by Mike Skaar
On Wednesday, November 17 at Noon PT, Knak Group is excited to offer our next CEU: Glass Partitions - Design Considerations. In preparation, we spoke to the President and CEO of Muraflex, Fernando Petreccia about the hybrid workplace, the supply chain, and more.
Mike Skaar: Fernando, we are in a period of rapid transformation in the commercial interiors industry. I'm curious what changes you're seeing in the workplace and how you're intending to respond to them?
Fernando Petreccia: Mike, that’s a great question. You’re quite right, the industry is undergoing rapid change. At the company level, we’re seeing an increase in demand for immediate reconfiguration of space to enable more flexible office solutions. While work habits have changed, there’s still a need for collaborative environments and dedicated workspaces away from home. Helping to bridge the gap between new work habits and company-wide goals has created a new demand in office design.
Because Muraflex has experience in this area, more companies are relying on us for our innovation, our “yes we can” attitude, and our speed to market. We like to think our constant focus on the future of work has put us in a good spot to help our customers and partners quickly respond to this new demand.
Our products offer a range of modular, flexible, and adaptive solutions which allow offices to change size, change privacy levels, as well as change light and sound levels. But, our solutions aren’t just functional. Our sleek European designs elevate the look and feel of a space with modern touches that match evolving needs.
So, yes, I would say we’re seeing a greater need for flexibility that seamlessly blends form and function. I think Muraflex is well positioned to address this need.
Mike: So one of the most popular phrases I hear every day is ‘hybrid work environment.’ How does Muraflex engage with that word and how do you support a hybrid work environment for your employees?
Fernando: You know what, we hear it all the time. We encourage it as a manufacturer. The main idea here is that we’ve moved beyond just, different companies needing different solutions, and into the realization that the same company can have different needs from day to day. A lot of factors can impact whether your organization needs all hands in the office for certain projects one month, but can have people working from home 2 days a week the next month.
A hybrid work environment is one that has enough flexibility to deal with an organization’s needs as they change, keeping them ahead of the competition.
What this looks like, exactly, depends on the individual company. For us, we thrive on people being able to see each other around a table. The energy, the focus, and the camaraderie. But because we use our own products in our offices, we still cater to the neurodiversity of our work force. If people need privacy and quiet, they can have it. If people need to feel the buzz of a living office, they can have that too. Whatever helps them succeed.
Mike: You talked about the different levels within companies and, it kind of seems no matter where you go, how high up or where you start, one of the great concerns that people are going to HR about is how do we get people back to the office? And once they arrive, how do we keep them from hopping to another job or going to another company? How do we create a space that welcomes people back and nurtures them in a way that causes them to stay?
Fernando: OK, I want to brag just a little. This is something that we've done extremely well with our team at Muraflex. Employee retention has been a major focus for us. We’ve worked really hard to create a space that people look forward to being in. I’ve already mentioned our use of Muraflex products to create sleek, personalized workspaces that can adapt to changing needs.
On top of that, we have a gym, a huge cafeteria, kitchenettes on every floor, soon a rooftop garden (which also lowers our carbon footprint), and a lot of social events as well as reward and incentive programs that keep our people engaged. We work very hard on our company culture. We do this through activities, through employee appreciation and recognition, or through different types of contests internally.
As an example, we recently had a contest challenging our teams to see who can make the best creative drawing using aluminum extrusions. Not only was it fun, but it was a relevant test of the skills and knowledge related to our manufacturing processes. All of this, very intentionally, creates a positive corporate culture where the entire Muraflex family feels like one team with one goal.
I also want to mention, since we just talked about hybrid work, having a comfortable office that’s fun and energizing to be in has been a big hit with our people for one other reason: it breaks up work and life. I hear people talk about how there’s no distinction between work and life when you’re home all day. We’ve found that most of our people choose working in an office when given the choice.
Bottom line, put a better culture together to keep your employees happy at work. It’s better for them and for the company.
Mike: What are you hearing from the C-suite level amongst Muraflex customers regarding their approach to the hybrid workplace strategy?
Fernando: That’s a very interesting question, with a few different answers, depending on the company. We’ve seen “open concept” offices have some trouble getting people back in because of Covid concerns, as well as lack of privacy. Offices that can offer workers individual workspace have done better. But offices that have the ability to switch between open space and private work areas have obviously had the easiest time getting people to come back in.
What I’m hearing from CEOs and other executives is that flexibility in their office spaces is a real driver of success right now.
We’re still in a strange time where no one knows for sure what work will look like in 5 years, so no one wants to overcommit to fully open offices or permanent walls that may not fit the company’s need in a few years.
Mike: I’d like to ask you about the supply chain. This seems to be the biggest topic of conversation that we see both in the news outside of this industry, but specifically in our industry, as well. What is Muraflex's approach to the supply chain challenges?
Fernando: We’ve had a very effective approach to our supply chain management. I think it was a big part of us winning Deloitte’s Best Managed Company Award last year. When we began to feel the effects of the supply chain challenge, we quickly hired a dedicated supply chain specialist. With their expertise, we were able to act fast to identify and secure our critical supply chain inventory through different types of commitments.
We put several programs together that secured our raw material and manufacturing needs. We secured year long contracts with most of our suppliers to guarantee uninterrupted material sourcing at an agreed price. We've also had to make some concessions on our side to invest in more inventory. It’s created more space needs and up-front costs on our end, but this approach has kept us agile and responsive to customer needs and timetables.
We’ve done the same with our human resource situation by hiring and training backups at key positions to eliminate any downtime in case of illness or departure.
Of course, no business likes to spend money. But these costs have been a necessary evil; it's the new way of doing business. Ultimately, we’re happy that our preparation means our customers get what they need when they need it.
Mike: You're much closer to conversations in the C-suite than most of us are. What are the hot topics and burning conversations in that area that we may not have covered already?
Fernando: I think we hit them all. I think the most important ones are the labor shortage and the need for work space flexibility. Those are the hot ones. It's so important to understand the factors that go into employee retention.
Your team need to feel real commitment and loyalty from you if you want the same back. There’s no trick.
It’s just an honest effort. We've managed to do well with our team, but it’s something we work on every day.
I’ll end with something that seems to be misunderstood in the media right now, according to other executives and my own experience. People are not embracing a hybrid work environment because they don’t like the idea of a dedicated workspace outside the home. They’re just reacting to workspaces that aren’t flexible enough for modern needs. Offices that can cater to diverse workforces with different productivity needs are having little problem getting people back in. Muraflex is a perfect example. We work hard to create a culture and physical space that meets the needs of a complex workforce and our teams have reacted really well to it.
If you would like to attend our CEU with Diana Matteson, West Coast Regional Manager at Muraflex, click the registration button below.
Fernando Petreccia (President & CEO, Muraflex), who spent most of his career in the commercial interiors industry, started Muraflex in 2009. Of Italian descent and with a vast experience in corporate architectural products, Fernando’s understanding of the market and his vision on design got Muraflex to carve its niche with a great impact. Almost 10 years later, Muraflex is present predominantly in the United States and Canada as one of the leading companies in the industry, and products of unparalleled beauty, sophistication, and design-savviness.