Retailers that sold office furniture tended to target either businesses or consumers, and no one was addressing employees’ needs. But that is starting to change as the industry begins to realise that working from home – at least part of the time – is here to stay.
In March, Officeworks unveiled Flexiworks, a special platform that enables employers to give their staff a one-off, monthly or annual allowance to shop for products and services they need to work from home or anywhere.
“If a big bank, for example, wanted all their teams to be decked out with the right ergonomic chair, they could offer a range of chairs on the platform, and then employees could come in with a budget, and select the chair that works for them,” Jessica Richmond, Officeworks’ general manager of marketing and insights, explained to Inside Retail.
The platform is targeted at big businesses and free to use, and the response has been promising so far.
“This [behaviour] was already happening out in the market, but more informally. Flexiworks is providing an actual platform to allow [employers] to do that in an easier and much more regulated way,” she said.
A rental platform for office furniture
Recess is another retailer that wants to make it easier for businesses to provide their staff with everything they need to work remotely.
Founded in Sydney in 2019, the e-commerce startup initially sold soundproof booths for making phone calls and doing ‘deep work’ in open-plan offices.
Earlier this year, it launched a wider range of office furniture, including desks, chairs, meeting tables and filing cabinets, and it plans to expand into electronics, such as laptops, monitors and chargers, in the future.
“It’s a really interesting time to be doing this because the future of work is so different to how it looked two years ago. It’s all about hybrid work,” Will Chambers, one of the co-founders of Recess, told Inside Retail.
“People need a nice desk and chair for their home, and then obviously they still need it for their office, too. We’ve got some really cool and interesting ideas of what we want to do with that moving forward.”
Recess is currently trialling a platform where businesses can create a product catalogue of office furniture for their staff to choose from. They can fully or partially subsidise purchases, and Recess will manage the inventory.
“It’s essentially an onboarding-offboarding process. When an employee is off-boarded, we will pick up their furniture, bring it back to our warehouse, refurbish it and send it out to a new employee,” Chambers said.
In this way, Recess is basically a rental platform for office furniture, with all the environmental benefits that entails. The brand also uses FSC-certified wood for all its timber-based products and its packaging is recyclable.
“We really want to create a circular furniture system, but also manage a real headache that we think is going to pop up more and more in the future,” he said.
Over 40 per cent Australians and 36 per cent of Britons are still working from home regularly, and a slew of major companies, including Apple, Twitter, Shopify and, most recently, Airbnb, have introduced permanent work-from-anywhere policies.
“It’s the new age of employees having all the power and a lot of say in how they work and where they work, and if businesses don’t keep up with those demands, they’re going to lose out on the really great talent,” Chambers said.
Recess is on track to do over $1.5 million in revenue this financial year and looking to raise funds in a seed round later in 2022.