Return of the phone booth: 8 post-pandemic office concepts from Michigan’s furniture giants



There is no magic chair to redefine the post-pandemic workspace.

Yet it’s a time of energy and innovation for the office furniture industry – which has three major players in Western Michigan alone: ​​Steelcase in Grand Rapids, Haworth in the Netherlands and Herman Miller. in Zeeland.

“We’ve all been through a crisis. But recognizing that crises can create opportunities, many organizations are starting to use this moment to rethink where they’re going, ”said Christine Congdon, director of research communications at Steelcase. “After being apart for so long, people recognize how important it is to be together.”

The post-pandemic office has to “work a little harder” than the standard office, Congdon said. Hybrid work is the way of the future, as the COVID-19 pandemic has proven to be achievable for many.

RELATED: The post-pandemic office? Western Michigan is working on it.

If companies want to convince – but not force – their employees to come and collaborate in person, it will take more than an assigned booth.

The following office products are from Steelcase, Haworth, and Herman Miller. They are not all new, but many have become increasingly popular as hybrid work requires new tools.

From tents and pergolas to glass phone booths and filter boxes, here are eight office concepts you can find in post-pandemic offices.

Product: Framery, Herman Miller

Cost: Starts around $ 8,000

Herman Miller offers a phone booth-like product called “Framery” to provide office workers with a private space to work.

There are 381 public telephones in operation in Michigan, by state. But a modern-looking phone booth is making its way into offices, like the Framery booths offered by Herman Miller.

Cabins come in a variety of sizes, ranging from a 40-inch by 40-inch box for one person to a larger pod that can accommodate up to six people.

Sound insulation makes the space more private and prevents echoes. The cabins are also designed with ventilation in mind to maintain the flow of fresh air.

“These are really good for, ‘I’m in my team zone, but I have to take a call’ or ‘I just need to focus on this really important email,’ said Ryan Anderson, vice president. at Herman Miller.

A common thread in the office furniture industry is that workplaces offer a plethora of different spaces – some designed for groups and collaboration, others designed as private places for focused individual work.

Office furniture in a post-coronavirus world - June 9, 2021

Office furniture on display at Herman Miller in Holland on Wednesday June 9, 2021 (Mike Mulholland | Mulholland |

Being tied to a desk from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. was made necessary by desktop computers and has become an obsolete way of doing business, Anderson said.

“Organizations, if they really think about it, will say, ‘I’m not sure we can actually determine where someone will be the best,” Anderson said. “So let’s give them a choice, let’s give them some options. “

Product: Collection of work tents, Steelcase

Cost: Starts around $ 400 for table tents, $ 2,600 for full tents

Office furniture in a post-coronavirus world - June 9, 2021

An office tent for a distraction-free workspace at Steelcase in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 (Mike Mulholland | Mulholland |

The tent concept at Steelcase isn’t all that different from the phone booth idea – both take popular structures known for their privacy and adapt them for the office.

Congdon, of Steelcase, calls this one of their “me spaces” – as opposed to the team-oriented “us spaces”.

Steelcase offers a table tent that sits on top of a desk and a larger tent that furniture can sit in. The company is working on new models to be unveiled later this year with a large arch that looks even more like a tent, Congdon said.

Office furniture in a post-coronavirus world - June 9, 2021

A pod tent for a distraction-free workspace at Steelcase in Grand Rapids on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 (Mike Mulholland | Mulholland |

“It gives you that little cocoon-like feeling… (and) that feeling of being locked in,” Congdon said.

The tents could also be useful for workers who are nervous about returning to the workplace, she said.

“But also, it’s pretty fun being in a tent,” Congdon said.

Product: Pergola, Haworth

Cost: $ 300 to $ 600, but costs vary by size and options

Office furniture in a post-coronavirus world - June 9, 2021

Office furniture at Haworth in Holland on Wednesday June 9, 2021 (Mike Mulholland | Mulholland |

Haworth’s new pergola concept comes in a variety of designs. Essentially, it places a colorful and stylish conference room in any open space.

