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Designing for Women in the Workplace

Jan 03, 2017 10:27AM ● By Doug Schuring
It’s a fact—more women are in the workplace than ever before, and this trend seems sure to continue for some time.

These days, many office furniture designers and manufacturers are developing their new products with much greater sensitivity to this evermore prominent audience.

What’s Important to Women as they Work? 

  • Furniture that is light and easy to handle. The majority of training programs are led by women. Female trainers are not only in charge of the training curriculum, they often end up setting up the room by moving heavy tables and awkward chairs into a variety of configurations.
  • A place for belongings. Women place personal bags and briefcases on the floor or hang them from their chairback for lack of a better option. Again, the same holds true at their desks, where purses may get stuffed into a file drawer or behind the CPU under their desk.
  • A chair that really fits. Many women complain of chairs with poor back support, are too big, and/or simply aren’t comfortable to sit in seven-plus hours a day. And women have a right to want a better solution—a recent study reported most women averaged 49 hours per week working, with 10 percent reporting they spent 61 hours per week in the workplace.
What Would Make Their Environment “Work” Better?

Recent new product introductions include:

  • Lightweight, easily reconfigurable training tables and chairs—making it easy and convenient for women to change a training environment on their own. They are simple to fold, move, or rearrange. The controls on the flexible tables must be easy to reach and trigger, making quick work to fold and nest for storage.
  • Storage hooks under training tables—in the “why didn’t they think of this before?” category. Provide a single hook under tables for users to hang purses and other personal items.
  • Height adjustable work surfaces—while “sitting may be the new smoking,” the need to adjust the height of one’s work surface is more important than ever.
  • Properly sized and adjustable office chairs—we all want a chair that fits “just right.” Many chairs today feature technology distributing back pressure and automatically adjusting support to match its occupant’s relative size, weight, and sitting style.
Other Factors in Satisfaction 

Based on my conversations and observations, other non-furniture-related preferences for women’s work environments include:

  • Women are more interested in the overall visual appeal of their office—including softer lighting and color.
  • Women prefer to work in collaboration with other associates. They are less interested in maintaining workplace hierarchy and are more interested in an environment which promotes creativity and collaboration.
  • One of the greatest satisfaction drivers for women—after “meaningful work” and “proper recognition”—is flexibility in the work environment.
While many of these items described are important to women, all workers can benefit from the changes described. Fortunately for us, the manufacturers in the industry today are listening.

This article was printed in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B.

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