New generation demands aesthetic and convenient workspaces: MD, Steelcase India
"The speed and agility of business have increased multifold making it necessary for workplaces to create a conducive environment", says Praveen Rawal, MD, Steelcase India
Technology is permeating the workspaces, in terms of spaces and furnishings which are different, more intuitive and comfortable, designed to accommodate diverse networks of colleagues/partners and come together to solve difficult problems.
Praveen Rawal, Managing Director, Steelcase India describes how the workplaces are changing, and importance of technologically designed workplaces to keep the workplace engaged.
How has workplace demands changed over the years?
The proliferation of technology has mandated changes in every sphere. The speed and agility of business have increased multifold making it necessary for workplaces to create a conducive environment. Hence making tech-savvy amenities which was once a luxury, now a necessity. Workplaces have been preparing for the entry of Gen Z whose functioning has no previous parallel. They demand aesthetic and convenient workspaces. With the digital natives comes the culture of open communication free from the strains of hierarchy. This has birthed the trend of collaborative workspaces which untethers the workforces from a 9-5 schedule – a concept Gen Z frowns upon and a concept indigestible for baby boomers.
Will technology-driven future of workspaces make it easier for employers to engage their workforce?
Technology has acted as an indirect catalyst in disintegrating rigid workplace structures allowing the cross-pollination of ideas. A quintessential workplace from the future promises to not only engage workforce but also provide for the employees holistically. Nowhere is this more evident than in India, where organizations are evolving from support centres to leading innovation centres that are changing the way we interact with technology.
Steelcase conducts timely, in-depth research in order to design user-centric solutions, specific to every market and work mode. Basis high investments in research and design solutions, the product development and manufacturing decisions are creatively conceptualized and crafted. Some of the products include an innovative chair inspired by the movement of the human body, to a space management tool that lets organizations monitor, quantify and optimize ongoing workplace performance. Steelcase is constantly exploring how the workplace can more successfully drive creative performance, understanding the behaviours and modes of creative work, and then foreseeing how place and technology can make it a great place to work.
What will the future of workplace look like? Are AI designed workplaces a priority in India yet?
Advanced technology will be ubiquitous and an implied amenity in the time to come. Just as speech-to-text dictation has made typewriters look like a redundant thing of the past, automation will ensure minimal human involvement for basic administrative work.
Embedded with smart sensors and speech recognition software, your workplace will take care of much of the administrative day-to-day: transcribing meeting notes, scheduling conference calls, responding to routine emails and generally serving as a dutiful member of your team. India is a fast-growing market for office furniture and design solutions. Over the past decade, India has evolved from outsourcing support nodes to leading global innovation hubs.
Is there really an impact of ergonomically designed workplaces on productivity? Can you back it up with some numbers?
An environment designed keeping the employees’ best interest in mind sends out a message. Letting the employees know that their health and wellbeing matters has been strongly associated with increased productivity. Spaces designed for employee wellbeing will accommodate the varied work styles, privacy expectations and personality types of the teams that occupy them. The office will feel more like a person, a colleague or life coach, who guides one toward their best self, or at least their best working self.
Tomorrow, organizations will be able to manage buildings, desks and computers as never before, supporting employees by giving them greater control over their environments. The data and AI brokered to orchestrate these changes will teach machines to anticipate and predict desired future states—to go beyond sensing and responsiveness to speak to us intimately, assist with our projects and tasks, and improve our workplace performance, productivity and wellbeing.
How do your offerings for customizing a workplace change in trying to meet specific demands for better employee satisfaction?
Steelcase’s research shows that offices that facilitate collaboration, provide employees with a sense of personal space and offer a pleasant respite from hectic city life can make a big difference in retaining employees and building a productive and positive company culture.
We’re constantly looking for new innovations, not only in our products but also in the research process that precedes the product. Steelcase’s research explores the importance of employee wellbeing to businesses and the effect it has on the bottom line. The below outlined are our latest additions designed focusing on current technologies and trends in the evolving workplaces:
SILQ: The SILQ chair (pronounced silk) is a breakthrough in seating design. Its innovative materiality is both mechanism and artistry and delivers a personal experience by responding to the unique movements of your body.
Gesture: Inspired by the movement of the human body, Gesture is the first office chair designed to support our interactions with today's technologies. Gesture is created for the way we work today. The whole idea was not to start with a chair design but start by looking at the unique movements and gestures of the body.