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Furniture maker creates new collection for work teams

April 26, 2019
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Steelcase Flex Collection office furniture
Courtesy Steelcase

A local office furniture manufacturer has developed a new collection designed to facilitate better teamwork.

Grand Rapids-based Steelcase is rolling out its Flex Collection, which features furniture and accessories made to "meet the needs of modern teams and their changing activities,” according to Steelcase last week.

Steelcase Flex creates “dynamic team neighborhoods” that can be “adapted on demand.”

The collection is expected to be available in summer 2019 in North America, fall 2019 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa and late 2019 in Asia-Pacific.

Team needs

“Teamwork used to be more like a running a relay, with coordinated handoffs,” said Ken Tameling, general manager of global furniture, Steelcase. “Today, it’s more like basketball or soccer, as teams have become hyper-collaborative.

“But despite this dramatic change, most fixed workplaces are still designed to support a more linear work process. Teams need to be empowered to adapt their space for group or individual needs on demand, control their privacy and transition to different work modes, while staying in flow.”

Team-based work is increasing, as people now spend 54% of their time working with others, according to new Steelcase global research.

Steelcase said "agile and design thinking methodologies" are being used globally to help employees move faster and stay more closely connected to their customers. Those work practices require "rapid shifts between various activities."

Flex Collection

The Steelcase Flex Collection aims to “support the activities of the team, while nurturing the needs of individuals” — giving teams “a home where they can surround themselves in their project and display their thinking and ideas” but also “quickly switch between collaboration and focused work.”

Starting in 2017, Steelcase researchers observed the daily activities of creative and high-tech teams in North America, Europe and the Middle East. They saw teams that "became frustrated and hacked their offices to improve their space" — claiming territory with makeshift barricades, re-purposing everyday objects to create places for group work and covering walls and ceilings with sticky notes to display information.

These high-performing teams inspired the Steelcase Flex Collection — which includes moveable desks, tables, markerboards, carts, screens and accessories. Wheels, directional rollers and glides make all the elements easy to move. 

Anyone can easily re-configure pieces and adjust boundaries and screens to provide the right amount of privacy for team and individual needs.

“We designed the Steelcase Flex Collection to deliver just the right amount of control to individuals and teams, letting people re-configure their spaces in a matter of minutes,” Tameling said. “Each piece works well on its own, but just like a team, they work better together.”

Research: "teams are struggling"

Steelcase also conducted global research to understand the broader needs of "hyper-collaborative teams" around the world and found 90% of workers believe working with others is essential to creating new and better ideas. People who work in teams are positive about collaboration activities overall but also feel their workplaces and technology don’t fully support the new ways they’re working.

Study findings:

— Most environments do not support hyper-collaboration

— 70% of people are still trying to collaborate in traditional fixed conference rooms

— 81% of collaborative work is scheduled; 19% said their collaboration is at least somewhat spontaneous

— 68% said they struggle to stay focused amid distractions

— 62% of people are unable to move their furniture to support changing activities, while the majority would like this feature

Steelcase said its Flex Collection is designed to address these research findings about the needs of today’s "fast-paced, flexible teams."

Mobile collaboration

The Steelcase Flex Collection integrates with Steelcase Roam, which gives workers the freedom to collaborate "virtually anywhere" in the office.

Made for the Microsoft Surface Hub 2S, the Steelcase Roam Mobile Stand and hanging wall-mounting system “gives people the freedom to collaborate wherever their ideas take them.”

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