SIGNS OF THE TIMES

With innovative changes in the way we do business, it is only natural that changes in the workplace would occur too. According to Andrew Laing, a director at DEGW North America, “What’s driving furniture trends is what’s happening with the way that people are working; how they’re working and using space differently.”

Old school “bullpen” offices were replaced approximately 20 to 30 years ago with cubicles featuring rows of desks without walls to divide them, according to Tom Reardon,executive director of the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association (BIFMA). At that time, employees enjoyed very little, if any, privacy.

When bullpen layouts were replaced by cubicles, the panels offered several benefits, according to Reardon. To begin with, workers were able to have more privacy than before. “The cubicle was a transition towards a private office. They provided not only visual,but acoustical privacy,” stated Reardon. In addition, cubicles provided a way to implement the use of phones and computers across many workplaces, he adds.

As of current times, even more changes are occurring in the workplace. First of all, more people are working remotely and upon survey of several companies, it was found that a high percentage of work stations were unoccupied, says Dianne Dunnell,senior interior designer with Margulies Perruzzi Architects. In addition, in an effort to utilize space more efficiently and work within tighter budgets, more organizations expect employees to share work stations or desks. It is unnecessary to provide employees with panels and storage when the space will not be utilized on a full-time basis.

The cost of office design and the cost of furnishing an office is a significant concern for any organization. With the price of real estate at an all-time high, companies are looking to keep costs as low as possible.

Simplistic Design

With the advances in modern day technology making devices smaller and sleeker, bulky computer monitors are being replaced by flat screen models, and laptops are taking the place of stationary computers. These technological advances calls upon advances in office design.

“Clients are looking less expensive and easier to manage themselves pieces of office furniture,” states Laing. In some cases, funds have been redirected to collaboration spaces.

With a focus on cost, and the reduction in need of a large work space for multiple employees has resulted in a reduction of many workspaces. Since 1994, the average size of a work station for a middle manager has dropped from 151 square feet to 120 square feet in 2010, according to a 2010 report by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA).

Additionally, when there are employees in office, many are working on teams or in groups. “The workplace is becoming more geared to collaborative, interactive work, versus individual work,” states Laing. The furniture and design need to support these changes in the workplace with the use of benching systems, fewer individual desks, meeting tables, and soft seating. The panels between desks are lower or eliminated completely.

To further move forward with technological advancement, some companies have opted for mobile file cabinets that are used as docking stations. In conjunction with this, more and more companies are trying to go paperless resulting in less of a need for storage in office. These changes are also being seen in the university setting where more and more students are working in groups thus eliminating the need for large workspaces. “With students taking advantage of mobile technology, furniture needs to change as a response,” according to Laing.

With all the rapid changes occurring in the workplace environment, many companies are utilizing power supply at the individual stations as not to have tripping hazards in the workplace. Even though mobile technology continues to get smaller and the smaller, safety still remains a factor in the workplace and being able to have stationary power supply instead electrical cords running across the floor or taped down with duct tape is a definite must have when streamlining the offices