For instance, easily stored seating cubes can create a small auditorium-style area that enables town halls without designating permanent space capable of hosting the entire staff. Movable shelves are doing double duty as storage and flexible partitioning for ad-hoc meeting space.
“Multi-functional spaces, and furniture that enables open-plan areas to be temporarily repurposed for meetings, gives organizations the flexibility to scale up or down according to changing occupancy and needs,” explains Guzman de Yarza Blache, JLL Head of Workplace Strategy, EMEA.
Take the Johannesburg office of global law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, who after reducing their footprint by half, used efficient design tactics such as sliding, stacking doors that enable intimate rooms to expand for larger functions. Or EY’s new headquarters in Milan, which incorporates plenty of space-optimizing furniture that allows for quick shifts from conference to teamwork mode, as well as easily stacked chairs on wheels and flip-top folding tables for customizable training areas.
A desire among companies for futureproof real estate is nothing new, but the pandemic has accelerated discussions on how to rethink office spaces.
“With permanent shifts in working patterns now widely acknowledged, it’s not just location or square footage that needs careful consideration. Versatile furniture can play a starring role in reshaping the office for agility, as organizations look to transform their spaces and respond to changes in workplace culture,” says Yarza Blache.
A tall, draughtsman style table, for example, gives the option for seated or standing work, can be used for group collaboration and team huddles, or as an individual workstation for focused tasks. And if floorplans are reconfigured, or an organization moves location, multipurpose furniture is more likely to adapt to an entirely new space.
Putting people first
Companies are also being drawn to modular furniture amid increased demand from employees to raise health and wellbeing standards. These quality-of-life issues have become top priorities for office workers, even above their salary, according to JLL’s 2022 Workforce Preferences Barometer.
“With office fit-out now evolving to support both high performance work and employee wellbeing, we have seen the emergence of homely ‘resimercial’ furniture and design layouts,” says Betty Surgis, Tétris Head of Furniture Solutions EMEA.
“This puts people first by mixing domestic interiors with traditional workplace aspects, making the office a comfortable ‘home from home’ and producing collaborative and agile spaces that people want to spend time in.”
It’s a concept that can be seen in abundance in the UK office of global tech firm, Campaign Monitor, where flexibility and comfort is key. Multi-use areas feature tables in interesting shapes which can be reconfigured through linking elements and moved on castors.
Once again, modular seating comes into its own, offering employees choice by dividing spaces into zones for different types of work, or intimate private areas for informal chats or focused reading. What’s more, these spaces can easily accommodate later changes in office culture and are endlessly configurable as teams shrink, expand or move.