Paul Edward, Managing Director at Staverton, explores the emerging trends in the world of technology-integrated furniture and what the future of our workplace may look like.
An increasing number of businesses are looking towards new technologies to create a workforce that is more productive, more efficient, and more innovative. For the majority of job roles, technology now makes it easy to work effectively from anywhere in the world, creating a much more flexible method of working. As such, there is now an ever-growing demand for furniture that integrates technology and also creates comfort and ease when using technology. A physical aspect of the workplace that’s often overlooked.
Technology is everywhere and there’s no escaping it – something the working world knows all too well. As technology is now a very integral part of work life, the furniture industry will need to further consider its stance on tech and how its integration helps the industry stay relevant in the rapidly evolving workplace. To put it bluntly, tech develops much quicker than furniture does. Workplace change happens at a rapid rate; therefore, designers and manufacturers must find ways to speed up their developments cycle, and make sure their products stand the test of time. Future proofing your workplace and the furniture within it, is crucial, to ensure you’re not purchasing new products every time our devices get smaller, or need a new charging port.
Workplace furniture used to last much longer – it had a life span of about 10-15 years. However, as the average length of a commercial lease begins to shorten, furniture manufacturers need to look at new strategies, products and partnerships to ensure that as technology obsoletes itself, core furniture pieces stay relevant.
We’re well versed on the fact chairs should be ergonomically friendly, so employees can work at the required level and distance from their screens. Standard desk sizes have also shrunk, thanks to the rise of portable devices.
Productive, healthy and efficient workspaces encourage employees to move around. The sit-stand desk, for example, is often compatible with software that remembers your settings and can even remind you when to move. We’re also seeing an increase in demands for integrated USB chargers, app-enabled controls and embedded devices. Furniture is being designed to not only integrate but also house technological devices. Workstations include grooves for propping up tablets and phones whilst phone booths have been built specifically to house conference calls, with a place for your laptop and phone.
Flexible furniture, such as sit stand desks, provide the perfect opportunity to stretch your legs and battle the sluggish post-lunch or end of the day feeling that we all suffer from. Electronically adjustable, these effective and popular workstations are available in numerous designs and are becoming a firm staple in today’s workplaces. Sit stands that are also mobile mean not only can you stand up to complete tasks, but change the physical location you’re working in. Some might argue that as technology enables more agile work, what we need from a furniture standpoint will become simpler. The humble cubicle, for example, was designed with technology in mind – work had to happen there. We needed customised, stationary settings that met the needs of a variety of tasks in one place. As we look to the future of an increasingly mobile workforce, we have already seen a move away from cubicles to open plan desking, café tables, and other flexible, multi-use spaces. With the concept of activity-based working, instead of one space that can work for all, we now have a choice of adaptable work spaces that can meet the needs of many work preferences and activities. The furniture used in such spaces becomes more of a functional object: a table and chair, a chair with a tablet, or other surface and seat. The word ‘work’ has very much shifted from being a noun, to a verb.
For those who don’t know, the Internet of Things (IoT) is the idea that technology in a space can be connected to one network. This would mean you can turn on the TV, adjust your heating, set your alarm system and turn off your lights all from your phone or tablet. It’s on track to change our lives as we know it, and to be honest, it already has. In the world of facilities management it’s already changing approaches to building maintenance, monitoring and reporting. For the furniture industry, this means suppliers and manufacturers have begun thinking about ways to incorporate their products into this connected world of work. The IoT can work for things like reclining a piece of motion furniture from your phone, as well as products with tablets embedded into them that can be controlled at any time.
Collaborative spaces and breakout areas are the ideal option for offices that require regular one-on-ones, informal team meetings or private phone calls. Enclosed ‘dens’ or ‘booths’ are an acoustically treated option that can be fitted-out with lighting, power sockets, USB ports and monitor screens and provide another area where employees can either work privately or catch up with fellow colleagues. There are countless options available to businesses, enabling them to create more happy and productive space for their employees to work in. The inclusion of technology in our mission for the optimal workplace is of upmost importance.