The modern working world – the intelligent organisation of office and knowledge work

Orgatec Press

December 2, 2014

Contract Furniture

ORGATEC presented the latest solutions, products and trends

The predictions of trend researchers and futurologists have long since become realities: the working world of tomorrow is mobile and the trend toward intelligently organised office and knowledge work is unstoppable. Flexible working practices and networked information technology are accepted as part of everyday office life and will only become more ubiquitous. Renowned office furniture producers see a clear connection between office design, a living corporate culture and the long-term success of a company. They are responding to changes in the working world with the newest technology, smart furniture solutions and integrated furnishing concepts.

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Cross-generational working in the “Feel-Good Office”

Work stations are becoming spaces for working within the most diverse scenarios and on differentiated tasks. The increasing individualisation of the working world requires individual solutions. The modern office is flexible, mobile and virtual and should promote communication and knowledge transfer as well as facilitating periods of withdrawal, concentration and regeneration. Current buzzwords like open space, desk-sharing, third place working and activity based work places represent future-focused solutions. Change management consultants and office space managers support the substantial change processes in companies. Designing working worlds creatively, prioritising the user, establishing connections between people, space and objects: companies within the office furniture industry itself are exemplary of the implementation of these philosophies and the creation of a living corporate culture, reflected in their handcrafted, detailed production, high-end manufacturing quality and a business management style which functions like an equal partnership.

It is not a coincidence that “feel-good” furniture, reminiscent of pieces from a traditional living-room, is increasingly finding its way into modern offices. Stylish designer sofas for the reception area, modular lounge systems, high-quality cosy furniture for chill-out zones and relaxing upholstered seating made from the finest leather create a friendly and homely working atmosphere. And even mobile deckchairs have found a place in the multi-functional office!

It has become common knowledge that a healthy mix of younger and older staff has a positive effect not just on the working climate of a company but also on its financial performance. Manufacturers are taking this fact into account by using integrated concepts and ergonomically and orthopedically designed office furniture. The multi-generational office and co-working spaces inspire interior designers and designers to come up with unusual solutions. Architects develop flexible working environments, integrating nature and the environment where possible, reflecting the huge Urban Nature trend. Manufacturers provide appropriate furniture for these new environments, like combinable seating furniture, the design reminiscent of smoothened pebble stones.

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Team work with intelligent technology

Working from a hammock may remain an unrealistic dream but some futuristic ideas are already mainstays of our modern office world. The modern working world is mobile, flexible and virtual. Tablets, smart phones and PDAs (personal digital assistants) define the working world, and will continue to do so. Intranets to support companies’ internal processes, cost-effective video-conferencing, 360° round-table cameras, Web 2.0 and an open authoring system for websites using “Wiki” have all become established elements in technically well-equipped offices. In light of the huge amounts of data and information available today, productive team work is of fundamental importance. The newest technological wonders allow several people to simultaneously work on one interactive surface within a highly networked office and process the most diverse of information sources, analogue as well as digital.

Some manufacturers favour office systems which make monitors on desks, considered detrimental to communication, and central presentation areas as superfluous as possible. Other manufacturers allow images, films and data to play on interactive table surfaces, to be moved by hand gestures or load to one’s mobile phone via Bluetooth.

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He who rests, rusts!

Back problems are the number one health affliction of our culture. According to a representative survey conducted by TNS Emnid, almost 50 per cent of subjects polled would like more mobility in the office. Highly flexible work practices, power density and permanent flexibility are increasingly seen as triggers of stress and burn-out syndrome. More movement at one’s desk, unconventional meeting formats, targeted and planned detours and taking the stairs instead of the lift serve not just to facilitate healthy movement; these tactics also promote direct communication. When one is moving, one is more attentive and alert, more communicative and more efficient. Active office concepts and movement-promoting seating and office furniture are and will therefore remain a huge trend.

Office chairs assume particular importance in this context. In 1928, the legendary architect and designer Marcel Breuer had already designed his cantilever chair as a moveable, adjustable office chair. In 2012, according to the European Federation of Office Furniture (FEMB), 16 million office swivel chairs were manufactured in Europe alone. Today the most used piece of office furniture is an ergonomic and health-promoting high-tech product. Variably moveable and adjustable seating heights, reclining options and angles of inclination are just some of the countless norms and regulations dictated for ergonomic seating.

