We talk to Cory Porteous, Director of Marketing & Inbound Business Development at Office Interiors, Canada. The company offers office interiors and smart office technologies. With their claim ‘Love the way you work’ they formulate a really sympathetic vision.
red. We live in a time of change. In the business context, the term New Work is becoming more and more prevalent. Mr. Porteous, what are the most important consequences for business interiors and office furniture?
Porteous. I think the most important consequence for businesses is that their team’s expectations have shifted, and what it will take to attract, retain and enable top talent, how we think about the office needs to shift. An office can’t just be a space in which to cram as many employees as possible, it needs to be seen as a place for collaboration, a place to access resources that you can’t access from home or some third-place like a coffee shop.
red. In your publications you talk about the evolution of the office landscape, what is changing the most in your view?
Porteous. How we use space is what is evolving the most, in my view. We need to look at creating a variety of work environments in a single office so that people can self-select the most appropriate environment for the tasks on their plate that day. For example, quiet rooms to take 1 on 1 video calls, designated breakout spaces for quick collaboration without distracting others, in addition to individual workstations to get heads-down work done.
red. When you talk about offices needing to become more attractive to people, what specifically do you mean by that?
Porteous. It doesn’t necessarily mean physical aesthetics, although that can certainly play a strong role. In my view it means creating workplaces where people want to come and work, rather than places where they must come and work. Access to natural light, ergonomically designed furniture, supportive workplace cultures, and yes, the physical aesthetics of the space all play a role in this just like the recimercial design.
red. What do you mean by resimercial design?
Porteous. Resimercial is a trend we have seen growing in popularity where the design aesthetics of residential furniture is blended with the durability and functionality of commercial furniture.
red. What role does classic corporate identity play in this context?
Porteous. Your organization’s culture plays a massive role. For a workplace to be effective, it must reflect the culture and workstyles of the organization. If you have a company culture that embraces collaboration your space needs to reflect that or it will stifle your team’s ability to collaborate, and vice versa.
red. Does the new flexibility of people also influence office landscapes?
Porteous. Absolutely. Many people’s expectations have shifted and talent is looking for the way of working that is most effective for them and their personal work style. More and more people are demanding flexibility in where and when they work. If your office is still based on demanding people conform to a standard grid of workstations, you are going to be at a higher risk of losing your existing talent and having a more difficult time attracting new talent.
red. Keywords ecology and sustainability. In your view, what role do employees attach to these megatrends?
Porteous. I believe that it is one piece of the puzzle that people are putting together in confronting climate change and how they can personally help solve that problem. Buying sustainably-produced furniture sends the message that your organization values the environment and wants do their part in reducing their environmental impact.
red. If we talk about classical organization, management and head work. In percentage terms, how will the home office fare against mandatory attendance at the employer’s office?
Porteous. Most of the research I have been reading indicates that while some people are more effective working full-time from home, most people want to come in to an office to work at least some of the time. What we are advocating for our customers is to shift the conversation away from home vs office and towards discussions of flexibility. Most people want the flexibility to work from home on occassion, perhaps for a project where they need to remain undisturbed by colleagues, or perhaps because their child is home sick from school. In either case, what they are really asking for is the flexibility and trust to work in the way that is most effective for them. Not a blanket declaration that everyone must work from home or everyone must be in the office every day.
red. Tell us another word about your company. Why should people buy from you?
Porteous. What set’s our company apart from other dealers of office furniture and technology is our focus on the customer experience. Every decision we make is filtered through the lens of „how does this impact the customer?“ Now, we understand that just about every business claims to have great service, so we use a third-party to survey every one of our customers after every purchase or service call and calculate our Net Promoter Score. We are extremely proud of our NPS score of 87, few businesses can consistently provide their customers with the kind of experience needed to maintain a score that high.
red. Who are your ideal customers?
Porteous. Really any business with an office in Atlantic Canada and who value being an active part of their community could be a great fit to work with us. Taking an active role in supporting the local community is a value that each of our employees takes to heart.
red. In which business areas will Office Interiors continue to develop over the next five years?
Porteous. We see a lot of room to grow on both sides of our business. The office is not going away, people still need to work, they are just going to work a little differently. So the largest opportunities we see involve collaboration and communication; helping organizations design spaces that allow their teams effectively collaborate while also providing them with the right technology tools, be that hosted-phone solutions or digital collaboration tools like Microsoft Teams.
red. Do you have a motto in life?
Porteous. It’s not exactly a motto but I believe the most important question one can ask is „why?“ Dig down to the root of a question, belief, statement, or problem by asking why and you can learn some truly exciting things about yourself and the world around you.
red. Thank you very much for the interview.
Porteous. Thanks for the opportunity!
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