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Total concepts for the offices of today and tomorrow

Interview with Christian Mehling, General Manager of Lista Office Group

European Business: Mr. Mehling, what is meant by a ‘total office concept’?

Christian Mehling: It is a complete design service for new-build offices, as well as office relocations and workplace reorganizations, taking into account factors such as how the space is used, how frequently it is occupied, noise levels generated by different activities, and the cost of renting or buying floor space. Lista Office creates efficient office spaces which are tailored to the individual needs of each customer.

European Business: What techniques do you use to create such concepts?

Christian Mehling: We use models and computer-based simulations to plan different scenarios so that customers can select the option that best meets their needs. Internally, we have staff with skills and experience in interior design, work processes and our product portfolio who can select and assemble optimal solutions. We have to consider hard facts, such as the number of employees per square meter and what they actually do, as well as soft aspects such as the creation of a pleasant working environment. Of course, customers are often keen to measure the benefits of their investment, and we have developed tools which enable us to create a before and after calculation so that clients can see the benefits in hard numbers.

European Business: Lista Office’s service does not end with office design, does it?

Christian Mehling: No, we also manufacture our own furniture, which gives us the flexibility to respond to individual needs and develop new products if necessary or restructure existing ones. We don’t produce lamps or chairs; these are supplied by carefully selected external partners. We focus on tables, cabinet and shelving systems, booths and cabins which are used as quiet spaces for focused work, and meeting room furniture and systems.

European Business: Are you currently seeing any particular trends in relation to office furniture and usage?

Christian Mehling: We pay a lot of attention to social trends in particular so that we can incorporate them into our concepts. In the recent past, there was a tendency to opt for flexible and shared workspaces, such as hot-desking. Today, we sometimes actually see the reversal of this trend. New generations of office workers are confronted with a lot of uncertainty in the world, so they seek a ‘harbour’. But of course, the concept of flexible workplaces is still very much in use. Overarching topics like ergonomics and a comfortable work environment are coming more into focus. Meanwhile, height-adjustable tables so that employees can stand during working hours have become common practice in Switzerland over the last ten years. In this respect, we are ahead of many other countries. Sustainability, design and environmental aspects are important for choosing the best product offering.

European Business: Is there a particular highlight in your range of furniture?

Christian Mehling: At the moment, I would say it is our LO Next shelving system, which we launched on the market a year ago and which has already been installed on many big projects. It is easy to assemble without tools and is modular so that its structure can be easily changed. Used as wall shelving or as a room divider, and with its timeless style, it works well in a living room as well as an office.

European Business: Who are the main customers for your office concept service?

Christian Mehling: Most of our clients are Swiss companies. In the past, we developed concepts for universities and hospitals, but today, the office world is our main focus, in both the private and public sectors. Project values vary significantly, from a few thousand CHF to ten million CHF. We primarily operate in Switzerland, where we have numerous sales offices and showrooms. We do have a few customers in Germany too – these were simply opportunities that presented themselves rather than targeted projects. At the moment, we don’t have an export strategy, but in the future, that may change.

European Business: What, in your opinion, differentiates Lista Office from other companies offering similar services?

Christian Mehling: We don’t see ourselves as merely a furniture manufacturer and distributor. Of course, we deliver just the products if that is what the customer wants, but we have a clear focus on concept development, and we see this as one of our main strengths. We also have an affinity for design, coupled with the high quality of our products. This leads to durable solutions which stand the test of time. A third key strength is our adaptability, flexibility and speed. We are able to respond to the needs of our customers by adapting product designs and manufacturing individual items for them. Our ability to discuss and understand their needs is a decisive factor.

European Business: Digitalization has impacted many industries. Is this true of the office furniture sector?

Christian Mehling: Today we can add sensors to our products, which makes them ‘intelligent’ in the sense that we can monitor usage, location, temperature and noise. This offers important information for better space management to companies. The data generated by the integrated chip is analyzed, and this information is used to determine if an office space could be used in a more efficient way. We have been using this tool for the past year, and some of our clients have already reaped the benefits. So for us, digitalization has brought some huge advantages.

European Business: What other factors would you add to convince potential clients of the value of a total office concept provider such as yourselves?

Christian Mehling: There is a shortage of skilled workers in Switzerland, and the labour market is highly competitive. An attractive working environment is a clear advantage and is a strong argument we use to convince our customers. If they want to find new employees or retain existing ones, it is in their interest to have an office that is pleasant to work in.

European Business: Finally, what plans do you have for Lista Office for the future?

Christian Mehling: We are the market leader in Switzerland, and our overriding goal is simply to retain this position and possibly grow our business in Germany as I mentioned earlier.

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