Beyond Just Functional: Adding Fun to Office Furniture

August 7, 2015

5:18 pm

Imagine leaving a business meeting and literally gliding down a slide to reach your desk. It may sound like some wacky innovation from a Roald Dahl story, but it’s actually what’s been happening in offices around the world. Many modern offices are even starting to resemble playgrounds or theme parks. Yes, the days of the neverending cubicle farms appear to be fading. As new companies grow in size and popularity, they’re bringing fascinating new ideas of how best to manage the office environment, giving their employees new settings and intriguing vistas to work in. But all these changes aren’t simply the result of management looking to try something new. Modern office design goes beyond making the environment more pleasant to look at. In many cases, new designs and furniture can contribute to better productivity and happier workers. That’s why businesses are so willing to try it out.

Some of the ideas appear to be quite radical on the surface. Take the case of Red Frog Events — an event production company founded in Chicago. The company spent more than $100,000 to build an actual tree house in its office. After constructing the tree house, Red Frog then put in other camping-theme items throughout, from a zipline to a rock climbing wall. These unorthodox choices immediately grabbed people’s attention and helped to distinguish the company from others.

But why go to so much trouble and invest so much money? Sure, these items provide elements of fun for employees, but do they offer more than that? The truth is, elements of the office environment have a lasting impact on how employees conduct their business. In Red Frog’s case, not only does the company say job satisfaction has increased, but they were able to achieve new levels of creativity, an important aspect of their business. This element of “fun” furniture may actually be essential to improving work output. Look at a picture of any of the Google offices around the world and you’ll find playground slides, golfing greens, pool tables, ball pits, and other items designed to provide relaxation and camaraderie.

Simply put, happier employees are more productive employees, and happiness can be greatly influenced by one’s surroundings. In other words, stale environments filled with row after row of similar desks and cubicles do little to help people get more work done. Productivity also gets a significant boost when employees are more comfortable. In one study, results showed that a comfortable workplace can increase productivity up to 16 percent while also increasing job satisfaction by 24 percent. Many modern designers keep that in mind when planning the layout of the office and the type of furniture used. Even standing desks, while unusual, can actually make employees healthier, leading to greater productivity.

Businesses have to take a lot of factors into consideration when planning what to put in an office. As mentioned before, even the appearance of furniture, right down to their color, can have an effect on employees. Color is often thought of as playing a key role in productivity, with certain types of color affecting employees in specific ways. The electronics company Beats has taken this theory to heart when designing their offices. Whole sections of the offices feature walls and furniture decorated in certain colors. The color blue, for example, is intended to help stimulate the mind, while yellow areas of the office are supposed to elevate creativity among employees. Groupon has even incorporated its primary green color into its office as a way to create calming balance in the workplace.

Research can even influence the types of furniture companies purchase. A specialized startup called Humanyze works with clients to get details about how workers interact and move around the office. Using tracking sensors, big data analytics, and cloud computing capabilities, Humanyze can determine what clients need to do get more productivity. Much of their research consists of providing more open spaces, but it also shows that collaboration can be improved by workers eating in larger lunch groups. The solution? A bigger lunch table. A simple decision over furniture actually helped a company achieve better levels of success.

Whether installing something radically different like a true-to-life bowling alley in the office or making minor changes like strategically positioning coffee machines, the use of furniture and surroundings in the workplace can do much more than just provide a place for people to get their work done. Furniture choices can have an impactful role in helping employees be more productive, providing a healthier environment that leads to happier workers. Many offices around the world are slowly realizing the importance of offering a more comfortable setting, giving workers more reasons to be excited to come into the office every workday.

Image Credit: Pixabay

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“I’ve been blessed to have a successful career and have recently taken a step back to pursue my passion of writing. I’ve started doing freelance writing and I love to write about new technologies and how it can help us and our planet. I also write for Dell every once and awhile.” – Rick DelGado

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