Building Future-ready Workspaces with Adaptable and Sustainable Design

[This article is written by Praveen Rawal, Managing Director- Steelcase APAC (India, SAARC & Design Application- APAC)]

The world is gearing up to return to its former ways of working and living, following the long-pause introduced by the COVID-19 pandemic that has largely rewired long-held habits and behaviours of individuals and populations en masse. As such, the years spent working from home and in hybrid set-ups have introduced India’s workforce to novel ways of working that allows them to achieve similar and even greater levels of productivity from workplaces besides that of the conventional office. Moreover, due attention and consideration is now being placed on personal wellbeing and wellness, factors that are seldom prioritized in countries like that of India, which has garnered a reputation for a corporate culture that highly values a strong work ethic. Therefore, to address the requirements meted out by new-age office goers in a post-COVID world, workplaces will need to adopt a transformative outlook and reconstruct the blueprint of the ‘traditional office space’. 

In order to meet shifting needs and preferences, workplaces are now growing and evolving to become more centred around driving both employee comfort and efficiencies, leading companies to proactively seek and employ technologically first design solutions. Barring formulaic changes that include building open-concept office spaces, socially distanced co-working areas and introducing sanitization stations, companies will need to go beyond this if they aim to create workspaces that encourage productivity and collaboration.

As evidenced during the days preceding the pandemic, commuting and daily travel have often been attributed as one of the more significant stressors, which has in turn led to remote working to become a highly preferred alternative. Owing to the fact that comfort and what it means to be comfortable in the workplace can take on a myriad of interpretations from one employee to another, companies should invest in workplace set-ups and seating designs that enhance their employees’ experience, collectively. Among the many intuitive ways in which this can be achieved include, recalibrating the open-floor plan to embrace the need for privacy, when one requires a quiet place to introspect or just get up to speed on their tasks and work at hand. In tandem with this notion and for those moments in the day where one would like to catch up with colleagues, network or even grab a coffee, introducing adaptable and ergonomic workstations as well as moveable seating options for those undefined nooks and spaces are essential improvements. Thus, allowing employees to be in control of the frequency of their own social interactions, while still making provisions that promote team collaboration and socialization. 

In response to these shifts towards offering people more control and higher standards for physical and mental wellbeing, Steelcase sought to innovate and create seating solutions unlike any other: The new Personality Plus was introduced to make ergonomic seating accessible to more people. The new, affordable task chair prioritizes dynamic and customizable comfort, with bespoke recline tension and lumbar support, while keeping engagement and connectivity to one’s work and surroundings at the forefront of its functionality. To also encourage spontaneous collaboration and keep people on the move, Steelcase’s latest mobile and space-saving innovation, the Flex Perch Stool offers users a place to briefly pause and connect with each other, whilst allowing them to swap postures from a restful lean to a quick stand through the day.

Personality Plus is designed to prioritize comfort without sacrificing productivity 

Among the many cultural resets endured in the months following the onset of the pandemic, a necessary spotlight has also been cast on the damaging implications our collective carbon footprint has on the environment. As witnessed during the periods of prolonged lockdowns and restrictions on mobility, carbon emissions saw a record decline. This is not a permanent side effect, but it has paved the way for dedicated conversations to be held on the rising need for companies to support and embrace circular economies, as consumers grow increasingly vigilant of their sustainable purchases. At Steelcase, we are constantly re-calculating our approach to become increasingly sustainable, while ensuring that we do not compromise customer experience but significantly enhance it. 

Steelcase has partnered with material chemistry innovator BASF, to create the 100 per cent recyclable Flex Perch Stool

This can be exemplified through the Flex Perch Stool, a 100 per cent recyclable and nestable seating concept, which not only caters to the new-age workspace but strives to not be a blemish to the environment. Conceptualized to increase and encourage flexibility and rapid collaboration, the Flex Perch Stool is formulated and created using computer production waste that would otherwise find itself at the bottom of landfills for an unprecedented amount of time. Thereby, vastly cutting down on the eventual and resultant pollution. Made from Ultramid® B3EG6 Ccycled nylon, the light-weight design of Perch was the culmination of Steelcase’s partnership with the global chemical engineering firm, BASF. Sustainability is an ongoing conversation and cannot follow a cookie cutter approach to appease corporate fads and trends, and the road to circularity requires commitment from the innovation to production stage. As a result, Personality Plus was conceived at the design stage to use 15 per cent fewer parts, with a strong base that is formulated using recycled materials, as in the case of the runoff and by-product accrued from the distillation of crude oil. 

As we continue to re-learn how to work and function in a post-pandemic world, we are presented with an incredible opportunity to reconsider and improve our impact on the world and environment around us.