Office Furniture Minus the Office

Grace Tatigian

In a post-pandemic workspace, it’s clear one size doesn’t fit all.

Last week, I spoke with Nick Kazakoff, president of Onetwosix Design Inc., about their Loop Phone Booths for a design article. However, one of the most interesting parts of the conversation was when I asked what was next for the company. Their website shows transparent desk screens, clearly COVID-inspired, so I was expecting to hear more about that. But we launched into an in-depth conversation about new markets the pandemic has brought to light.

“What does an office space look like if you don’t have an office? Or a home office?” asks Kazakoff. “Whose responsibility is that?”

It’s an excellent question, one many companies tried to figure out in a rush when they sent all their employees home in early 2020. Very quickly, office chairs, webcams, and keyboards were out of stock everywhere, and offices were sitting vacant. Some of us were lucky enough to have a home office to work from, but others were stuck working at the kitchen table or sitting on the couch. A couple of years ago, that would have sounded great, but ergonomically? It can be a literal pain in the neck.

“There are more blurred boundaries between work life and personal life than ever before,” says Kazakoff.

So now that vaccine numbers are on the rise, it’s time to start thinking about a long-term post-pandemic solution for workspaces. Many people have been eager to “get back to normal,” but realistically, we need to figure out a new normal. Kazakoff believes the future is a hybrid work environment, a setup with a whole new set of challenges for offices and tons of opportunities for office furniture designers.

Some people love working from home, and others are dying to get back to the office. As a result, Kazakoff foresees the need for dedicated home office furniture that can fit into a variety of spaces. This was music to my ears, considering I call my home office my “cloffice” as the tiny spare room serves as both my closet and my office. 

He was hesitant to give too many details since Onetwosix’s upcoming projects are still in the works, but it sounded like great news to me. They are, however, looking at one niche in particular.

“Without giving too much away, we’re looking at developing something for content creators,” explains Kazakoff. “They pretty much all work exclusively from home.”

I’ve been thinking about this topic for a while and this gap in the marketplace. So many YouTubers, podcasters, and streamers have to come up with their own office furniture solutions because there’s nothing on the market that suits their needs. Often, this means adapting modular furniture so it works alright, but sometimes this means designing custom furniture pieces to check everything off the list.

The first example that came to mind was Vancouver-based technology YouTuber, Linus Tech Tips, and his Next Gen Ultimate Desk PC Design series. I brought this up in my conversation with Kazakoff, talking about how this content creator has had to manufacture his own desks to accommodate his custom tech builds. This meant working with a dedicated team to design the desk to his specifications in CAD (drawing from existing designs available online and combining them with his personal requirements), manufacturing it on a CNC, and assembling it. All for one desk to fit his needs.

Traditional office furniture typically doesn’t consider liquid cooling stations, cable management, and vibrations from fan systems. Linus previously built his own desk (the D1) to hopefully solve some of these issues, but a lot has changed in terms of technology he uses since he created the desk in 2017; hence, his D2 project series that launched in June 2020 and is still in progress.

This is precisely the kind of gap in the market that Onetwosix has identified and is working toward solving. An accountant isn’t responsible for designing their own office furniture, so why is a content creator? Some might argue it comes down to being self-employed, but there are tons of self-employed people out there who can buy a ready-made desk to suits their needs.

“We want to service this new-age style of jobs and work environments,” explains Kazakoff. “Currently, we’re doing a demo with a Toronto-based podcaster who is recording in one of our phone booths.”

We need to think about the home side and the office side as well. In the past few years, we’ve seen a shift toward coworking spaces. This is a popular choice for both start-ups and big tech because it boosts creativity, collaboration opportunities, and cost-efficiency. But in a post-pandemic world, sharing one big interior space with everyone in the company is hardly ideal for health and safety reasons. Not to mention privacy, acoustic, and other productivity issues.

When I ask Kazakoff what the future of office furniture design looks like to him, he says it comes down to office culture.

“Talk to your employees. Find out what they expect from their workspace. What do they need for collaboration, communication? It’s hard to build a culture if everyone is working remotely and there are no opportunities for personal contact. We need to find a middle ground and create spaces for employees to thrive.”

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