The smart generation of the latest office chair even has sensors which evaluate sitting posture and will give a corresponding signal in the event of bad posture. Interaction and movement is also the basic principle of a new stool design: a ball track integrated into the base of the stool give acoustic feedback on levels and quality of physical activity.
And even smart phones play a role in the newest generation of seating. A movement app equipped with an interface to the new Apple Health Kit iOS8 allows office chairs and stools to become fitness trainers in the office! The app records movements, graphically visualises them and encourages the sitter to perform playful exercises for back and body.

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Desks and conferencing systems have, however, also become real masters of transformation. Ergonomic and dynamic solutions are also driving movement – with the desired health benefits! Mobile folding and collapsible tables and table systems with ingenious linking mechanisms provide almost limitless application options. Alongside the standard norms for size, stability, absence of vibration and collision protection are important criteria for purchasing within the premium market segment. Waist-high desks allow meetings to take place standing up and, thanks to the integrated electrical connections, can be combined with the monitor.

Standardisation is old news. Individualisation is now! Customised solutions and models which can be adjusted and combined remain highly popular. Interchangeable individual elements can be adjusted to perfectly fit the body and also take into account the sustainability factor. Set up and taken apart in just a couple of steps, trendy, light-weight and simple to assemble – this is how young designers see the future of office desks and work spaces. The hotly discussed trend of gamification is said to promote good moods and increase motivation. Gamification means integrating playful elements into our daily lives and work processes. A brand new “object of motion” will guarantee playful access to active working processes, with lots of bright cheerful colours to promote good mood, encourage interaction and with its dynamic interface, it’s sure to be a real trendsetter.

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Lighting, acoustics, flooring – an unbeatable team!

With its broad range of applications, the flexible office makes challenging demands of the acoustic conditions within the work place. According to experts and environmental psychologists, even low levels of noise can cause stress and impact performance levels. Therefore, optimum room acoustics is vital for employees’ concentration, performance and health.

The solutions on offer are myriad! Room dividing systems, acoustic absorbers with micro-perforations and acoustically effective wall and ceiling panels improve the work environment. Noise-absorbing desk surfaces and functional wall paper providing heat or sound insulation round out the broad portfolio. Elegant and flexible felted acoustic panels create a warm, harmonious atmosphere and also serve as a projection wall or a pin-board.

Currently in trend are sound-absorbing dividing walls made from naturally fragranced materials or “Human Nature” flooring which is reminiscent of forest floors or fresh-cut grass. Another, optical treat are the large format wall prints which not only bring art into the work place but also discretely improve the room’s sound absorption levels. A new type of room divider which can be combined with seating furniture brings together equal elements of flexibility and sustainability.

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Design – the motivational factor

Design is an important market and competitive driver and is one of the keys to economic success. A pleasant working environment and emotional design also promote creativity and performance of staff. The move toward complex working and living environments with the demand for well-being means new challenges for products and designers equally. Design awards contribute to success in the market. The degree of innovation, functionality and ergonomics are evaluation criteria as well as user friendliness, comfort, ecological compatibility and the “emotionality” of a product.

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Economic Sustainability

According to Energie Agentur NRW (Energy Agency North Rhine-Westphalia), an employee in Germany uses on average approximately six technical devices a day. Around 17 million people in Germany alone work in offices. Sustainable management integrating ecological, social and economic elements and observing environmental factors are essential, in light of the high energy costs within office and product planning in particular as well as the procurement of technical office equipment. A recent survey revealed that a large number of companies are prepared to invest more in return for environmentally friendly information and communication technology. Ideally, the entire life cycle of a new product is factored in, beginning with its design and development and a useful, long-life product is created which, when it is no longer useful, can be introduced into the reusable material cycle as far as is possible. Environmentally friendly production processes, energy-saving technology and CO2 neutrality, where possible, are also criteria for cleaner production, as is the use of low-emission, recyclable materials.

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Physical/Digital Working World

The working world of tomorrow will be flexible, mobile and virtual. But trend researchers and futurologists are announcing the all-clear: Despite flexibility of work practices, mobile offices and all manner of high-tech gadgets, the physical office will continue to exist. Physical/Digital – the central meeting point and communication platform for solution workers in the digital world and an important part of successful business management. With their unique concept, ORGATEC 2014 demonstrated the latest developments, innovations and trends from the world of office and object furnishing for the modern working world of today and tomorrow.


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