3 Multipurpose Furniture Trends for Open Office Design

11/05/2019 | By Adrian Thompson

In open office layouts, furniture should be chosen not only for its pleasing aesthetics, but also for proper functionality. Successful open office interior design gives employees furniture choices that jive with different tasks and functions.

At the 2019 IFMA World Workplace conference and expo in Phoenix, we noticed a variety of multipurpose furniture trends and products that cater to the open office environment, from adjustable furniture on wheels to decluttering solutions.

Trend 1: Create Private Places in Open Offices

Bryon Kauffman, vice president of sales and operations for Ethosource, says the biggest complaint for most open office spaces is lack of privacy.

“People struggle in an open office environment, especially if there’s not a place to go where they can have a conversation or a private meeting,” he says. “They feel trapped.”

Bryon Kauffman from Ethosource:

Your design should include areas that feature boundaries, private spaces and acoustical properties—all of which can be managed with furniture solutions. Kauffman suggests using various pieces to create private huddle spaces, dedicated meeting areas and singular seating environments.

This open office environment includes multiple types of coworking areas such as lounges, meeting tables and large desks.
Photo: This open office environment includes multiple types of coworking areas such as lounges, meeting tables and large desks. Credit: CORT

Consider furniture with visual and acoustical privacy elements, such as:

  • Chairs with top and side panels
  • Furniture that can be reconfigured at a moment’s notice
  • Desk panels/dividers that help block visual distractions and sound
  • Wall and ceiling panels to help reduce noise

Kauffman notes that these types of pieces enable open office employees to “focus and have a discussion without the rest of the office listening in.”

Based in Morgantown, PA, Ethosource specializes in providing businesses with new, used and refurnished office furniture to fit any environment. Customers can choose from a wide range of chairs, desks, cubicles, accessories and more from top brands in the industry such as Herman Miller, Knoll, Steelcase and Humanscale.

This lounge area shows the variety of seating environments that can be created within an open office space. The tall-backed couch helps create a sense of privacy and blocks passing noise.
Photo: This lounge area shows the variety of seating environments that can be created within an open office space. The tall-backed couch helps create a sense of privacy and blocks passing noise. Credit: CORT

Trend 2: Furniture as a Service for Adjustability

For companies that are hesitant about making the commitment to purchase furniture for their open office, Peggy Moore, senior vice president of CORT, suggests they consider using furniture “as a service.”

“Furniture as a service is all about access to what you need, rather than purchasing what you might need and owning it long term,” she says.

Peggy Moore from CORT:

CORT specializes in renting furniture; businesses pay for what they are using, when they are using it. Moore says it provides a flexible option for clients whose businesses are growing quickly.

Popular items she says companies continue to specify include adjustable seating and desk options, such as sit-stand desks and furniture with wheels.

Sit-stand desks are an easy way to provide adjustable work solutions within an open office environment, and encourage health and wellness.
Photo: Sit-stand desks are an easy way to provide adjustable work solutions within an open office environment and encourage health and wellness. Credit: CORT

“Furniture needs to be multipurpose and functional and to disappear when people don’t need it anymore,” Moore notes.

Cort’s residential relocation division gives the commercial industry access to furniture that is typically found within residential environments, which Moore says is ideal for businesses incorporating resimercial touches within their open office plan.

“This [kind of furniture] helps the office space feel more comfortable, and people feel supported to do their best. It makes them want to spend more time there,” Moore says.

Trend 3: Declutter with Dry-Erase Boards

Simple office accessories like dry-erase boards are becoming a quick and trendy way to declutter a space, providing more solutions than just notetaking.

Quartet, a provider of dry-erase boards and accessories, showcased its latest offerings at the 2019 IFMA show, including the company’s new desktop panel. The magnetic glass dry-erase panel is self-standing and double-sided. It works as a desk partition that can enhance privacy in open offices while serving its primary notetaking function.

Jordyn Reitz, a product team member for Acco Brands, Quartet’s parent company, says the panel is available in the company’s popular Brilliance Glass. “Brilliance Glass is clearer, brighter and takes away the greenish tint often seen on standard glass,” Reitz explains, adding that it makes writing stand out more distinctly.

Jordyn Reitz for Acco Brands:

Other companies like Claridge are combining work with play. Claridge offers customizable mobile and wall-mounted marker boards that can serve as biophilic walls, space dividers and sound-absorbing acoustic panels.

Providing New Solutions in Furniture

These trends demonstrate outside-the-box thinking when it comes to open office furniture solutions. When tenants and employees have flexible options, the possibilities for the way individuals can collaborate in an open office environment are endless.

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