A guide to using dynamic furniture in the workplace

Dynamic office furniture is designed to be used in multiple ways to support employees’ different work needs throughout the day, such as transitioning from solo work to small group collaborations. 
August 10, 2023
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  • Dynamic furniture helps modern workplaces stay adaptable to future changes, improve employee productivity and the workplace experience, and reduce real estate costs.
  • Empowering employees to adapt the office to suit their needs requires education and a culture of autonomy. 
  • Ford’s “freedom within a framework” policy is an excellent example of a successful autonomous workplace design policy. 

What is dynamic office furniture?

Dynamic office furniture is designed to be used in multiple ways to support employees’ different work needs throughout the day, such as transitioning from solo work to small group collaborations

Common types of dynamic office furniture include: 

  • Phone booths - Designed with acoustics in mind, these mini office pods limit noise and distractions and allow employees to take phone calls or do focused work.
  • Acoustic walls - These mobile walls are covered in soft material to absorb sound waves, and they also serve as visual barriers to create privacy.
  • Mobile workstations - These are essentially desks on casters that can be moved easily. They may offer a power source, monitors, storage space, or other standard desk features. 
  • Adjustable-height tables - Tables that can be adjusted between standard height, counter height, or bar height give employees more ways to work comfortably while sitting or standing.

Dynamic office furniture solves several challenges modern offices face, such as facilitating hybrid meetings, supporting collaborative work, staying adaptable to meet unforeseen changes, and optimizing square footage to reduce real estate costs.

Create “hackable” neighborhoods for more flexibility 

Simply introducing dynamic furniture into the office will improve adaptability, but you can take it even further by creating hackable neighborhoods. 

Hackable neighborhoods are groups of dynamic furniture designated for particular teams or functions, such as socializing or holding hybrid meetings. 

In each neighborhood, the chairs, tables, smartboards, and other furniture or equipment can be rearranged easily to create the desired level of privacy and division. This flexibility ensures the office supports different styles of individual work as well as larger projects and meetings. Within a single day, a team’s neighborhood could accommodate focused work, informal meetings, cross-team collaboration, presentations, hybrid meetings, and more. 

While dynamic furniture and hackable neighborhoods make the office endlessly adaptable and can improve productivity and the employee experience, they do require education and a culture of autonomy to work well. 

Autonomy and the successful dynamic office: A look at Ford

An office full of reconfigurable furniture offers amazing potential, but it’s wasted if employees aren’t comfortable changing the space to suit their needs. Global Design & Brand Manager Julia Calabrese shares how Ford tackled this challenge by creating a policy they call “freedom within a framework.” 

Each hackable neighborhood at Ford is anchored by collaborative spaces in the center and focused work areas on the perimeter, where there’s less noise and fewer distractions. The main building blocks for every neighborhood are 6’x6’ workstations, which employees can rearrange to build the exact configurations needed for a given task. For example, connecting six workstations creates an extra meeting or collaboration space that can be disassembled into solo work areas when it’s no longer needed. 

Nearly all of Ford’s office furniture is dynamic. “We basically put everything on casters,” Calabrese says. This enables employees to make significant changes to a space’s layout without involving facilities management. 

"Anything you have within your space, you have the autonomy to move it around and make it work for you," Calabrese says. The “freedom within a framework” policy empowers employees to rearrange spaces to suit their needs at any given moment. This autonomy is what makes or breaks the success of a dynamic workplace.

How to implement an autonomous policy for your dynamic office

Calabrese's detailed coverage of Ford's dynamic workplace policy makes it clear that education is integral to successful autonomous office design. Using the steps below to introduce your dynamic office update can help ensure your furniture investment pays off in terms of employee experience, productivity, and utilization.

  • Explain the purpose behind the move to dynamic furniture. If employees understand that this change is to help them make the most of their spaces, they'll feel more confident about personalizing their neighborhoods and individual workstations. 
  • Highlight useful furniture combinations. Show employees how they can combine the furniture and what type of work each configuration is best for.
  • If any furniture is collapsible, adjustable, or can be linked together, demonstrate how to do this. The more employees understand how to maneuver the furniture and what they can do with it, the more likely they'll be to use it.
  • Build autonomous workplace design into the company culture by ensuring all levels of leadership demonstrate this policy in their own spaces.

A workforce that’s empowered to adapt their workspaces to suit their changing needs throughout the day is more likely to stay motivated and focused. "We believe it's a combination of policy and place that enables employees to do their best work," Calabrese says.

Hear more about Ford's workplace strategy below: