When people come together, great things can happen. This year, we started collaborating with furniture supplier Martela, leading to a case study with Baerum municipality in Norway. The relationship began with the goal of combining Mapiq’s tools and Martela’s furnishings to enhance the workplaces within Baerum municipality. But it has grown into an exploration of the future of hybrid working and how new working models can best be integrated into Scandinavian markets.
Joining forces with Martela
Who is Martela?
Based in Finland, with a strong position in Sweden and Norway, Martela has transformed from a furniture manufacturer into a supporter of developing workplaces and learning environments. Their products and services are designed to sustain the entire lifecycle of a customer’s workplace: from defining what their needs are to the optimization of spaces and furnishings.
Recently we had the pleasure of sitting down with Inger Bucher, a workplace specialist at Martela, to discuss their role in the future of the workplace. Inger emphasized how vital high-quality furniture and customer experience are to the core of Martela.
“Before the pandemic, we were already focused on new ways of working. Our design process is characterized by working together, leaning on data, and preparing for change. Given the fact that office costs are one of the largest expenses for companies, it is important that our customers are able to provide well-being at work for their employees and create cost-efficient uses of their spaces.”
Adaptability and customization are important in every workplace, and Inger explained that understanding this is key at Martela: “The furniture we provide depends on the customers’ actual needs, like more space for collaboration or more space for concentration. As we expect needs to change over time, we offer a flexible solution, ‘Workplace as a Service’ for continuous optimization in the coming years.”
Our perception of the office has significantly changed as we move away from the pandemic, impacting our workplace behavior and the tools and furnishings we require. At Martela, Inger recognized that the way we view our workplaces is changing: “Now, 50% or more of people will still want to work 2-3 days from home. We wondered how management would react to people working from home so much. That question is still developing company to company, but we believe that the use of the home office will continue.”
Martela also provides home office furniture as well, which proved an asset during the pandemic when many transitioned out of the office.
“We take care of furniture for the office, and the home office as well. We make sure that people working from home have all the furniture they need, and then if they change employers, we can pick up their furniture from them and relocate it elsewhere.”
Forming a valuable collaboration
A smart office solution is often the missing piece in a smart workplace strategy. That is why we strive to understand the needs associated with hybrid working. We’re happy that our product drives while harnessing our product to drive growth for our partners. After a positive first meeting with Martela, a collaboration soon began in June 2021, based on a need to provide customers with hybrid working solutions that could accentuate Martela’s workplace ideology.
Inger recalled, “Ever since the first contact with Mapiq, we found a good and open tone for discussing business opportunities that could provide benefits for both parties, which has been a strong part of our relationship so far.”
The collaboration was partially driven by Martela’s work with smart furniture products like electric cabinets. In particular, they hoped to find a workplace solution that could handle customers’ data needs in a way they were themselves were not equipped for.
“It’s a good relationship with Mapiq because we don’t have to deal with the data and GDPR technicalities that our customers need. With our partnership, we lead [Mapiq] to the customer, and since we already know their needs, we can discuss this in detail with all parties involved.”
When asked why Martela Norway decided to work with Mapiq in the pilot for Baerum municipality, Inger replied, “We found Mapiq to be very professional and knowledgeable about the market, and Mapiq always explains and presents the product in a way that is trustworthy to our customers.”
Case with Baerum municipality
What is Baerum municipality?
Baerum, a large municipality in Norway, had been considering the future of work since long before the pandemic. We spoke to Kjellaug Hurlen, a project manager at Baerum, about their experience with workplace optimization and the role Martela and Mapiq played in that process.
Baerum had already decided to institute activity-based working (ABW) four years prior. As Kjellaug elaborated on this decision: “We needed to innovate, deliver services in a new way, and save money wherever we could.” ABW proved crucial in realizing these goals and was key in rehabilitating their working locations, making it easier to collaborate between different sectors.
The pandemic has exemplified the fact that thanks to technology, work can essentially be performed from anywhere. This has made the mobility and physical layouts which characterize ABW easier to grasp. The needs of Baerum have changed since restrictions were lifted, and although people are allowed to return to work as normal, Kjellaug has not seen the surge back to the office that many had expected.
