The notion of the workplace has changed dramatically since the pandemic. The rise in people working remotely has cast a shadow on most traditional workspaces that now appear ill-equipped to handle the demands of hybrid work.
Employers are clutching at straws to try and get people back into the office for many fair reasons including collaboration, company culture, and productivity.
This has, however, presented a great opportunity for the furnishing industry – an opportunity to provide solutions, and to respond to the change in a proactive and innovative way.
Doing this exceedingly well, is Steelcase. Founded in 1912, Steelcase, and its global community of brands, designs and manufactures innovative furnishings for workspaces that are informed by extensive research into how people work, wherever that may be.
“Hybrid work is more complicated than merely making decisions about whether people work from home or the office,” said Terry Lenhardt, Vice President of Global Product Marketing for Steelcase. “Work has fundamentally changed, and worker expectations, behaviours, and beliefs about work have evolved – so the places people work need to evolve and change accordingly. Steelcase deeply understands these changes and is working with organisations as they address this transformation of work.”
Since the pandemic, Steelcase has conducted multiple global studies with over 57,000 employees and leaders to understand the impact the pandemic has had on how people work.
The most recent Steelcase Global Report released in 2022 shares findings from quantitative studies on how people work and what they need from their workplace environments. The report indicated that:
- Almost all employees are spending time in the office, but most prefer to work from home.
- If people enjoy working from their office, it directly and positively impacts engagement, connection to culture, and productivity.
- Hybrid collaboration spaces and access to private spaces for video calls and focus work are at the forefront of what people find more important now than before the pandemic.
In light of this, it is clear that the workplace must adapt. The Steelcase report concludes that a hybrid type ‘neighbourhood’ is the answer – a community that provides belonging and purpose inspired by the communities in which we live.
“A great work neighbourhood has vitality and variety. Each one is unique but all help create equity, engagement, and ease so people can do their best work. Neighbourhoods are created following key design principles and with a mix of diverse types of spaces. Getting it right is both an art and science,” says Meg Bennett, Global Principal Designer at Steelcase.
Steelcase neighbourhoods include spaces for people to work independently, collaboration spaces that cater to both in-person and virtual meetings, private spaces for focus work, and areas that enable people to socialise.
Making it easy for organisations to create a hybrid neighbourhood, or a workspace that is fit for their employees is the Planning Ideas tool on Steelcase.com. It enables users to access a range of pre-designed spaces and technology experiences specifically tailored to the requirements they input. The user is then able to download a 2D drawing of the space and view a list of suggested Steelcase products to suit.
The Steelcase product offering is reflective of the research, insights, and tools the company is so generous with and is specifically tailored to employee needs in this post-pandemic era of hybrid work.
The Steelcase Flex collection is the perfect example. It has been designed to offer flexibility on demand, allowing teams to rearrange spaces at will and as required. Most importantly, it supports hybrid work, from focus areas, to collaborative spaces, and team neighbourhoods, Steelcase Flex allows for ease when shifting between the different ways of working.
Another standout of this range is Personal Spaces, a collection of products that give people their own space within the workplace that they can call their own and easily adapt to their needs for privacy or virtual collaboration with people working remotely.
Aside from the Flex collection, the Steelcase product range is rich with hybrid-friendly product options, including Ocular™ – the hybrid collaboration collection of tables. The Ocular™ range of uniquely curved meeting room tables have been designed for a landscape oriented space, facing the screen, to improve sightlines for remote participants, while allowing in-room participants to feel connected. The range was co-designed and developed with Microsoft for the Microsoft Teams Front Row experience.
Steelcase is undoubtedly a global leader in workspace design and an excellent example for the way our industry must and can take advantage of the opportunities presented by change. It has set the benchmark for hybrid work solutions and showcases the importance of truly understanding the needs of employees to achieve thoughtful, purposeful, and relevant workplace design solutions.
By Elena Anagnostakis