A prototyping mood board on a piece of cardboard, with cut out prints of images and yellow post-it notes.

A furniture range for the people, by the people

If your home can be the way you want it, why not your office too? At least that’s how Emma believes offices in the future will be like. We talked to her about the future IKEA office range, inspirations from customers and finding a good balance between design and functionality.

“Wireless or chargeable desk accessories”
“Acoustic and functional movable solutions”
“Ergonomic furniture”
“Cable management”
“Multifunctional storage”
“More plants”

It may read like a wish and it really was for Emma Johansson, Product design developer at IKEA, when she started working on a new range of office furniture last year.

Office concepts are not new for Emma. She has worked on several of them over the last five years. But this time, it was different. She had to create a range for workplaces of the future.

Exploring the future of work, Emma figured that offices in the future would most likely be about flexible workspaces rather than allocated office rooms or workstations, with elements of smartness. An interactive workstation, if you will.

A woman pinning a piece of paper with information onto a grey felt board.

Emma Johansson, Product design developer.

Also, she believed the new range’s magic would lie in creating products inspired by users’ expectations from their place of work. A range for the many people, inspired by the many people.

“When we started our project, we wanted to understand how the future of office has changed. I had some questions for which I wanted answers directly from our customers – how do they see the change that’s underway of working from a traditional office to a more flexible work environment? What would they like to have in this office?” Emma shares.

So, she joined hands with the Co-creation team to reach customers.

The Co-creation team at IKEA has the approach of reaching out to customers and co-workers through both digital and in-person meetings, to get valuable insights that can help us in product development.

Typically for such projects, the team at IKEA visits people where they are, be it their home, in-stores, or in events and speak with the users to get insights. But as the COVID-19 pandemic hit, this became almost impossible.

The Co-create Community team chalked out a questionnaire for the future office project and reached out to customers and co-workers to get insights on what they really want in their future office range.
40,000 people participated with insights and 6,700 interacted with the survey.

“We want to collaborate and interact with people in order to understand the challenges they face, to get insights and confirm that we solve the right problems and develop relevant solutions that people will love. We also add market specific questions to know our customers’ choices in a deeper way,” says Ellen Ferm, Co-create Community Manager.

A woman and a man working at a workbench, with sheets of cardboard and a steel mesh in the background.

Portrait of a smiling woman in glasses and a black shirt.

Emma Johansson, Product design developer together with Luis Porém Pires, Range design leader prototyping. Ellen Ferm, Co-create Community Manager.

Co-creation is not a new concept for IKEA. For more than 75 years, IKEA has been co-creating products with suppliers and co-workers. The focus now is to listen, learn and connect with people throughout the product development process to ensure IKEA serves the real needs of life at home.
So far, nearly 1 million of them have shared inputs related directly to upcoming products and communication development.

The digital aspect that is touching every part of our work lives will be included even in the furniture.

Several of these valuable insights have now found their way into making the Future Office, the first smart office range by IKEA – Emma’s ongoing project.

The future office range focuses on established offices with 50 or more co-workers. It has four main solution areas – work, store, sound control and visual disruption and meeting and collaborating.

With light colours and more natural elements, the range will also have a full circularity scope. And, there could be a tech angle too.

“Companies are seeing people can be as efficient working from home. But we will still need an office to collaborate, build on each other’s strengths, meet and socialize, and build the company culture. The digital aspect that is touching every part of our work lives will be included even in the furniture,” says Emma.

One thing remains clear – there will be a lot of focus on ergonomics in this range. And that’s because, for Emma, a good desk and chair are a must have for working efficiently and wellbeing of people.

Blocks of white styrofoam in piles on a grey floor, beside a piece of cardboard and a folding rule.

Cut out prints of images and yellow post-it notes stuck on a piece of cardboard with arrows drawn on it.

What are you most proud of in this range?
“Multi-functionality and flexibility are the words that describe our new range, and that’s what I’m most proud of. I’m excited about the different things you can do with the products. I think what we have done here is the most significant movement for our range”, says Emma.

How is the range looking as of now?
“We understand we need to develop products that are ergonomic, easy to use, and provide a healthy work environment. This range is planned to support the creation, communication, and collaboration in different ways, both digital and physical. It can easily be reconfigured to current and changing needs by being modular, flexible, smart, and easily upgradeable in the future, both from a technology and circularity perspective”, Emma says.

What’s next for Co-creation now?
“With co-creation, we open up product development to the consumers. We want to listen and learn from people what they need in their everyday life. We have worked with over 40 projects now, ranging from food storage to LED candles and sofa covers to plants”, says Ellen.

IKEA will launch the future office range in 2023.