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Steelcase's Allan Smith on work from home office trends

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Allan Smith, Steelcase's Global VP Workplace Innovation, joined Yahoo Finance Live to discuss work from hom trends and Steelcase's latest work from home survey.

Video Transcript

SEANA SMITH: A new working from home environment has forced companies to rethink their strategies, but it's not just about how to effectively work from home, but also what they're going to do once we get to the other side of this pandemic. For more on that, we want to bring in Allan Smith. He's a global vice president of workplace innovation at Steelcase.

And Allan, great to have you on the program. I know you're out with new data on this. But first, I just want to ask you about your business and about Steelcase over the past 12 months because I know you have been directly impacted by the pandemic as a leading manufacturer for office furniture. So how have you navigated that? And what does the road look like as we move forward?

ALLAN SMITH: It's a great question, Seana. We have been working very hard on supporting office workers as they work from home. So we can very quickly establish websites and retail partners to allow workers' office-- office workers access to ergonomic chairs and height adjustable seating. And in the meantime, we've been doubling down on our product development efforts to actually create new return to better workplaces, as people come back to the office starting this summer.

ADAM SHAPIRO: So what do you see as the big next innovative devices? I was always told with a riseable desk when I was back at our headquarters. I may have to get one for the house, but what are you seeing being ordered?

ALLAN SMITH: Well, certainly, people are ordering ergonomic chairs. That's the biggest thing they're ordering today from us. And we're shipping out thousands and thousands. In fact, our home office business is up over 500%. The next thing they're ordering is height adjustable desks, and that's actually something that people really need to sit, stand, and walk throughout their day. And then, lastly, people are looking at things like work tools and lighting to help them look better on video since more and more of us are spending time on video and Skype calls and things like that.

SEANA SMITH: Well, and going through some of the data that you did release today, I guess, what is the biggest need that employees want right now? Because we've talked time and time again that employees want to be more flexible-- a more flexible work environment. But it looks like from your findings that people are actually pretty eager to go back to the office.

ALLAN SMITH: Yeah, it's interesting. 37% of people report a very worsening sense of isolation they feel disconnected from their teams, their companies, their sense of purpose and mission. And while, reportedly, people do like working from home, most people are saying they expect to work going forward about one to two days per week.

But most people are saying that they really want to get back and see their teams. They want to socialize. They want to innovate. You know, work is a full contact sport. And so we can imagine people wanting to be with their teams, working on innovation projects, collaborating, and doing things that they do in the office that, frankly, you can do over technology to a certain extent, but it's not the full kind of immersive experience that you get one on one.

ADAM SHAPIRO: Some of us just want to get back to the office for the free lunch, if you get that, but I got to ask you, if we're working one or two days from home, but also at the office, I would think that would be a boon for your business because we're going to have to need-- we'll need the supplies you build in both locations.

ALLAN SMITH: We think so, too. In fact, when we talk to our customers right now, about 50% of those customers are actually working on active projects to get back to the office starting in the summer. The other 50% are planning to go back towards the end of the summer, but the wait and see kind of attitude. Interestingly enough, from our survey, we found that 72% of all of our customers we surveyed expect to have some kind of hybrid model, so three to four days a week in the office, about one to two days at home.

And interestingly enough, a lot of our customers are helping their employees buy office furniture and procure kind of the best of the best, especially when you look at the things like the new Osha guidelines going in. It's really important that people have a proper ergonomic setup at home and at the office.

SEANA SMITH: All right, Allan Smith, great to have you on the show. Global vice president of Workplace Innovation at Steelcase, thanks so much for taking the time to join us today.