Haworth installed a few pergolas at its world headquarters for employees to test out. Because they are an attractive option for workers, they have become one of the most popular spaces at Holland’s head office, said Christine Gritter, director of corporate marketing at Haworth.

The latest configurations are designed for hybrid meetings. There are locations for screens, cameras, and microphones – and the furniture is arranged so that in-person and remote participants can all see and hear each other.

Product: Acoustic limit Flex, steel housing

Cost: From $ 3,600

Steelcase Flex acoustic edging

The Steelcase Flex Acoustic Boundary can be moved around the room to create private spaces in an open floor plan.

Flexibility and portability are essential to the success of offices, Congdon said. The idea is to create products so that they can be moved by anyone easily – without needing to call a facilities team.

Steelcase’s acoustic limits follow this logic. These rolling walls can be moved easily to create some privacy – both visually and soundly – in an open space.

Steelcase mobile whiteboards can also connect to acoustic boundaries, bringing another boardroom component into the team’s makeshift space.

Product: Flex Mobile Power, Steelcase

Cost: $ 4,900, comes with five mobile PSUs and loading tray

Steelcase Flex mobile power supply

The Steelcase Flex Mobile Power device is a portable charger, so workers don’t have to park near an outlet to get their jobs done.

The move from desktops to laptops allows workers to have mobility in the office. But this becomes questionable when the device’s batteries get low.

“To create a very flexible space, wattage can be a limiting factor,” Congdon said.

Steelcase sells portable power devices, which are portable and light enough to grab with a finger. With these, employees don’t have to find a workstation near an outlet when the batteries are low.

Product: The Nice Reunion, Steelcase

Cost: From $ 999, Steelcase / Owl Labs

The owl of the encounter

A 360-degree camera called The Meeting Owl can bring everyone to a meeting in front of the camera at the same time.

The world of office work must have learned remote video conferencing in 2020. In 2021, it is tasked with imagining hybrid video conferencing.

A 360-degree camera is one potential solution that Steelcase is experimenting with. Instead of forcing all in-person attendees to show up via their webcam and mute / unmute, the 360-degree camera simplifies the meeting.

It captures everyone and picks up all voices through its microphones. And unlike conference rooms with a single camera up front, this concept doesn’t force everyone to cram into the shot in one area of ​​the room.

“It’s this braiding of the physical and the digital that is going to be so important in enabling people to be productive in the future,” Congdon said.

Product: Blue Landscape, Haworth

Cost: Software starts at $ 10 per month for 10-50 licenses, displays range from $ 2,500 for a small to $ 140,000 for a 20-foot wall

Office furniture in a post-coronavirus world - June 9, 2021

A connected whiteboard in Haworth, Holland on Wednesday, June 9, 2021 (Mike Mulholland | Mulholland |

Bluescape isn’t a new creation – it’s been around for about a decade. But the product is now more attractive as companies navigate hybrid work.

Bluescape is a digital whiteboard that connects to the cloud. Not only can people use the giant touchscreen in person to collaborate, but people working remotely can see changes happening live on their personal screens and make changes themselves. Lack of space becomes a non-problem.

It is particularly popular with filmmakers, but is used in a variety of industries.

Product: Guardiair, Steelcase / international clean rooms

Cost: From $ 2,700

Steelcase Gaurdiair â„¢ filtration unit

The Steelcase Gaurdiair â„¢ filtration unit is designed to filter viruses from the air in offices.

Many offices have decided not to invest heavily in temporary pandemic solutions – like dividers and barriers – and have instead chosen to keep workers at home until COVID-19 clears up, the officials said. industry leaders.

But the scientific lessons learned from the pandemic will stay with us. One of the most important – that viruses can spread through the air, not just by touch. Even though COVID-19 does not return this fall, it is a valuable lesson for offices trying to protect workers from other viruses.

The Guardiair air filtration unit is a potential solution. The product mitigates the spread of viruses by filtering air particles as small as 0.3 microns.

All the while, it’s designed to look like office furniture and comes in six finishes.


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