Paul Edward, MD of Staverton - a pioneer of the sit/stand desk – talks about the company’s work and current workplace issues
Edited by Cathy Hayward
I’m most proud of our mobile sit/stand desk. It provides people with the freedom not only to work both seated and standing throughout the day, but also with the facility to move the desk to different locations so they can manage their own space and their relationship with colleagues. The simplicity of the plug-and-play idea means people don’t waste time fiddling around with wires under the desk trying to plug in their technology. They can park up their desk and be working within seconds. We were instrumental in the early days of the sit/stand desk in the UK, so it feels natural that we should be the only UK manufacturer to have successfully developed a fully mobile sit/stand.
If I could have designed anything, it would have to be the Eames Lounge chair. I love its clean lines and timeless design. When you sit in it, it’s like being cocooned in a wellworn glove. I was fortunate enough to find an old original many years ago and recently had it refurbished. Sinking into it at the end of the day with a cup of Earl Grey, or something stronger, is just a wonderful tonic to a busy worklife.
My biggest design challenge was making a sit/stand desk mobile. It wasn’t just a case of sticking wheels or castors on the bottom and then off you go. We tried doing that and the result was akin to ‘Bambi on Ice’. Every component of the product had to be completely redesigned. We created and refined numerous versions of the product before we were happy with the result. And all this was done under enormous time pressure: a long-standing client had asked us to make our sit/stand desk mobile and we agreed that it should be possible – and then went away to work out how to do it. But we do thrive on a challenge!
Right now, one of the most important issue in workplace furniture design is wellness. We hear a great deal on this topic, whether it be companies offering pilates or providing gym memberships. To me, wellness goes much deeper. It’s about building wellness into the workplace, not having it as an add-on. However good a decent stretch during a pilates session might be, if the individual is slumped in their chair at a static desk for the rest of the day, it can only do so much. Wellness at work is all about movement. Encouraging people out of their chairs, whether it be to work standing up, or to move from traditional desk to breakout space or an informal meeting area throughout the day. Providing a variety of different environments in which to work creates a workplace that boosts agility and is future-proofed as the organisation changes.
Lack of ownership is the biggest change in workplace design over the past 30 years. In most companies, you used to ‘own’ your office. Sometimes, your name was even on the doorplate. Often you ‘owned’ your own desk and pedestal. Now many people have little more than a locker to call their own. However, people’s expectation of where they can work has been liberated. Now everyone works from anywhere from trains to cafes as well as in different environments throughout the office. Technology has led that change. As devices have become smaller and more mobile, they have steered that ownership revolution. Data and power are the only things now tethering us to desks. And even that is changing as battery power gets longer and connection via wifi is accepted by companies.
Domesticity is the future of workplace furniture design. Softness and casualness epitomises workplace furniture nowadays. Years ago, cushions were only for the sofa in front of your TV at home. Now, they’re all over the office. And, a bit like the home environment, the previous rigidity in office design has been replaced by a more relaxed mix-and-match approach to finishes and there is also a far more creative use of colour than in previous years. Overall, offices are far less corporate and far homelier. That’s been mirrored by the blending of work and home lives as technology allows us to work anywhere and companies positively encourage it.
My favourite industry expo is Orgatec. As well as the relevance and the sheer scale of ideas on offer, it provides the perfect opportunity to spend time with industry colleagues, exploring relevant issues and simply socialising with them. But bring your most comfortable, cushioned shoes. It can be quite an endurance test for your feet.