future office

How have offices evolved over time?

After all, the market for office furniture has always been faced with the task of serving and developing the current trends in work design. If someone wanted to furnish an office 50 years ago, what was important?
Before we start our journey through time, it can be said quite clearly that design was not as important back then as it is today. The focus was on quality, price, personal advice and, to some extent, ergonomics. Truly professional office design was still in its infancy at that time.

In 1968, manufacturers and specialist dealers of office furnishings focused primarily on selling products. And that’s exactly what the exhibitions looked like: Desks and chairs lined up next to each other. It was not at all easy to imagine the future office on the basis of these sober presentations.

Then, in the 1970s, the first era of computers in the workplace, Voko also surprised with a revolutionary concept: on the one hand, a modular construction system based on the classic unit construction method.

But the special feature was the interlinked workstation system Voko-MEP, which combined a typewriter desk and a computer desk. A revolution at the time. The only drawback: this idea required a lot of floor space – at a time when ergonomics courses were already providing information on the ideal placement of screens and furniture.

Nevertheless, Voko with its revolutionary concept was also our role model in terms of office planning, especially since we were not the only company working on modern office concepts and sound absorption in large spaces.

And 25 years ago, we are now in the mid-1990s of the last century, what was the emphasis on when furnishing workplaces, what were the challenges? In the meantime, after all, the first e-mails were being written …
In the mid-1990s, the office world already looked very different. At that time, the company TJCA – Laurent Willimann and Richard Hari from Geneva, in cooperation with DEC Digital Equipment Corporation (today HP), developed a new office concept, which is now called Open Space or New Work.

With desk sharing, each employee no longer had his or her own workstation. The break rooms were already surprisingly modern at the time, with a bar complete with connections for the laptop and recreation zones.

And it is precisely this idea from the 1990s that is still being constantly developed and refined today. This also includes the fact that the interlinked workstations of the time have been replaced by individual desks. On the one hand, because today people work almost exclusively with computers, and on the other hand, because the space required for the individual workstations is saved. But also because the demand for common areas for concentration zones and quiet rooms has become greater.

future office

Flexible working models such as desk-sharing and home-working, as well as the digitalization processes, have also pushed office cabinets out of the modern office in recent years. For office furniture manufacturers, this means that although sales per workstation have fallen, innovative office furnishers have taken the opportunity to make up for these losses with expanded zones.

In the meantime, time is often measured in terms of “before” and “after” or “during Corona. What office trends did you identify at the beginning of the year, i.e. before Corona?
Already in recent years, the number of permanent workplaces in many larger companies has decreased. At the same time, coworking workplaces increasingly appeared on the scene – and with them the question of whether these flexible workplaces might not be preferable to a more expensive permanent office. Many startups have already answered this question with a yes and benefit from the existing infrastructure as well as from the lively exchange of ideas.

Have these changed as a result of the pandemic or, if anything, intensified?

If Corona has taught us one thing, it’s that the future is unpredictable. On the one hand, the home office will remain an issue, but many companies are also thinking in the long term about whether home working is not a model for the future.

Even before the pandemic, there was a lot of talk about “smart working” or “work smart”. These will continue to be industry topics. This is because this working model uses new technologies and working models that promote both performance and job satisfaction, and incidentally also improve the carbon footprint.

Hardly any other area is currently undergoing as much upheaval as the world of work. Within just a few days, companies have had to activate new processes through lockdowns and put new workplaces into operation. Which topics are driving the office furniture manufacturers presented on officebase.info?
First and foremost, almost all manufacturers, specialist dealers and planners are certainly struggling with a market that is declining in the short term. Whether they sell inexpensive or expensive products, they all have to adjust to the decline of jobs in very many industries, i.e. reduce their budgets. This will certainly not be avoided. Likewise, processes and sales concepts will have to be rethought and new markets developed that have benefited from the Corona era. But this will not compensate for the losses in the short term.

future office

What opportunities do you see in the change?

It’s not just Amazon and other online retailers that are seeing smaller companies in particular stocking up online. However, there is still a need for the consultant and the planner for medium-sized and larger properties. But we see that, for example, on our platform officebase.info, which has focused on office furnishings, the inquiries are increasing because more people are simply informing themselves online first before they seek contact with the specialist retailer or manufacturer.

Office furniture companies should direct their investments into planning expertise on the one hand, but also into online marketing and the appearance of their own platform. Because the world has made a rapid change during this difficult time, which otherwise would have happened gradually – andnd among the big winners of the crisis are already online formats.

Let’s end our time travel in the future: 2025. Let’s say COVID-19 is under control through drugs and vaccines. What do you think the market for office furniture and workplace equipment will look like?
I usually prefer to focus on the here and now. After all, you saw how you could also be wrong with your plans during Corona. In addition to very practical considerations that contribute to sustainable work environments, the industry needs to ask itself a universal question: Can limitless growth be the goal?

It is also important to engage in dialog with all members of the industry and to keep an open ear in all directions in order to better and early identify the needs of its customers and partners.

And above all, one should not think that one can grow one’s company sky-high with favorable loans without risk, but rather put oneself on a solid financial footing that can survive further crises. And last but not least, you also owe such a sense of responsibility to your employees, so that new foundations can be laid here for the future.