With all the uncertainty surrounding returning to the office and the era of hybrid work, one thing is for certain: the office will never go back to what it was. In order to reposition the office as a destination where employees want to be, organizations will want to provide a variety of spaces designed for different modes of work, where employees can choose to go depending on what needs to get done.
During our WorkBetter Lab in the fall of 2022, we held many conversations with people from all different industries on the future of work and the role of the office. We explored new solutions from Steelcase and their partner brands that were specifically designed to attract and engage employees coming back to the hybrid workplace.
A New Way to Encourage Collaboration: Established & Sons Grid
One of the most ‘controversial’ settings in our WorkBetter Lab was the Grid lounge by Established & Sons. Designed to be a ‘room within a room’, the modular Grid provides seating, tables and shelves, as well as an eye-catching way to delineate space. Some people loved the option to sit at the shelves behind the main seating area, perfect for popping into a meeting without being intrusive. Other people said it felt too much like a cage, or even a jail cell!
Whatever your feelings are on this setting, you really have to sit and experience it before coming to judgement. Equipped with hybrid technology to make connecting to remote meeting participants easier than ever, this solution is an ideal spot to host hybrid meetings or a casual chat with your team.
An Alternative to the Boardroom: Orangebox Away from the Desk
The most appreciated setting in terms of facilitating collaboration was the one featuring Orangebox’s Away from the Desk system. Pitched as an alternative to the stuffy boardroom, the variety of postures and heights makes this setting not only visually interesting, but approachable for colleagues looking to have a creative brainstorm or a more official team meeting. Another modular solution, Away from the Desk can be endlessly configured to any requirement. As we migrate away from the fixed desk to a shared workplace, there is a need to facilitate both concentrated personal work and collaborative teamwork. Away from the desk seamlessly integrates individual spaces with larger, more collaborative working configurations.
Like the Grid, this Away from the Desk configuration offers seating behind the main collaboration area, giving employees a choice of both posture and participation level. If you can only attend the first half of a meeting, for example, you could choose a space behind the lounge seating at the tall tables, minimizing potential disruption for the rest of the meeting participants. And, of course, this setting also incorporates hybrid meeting technology – a must in any new collaboration space.
A Place To Focus: Flex Personal Spaces
One of the biggest reasons people say they look forward to going to the office is to collaborate and socialize with co-workers. However, we still need to get some focused work done. Flex Personal Spaces were the only workstations we featured in the WorkBetter Lab, Personal Spaces were designed to give people a heightened level of privacy, comfort and control in the open office. Quick and easy user-accessible adaptations allow people to achieve the level of privacy they need – whether it’s for video calls or sustained heads-down focus time. Personal Spaces is created with two key elements – desks and privacy wraps – that make the workspace feel more like home, as well as provide a range of privacy levels and space planning approaches. When combined they can support over a dozen possible configurations and create clusters of individual workspaces within a larger team neighborhood.
And one of the most popular aspects of this setting was the Eclipse light! Acting as your own personal ring light, Eclipse is a innovative, beautiful and elegant LED that seamlessly integrates the functionality of a video light and a task light, helping you look your best on video calls.
Influencers Only: Hana by Moooi
If you’re looking for a place to take your new headshots or simply a spot to relax while feeling like an Instagram influencer, the Hana Chair by Moooi is the place for you. This setting in our worklab was undoubtably a show-stopper, with the unique upholstery details and the sculpted shape of the chair. It was definitely our most photographed spot, as seen on our Instagram!
When bringing employees back to the office, it’s important to inject a feeling of joy into your office design, and this setting accomplishes just that! Paired with a bird shaped lamp and plenty of biophilic elements, this solution offers a spot to relax, rejuvenate and experience a little joy.
Refresh and Recharge: Extremis AMAi
During each tour in our WorkBetter Lab, we tended to end with the setting we envisioned as a “Work Café” spot for the office. A place to reconnect with co-workers, share a meal or an idea, and help build the relationships we missed while working from home. The AMAi from Extremis, though it’s designed for outdoor use, fits perfectly in a break-room or other space to encourage collaboration and togetherness.
“AMAi” is the Flemish expression for “wow”, and when you see the Extremis product in person, you will understand the name! Its beautiful design is complimented by the inherent functionality it offers: you can easily switch from a seated height to a standing height table, making it an ideal fit for any space. And, by adding hanging plants to the built-in hooks at the top of the awning as the finishing touch (it also has a built in light!) offers employees a way to experience the benefits of biophilic design.