Last week, over 55,000 visitors from 118 countries came together in Cologne, Germany, for Orgatec, the biggest international exhibition of workplace furniture in the world. With over six decades in the business – and hundreds of exhibitors from around the world – Orgatec has long become more than just a furniture show. It’s now a biennial barometer of what’s happening in the workplace: the trends and insights that are transforming the office as we know it.
From high-tech workstations to near-silent setups, here are the top 7 trends from Orgatec 2016.
Versatility breeds collaboration
It’s a message that has been growing louder and louder over the past few years: no two workers are the same. As the creative individualism of employees is increasingly celebrated, employers are seeing a need for workstations that adapt and react to their various needs and uses. Haworth, for example, showcased the Immense series of tables, calling it a “microcosm of collaborative space” with various heights and arrangements to suit meetings, collaborative projects, and independent work. “Creating a landscape of varied surfaces to support the temporality of meetings, the Immerse table enables work by offering a micro atmosphere that can support groups or the individual; standing or sitting,” says Haworth.
Meetings are getting shorter and are taking place standing up
It’s no secret that formal meetings waste time and energy. With an estimated $37 billion lost per year in the U.S. to unproductive meetings, employers are keen on making meetings shorter and more relevant. Products like Ongo’s Meet & Swing aim to help with this change: the system includes a skinny standing-height table and “standing supports” – aka leaning chairs – that encourage more movement. “It brings a touch of freedom to the office and inspired informal exchanges between colleagues,” says the German company in its press material. “It is precisely this that often leads to the good ideas that are indispensable in this day and age.”
Temperature is (finally) becoming employee-controlled
Granted, it’s hard to keep everyone happy when it comes to the office temperature. But there’s no shortage of research (like this survey and this article) showing how temperature can impact productivity and concentration. Enter German manufacturer Klöber with an inspired solution: Mera Klimastuhl, a desk chair with integrated heating and air conditioning. The customizable chair has a 16-hour rechargeable battery that runs the heating and ventilation through the back and seat.
Standing isn’t for everyone
Sitting might be the new smoking, but stand-up workstations don’t work for all workers. With that in mind, “healthy sitting” products are on the rise to help older demographics and other workers that can’t benefit from standing desks. There was a wide range of offerings from exhibitors at Orgatec, including Vitra’s chair that automatically responds to movement and Actiu’s seat designed specifically for millennials. A standout, however, was Kinema’s latest iteration of its Active Chair, which offers settings for traditional, elevated, and standing sitting. “There is no one ideal posture for desk jockeys,” says Kinema. “But there is a healthy solution – a well-balanced combination of standing and sitting, a so-called Stand-Sit-Support-Dynamic.“
The office is getting (more) wireless
“Employees, executives and academics no longer work from traditional offices,” says wireless charging technology company Zens. “As location-independent workers, they enjoy personalized digital services in every environment.” In short: workers don’t want to cart charging cables all over the office. At Orgatec, Zens teamed up with office furniture company Sedus to launch workstations integrated with cordless charging points and Qi technology to keep phones, tablets, and laptops charged just by placing them on the worktop.
In open plan spaces, silence is golden…
As offices continue to embrace the open-plan set-up, finding solutions to reduce background noise is a constant struggle. “Hardly any other aspect of modern workplaces is as hotly discussed as the optimisation of the room acoustics,” says Orgatec’s trends material. “Printing, telephoning, discussing – even slight background noise can disturb people from concentrating on their work.” At the show, several companies paired acoustic insulation with visual partitions. Thonet’s Canor, for example, does triple duty as a sound dampener, a space delineator, and a bulletin board.
…and personal space is at a premium
Another issue surrounding open-plan offices is the lack of space for employees to make a call – or just take a breather. Sound-proof telephone booths amid the bustle aren’t brand new, but companies are taking it a step further with mini office spaces that employees can slip into for longer periods. The Micro Office by Czech company SilentLab is a freestanding “private spot” complete with LEDs, a desk with drawer, soft seating, and various tech hook-ups.