Several years ago, Mark Greiner, senior vice president of Steelcase’s WorkSpace Futures division, noticed a trend: companies were buying less furniture. “Organizations [try] to reduce their investment in fixed costs,” says Greiner, a 35-year veteran of the company. New technologies were making workers more mobile, and meetings were as likely to occur in the local Starbucks as in a stationary office space.
This could have spelled trouble for one of the world’s largest producers of office furniture, but Greiner and his team saw it as an opportunity. Research into workplace activities showed a growing market need beyond the traditional office, and so, last fall, Steelcase unveiled Workspring. Think of it as the boutique hotel of work environments—an off-site spot that can be leased for meetings, presentations, and creative sessions.
The first Workspring opened last November in Chicago. It includes five private studio spaces equipped with the company’s award-winning c:scape and media:scape furniture systems (the components took gold at last year’s NeoCon). The studios can accommodate up to 25 people and are equipped with everything a team might need, from pens and Post-Its to laptops and printers. In addition, guests have access to public spaces, including a café featuring a menu of seasonal and local food and a forum area meant to inspire with shelves of books and magazines. Over time, Workspring will act as a lab for new Steelcase products.
“We thought about every aspect of the creative process,” Greiner says. Steelcase also thought about pricing. Unlike conference centers that charge extra for A/V rentals and food, Workspring charges a flat fee of $140 per person (per four-hour session) for everything. No definitive expansion plans are on the table yet, but Greiner says Steelcase is scouting a second location.