Tech-Enabled Office Furniture for the Connected Workplace

Innovant Director of Design & Marketing Bruce Wells explains how designing and manufacturing highly customized workstations has elevated the New York company to an enviable position.
Bruce Wells, director of design & marketing, Innovant

Since 1990, Innovant has been a pioneer in the design and manufacture of office furniture for the open plan work environment. The New York City-based company has roots in the niche world of trading desk design and installation, creating completely customized workstations for financial companies that needed tech-enabled products in order to do their jobs more efficiently. Innovant was doing this before it became trendy to integrate technology into office furniture. Now the company continues to manufacture and assemble its products at its facility on Long Island, NY as it expands visibility to a larger and more diverse audience with the debut of a new showroom at the Merchandise Mart in Chicago. Commercial Property Executive reached out to Bruce Wells, director of design & marketing at Innovant for insights into the transient office movement, customized workspaces and other emerging trends affecting how companies of all sizes do business.

Why did Innovant make the business decision to open a showroom in the Mart?

Wells: When we heard that there was a vacancy on the Mart’s coveted third floor, we knew we’d have to capitalize on that opportunity to reach a broader audience. We wanted to show clients that Innovant’s products looked right at home among the showrooms of other top players in the industry—and they did. We saw high foot traffic all three days of NeoCon this year. Designed by renowned designer Michael Vanderbyl, the stylish showroom reflects the new look of Innovant and spoke to the brand’s ethos: modern, tailored, intelligent. Launching this new look at the showroom started a new chapter for the company, which aims to introduce our unique product offerings and customization ability, particularly on a large scale, to all.

Tell us about the company’s history in the financial industry. How does that expertise benefit current workplace users?

Wells: The company started out by creating completely customized workstations for financial companies that needed tech-enabled products in order to do their jobs more efficiently. Innovant was doing all of this before it became trendy to integrate technology into office furniture. Because our client-base mainly consisted of finance companies that required such specific product configurations, we were able to hone our skills when it came to designing and manufacturing highly customized workstations. As we have expanded our offerings to a larger audience, we have been able to make products tailored to anyone’s needs and not just financial companies. 

What new and exciting trends are you seeing in workplace design?

Innovant’s HotDesk tracks occupancy through a system that’s mounted into a desk worksurface. It helps manage hoteling, energy costs and space planning needs.

Wells: Since the emergence in popularity of the open-concept office, inhabitants have been looking into ways to insert privacy in workspaces that are centered around doing the exact opposite. It has been exciting developing new solutions for office spaces that want to maintain transparency while providing employees with solo time such as desk dividers and partitions.

Another emerging trend in office design is the idea of transient office spaces that take advantage of the “hoteling” concept, or implementing hospitality elements in their designs. We definitely see a growing portion of our client’s workforce sitting in unassigned desks or offices. This is driving other innovations to make it easier for people to work in such an environment. Innovant’s HotDesk application communicates with sensors in our furniture to provide desk booking, occupancy tracking, and peer locating, all key components of a hoteling environment. Innovant has also created intelligent storage units that take advantage of the developments in RFID technology to assign, track and service employees’ storage needs in a constantly changing workplace. These products are created for offices of the future that must adapt to the needs of the user—a concept that Innovant practices through its dedication to full customization.

What pain points are you observing among your clients and how do your products help provide solutions?

Wells: Offices have stepped back from long benching systems that resembled cafeteria tables. Innovant offers solutions through products such as beSpoke, REX and NIGEL, which can be customized according to what the user needs. Instead of being part of yet another bland desking system, our products allow offices to outfit their facilities with tech-integrated desks that work for them while incorporating the key design elements that define our client’s brand image.

Another perk of our customization capabilities is that offices don’t have to settle with “one size.” Settling is what a large manufacturer would prefer because it fits within their production model. It is absolutely possible to have a highly flexible furniture system that can scale from the simplest of specifications to the most comprehensive specification. The key is in the vendor selection. Manufacturers like Innovant are focused almost entirely on this product category and deliver modern scalable solutions to their clients.

Where do you think the corporate workplace is headed? Looking at your crystal ball, what trends or conditions do you think might dominate in five years?

beSpoke merges height adjustable desking, intelligent power and cabling distribution with tailored storage and privacy features to deliver a sophisticated alternative to open plan furniture.

Wells: Right now there is a noticeable move toward sit-to-stand workstations. At this point we are seeing very few requests for workstations that are static in height, but that doesn’t mean we won’t revert to that again in the future. This might coincide with the resurgence in popularity of the 120-degree configuration and the L-shaped workstation, which provide a more organic office layout as opposed to a sea of endless rows of desks.

How do you plan products that meet the needs of various demographics from Millennials to Babyboomers?

Wells: Innovant creates unique products and desking solutions that, through product customization on a large scale, can be tailored to anyone from Millennials to Baby Boomers. Because our products can be configured in many different ways, they do not solely serve one demographic. Our desking systems are what the customer makes of them through what works for their workflow. We love the collaboration process and want our clients to bring new and fresh ideas to the table that we can then develop and integrate into customized solutions suited to their individual needs. Additionally, our integrated technology makes our products extremely user-friendly for all ages. Designed with a streamlined interface and straightforward functionality, this technology can be used by anyone. Multiple generations to take advantage of our product offerings.

Images courtesy of Innovant