We are talking with Project Manager in MDD Mariola Białachowska about trends and preferences of tenants in office areas in Poland as well as popularity of the most luxurious solutions.
Have Poles already loved luxury in offices, or maybe they still need some time?
Mariola Białachowska: According to statistics presented in the reports of KPMG about the market of luxurious goods from the last five years, the number of affluent and rich people in Poland is still increasing. Obviously, it is related to the fact that as a country we have developed within last years, our community is not experiencing post-communist hardship any more, and only after meeting basic needs do we start to think about satisfying higher needs such as beautiful and inspiring interiors.
The increase in the level of living standard is also reflected in investments in real estates and arrangement of offices. The investment of foreign capital in Poland substantially contributed to it – headquarters of big international companies are launched and our country is perceived as an attractive place to invest, mainly thanks to rather stable political situation. It is also attractive thanks to competitive cost of living, money, and a huge potential when it comes to human capital. We have many experts in different fields, e.g. IT. At present, there are many new service centers R&D and shared services centers BPO/SSC.
So called luxurious furniture designed by famous architects are more and more frequently chosen by companies on the market. Moreover, office walls are often decorated with works of art. It is also related to the change in perception of an office – from a typical work place to a tool for strategic management. A headquarters at the high level emphasizes the status of a company, it reflects its identity and helps in gaining the best employees on the market.
It is a natural phenomenon that one searches for different ways for optimization of expenses while planning an investment. Do you agree with my thesis that the arrangement of office space is a field where the greatest savings may be found?
Generally, it seems logical because the arrangement is at the end of the whole construction process, right before a tenant’s moving in. However, we cannot forget that the cost of office arrangement is mainly borne by a tenant, rarely a developer. Hence, they will look for savings somewhere else. A lot of new certified offices have been realized. Except for an attractive rent, they also offer lower exploitation costs thanks to application of modern technologies and so called green solutions. Thus, they are cheaper to maintain, better designed and equipped, more beautiful, and healthier. A tenant may intend their means, which will be saved thanks to lower exploitation costs, for a better arrangement of their office.
Therefore, the trend of relocation to new offices has recently been very popular, and thus the amount of free space in older buildings is still increasing. In that situation, owners of such buildings decide to make a „lifting” in order to enhance them to a certain level. Basically, modern offices are currently a standard. Hence, the crucial role is to create additional attractions for clients, including an attractive arrangement of interiors. Especially that nowadays we have a tenant’s market due to a big supply, and to be more precise – an employee who will be hired by that tenant. Moreover, new generations are entering the labor market – Y and Z. From their perspective, the equipment of office is and it still will be very important.
Furthermore, the times when no one cared about a proper arrangement of a work place are gone. At present, employers are very aware of a role that is played by the surrounding on people, how much it translates itself into effects of their work, and they treat their office as one of the elements of gaining the market advantage. The arrangement consistent with policy and image of a company as well as equipment at a very high level are really beneficial – what would office in a prestigious location in a modern office be like without a proper arrangement and with furniture of worse quality?
While investigating the history of your company, one may notice that your clients are foreign companies, e.g. from the USA. Does it mean that foreign markets are more open to upmarket office furniture?
We have been exporting our products to e.g. England, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden, Hungary, or the USA for many years. We receive orders from United Arab Emirates and such exotic places like Mauritius or Seychelles. One of the main export goods and the reason for us to be proud are our reception counters. In my opinion, they are a good example because it is a kind of the so called „upmarket” furniture. Counters arouse great interest among foreign customers, e.g. in the USA. First and foremost, they appreciate a modern design, wide choice and high quality of performance, which is extremely important in the case of such representative furniture as a counter.
Undoubtedly, the main factor of such popularity is a competitive price on those markets. In comparison to domestic producers, our product may be purchased for a lower price and even with a better quality. We can afford to place our counters abroad, even in small service points like hairdresser, beauty salon, etc. In Poland, however, it does not happen very often.
So now we should talk about fashion. What solutions in the area of office arrangement are currently the most desired ones?
I would say that currently the arrangement of office area in accordance with the concept Activity Based Working is the most desired option. It consists in consideration of a way in which employees shift around their work place. The office area is designed on the basis of ways of employees’ activities and it is divided into zones intended for performance of certain tasks, for instance, open-space (contacts), individual work places (work requiring concentration), meeting places (small conference rooms), relaxation places (chillout/activity rooms zones), as well as the so called hot-desk (e.g. for employees working partially or constantly outside their office). In accordance with this concept, the office is mainly a place for meetings and cooperation within a certain company, and a proper arrangement of office space allows to increase productivity and leads to increase in creativity and enhancement of job quality.
Open-space rooms, which are divided into certain working and relaxation zones, are the most desired ones. It is very important to apply certain elements of equipment that provide comfort of such work, e.g. sound absorption, because proper acoustics is a crucial matter in such space. The most important features of furniture are mobility and flexibility. The office space should be constantly adjusted to changing needs of a company and its employees, it should „live” and evolve together with them.
