The conventional office of the 20th century was based on the assumption that worker interaction, face-to-face communication, or employee autonomy were aspects of little importance to the organizational structure. Over the last four decades, however, the design and layout of workspaces has evolved along business management needs and trends. At some point, offices were created as communications systems that encouraged the free flow of information, while later on they started to be seen more as dynamic hubs for social engagement. Employee privacy, individual offices, and acoustic control were underlined as some of the most pressing aspects in the work setting of the 1980s. Today, the whole definition of what an office is must be rethought in the context of emerging technologies and increasing complexity of tasks.
A global survey by office furniture industry leader Steelcase revealed that employees now adopt new sitting positions and use office furniture in ways designers could never have envisioned. Over 10,000 surveys were taken by individuals on all continents, and they revealed how the emergence of new technologies has led to the creation of nine new postures, none of which is properly addressed by current office furniture designs. Steelcase researchers warned that, if employees’ work styles continue to go unsupported, it will soon lead to workplace injuries, chronic pain, and low productivity. Here is a brief description of each new sitting posture driven by new technology:
In this extensive study, Steelcase researchers observed “how the physiology of work has changed, how the human body interacts with new technologies and how it transitions as people shift from one device to another.” They also noted the “changing sociology of work and how people rapidly shift between individual, focused tasks and creative collaboration.’ Seeing how every new activity caused employees to change sitting positions, they deemed it crucial to furnish the office in a manner that supports such casual work behaviors.
Compared to a few decades ago, the majority of business organizations nowadays are relying more and more on motivated, tech-savvy employees who greatly appreciate face-to-face interaction and autonomy. To be able to support this never-before-seen connectivity and knowledge transfer, managers and business owners must understand one thing. Offices are no longer solitary places where linear business is conducted, they have become creativity- and innovation-fostering places where people come to meet, interact, and cooperate. And they must be supported, both physically and morally – every step of the way.
Lynne Lemieux, Founder and President of Alliance Interiors Inc., has devoted more than 20 years of experience developing and implementing growth opportunities for some of Canada's leading office furniture dealers. Her ability to provide clients with inspiring and versatile interior solutions for both business and home office environments has garnered her title of Aboriginal Business Woman of the Year in the city of Toronto for 2012. In her spare time, Lynne takes an active interest in politics, public speaking, and philanthropy, but also enjoys gardening, interior decorating, cooking, yoga, and traveling.