The second Workspace Design Show took place at The Business Design Centre at the end of February.
While not the largest furniture show, it remains highly relevant for any office occupier or specifier, offering display platforms for manufacturers and a comprehensive programme of informative talks by industry experts.
This year there was indeed a buzz; the floors were full of people from all sectors of the industry, providing a welcome opportunity to meet old friends and explore new ideas.
What this show does best is to inform and educate - working patterns have changed forever, causing the biggest revolution in office design for decades. Some would argue that we were already on the path of agile working and that lockdown merely accelerated it. But delve deep into the agenda and you find a wealth of information covering everything from neurodiversity to sustainability.
Scroll down for the talks, first the products…
Agilita showed various products utilising Vank biocomposite panels, with natural acoustic and thermal properties. Based on fibrous plants, these panels have a very low environmental impact – and they look great for something a little different in a ‘naturalistic’ office.
Mute have developed their OmniRoom system to provide both enclosed and semi-open spaces in linked configurations. We like their approach to high acoustic performance with a minimalistic, timeless design and we have a soft spot for their beautiful Mist freestanding illuminated screens.
Pedrali featured a nice range of adaptable Buddyhub booths along with a well-conceived and quite pretty task table/workstation based on the Toa table. We loved the new Reva Cocoon lounge range and Panarea chair, which are actually designed for outdoor use, although we think the natural-looking rope frame would look great in any office.
At first glance one may have been tempted to walk on past this stand, but Quadrifoglio featured some hidden gems. Their Cleopatras Lounge Chair was supremely comfortable, while their Moon chair (based on the ‘Balans’ principle) had a natural flex to enhance comfort while encouraging natural posture. They also featured a nifty task table called Flipper, with sliding top and flip up tablet holder.
Workagile’s tiered seating system Huddlebox is very nicely designed with fine touches featuring mitred corners. At the show they featured Birch veneer finishes with elements of Forbo Linoleum and solid coloured-through fibreboard. They also featured the Rokkadot ‘task rocking chair’, which Interion’s Project Manager Tugba just had to try out…
Yo Yo Office / Bachmann
While not exactly new, these mobile pods appear to be very well made and easy to reconfigure; linking together to form larger meeting spaces. Yo Yo were working in partnership with electronics specialists Bachmann, who’s rechargeable MOV:E unit will supply adequate power to one of Yo Yo’s pods for a full day, including lighting and power for laptops.
Beautiful detailing is to be expected from Fora Form; their modular Senso system of chairs and sofas with slatted dividing elements was a real eye-catcher.
Quite simply, the best table-football machine we have ever seen. The raised glass top means this can be used as a meeting or eating table too, but we think users may be tempted to have another match!
Is anything really ‘new’? What we saw on the whole was closer to ‘new versions of old things’. One notable exception was Spacestor’s Arcadia ‘space-making toolkit’, a reconfigurable kit of parts that facilitates the creation of discrete spaces with varying degrees of privacy and separation. Perhaps best suited to deep open floorplates, we appreciated this attempt to re-define what can be done in the office.
The Meeting Pod Co.
These people do exactly what it says on the tin – and they do it very well indeed. Their latest Meeting Pod is called Container Box – very ‘industrial chic’ with great acoustic performance and build quality.
The Talks - Expert Opinion
You have to be there to get the full picture, but common themes emerge upon which the experts are generally agreed:
· Getting people to work in the same space enhances collaboration, communication and innovation – it creates competitive advantage.
· Routine work can be undertaken at home, but working in isolation is not conducive to creativity and the generation of ideas. Videoconferencing is just not the same as meeting in person.
· Office workers - especially the young - depend on mentoring and a communal environment to develop their skills and absorb company culture and values. Connection is as important as collaboration.
· The office is not just a place of work; it is a place to express brand, culture and values, and to meet customers and suppliers.
· Encouraging people back demands change; the provision of facilities that allow users to select work settings suited to the task at hand – places to meet, eat, greet, relax and concentrate.
· The race to attract and retain talented people demands that the office the office becomes a destination – genuinely rewarding to visit and experience.
It would not be possible to repeat entire talks or attribute comments to each speaker, but below is a stream of useful comments from three of the talks, concerning getting people back to the office:
· Create and promote office ‘events’ in advance
· New facilities and technology must be ‘fit for purpose’.
· Create ownership; educate teams how to use new facilities; the staff must run the space after the project team has finished.
· Generally don’t assign desks to individuals, but there are some exceptions e.g. Finance, Legal
· Remove friction such as room / desk booking systems.
· Consider the workplace ‘experience’ – facilities such as gyms, prayer rooms, showers, bike storage and charging points – and services like yoga, massage and GP.
· The social environment is as important as the work environment – what do people actually want?
· Consider how the workplace can create ‘connect the dots moments’ with colleagues.
· Consider neurodiversity and cultural diversity; we don’t all want the same things
· Buy quality furnishings that will adapt to multiple changes (It will not be 100% right on day one)
· Acid test on yourself; if it’s not good enough for you it’s not good enough for others.
Interion can help you plan your office future with our unique Insights workshop.
Get in touch to find out more.