground between form and function.  In the red corner, interior designers and architects are flexing their creative muscles to deliver an eye-catching, distinctive – dare we say, quirky? – look and feel in the office. 

In the blue corner, lies the performance-based goals of the client, who still favour function over form, because ultimately the success of an office is about the work that gets done.

In this scenario, it’s our job as workplace design consultants to marry the two.  We respect the wishes of the designer and the client and, rather than needing to choose one over the other, we find the best solutions for each project to keep everyone’s interests at heart.

Funnily enough, when you look at what’s right for any given office, form and function work as one.

Think of your favourite pieces of furniture at home.  Chances are, they’ll range in function.  The sofa in your lounge is built for comfort, the table in the kitchen is there for convenience.  What links them is that you chose them because you liked the look of them – the shape, the style, the colour and the material all become an expression of your taste and personality.

The modern office is no different.  Every item of office furniture reflects a specific function, but will also reflect the character of the business. This might be overtly (for example, by using corporate colours) or more subtly (a business that puts sustainability first might specify a greater amount of natural materials throughout the workspace).

Better still, the rise of agile and flexible working means that our work/life balance is more blended than ever before.  As the rigid 9-5 day becomes a more fluid, softer environment, the traditional office layout has become infused with domestic influences. 

Furniture manufacturers have been blending home and office in their designs for several years.  Yet the process is accelerating ever faster, as workspace studies show the benefits of informal, collaborative office environments and Scandinavian philosophies of healthy living shape trends in furniture design.

Being productive at work no longer means spending all day in a cubicle.  These days, employees might move freely from a break-out meeting in a pod, to a period of focus in a quiet zone, to making some calls at a sit/stand station, to a moment of relaxation on the sofa. 

By blending form and function into the design and selection of office furniture, it’s possible to get the same mix of personality and performance at work as you’d expect at home.   The result? A happy, productive workforce, and a case of ‘office sweet office.’

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