Orgatec, the European workplace furniture show, has matured from an enormous market of products to a biennial event using these products to explore themes and concepts. As well as specific display areas covering subjects such as acoustics and lighting, many of the larger exhibitors demonstrated their own approaches to collaboration, productivity and connectivity. (Ironically, as exhibitors recognised the need for the “always on” office, the event organisers charged visitors €25 per day for Wi-Fi access!)
The ancient question of “how much space do you have and how many people do you want to put in it” has transformed into a complex and multi-disciplinary discussion. Furniture design is a key element in that discussion but psychology plays an ever-increasing role. As employers seek to improve the wellbeing of their personnel, office designers must now consider the psycho-social impacts of where, when and how people work. Lighting and colour become crucial factors in the design process and the provision of flexible areas for individual and collaborative work raises issues of confidentiality and acoustic comfort.
Acoustic pods have come of age with designs for offices-within-offices or individual “telephone boxes” as well as a plethora of high-back soft furnishing to create an impression of confidentiality.
There are inevitable limitations to the simple business of providing office workers with a flat surface suspended above the floor but furniture designers and manufacturers continue, quite literally, to think inside and outside the box!