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Want millennials to stay put? Give them ergonomic chairs

Cool working is a strategy that adjusts to the office’s working style. Actiu’s modular system and furniture convert space into an extension of the home.

With millennials now comprising over 65 percent of the workforce, offices are being designed to adapt to their changing attitudes.

Working environments are being arranged to become more flexible and invite collaborations. Companies are investing in ergonomically-designed chairs and tables that support posture and prevent back problems and other occupational health risks, with the hope of decreasing turnover, boosting morale and improving output.

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“Cool working” is the latest marketing buzzword that defines today’s work mindset and habits.

The term was coined in response to the millennial employee mindset that doesn’t recognize the relevance of long-term loyalty and climbing up the corporate ladder. This generation prefers balancing work and leisure to clocking overtime, and close-knit bonds with colleagues and bosses rather than bowing to hierarchy.

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“Boomers and Gen-Xers were trained to be loyal. The millennials are constantly looking for the best place to work,” says Nenette Pangilinan Zipperich, co-owner of Boogi concept furniture store along Arnaiz Avenue in Makati.

Michael Blanco

She notes cubicles where employees kept to themselves are now giving way to open environments where younger employees prefer to share knowledge and work in any space where it’s comfortable for them.

To help create an environment that reflects today’s culture of open plan areas, communication, connectivity and teamwork, Boogi recently launched Actiu, a Spanish brand focusing on workspaces.

Zipperich says the company is trying to convince offices that investing in quality European furniture should not be limited to management, while the rank-and-file makes do with China-made products.

Michael Blanco, Actiu’s regional manager for Asia Pacific and New Zealand, says the Philippines is an emerging market that heavily uses a vertical organization structure, where hierarchy of ranks is most obvious. Flat organizations, in comparison, has less divisions between the management and staff.

“Surveys suggest that 53 percent of people work in collaboration. Millennials want freedom to choose. There is no designated desk. In paperless societies, you can work in many ways. People are more mobile,” says Blanco.

He says today’s workspaces should be arranged to enhance teamwork, improve focus and training and provide social areas where people can share ideas in a relaxed environment.

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Hence, Actiu’s approach is to offer solutions suited to current working styles instead of just selling products.

“It’s more interested in people than just looking at the bottom line. Although the bottom line is still the No. 1 objective, cool working is about enhancing the productivity, giving employees a sense of purpose, creating a sense of belonging and adapting to the behavior of this young generation,” says Blanco. “It’s not about buying furniture but investing in equipment that brings out the best in people.”

The soundproof Badminton armchair promotes productivity and well-being.

During the launch, Blanco presented Actiu’s adjustable sit-to-stand desks where workers can move to relieve pressure on their lower backs instead of getting stiff muscles from long hours of sitting.

Some chairs are built with a back support and neck rest so that people don’t hunch their shoulders and thrust their necks forward while working on their laptops. A classic Efit ergonomic chair with a foot rest, for example, costs P35,000.

Other chairs include a flexible armrest so they can write or type with their arms at a right angle while keeping their shoulders relaxed. The TNK Flex Chair, which follows the movements of the user, costs P63,450 on retail. The price differs for bulk corporate orders.

One of Actiu’s innovations is the soundproof soft seat and pod for quiet collaborative environments. The Badminton, a chair with a shape inspired by an inverted shuttlecock, fetches P250,000 on retail. The high, curved back lends the feeling of being in a cocoon.

Zipperich says the local market is slowly accepting the brand. The Austrian Embassy ordered the Vital Plus workstations with table stop sliding features to hide cables for gadgets. ABS-CBN ordered the ergonomic mesh chairs that follow the movement of the body. Bag Electronics acquired meeting room tables with accessories for wires. The German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce selected a conference table with adjustable heights and an ergonomic chair. 7AD Philippines was enthusiastic about how Actiu’s sit-to-stand tables got the staffers motivated.

“The employees feel that they’ve been given a gift,” says Zipperich. —CONTRIBUTED

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TAGS: ergonomic chairs, millennials, Working environments
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