Area designs wellbeing-focused office for IFS
When global enterprise software company IFS relocated its UK headquarters to Staines-Upon-Thames, a workplace design that puts both clients and employees at the heart of the solution was required.
Back in the days when Mix Interiors was in its infancy, the furniture dealer was viewed with suspicion by many, seen as somewhat irrelevant by others and even as the evil exponent of the dark arts by some. Today, the dealer is king in the UK furniture market. We’ve handpicked some of the leaders to tell us more about the current market and what the future has in store.
Why the change in attitudes? Well, once in the grasps of major US manufacturers and therefore acting as little more than regional sales outlets (albeit often very large and influential regional sales outlets), the dealer has today become the well-connected, product savvy (in many ways, the dealer is the new specifier, such is the level of product knowledge compared to the interior designer), independent purveyor of the global market. Even those still affiliated with the US giants have license to offer a one-stop solution.
This is perfectly illustrated by a look at pretty much any dealer’s website, where the word ‘independent’ will undoubtedly be to the fore. This intelligent (relatively) new business model has even been adopted by a number of the leading design and build firms, who have created or acquired furniture provider arms in order to offer even more of a one-stop-solution.
For this year’s Dealer Report, we’ve handpicked some of the leading furniture dealers from up and down the UK, and asked them to tell us more about how they operate, how the market continues to change and what they feel 2020 has in store for both their business and indeed for the dealer market as a whole. Read on…
Hearing the words ‘value engineering’, having worked on something for a long time that you’re really excited about and is coming to fruition.
Not necessarily. I think the rise of flexible space has predominantly been driven by the progress made by technology, meaning that we no longer need to work at a desk in an office amongst our colleagues five days per week. Social factors have played a part, meaning that more people benefit from working more flexible hours and in varying locations. To attract the best people, companies need to get on board and embrace this emerging need for their staff. Recently, however, statistics are showing that the big companies are moving into flexible working spaces as it offers many benefits to them – the ability to scale up and down rapidly as the needs of the company change, and the ability to be in around exciting new start-up businesses.
I wouldn’t necessarily say more challenging! I do think there is so much more information available to clients these days – that they are improving their knowledge more. We are seeing more clients pushing the boundaries more than they would have 10 years ago, which we love. You’re getting professional service clients competing with tech and media businesses for the top young people. That’s unearthing some newer outlooks on how to design their next workspace that they probably wouldn’t have considered a few years ago.
Most definitely. I think more businesses have a greater appreciation for creating an amazing workspace and its impact on staff retention than 10 years ago. What’s great to see is that businesses don’t have to spend a fortune to create them either. We’ve been fortunate to be part of some amazing projects, with many of them being on a more modest budget.
I worked for my dad for a short period when I was a student. He’s always been there to pass on his experiences – good and bad. He continues to be the first person I’ll pick up the phone to when challenging circumstances arise or something really positive has just happened.
Flexible working in conjunction with coworking and shared space has enabled the adaptation of less efficient floorplates to support flexible working. However, developers are now tailoring builds better suited to flexible workstyles from the outset.
Serviced offices were the first rung of the ladder for business start-ups, but the market has become more sophisticated, offering spaces suitable for many business types. The key change has been the introduction of high-quality community spaces, which allow people to gravitate to where they feel most comfortable.
Over half of our current work involves coworking space and serviced offices. This is very much a continuation of successful projects completed in 2018-2019 for market leaders such as Huckletree and Gilbanks.
A key aspect of flexible space is the speed of churn. We can play our part with stockholding of key components, but many manufacturers are not motivated to adapt to these challenging timescales. It would be encouraging if manufacturers could introduce more varied, quick response programmes.
It is part of our ongoing mission to champion the sharing and spreading of knowledge to property professionals and the architectural and design community via regular events and CPDs. In our experience, knowledgeable clients have more realistic expectations and are more receptive to innovative ideas.
2019 marked the sad passing of Peter Lloyd, one of the industry’s most knowledgeable, engaging, and all-round great guys. Peter was a key part of Herman Miller’s major projects team and was responsible for countless projects across the globe. He will be sadly missed.
We look to culturally align ourselves with both clients and suppliers – this naturally develops into long relationships. Over 60% of our annual turnover is from existing clients, some of which have been with us for the entire 30 years we have been trading.
For 2020 we will continue to streamline internal workflows and processes while we move all systems over to the Cloud. This will allow us to offer a faster and more consistent response to all enquiries. With all the developments in technology and the average workload increasing, we are finding there is more focus on the speed of response.
