Helping labor to work better

Updated: 2013-07-25 00:27

By WU YIYAO (China Daily)

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Firm designs office furniture that make staff much more productive, VP says

At a time of an increasing turnover rate of employees, some business leaders believe more benefits may help to persuade the most productive employees to stay, while some offer more incentives such as paid holidays or stipends for training or studying for a degree. Gale Moutrey, vice-president of Steelcase Inc, a multinational office furniture provider, said she believes a pleasant and comfortable environment that encourages collaboration and innovation are most attractive to the greatest minds.

The 55-year-old has been working for the more than 100-year-old company for almost three decades — since 1984.

Helping labor to work better

Steelcase Inc's office in Shanghai. The office furniture maker and working space solution provider's designs have lured some innovative-centered companies in China's eastern and coastal cities. PROVIDED TO CHINA DAILY

Steelcase has been providing working space solutions to some of the world's leading innovative enterprises including Google Inc and Facebook. This year, it unveiled its latest innovation, Gesture, a smartphone-user-friendly chair (more on which later) in Shanghai — a thriving market with an expanding demand for inspiring working environments.

In China, Steelcase sells through company-owned and independent dealers to end users — usually multinationals. Its designs have lured some innovative-centered companies in China's eastern and coastal cities, such as Shanghai and Nanjing, in Jiangsu province. "One of our young colleagues in the Shanghai office was so attracted by our working environment when she passed by our office that she came in to ask if there was any job vacancy she could apply for — and she joined us," said Moutrey.

Understanding first

Moutrey's career at Steelcase began as a salesperson and then she became sales manager. Later, she moved to marketing — from launching and managing furniture systems in North America to marketing director in Canada. While in that role she assumed responsibility for a special brand project that explored how Steelcase could enhance the brand experience it offered to clients and design professionals. That led to the position in which she currently serves.

For Moutrey, understanding is a result of outstanding communications. "Outstanding communications are those that are truly relevant to the audience they were designed for and make a difference to the life or work of that person or organization," said Moutrey.

The best working space is one that offers people choice and control over where and how they work, so they can choose the right place with the right tools for whatever they are doing at a particular moment, whether it's working alone or with others, side by side or across the globe, she added.

For the new chair, Gesture, launched in Shanghai in April, Steelcase's research and development team studied some 2,000 people around the world. They discovered nine new office chair postures born from the way people use mobile devices nowadays. With improved reclining back supports, floating arms that provide support while typing or texting and even a seat that's comfortable to sit on right at the edge, Gesture is designed to be flexible and adapt to how people really want to sit throughout the day so they remain comfortable no matter how bizarre their pose.

"We believe the best places are the ones that have been designed with the physical, social and cognitive well-being of people who use them in mind," said Moutrey.

In China, office furniture manufacturing has a history of more than 100 years. The market has increased to many billions of yuan since the 1980s.

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