Steelcase was established in 1912 as the Metal Office Furniture Company, and their first patent was a metal wastebasket designed with safety of office workers in mind, especially in crowded cities where there was a higher risk of quick spreading fires. At the time, replacing wicker with steel was a lifesaving innovation, one that has guided the mindset of the company until today.
For the past century, Steelcase has led the office furniture industry with insight led design and services that unlock human promise. “We believe that space matters, and that creating inspiring, people-centered workplaces boosts productivity and employee engagement,” says Patrick Taylor, Managing Director, Middle East, Central Asia & Eastern Mediterranean at Steelcase. “From our early years to the breakthroughs in the 21st century, Steelcase has been turning insights into innovations, and pushing limits to transform and reimagine the workplace.”
And it has done so with resounding success!
The top successes of 2020 and the greatest challenges ahead
Patrick admits that the last eighteen months have been challenging for the entire industry, however, that challenge has also given rise to new opportunities. After what could have been termed a global work-from-home experiment, headlines around the world claimed a potential end of the workplace as we know it.
“But today, organisations everywhere are considering how and when to return to the office, based on vaccine rollouts and other factors impacting the spread of COVID-19,” says Patrick. “What we do know is employees want to come back. Our global research in the past year shows that people do want to return, but with a hybrid model that offers them more flexibility in where they work. However, when employees return, they will expect a greater emphasis on safety, citing air quality and adherence to safety protocols as top needs. And while safety measures (like fire suppression) have always been important in the office, the pandemic has highlighted the need for the office to play a role in mitigating the spread of disease, and it has taught us that a more holistic approach is required going forward. Last year’s setback has shown us how important the office is to culture and this has kickstarted many conversations with clients on how they can make their return to the workplace safe and better for their employees.
So what’s in store in the coming year?
Currently, the brand offers a range of architecture, furniture and technology products and services that are designed to help people reach their full potential. Their comprehensive portfolio is anchored by their core brands: Steelcase, Coalesse and Orangebox.
“We are looking to further focus on Steelcase Learning and Steelcase Health,” says Patrick. “The Middle East continues to be a center of excellence for the education and healthcare sectors, and we are seeing increased revenue across both.”
The brand also recognises the impact of climate change, particularly as it relates to elevated carbon emissions and their effects on our planet.
“That is why we are pleased to announce that we are now carbon neutral, with a further commitment towards being carbon negative by 2030! We’re raising the bar and doing more to protect the environment and quality of life for people around the world.”
Steelcase in the Middle East
Steelcase has been present in the region since the 1980s, supporting regional and global clients. “Being the dynamic, multicultural hub that it is, each country in the Middle East has its own unique identity and vision,” says Patrick. “These factors are what make this region such a fascinating place to work. Ten years ago, we set up Dubai Worklife, and it remains our regional head office to date. Furthermore, we are in the process of redesigning the space to showcase our latest offerings from Steelcase and Orangebox, as well as our partners Viccarbe and Bolia.”
In the future…
“The culture of any organisation is about habits, but it is also about habitats,” says Patrick. “With global competition and disruption coming from all sides, it’s clear that the world is changing… and quickly! It is also clear that organisations need to embrace this change with a growth mindset that fuels innovation by becoming more agile, encouraging constant and continuous learning, and rapidly adapting to new possibilities. Workplace design can jumpstart innovation by creating spaces that help people experiment, take risks, and learn as much from what doesn’t work as what does.”
The latest Steelcase Learning and Innovation Center (LINC) recently opened in Munich, and is a nod to the company’s global network. It is a single part of a geographically distributed approach to innovation. An inspiring and high-performing space, LINC is designed with an understanding of how learning, creativity and innovation interconnect, and demonstrates how habitats where people work can activate a culture shift by fostering a new set of habits.