We aim to be a great supplier to our clients, to be the best possible employer to our staff and to be our supply chain’s best partner. Looking after the client is the obvious bit, but we can’t do that without having highly motivated staff and the support of our supply partners.
The standard of every aspect of the interiors industry has improved immensely over the past decade and the challenge is to make sure we are ahead of the curve in terms of what we offer and what we do. We constantly aim to improve every year, which is a big ask of our team, but one they have embraced.
Charging points! Next generation wireless charging will hopefully revolutionise the workplace in the not too distant future. Not having to incorporate power into furniture and being able to charge anywhere will make us truly agile.
Absolutely. One of the biggest drivers for many of the projects we work on is to create an inspiring and exciting space for the staff, and we have been fortunate to have helped deliver many of the best workplaces in London. The best results are always when the staff are engaged in the process from the earliest possible stage.
Being knowledgeable, nimble and communicative. We lead with insights and combine our knowledge of trends and products to help people confidently adopt and adapt to new ways of working. We pride ourselves on guiding you through each step of the way.
It’s difficult for physical spaces to keep up with the pace of tech and the impact it has on the way we work. It’s allowed us to be mobile, accelerated the speed at which we communicate and, in turn, the lives we lead. The space we have is finite – we need to be smarter about how we use it.
We question! How you can know what you need if you’ve never had or seen it before? That’s why we offer a fully immersive experience. We host people on site and welcome them to carry out their work from various settings – often supporting them during their transition.
The workplace is drawing more parallels with home. It’s demanding an identity, a home for a brand, perhaps a space to host. It needs to offer a reason to not work from home, such as the opportunity to network and a sense of belonging.
We have learnt from leading organisations that valued staff are the centre of any great success. Putting them first has made those organisations successful and desirable. There has been a definite shift towards creating staff-centric workspaces as forward thinking organisations have followed suit.
Our passion for not just furniture, but also going the extra mile for customers. K2 Space began life as a furniture company but, as clients requested more, we adapted to offer a full design and build service. Furniture is still a major part of our DNA but, today, our team work with clients to select furniture, install furniture and also to design and fit out amazing spaces
We like to think that our transparent approach, coupled with the fact that we don’t compromise on quality, sets us apart from others. We strive to create workplaces that we are proud of and, when we are reviewing potential projects, we like to ensure that it is a project where we can add value.
For us, it centres around one word – choice. Modern workplaces need to be adaptable and to provide staff with a choice of worksettings where they can work effectively. Companies need to have spaces where employees can work collaboratively, where they can concentrate and where they can relax and unwind.
It’s an exciting time at K2 Space and we are working on some really interesting projects across the UK and also in Europe. We’ve recently furnished fantastic new offices for financial clients like PJT Partners and Platinum Equity, and for one of the best-known entertainment companies in the world.
I’ll be controversial here, but I think some of the more traditional mainstays of the workplace, such as the boardroom and reception, will evolve over the coming decade. At present, they take up a large amount of space and, as technology integrates even further into the workplace, this will become harder to justify as alternatives become apparent.
Absolutely – in fact, many briefs are centred around creating an inspirational workplace; a workplace where people want to work and which make it easier for companies to recruit and retain the very best talent.
Inadequate and useless frameworks. We need people to take decisions, not hide behind bad
Remove all frameworks and give real buyers a chance. Also, set up a degree course in Facilities Management that includes FF&E buying.
That they be under less pressure from their customers and be given more time to research the industry. So many tell me they have too little time and just recommend whatever they know. There is too much safety first, using the tried and tested boring manufacturers when, with a little more time invested in research and seeing salespeople, they could be making schemes so much more interesting.
Bidding for jobs knowing that others are undercutting in order to then attempt to increase the margin later. It is dishonest.
Working with different manufacturers. The clever use of products that others don’t have access to.
This is where I feel that whoever wrote ‘a little knowledge is a dangerous thing’ was so accurate…too many people just follow the big manufacturers and fail to see new technologies, great ideas and perhaps even better value elsewhere.
Ray Atkinson at Atkinson Design Services. He trained me to build the original Steelcase Strafor 9000 series and other furniture in 1981, helped many young salespeople who made errors to cover them up when the furniture reached site (we all make mistakes), saved and encouraged so many people – and he is an absolute gentleman in every sense of the word. ω
A great team and a willingness to analyse our losses in granular detail, ask for feedback and use any mistakes as a way to steer development and evolution of what we can offer.
