A lot of ink gets spilled about the modern office. We’ve certainly discussed on this site. We hear a lot about creating open work environments that foster creativity and don’t tie employees to specific desk or space. Instead, the impulse is to afford workers the opportunity to move around—from lounge to conference area to even a garden. While that scenario might work for a lot of companies in a lot of fields, there are plenty of places where it’s just not feasible.
Blake Zalcberg, CEO of OFM, an office furnishings company based in North Carolina, has a different take on the matter. “Collaboration is great if you welcome it, and that’s your culture,” he says. “To create all space as a collaborative space is problematic.” For him, certain jobs, sales for example, don’t necessarily lend themselves to being done in open environments. He also points out that, for some, open workplaces are not the right fit for some employees. “It’s about the right space and the right time and the right personnel,” he notes.
In his own industry, he sees manufacturers creating products specifically geared to open spaces with non-traditional layouts. But, he thinks there are limits to the trend. Instead, “What we’re seeing is multipurpose and multiuse furniture. There are more things on wheels,” he says “We have a brand new series of seating that includes a tuck away tablet area. You can now take your conference room and just put eight chairs in it and use a tablet or mobile device.” In part, this development is an outgrowth of shrinking office footprint in general, where spaces might serve several purposes. Modular options will continue to be a force in his world. “You can put wheels on them, change height, connect or gang them together,” he says, meaning all the furniture doesn’t have to be replaced.
In the end, “Trends are interesting things,” he notes. “They’re hard to chase.”