We live in an era of a mobile, yet connected workforce, and the offices of tomorrow will cater to this new reality. In the year 2000, cubicles made up nearly 37% of the office furniture industry's sales, but by 2010, the figure had dropped to just under 26%. The work style of today is more collaborative and flexible, and office furniture manufacturers are starting to recognize that the era of dozens of workers in identical cubicles is going away.
The office furniture industry is moving toward multipurpose office furniture that isn't easily pigeonholed into a specific market category. These products are at home in hotel rooms, educational facilities, health care settings, and traditional offices. Here is a look at what you can expect from your office furniture in the year 2020.
It Will Be More Connected than Ever
Connected workspaces resemble the open offices of the 70s in some ways. Employees may have desks on wheels that can be moved easily into groups for collaboration, or set apart for more privacy. These desks will have ports for mobile devices to plug into or recharge. Recent industry trade shows have seen a rise in office furniture with integrated technology like hidden outlets, cable management, and even screens and speakers built right in. Open office plans with "connected" desks offer flexibility, collaboration, and privacy when needed.
Chairs Will Be Very Important
Since 2010, seating has been the leading product category among office furniture makers, claiming over 30% of total sales. The days of uncomfortable chairs for drones and cushy wheeled leather chairs for executives are going away, as companies provide higher-quality, more ergonomic seating for employees of all descriptions. Some futuristic workspace concepts even include "daybed" type benches that can be used for seating or for relaxing during lunch or breaks. Allowing workers to assume different positions during the workday is proving to be popular, and easier on employees' backs.
Office Furniture Will Be More Like Furniture at Home
Just as homes are embracing more industrial styling for furniture and architectural features, offices will be embracing less purely utilitarian furniture in favor of more comfortable and stylish designs. Metal and glass should remain popular in offices of the future, adding aesthetic interest while blending in with contemporary or traditional office architecture. LED lighting will become increasingly popular due to its brightness and low power consumption, just as LED lighting is making its way into homes.
Office Space Will Include "Alcoves" Rather than Cubicles
Office furniture vendors understand that the open office plans of tomorrow must make space for privacy too. But rather than rows of identical cubicles, offices will have cozy "alcoves" where employees can spend time if they need to concentrate, to drown out noise, or simply get away from the bullpen for a bit. These alcoves will have sound-damping features that make them an oasis in the busy workspace. Some designers are even coming up with alcove chairs, large lounge chairs with side walls that address the need to find a private space to escape for a bit.
Furniture Will Be More "Lounge-y"
While traditional conference rooms will still exist, employee lounge areas for more informal meetings and conferences will become more popular. Furniture will be less stiff and formal, and more conducive to interacting, perhaps around a low coffee table rather than a giant conference room table. Designs will be aesthetically pleasing, colorful, and comfortable.
The workplace is changing and workplace furniture is changing too. The offices that coped well with typewriters and fax machines are giving way to offices that offer connectivity, comfort, convenience, flexibility, and style. The workplace of the year 2020 may have a passing resemblance of the "cube farms" that still exist, but for the most part they'll be ready to make workers feel at home, comfortable, and motivated to excel.
Photo Credit: Chris Meller