Being able to get involved as early as possible in the project so that the customer’s dream aesthetic can marry with product expectations and budgets from the very beginning.
Inclusivity – catering to a more diverse workforce and the extra flexibility that is required as a result. The modern workforce is diversifying further every day and different modes of teamwork are emerging. The workplace needs to respond by providing ultra-flexible micro-environments, technology and furniture, as well as an inclusive company culture.
Serviced offices can’t take the daily running and unique requirements of a business into consideration. Exploring alternative avenues means workspaces become more bespoke and tailored to specific users through personalisation and strategic space planning.
Paper and humans! Serious answer – single use plastic. Sustainability and a responsibility to reduce environmental impact are growing and something we’re focusing on a lot in 2020. It’s going to be a learning curve for designers who now have demands on them to provide sustainable spaces created using sustainable sources.
Yes, 100%. Social media and digital innovation mean awareness of things like wellbeing and knowledge of how to improve things like productivity and attraction and retention is now much more accessible. People are now more awake as to how this can be fostered through the physical working environment. ω
Bad workmanship and shoddy service drive me up the wall. As a dealer we rely on supply partners who offer great quality and value to our clients – on time, on budget. That’s why we have a stringent supplier selection protocol that rates manufacturers on a variety of metrics – if they don’t pass, they don’t get in…simple. That’s why we have partners such as Herman Miller who we don’t hesitate to propose.
People, people, people. From day one – over 20 years ago when there were just three people in the Tsunami office – to today with a ‘family’ of over 78, Tsunami has built a core team of experts in every field with a sense of hard work, duty of care and fun. From that, everything else follows – relationships, service, detail.
We asked our colleague, James Martin, in our Edinburgh office, what was keeping him awake (apart from the amorous couple in the flat upstairs). He said it was those little details in the middle of the night that have you reaching for your phone in the dark to leave a reminder for the morning. It’s always the attention to detail that make a huge impact for the client on a project.
Expanding the presence of Tsunami Axis in Scotland and within Europe through our new offices in Glasgow, Frankfurt and Luxembourg.
The idea, in some quarters, that great service, value and quality come at bargain basement prices. They really don’t. Oh yes, and organising the annual A&D Poker Tournament – when there’s a trip to Vegas as first prize at stake, it has to be right!
Absolutely – and it’s great. To have that informed dialogue about all those elements that elevate an office interior from good to great – whether it be SKA, WELL, futureproofing technology – with the client is a welcome challenge that can only ensure they get the workplace environment they need, deserve and that can help them thrive.ω
We have over 20 years of solid foundations, strong relationships and are constantly recruiting key individuals who have the talent and desire to deliver first class services to our stakeholders. We strive to be true to our word and to deliver what we promise to our clients at the initial meet. Our talent is listening, then delivering!
We have recently invested in, and created, what will probably be the North’s largest and most comprehensive dealer showroom. The 16,000 sq ft showroom and head office has been purpose-designed so that projects can be planned from start to finish with clients – including architects and designers, scheme managers, consultants and end users. There will be zones showcasing current trends within the industry, including the latest office furniture ranges, and a materials lab with samples of interior finishes. Other features will include a working open plan office and café, with presentation areas, operational zones, a mock-up hotel bedroom and bar area.
One of the biggest challenges our industry faces is skill shortages. We have a large, directly employed delivery team (office and trade) and delivery partners, who are very key and instrumental in what we do. They can be as important as the client itself, because without both we do not exist – nor can we deliver the ‘ultimate’ project.
Definitely fixed/permanent workstations. Employees no longer see the attraction of having a restrictive work regime that ties you to one desk, all week. The introduction of flexibility is key for attraction, retention, knowledge sharing and collaboration.
Absolutely – a recent example is where one of our client’s project team agreed to change the shape of a two-storey building to accommodate key internal features that benefit the employees, such as the inclusion of cafés, gyms, shower facilities and agile working options. 10 years ago, we would be given a fixed dimension building to make the client’s brief work, often with compromises.
My old boss from 30 years ago. He was a great motivator of people and often used cliché quotes such as ‘the harder you work for something, the greater you’ll feel when you achieve it’, but then again he used to say ‘there are 24 hours in a day and you only need four for sleeping!’ He was a great unknowing mentor – and I will be forever grateful to him.ω
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