Steelcase, Inc.: Work Effectiveness campaign

Ed Dinger


The world's leading contract seller of office furniture at the end of the twentieth century, Steelcase, Inc., was closely associated with one of its pioneering products, the Series 9000 Systems Furniture line. Introduced in the 1970s, it became the building block of the modern-day corporate cubicle environment. Steelcase was so closely tied to the cube and its often dehumanizing deployment that the company was stigmatized as being uncreative. Aside from that image, considered unfair by the company, Steelcase had to contend with a corporate mind-set that viewed office furniture as a cost to contain, a necessary but not imperative expense that could be put off during bad times. As a result of this thinking, office furniture competed mostly on the basis of price, and profit margins were trimmed. As the economy stalled at the start of the new century, Steelcase launched the "Work Effectiveness" campaign to recast itself not only as an innovative company offering stylish furniture but also as a corporate partner who could help customers improve the work conditions of employees, thereby increasing productivity and having a positive impact on the bottom line.