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Where style meets function: Modern office furniture

Think carefully about your office furniture to ensure you don’t fall for form over function

With today’s office furniture ranging from the gimmicky to the purely functional, the style that companies opt for sends visual cues about their brand, not to mention impact office ambiance and employee productivity.

It’s not just tech and creative set-ups getting experimental in their colour and design choices. More professional services and financial services firms are fitting out their offices with standing desks, beanbag chairs and abundant indoor greenery.

Beanbag chairs in communal areas may provide a ‘wow’ factor but furniture ultimately needs to support and reflect the function that it will be used for, says Catherine Kim, Senior Design Director, Design & Build, Hong Kong at JLL.

“Offering a bright, vibrant workplace can attract external visitors and particularly companies employing younger staff,” she adds. “Furniture can define the colour and texture of a setting and can transform environments if is integrated with technology.”

The type of furniture being used around the office is an important cost driver, she says. According to JLL’s Asia Pacific Fit-Out Cost Guide 2019/ 2020, the average spend on furniture ranges from USD24-35 (HKD186-271) per sq. ft., depending on if the fit-out if more traditional or progressive. 

Design trends come and go so what’s really important for companies to evaluate the types of furniture that best meet employee needs and make the most of the available space, Kim says. There is no need to incorporate pieces that are in vogue such as sit-stand desks if not they aren’t suited to a company’s employees.

Boosting productivity 

The rewards of creating high-quality areas for collaboration or for private working are higher productivity levels.

Even the use of no furniture can help in certain office scenarios, she says.

“A company can wrap up a team meeting quicker – making it more efficient -  if everyone stands rather than sit.”

Furthermore, plants and even living walls also have a role to play. Numerous studies have found that those who work in environments with natural elements such as plants and wood have higher levels of productivity and wellbeing.

“Greenery can be used as eye-catching wall décor and space dividers between work areas,” says Kim.

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Multi-functional spaces

Companies with more limited fit out budgets need to think creatively about how they use the same furniture for different purposes, says Kim. “Kitchen furniture, for example, can be used for internal meetings if designed correctly”.

Meanwhile, easily movable furniture can assist companies who regularly hold internal and external events, and add to cost savings. However, what works for internal meetings often won’t be suitable for designated client areas which provide a first impression of the company, she adds. 

As the nature of work evolves, office furniture is changing to keep pace but the basics – a good desk, supportive chairs and comfortable break-out areas - are still the essential design elements. Only now, design should incorporate technology and wiring for maximum connectivity.

“Today’s office spaces have to aesthetic and above all be fit for purpose for a particular company and its employees,” says Kim. 

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