“Since we had already instituted ABW in 2018, there have not been any massive changes post-pandemic. As of now, people are mainly in the office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays, but we haven’t instituted any rules to bring people back.”
Teaming up to optimize Baerum municipality
Baerum came into contact with Martela during their transition to ABW. They sought office equipment and furnishings that could enhance their new working model. Notably, since there were no more fixed desks, Martela focused on providing Baerum with electric cabinets that employees could open with an entrance card and store their personal belongings.
However, even as they handled the transition to hybrid working with ease, Baerum was still looking for new ways to optimize their offices even further and test new tools. Kjellaug recalled, “When we introduced our ABW concept, we did a lot of risk analysis. We found that employees were afraid of being unable to locate their colleagues and find a free desk. That risk assessment made us look for a workplace tool that could reduce those fears.”
In addition to assuaging these fears, Kjellaug knew that Baerum needed a tool that could collect relevant building data.
“We needed an overview of how the building was used, specifically which areas had high use and low use. We wanted to use this data to analyze why certain places were low use, as well as make sure that high-use areas were maintained and cleaned more frequently.”
Because of Martela’s insider knowledge on the latest workplace technology, Baerum sought out their insight into a tool that would be right for them: “We had a search of who could deliver smart technology, and that’s how we were introduced to Mapiq.”
Benefiting from smart office solutions
Since Baerum had already had years of experience with Martela’s smart furniture, they were confident enough to bring Mapiq into their organization in September 2021. Martela has been integrated alongside Mapiq—a collaboration that can provide data that helps determine which furniture Baerum will require.
When describing what Baerum municipality expected from a smart office solution, Kjellaug stated: “We came to Mapiq to use the building more intelligently while reducing the fears of ABW.” For Baerum, these fears were centered around a potential lack of available desks and an inability to locate colleagues.
Thanks to data and analytics collected, Baerum municipality realized that these fears were not based on reality. Since so many employees are still working from home, there is a surplus of available space. Therefore, when employees do come to the office, finding a desk is easy, and they have no trouble locating their colleagues in an uncrowded space. As Kjellaug put it, “Since people are working from home much more than expected, there is an absence of the fears we anticipated—people are not afraid they won’t find a desk since there are so many desks available. We realized Mapiq is really useful when there is a demand for it.”
With the success of this collaboration, we hope to share our findings and engage in other collaborations that can provide similar mutual benefits to customers looking to optimize their offices and embrace hybrid working.
From our experience with Martela and Baerum municipality, we gathered some important insights on the relationship that Scandinavian organizations may have with hybrid working technology. Analyzing workplace data can help companies better understand their energy costs, a topic especially significant in colder countries like Norway, where heating expenses can be quite high.
As Inger summarized: “Now in Norway, we have very high energy prices, so knowing how heating costs are being distributed in the building is really important. We need solutions to reduce energy costs.”
Especially as many employees return to the office, the value of a space management tool may be determined by the supply and demand within an organization. Kjellaug mentioned: “Smart office solutions are useful in an activity working environment, especially when there are limited desks and people have trouble finding a space, or limited availability of equipment, like special screens on desks.”
Inger commented on the value of an office management tool as: “You need to be able to find your desk and also find your colleagues. Additionally, you also need knowledge of which areas are used or not.” This knowledge of space use can only come from access to tailored, effective data.
Both Inger and Kjellaug emphasized the benefit that data and analytics can have on an organization. As Inger summarized, “It is always good to have data about how people are using their workplace. If you implement a solution like Mapiq, then you’ll have the numbers you need, but you need to actually use those numbers. Data is important because if something isn’t working in your building, the analytics can support evidence-based decisions for changes in space usage.”
To deliver the best output together with our partners, we make sure that our product is built to suit their needs and the day-to-day realities of their organization. Together, we create propositions that fully align with the future of work while generating mutual benefits. We’re thankful to Kjellaug and Inger, as well as the rest of the teams at Martela and Baerum municipality, for opening up about the tactics they use to navigate the new realities of workplace technology and engagement.