Why You Should Consider Selling Office Furniture, Or at Least Consider Space Design

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I’ve read Barco’s new survey of 1200 executives across 13 countries to find out how the office is changing and how workspaces are used — and it’s enlightening. My biggest takeaway? The business I want to be in right now is selling office furniture and the tech to support it!

In my opinion, that’s exactly where AV companies should be focusing right now. The office is changing, and the entire physical space is going to have to be redesigned and re-imagined — it’s happening in real-time. The delay, due to the latest COVID-19 variant, allows for more time, to be frank, to uproot these office spaces appropriately.

If after reading Barco’s survey if you still aren’t convinced to add furniture design to your services, then, read McKinsey’s latest report on the changing landscape of the truly hybrid worker.

Barco said the main objective of its report was to find out how the COVID pandemic and lockdowns (leading to forced working from home for the entire staff) have affected the global office spaces. The results show a clear desire for more engaging and inspiring workplaces, although regional differences are striking.

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Here are two interesting findings:

  • 62% of respondents (remember, these are executives) say employees are happy to return to the office.
  • 23% are transforming auditoriums and experience centers based on new staff expectations.

The survey also has some interesting data about people’s interest in going back and working in an office, eventually. For example, it said employees are happy to be able to go back into the office, even if it’s only for a couple of days a week. So-called, but unfairly labeled, Zoom fatigue, balancing between office and domestic tasks, home-schooling children and missing face-to-face interactions took a toll on all of us. Among Barco’s respondents, 61% said that employees enjoyed returning to the office when restrictions eased in the second half of 2021. This was slightly lower in France, where only 51% agreed employees were happy to be coming back (although only 14% disagreed). Saudi Arabians were much happier, with 82% agreeing employees were happy to be back, as were 78% of Mexicans and 65% of Australians.

Barco’s report shows that the office is no longer just a place for desk work, but rather a dynamic space for better meetings, stronger collaboration and social interaction. An important example of the evolved way to use office technology is video walls. They were typically used to grab the attention of external visitors but are now transformed into tools to engage employees and improve collaboration and productivity.

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Worker expectations, happiness and inspiration are being considered when equipping the workplace to create a dynamic environment for each and every employee. Multipurpose big rooms and experience centers are now used primarily for company culture or employee engagement by 11% and 12% of respondents, respectively — which, while still small, is a surprising primary use given their likely client-facing role. Indeed, 30% of respondents say they have changed the use and purpose of experience centers following Covid-19, and 28% have changed the use and purpose of multipurpose big rooms. In the U.S., the most common room to see a change in its use and purpose was multipurpose big rooms (28%), whereas French respondents have been changing their lobby and reception spaces more (30%) whereas only 19% in Saudi Arabia have disrupted their C-suite’s space.

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Corporate lobbies have evolved from their traditional function (greeting visitors or having them wait) into places to create an impactful first impression and to instill pride in employees. According to the survey, the lobby is the second most chosen space for meetings (49%) and aims to impress whoever (staff or visitors) enters the building (45%).

Point is, everything is changing — or, they want it to change. Forget upgrade cycles, this is a sea-change that will transform the workplace. The coworking companies, like SPACES and WeWork, seem to have the best design elements that people strive for. So, if you haven’t been to one, go. Use it for inspiration. But, PLEASE add companies like SteelcaseMillerKnoll and Haworth to your repertoire.