In order to meet these expectations, our factory offers the whole range of furniture and complementary accessories, which may be successfully used to arrange office space with application of the principles of Activity Based Working. For instance, our acoustic panels have the highest acoustic class A and moving partition walls. We may configure them freely (vertically and horizontally), which enables a free division of the area as well as mobility – we can rearrange our office in any time in accordance with the current needs of employees.
Except for division of space through panels, we may also divide our office area coloristically and stylistically. By application of proper colors in certain zones we may gain greater diversity, but primarily – use properly their impact on people in order to gain better effects of our work. The offer of our company also includes a broad range of colors, which may be freely correlated and select in the same coloring, for instance panels and chairs. We also have many other solutions applied in areas arranged in accordance with the ABW principles, such as hot-desks or lockers.
What do you think has the greatest influence on purchase decisions of customers: actual trends, or maybe ergonomics and price of equipment? What are the priorities of your customers?
Our company has a rich offer of furniture with a different price and in different style. So, there are many pieces of furniture to choose from. Undoubtedly, the price will be always important, however, more and more frequently the receivers are trying to pay attention to quality and they prefer to choose more expensive furniture which have better quality. At present, the factor of price is not as important as it used to be. The one thing that cares is the relation of price to quality, and in the case of our furniture – it is very beneficial. A great majority of our customers live aware, they care about their health and the health of their employees. Therefore, they choose the most ergonomic solutions like chairs with a possibility of a universal regulation, or electric desks. A desk with a regulation of height is a pro-healthy ergonomic solution because it enables work in both sitting and standing positions, which definitely translates itself into health, comfort and effects of work.
Trends are certainly chosen by those who care about their image – those customers always search for the newest furniture and solutions. However, as I mentioned before while talking about Activity Based Working, it may soon turn out that one thing which is „fashionable” now, may become a standard within years because the needs of employees change due to change of life style and transformation of social principles. Moreover, new generations will enter offices in the future.
First and foremost, office furniture has to be functional, which means that certain products offered by different companies are similar. What are the most noticeable distinguishing factors of your furniture?
I think that the furniture offered by our company are mainly distinguished by a high quality. We make sure that they meet the most strict ergonomic requirements in accordance with the European norms and we also have hygienic attests that guarantee non-toxicity of our goods. We perfect our technology of production of furniture in our own research laboratory and we control this production. Other assets are a broad choice of offer and complex service. We offer furniture for both management personnel, employees, as well as reception counters and complementary furniture, e.g. containers, systems of wardrobes, sofas, chairs and lamps. Thanks to cooperation with other producers, we may also deliver floor coverings and ceiling. The quality of service and one of the shortest time of delivery on the market are also not without a meaning. We grant a long-term guarantee for our products. We also provide all necessary tools and design materials, and if necessary – performance of visualization. Each customer may count on an expert technical consultancy in any time. The own logistics enables us to deliver our commissions to almost every place in the world, and in Europe – together with a factory assembly.
I think that the quality of our products is confirmed by received distinctions such as the honorable mention of the Institute of Industrial Design as the finalist of the competition Good Design, or the award of dot award for the project of the reception counter Zig-Zag, but mainly still increasing interest among our customers.
Do you offer a possibility of realization of individual projects to your customers? If so, what possibilities are offered by your company?
Yes, we have many individual and untypical commissions. In such situations, meeting with a customer and very detailed discussion about their needs is always the most crucial factor in order to perfectly adjust our project to them. MDD prefers an individual approach to each customer, and depending on needs there is a possibility of using other kinds of materials. We are not afraid to modify solids and realize authorial projects, we rather treat them as a challenge, which is possible mainly thanks to the employed personnel. At present, our company has a team of over 200 qualified employees who equip over 35 thousand working places annually. High qualifications and perennial experience of our employees make that we realize even the most difficult individual projects of our customers. In my opinion, it is worth mentioning that first of all our furniture is designed for our employees. Before they are delivered to customers, we work in their surrounding and we test different solutions, and then we choose the best ones. As a factory with rich experience, we have been functioning in Poland for 25 years. Moreover, we also have proper production resources and production capacity. We still invest in the existing machine park and develop areas of production halls, thanks to which we may shorten the time needed for production of a ready product with the highest quality. For instance, we have recently purchased a laser of the newest technology FIBER, thanks to which we may apply the newest connections, eliminate punching, milling and drilling, as well as to generate 3D structures.
And the last question which really interests me. I have heard that one counter from your portfolio was purchased by the White House. Could you tell us your secret which model it is and what are its distinguishing factors?
The White House in Washington ordered our counter from the Valde series. The counter is characterized by a modern form and it is made from a colored laminate, with a worktop from toughened glass and aluminum boards giving the whole elegant character. Thanks to combination of precious metals – glass, aluminum, and colored laminates, it creates an elegant and representative totality. The glazed worktop perfectly harmonizes with a shimmering front of the counter, and horizontal aluminum boards delicately emphasize the shape and modern character of the solid. We also have more prestigious realizations, e.g. diplomatic posts, or the Olympic Games in London. Our counters welcome guests e.g. in Miva Gallery in Malmö, in the reception in Louvre, and in the Prehistory Museum in France.