Designer furniture for leaner times

Despite the tough economic conditions, companies are increasingly specifying designer items when refurbishing their workspace. Companies in the new Media City development at Salford Quays are some of the latest to choose this route after fitting out offices with furniture from a well-known furniture designer. Perhaps this is not surprising, but given that companies are operating on tighter budgets than ever before, there is a desire to get the designer look for less and maximise available budget.

Business-to-business firms are increasingly influenced by designer trends and expectations of the office environment are coinciding with this. Companies are aware of the face they present to clients, as well as to staff, and as such are ensuring that their front-of-house areas, in particular, project the corporate image they want to convey.

Fashion trends are influencing businesses preference for bright colours in the workplace too, with companies moving themselves away from the more restrained blacks, blues and lighter woods used in the past. Businesses want to portray their brand, lifestyle and company ethos while attempting to create the kind of environment that promotes productivity and efficiency among staff.

On a more practical level, the prevalence of advanced technology in the workplace means that traditional office layout has become somewhat outdated. A working space that can accommodate staff working from laptops and iPads, for example, as opposed to the more traditional fixed desktop, has become a key consideration for businesses re-evaluating their office needs and when choosing more modern, flexible workspace solutions.

There is also a growing awareness of staff welfare, both mental and physical, that is bringing ergonomic considerations to the fore. Two or three decades ago, for example, when specifying new office equipment the desk would ordinarily be the first purchase and whatever funds were left then being spent on a chair. Now the opposite is true, with budget being spent on the kind of high-quality desk chair that offers comfort and the correct support for posture, safeguarding employees' long-term physical welfare.

Not that these changes in focus need cost the earth; companies need to think clearly and shop smart as there are plenty of solutions out there to help them make the most of their office space while replicating modern designer styles. There are products such as temporary partitions that can be put in place to create meeting spaces and then taken down again once the meeting is over. There is also modular seating that can reduce surrounding noise, allowing conference calls and meetings to be conducted in a busy environment.

It's not just high-end designers that offer these kinds of solutions - many products are specially designed with ergonomics and modern-day needs in mind without hefty price tags. In a cost-conscious environment, businesses need to identify cost-savings but also recognise how investment in more desirable modern-day and fashion-forward furniture can benefit the business elsewhere, in driving employee and client relations.

Employing a clear strategy and consulting with a fit-out specialist fit-out can bring these benefits at a much-reduced overall cost, as smart solutions can maximise available budget.

Mark Foster, head of furniture and interiors, Office Depot

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