The working environment

People, products and settings brought together bring a workplace to life, says David Murphy, MD, EFG European Furniture Group

● Could you tell us more about EFG European Furniture Group and what you do?

EFG have a proud heritage of creating beautifully designed products and interior solutions for our customer for over 130 years, primarily operating in Scandinavia and the UK. We have a huge history of working with the university sector in the UK and are one of the preferred suppliers to the university and college sectors.

We believe that when you bring people, products and settings together a workplace truly comes to life. This is achieved by creating an environment that helps make people feel good, be motivated and ultimately more productive. This approach builds upon the current momentum for activity-based working and the wellbeing in the workplace agenda, which we are seeing increasingly reflected within the university and college sectors.

●How do you work with UK universities and accommodation providers?

As a preferred supplier on the NWUPC and CPC Agreements, we get a huge opportunity to interact within the sector on a daily basis. As such, we employ specialist consultants who dedicate their time to understanding what is going on within the education sector, enabling us to share ideas within and between universities and colleges seamlessly. They work alongside consultants specialising in the commercial worlds, allowing for cross pollination of ideas and creativity between different marketplaces.

We recognise that within the university sector, having dynamic and flexible spaces that can be utilised for different functions, throughout the day and night, is critical to the future success of the university in maximising the utilisation of their estates. We encourage our consultants and customers, therefore, to allow us to spend time understanding this, witnessing first-hand how space is currently utilised and how it could be used in the future to greater effect.

●How does furniture and interior design impact on learning and the student experience?

The key thing to ask when designing a space for education is – how can we inspire passionate learners? The focus should be on student engagement, as well as creating spaces that enables quiet work, along with collaboration zones, where  students can come together to learn more effectively. Designing an area where the physical space creates an enriching experience for learning will always promote significant engagement. As with the modern workplace, providing solutions in education establishments that have flexibility at it’s core, with activity-based zones, will inevitably increase engagement, learning and effectiveness.

ABOVE: Creative breakout area – using design to create a flexible learning environment

●In your experience, how have the requirements of higher education establishments changed in recent years?

In recent years the size and scope of the higher education system has grown with momentum. We have seen a vast increase in the availability of universities across Europe. The globalisation of higher education and the vast advances in technology we have seen in the past decade, has had transformative effects on the way we learn. The cultural shift from passive to active learning seems well-established. This makes for a highly diverse marketplace whereby an assortment of emerging players are in competition for talent that is now globally mobile. To retain the reputation and competitive advantage that UK universities have relished for so long, they need to be seen as not only current, but pioneering in the way they educate and design our learning environments.

‘Having dynamic and flexible spaces that can be utilised for different functions, throughout the day and night, is critical to the future success of the university’ 

This has been reflected in the way many universities have designed their new buildings as well as refurbished their existing ones. Technology and student demand for exciting and creative places to learn has enabled learning spaces to be utilised in different ways. In the same way that great employers recognise that a fantastic workplace is critical to attracting and retaining great talent, so forward-thinking universities are doing the same to attract the brightest students.

●How do you see EFG European Furniture Group growing and developing in the future?

EFG will grow very simply, by investing time, energy and passion where we know we can add value, ensuring we understand and deliver our customers’ vision. We will do this by continuing to learn, adapt and develop, remaining committed to our core values of creating inspiring and functional products and solutions – we see working with the universities and their graduates right across Europe, as a key strategy in our ongoing journey.


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