The desk recognises its user and customises the ergonomics according to his or her individual needs. There is a snooze corner for employees to take a quick nap before returning to work refreshed. Materials are recyclable and can be adapted to new uses without generating waste. These statements are already true for some offices, but for most, they are still in the future.

“It is important to stop and think about what people do during their workday. There are tasks performed alone that require perfect concentration, but also tasks that are performed together with colleagues. Teamwork can involve formal meetings or creative collaboration with informal seating arrangements,” says Minna Andersson, Marketing and Responsibility Manager at Martela, describing the design of the work environment.

Work can be periodised in different ways. An employee might spend a few hours brainstorming on a sofa, or even taking a power nap. That could be followed by a standing meeting, followed by tasks requiring quiet workspace.

“When you start planning the interior design of an office, you need to start with work roles. What kind of work do people actually do? Business premises solutions have taken organisations in a more egalitarian direction. Even the executives of major corporations shuttle around multispace offices like any other employee,” says Tiina Laisi-Puheloinen, Area Director at Isku Interior.

A multispace office adapts to both private work and collaboration.

“In the past, people did 30 per cent of their work collaboratively and 70 per cent alone. That ratio is turning around. Experts predict that, ten years from now, 70 per cent of work will be collaborative,” says Henrik Slotte, Managing Director of Kinnarps.

New organisational culture

The transformation of business premises is an opportunity for a major change in culture. Laisi-Puheloinen points out that this opportunity can only be seized if the renewal is executed well and it has the support of the CEO or CFO. Senior management is ultimately responsible for efficiency and financial performance.

What, then, does an office that promotes the transformation of organisational culture look like? Laisi-Puheloinen again highlights the importance of versatile and adaptable space.

“There is also an emphasis on a homelike feeling. You want people to be comfortable. Offices are seeing the arrival of soft shapes more typical of homes, like corner sofas,” Laisi-Puhelainen explains.

Ergonomics is also a big priority. Today, a modern employer acquires electrically adjustable desks for all employees.

“The difference in price compared to a traditional desk is so small that it’s covered by avoiding just a few days of sick leave due to neck and shoulder pain,” Laisi-Puheloinen says.

She predicts that multispace offices will lead to a reduced need for space in terms of square metres. Traditional offices have an average of 15–25 square metres of space per person. In the future, perhaps 10 square metres per person will be enough.

Adjusting desks by a smart application

Martela’s Minna Andersson emphasises the importance of unplanned meetings.

“You need a lot of space for chance meetings and the exchange of ideas. Sofa groups and standing desks provide a convenient setting for quick discussions. Information flows, occupational wellbeing is improved and work becomes more efficient,” Andersson explains.

In the future, technology will be increasingly incorporated into furniture.

“We have desks that recognise you based on your access card. You can then use a smartphone application to choose whether you want to work sitting down or standing. The desk adjusts to the correct height. It also reminds you that you should spend a little more time standing if you have used the application to specify your optimum ratio between standing and sitting”.

The desks also report data on their utilisation rates. If one department has several unused workstations and another department has a shortage of them, we can move workstations to where they are needed.

The growing role of interaction

The office furniture of the future will feature integrated technology, says Henrik Slotte from Kinnarps. But first, technology must become easy to use. Equipment and devices must work seamlessly together at the touch of a button. Nobody wants to spend the first quarter of an hour in a meeting on getting all the technology going.

The principles of sustainable development are becoming increasingly important in office furniture. In the future, office furniture will be made from recyclable materials.

“Even now, we can use waste fabric from our production lines and recycled plastic bottles as raw material for acoustic panels. This creates excellent material for new partition walls. All of our products are 100% recyclable”.

The use of recycled material in production has increased, as has the availability of FSC certified wood. FSC certification indicates that the forests are managed responsibly with the health of people and the environment in mind. Slotte concludes by saying it will take more time before all wood products can be manufactured from raw material sourced from certified forests.

Text: Marita Kokko