Why substance is as important as style when it comes to office furniture selection
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has been far-reaching, with many businesses either working from home or switching to hybrid working, and this is having a direct effect on office design and furniture selection. Whether you’re focusing on your reception area, meeting rooms, collaboration spaces, offices or breakout areas, choosing the right furniture is paramount.
When it comes to furniture selection, several factors are likely to influence the final decision. The budget is, of course, key. Although engaging a design specialist would tend to indicate that the project will be reasonably well funded, it is vital that furniture selection is tailored to the available budget. In our experience, our clients are generally interested in investing in good-quality furniture because it will last better, it will create a favourable impression for staff and visitors, and it will also give their staff a greater sense of desire to come to work, pride in their workplace and implied value from their employer.
Understanding the required longevity of the furniture is important. How long it is expected to last? If it’s viewed as a temporary fix then the quality and budget can be lower, however we would probably suggest that investing in good furniture is always sensible. If specified correctly, furniture should be re-locatable and if warranties and manufacturers continuity guarantees are in place, product can be added as required. It sounds obvious, but another fundamental is to ensure that the right furniture is specified to support your requirements. And, finally, the design of the space itself will heavily influence the type and volume of furniture being recommended.
One major change over recent years has been the growing trend towards sustainability, with many manufacturers now publishing data regarding their furniture’s carbon footprint. Clients are increasingly focusing on the materials used, the recycled content, the potential for future recycling, and the nature of the packaging and associated waste. The product data sheets on manufacturers’ websites now routinely display this information, enabling clients to base their final furniture selection on sustainability as well as style. Historically, clients have only been interested in the sustainable option as long as it was affordable, but this caveat appears to be diminishing, with furniture’s green credentials becoming more and more relevant.
Carol Chinn, Design Partner at The Workspace Consultants, recommends that the lead designer should be involved in all product specification on a project. ‘When we're commissioned to design a client’s space, furniture specification and budgeting are pivotal to its success. Occasionally, we will also be asked to recommend furniture based on someone else’s design. We ensure that this is a collaborative process to maintain the original design intent,’ says Carol. ‘It's likely that several manufacturers will be specified on a project. This is because they often excel in some but not all areas of product design. Knowledge of the furniture market is so important if you are to specify the right product for the right space at the right price point. There’s so much choice, and such an array of different technology, that clients can feel overwhelmed if they approach the furniture selection process without professional guidance.
‘If you're not taking existing furniture into your redesigned offices, new furniture will likely form a significant percentage of your overall budget, and if you're switching to a hybrid working model for at least a percentage of your staff you may end up with a flexible allocation of desk space.'
Furniture specification relevant to a ‘Hybrid’ Working Model:
- Your existing office chair is likely designed for one careful user. It will probably have torsion adjustment, maybe a free-floating back and a back lock, and may even have a seat depth adjustor. It will also likely have height-adjustable lumbar support, arms and a gas lift. All of these will have been set once, and the user will know when someone else has been sitting in their chair. They may not even remember how to reset their chair if it's been altered. Chairs are now available to support agility; they have minimal levers and are easy to reset in a matter of seconds. They will have automatic torsion adjustment that responds to your weight, and a technical mesh to support your back without a special lumbar support. The arms and seat will move up, down, in and out really easily, and the mechanisms will be designed to withstand regular adjustment.
- Monitor arms are available in a variety of formats and help take monitor(s) off your desktop and to locate them at a height suitable to prevent neck and back strain. You should probably invest in one of these for most of your staff, although we have seen many and varied creative ways of achieving the same results without buying monitor arms. Again, if you want your newly agile staff to be up and running quickly on flexibly allocated desking, monitor arms may well become essential in achieving this.
- A flexible desk allocation system will lead to de-personalisation of desks and may mean they can be reduced in size. It will mean desks can be cleaned properly at the end of every day, which is good for existing and future pandemics. You might be interested in height-adjustable desks too, as they are good for bad backs and circulation, and are meant to help keep us alert and use up more calories.
- Where desk sharing is relevant, lockers will be better specified for personal storage, and these can be ‘owned’ or ‘borrowed’ depending on company policy. If we identify a need for any anchor workstations these should also probably be supported by lockers, as it will be easier to re-allocate/redefine desks when required.
You can learn more about our furniture selection service here, and if you’re thinking of remodelling your office space we can help you select the best furniture to fit your budget. Contact us today for an initial discussion.