We are often asked about trends in business furniture design - which materials, colours, and styles are popular right now - but, of course, the biggest trend is more seismic than a living wall (no matter how stunning it is): the effect the Covid pandemic has had on what companies require from us is huge.
How has Covid affected office life?
For employers, changes were forced upon them almost immediately when, in the beginning, people weren’t allowed in the office. As the pandemic has changed, they’ve realised their workforce has found new ways of working - very successfully - from home and/or the office.
So the big challenge now, as people want to keep with this hybrid model of working, is when will staff want to come back in? And what will motivate them to do that? For many people, it’s for sociable reasons; to catch up with colleagues.
How many people are working from home?
We have customers reporting only 40% of staff have gone back to the office — so they have a property that’s 60% under-occupied. What do they do with that space? They sub-let floors - taking chunks of space away from their original office - and they don’t give people ‘ownership’ of any particular area of the workplace: there’s less ‘my desk/my office/my meeting room’ now — and there’s more sharing of open-plan spaces and areas with other people who are also hybrid-working.
Has this way of working created new furniture trends?
Yes. This new way of working has borne a whole new way of thinking about what furniture is needed. The question asked, basically, is: ‘How do you get the most people around a piece of furniture when all they need is a space big enough for a laptop?’
So we’re seeing a huge trend of clients installing island units where people can perch on stools, place their laptops atop, have a cup of tea, and talk across the table to their colleagues. These can be large round tables - or even kidney bean-shaped - to make the spaces look more interesting, and there are stylish coffee points that aren’t the old-fashioned ‘kitchen area’.
Companies want to keep hold of their brand and high-end feel, so they request beautiful upmarket bespoke bars where you can make a coffee and also sit there with workmates. Many have been thinking about this for a long time: the workplace becoming less white-collar and more flexible. For around the last 10 or 15 years, companies started to put gyms in their office buildings, have decent coffee machines, and encourage social interaction between the office work.
What do these changes mean for Clarke Rendall?
Our clients are furniture dealers and interior companies — and they are leading the thinking of how their customers use their space and how they can entice people back to the office. They are coming up with clever ideas for furniture solutions that we’ve been making for years! Items we’ve always made but now in higher quantities.
We’re making islands, coffee points, and lots of tables — but the tables, instead of being placed in a meeting room, are now positioned in an open-plan area where everyone can sit around, to increase and encourage interaction between staff.
Clarke Rendall has a rich history of providing all kinds of practical furniture. We were asked to put in bleacher seating - auditorium step-type seating - for a media company — so they could have an informal training/presentation/social area that also doubled up as a yoga room (the bottom step stored the yoga mats and apparatus). We made the seating, lots of breakout points, meeting booths, and many more since the pandemic began.
Are these changes exciting for Clarke Rendall?
These are very exciting times. While employers are splitting and sub-letting their space and floors, reception desks are still needed: the vital receptionist is still necessary to manage staff when they do come into the office, to book co-working seats, arrange catering, and to receive parcels and post, to direct visitors, etc.
This all still needs to happen — and because more, smaller, companies are being created in the cut-up offices, more desks and receptionists are required.
More desks, and more co-working, casual, furniture. Pre-pandemic, we may have had one reception desk in a building — now we might have a few reception desks, some coffee-points, a co-working table, bleacher seating, a bar… there’s a lot more furniture for us to make.
As Bradley Fielden, our Sales & Marketing Director, explains, Clarke Rendall is ready for these changes: "We’ve realised that this is not just a new way of working, but it’s a way of working that’s going to last for the foreseeable future. So we have made changes in our business to make sure our bespoke services are capable of accommodating all these new requests. We’ll be putting more information out about new projects we’ve installed over the next few months."
If you’d like to discuss a bespoke joinery project or help creating a space that meets the current needs of your workspace, get in touch on 01908 391600 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here’s just a taster of some of the projects we’ve worked on that showcase the changing feel of the office: