Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair 2017

February 16, 2017

See all my photographs from this year’s exhibition on our Pinterest page.

lampshade

The 2m lampshade

One of the joys of this event is the diversity of products available in one location. Whether you are looking for domestic, workplace or hospitality applications, the variety is enormous and most of it comes with that extra ingredient of ‘Scandi Design’ flair.

Starting amongst the numerous lighting exhibitors, I was reminded of the dramatic progress in the development of low energy lamps, LEDs and their associated applications in recent years. The selection of lighting products for both domestic and commercial use was a delight. I was particularly impressed by the many designs merging traditional materials with the new technology. However, I was there to look at workplace furniture and, although it would be easy to spend my time creating a wishlist of products for my own home, there was work to be done!

nordic_deskInevitably, sit-stand desks are a mainstay of the workplace part of this event. The conspicuous difference from the UK is that they are no longer a novelty. This concept is over twenty years old in Scandinavia and, in Denmark, it is now mandatory to offer sit-stand desks to employees. In a mature market, every manufacturer’s portfolio includes sit-stand and differentiating themselves from competitors can be difficult. The current focus is therefore on aesthetics and many companies are hiding most of the essential steel components by encasing them in wood. I thought it was significant that I saw no evidence of the gimmicks such as illuminated desktops and hands-free height adjustment that are gaining ground in the USA. There is also no discussion about whether or not people use adjustable desks (a preoccupation in the UK): sit-stand is part of the regional culture.

Amongst the furniture manufacturers were several balance/wobble board variations to encourage exercise and movement whilst standing at the desk. These included everything from the most basic plastic device to an elaborate mini-surfboard. In the age of crowd-funding, even the most bizarre and unviable designs can at least get to pre-production stage if they have a funky health message and a clever video!

sofi_mesh2Scandinavia has been in the vanguard of workplace seating design for many years and the key regional manufacturers were all represented. Task chairs continue to evolve, offering greater comfort, more intuitive adjustment and improved aesthetics. A strong sustainability story is no longer topical since that too is now ‘business as usual’. As Aleksander Borgenhov, one of the designers, summed up the development process, the objective is to create ‘a beautiful object from something that is, in fact, a highly advanced machine’.

Beyond the task chairs, there was, as you would expect, lots of soft seating and other breakout furniture. These days, I believe the ranges available in the UK from our domestic manufacturers are as innovative, elegant and functional as any in the world. Some of the British manufacturers were also exhibiting and they certainly ‘hold their own’ in an international market. The line between workplace and hospitality products is now blurred to the point of extinction and it is easy to imagine products for offices in hotel lobbies or seating for canteens in bars and cafes.

sequesterAcoustics is one discipline where the design of decor and furniture merge. ‘Sound ergonomics’, as I like to think of it, is a fascinating topic. Many high back sofas, huddles and pods for varying work areas incorporate acoustic benefits into the design and its importance is now widely recognised as we grow to understand more about the links between wellbeing and productivity. One of my favourite furniture products addressing these issues is the cocoon-like Sequester (as it is known in the UK) which was being displayed by its Swedish designers.

Many acoustics specialists were also exhibiting. Acoustic panels and components continue to appear in a variety of shapes and sizes and using them as a design feature rather than burying them in partitions and behind images can be highly effective, especially since so many of them are very tactile.

In previous years, I have also spent time exploring the bathroom fittings and accessories, as well as other non-core activities, but there was no time this year and, in any case, such matters are probably of little interest to my audience!

In conclusion, it was an excellent event with lots to see. In terms of new products, I would say the theme was one of evolution rather than revolution. For me, such occasions are also a fabulous opportunity to catch up with old friends from around the world.

rebel_wallsMy favourite product? Actually my second favourite product (see below) but, completely randomly, I spotted the Rebel Walls stand when I stopped for sushi at lunch time. Their 3D trompe l’oeil wallpaper is stunning and the scope for bespoke designs is very clever. I shall be visiting their UK website when we move house later this year!

My one regret? The most exciting product I saw was not on show but in an exhibitor’s hotel room. It is still at the prototype stage and I am unable to tell you about it until later in the year! If you want to be one of the first to hear about it, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

See all my photographs from this year’s exhibition on our Pinterest page


WDM Newsletter – January/February 2017

January 23, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 19/01/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

LINKING WELLBEING AND ENGAGEMENT
(with a side order of Stealth Ergonomics)

wdmheader2017-01We work with many businesses where engagement levels are high and many clients where this is certainly not the case. As a result, our involvement impacts these organisations in different ways. Many factors affect personnel motivation and we find that health, safety and wellbeing can contribute significantly to corporate culture.

One of our current projects is with an employer where engagement levels are high and there is comprehensive strategic risk management but individual postural awareness is poor. Our project is exploring ways to improve productivity further by impacting this low awareness without shouting about ‘health & safety’ or ‘ergonomics’ (which are considered as boring and irrelevant by many on the trading floor!). We therefore plan to introduce a training programme, linked to the organisation’s Vision & Values, which introduces key issues about workplace postures and behaviours. Using a mix of formats, we plan to deliver Stealth Ergonomics (key training and information without making it obvious!), reducing musculoskeletal issues, enhancing performance and raising engagement levels even more. If this sounds interesting, we would be pleased to discuss how we can bring innovative thinking and a real impact into your own organisation.

SEQUESTER
Bluetooth seating pod

sequesterDesigned by Carsten Buhl for Elite, Sequester provides an enclosed environment where individuals can cocoon themselves in comfort with their own choice of enveloping sound. Built-in Bluetooth stereo enables the occupier to stream music from their laptop or handheld device directly to its concealed loudspeakers and the integral touch panel provides instant remote control of the dimmable LED lighting, volume and track selection. Of course, there is also a USB charger socket! The secure acoustics and elegant curves make this the ideal solo-pod for receptions, atriums and breakout zones. This is a statement piece offering functionality with panache. For premises with restricted access, it can even be delivered in modular form for assembly on site.

‘WOW FACTORS’ FOR SOFT SEATING
It may look fabulous but is it comfortable?

wow_factorsFor several years, we have operated a highly effective ‘WoW Factor’ review process to rate the ergonomics of task chairs. But what about other types of seating? In Issue 9, I mentioned that we were working on a comparable technique to rate everything else and this is now operational. We have reviewed almost 100 products from Elite, Nomique, Orangebox and Pledge. It is a subjective system but surprisingly effective. For example, the aesthetics of reception seating are crucial but long term comfort is probably not such a high priority. By contrast, good support is obviously essential for training room chairs. Horses for courses! Click here to find out more.

SEATINGEXPERTS.UK
Now fully functional

seatingexperts2Also in Issue 9, I referred to the work we have been doing on seatingexperts.uk, the web site for all the products referred to above. This is now complete as well. Divided into 14 categories, it showcases over 100 products for today’s agile workplace, including images and downloadable brochures for each one. Whether your next priority is the boardroom, the canteen, the labs or the training rooms, there is an abundance of products and information to explore. Alternatively, save yourself time and energy and invite us to survey your premises: with our WoW Factor insights, we offer a unique approach to your requirements.


WDM Newsletter – December 2016

December 16, 2016

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 15/12/2016. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

OUR FIRST YEAR OF NEWSLETTERS
A volatile period for politics, business and the economy

wdmheader2016-12As the end of the year approaches, we can reflect on some dramatic events, welcome the festive season and celebrate the first twelve WDM issues. We thank you for valuing our commitment to customer service and quality products and, in a highly competitive market, we really appreciate your business. We also know that many of our regular newsletter readers are not customers themselves but do specify and recommend us to clients and colleagues. These are valuable introductions and we always welcome suggestions for new resources that you would like us to provide. Whether this time of year is important to you for religious or family reasons – or just the chance to eat and drink too much and fall asleep in front of the TV! – we wish you a very happy time and look forward to speaking to you in 2017.

MY FAVOURITE APPS OF 2016
A handful of handy tools to make your life a little easier

apps_2016This is a little off-piste compared to my usual items but I use a wide variety of tablet/smartphone apps (more than 150 at the last count) and I thought it might be of interest to share those I use most often or find most useful. This is not intended to be one of those ‘ten things that changed my life’ lists. If that is what you are looking for, try GQ’s 100 Best Things in the World Right Now. By contrast, I hope my short list contains at least one or two that you do not already know about that might potentially save you time or money or make your life a little easier. [more]

PEPI MESH
Simple, stylish design at a competitive price

pepi_meshPepi Mesh
has been designed to maximise user comfort and convenience. Its breathable, height-adjustable mesh back and synchronised balance mechanism (with auto weight adjustment) make Pepi ideal for today’s flexible work environments. Like the solid back version, it offers lumbar support and seat slide as standard, as well as optional height- and width-adjustable armrests. You can find the full technical specification here. For other project seating choices, please visit seatingexperts.co.uk.


CHRISTMAS DONATION

Helping save lives

air_ambulanceOur 2016 Christmas donation goes to Dorset and Somerset Air Ambulance, selected by our team as a very worthy local cause. The average cost of each mission is £2,500 and most involve life-or-death situations. This excellent work receives no government funding and relies entirely on charitable donations from the general public. We are proud to help with our own small contribution.

PRICE REVIEWS
Currency impacts take their toll

price-reviewsI have mentioned before that recent £/$/€ fluctuations have impacted everyone. It is common for manufacturers to propose price rises at this time of year and we expect increases from all our suppliers. At up to 10%, some increases are significant (although all look trivial compared to Microsoft and Apple!). To minimise the impact, most manufacturers are looking at product-by-product reviews rather than a blanket percentage increase for their entire range. We shall be publishing all price updates once we have consolidated all the information but I would strongly recommend that you contact us as soon as possible if your are planning or budgeting for significant purchases in 2017. The sooner we know, the more we can do to help.


WDM Newsletter – November/December 2016

November 21, 2016

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 17/11/2016. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

ORGATEC 2016
New Visions of Work

wdmheader2016-11I have attended every biennial Orgatec since 1994 and the most obvious difference between then and now is how much smaller the exhibition has become. Conspicuously, the fact that only 8 halls were in use meant that the piazza and some of the central boulevard were closed. As a result, walking from the South to North Entrances involved some rather circuitous routes through halls, reminding me of Las Vegas casino design. My visit this year was somewhat disrupted by a cancelled flight and resultant delay arriving. However, with dogged determination, I managed to visit all 8 halls, covering about 35,000 steps and nearly 24 km according to my FitBit! My thoughts and observations are summarised here.

HÅG SoFi MESH
Latest family member

sofi_meshIncorporating the proven HÅG Balanced Movement MechanismTM, the SoFi chair range is well established. Recent research at the Karolinska Institutet has demonstrated that users of the SoFi can outperform the body movement of both those sitting in traditional office chairs and even those standing at their desk. The SoFi Mesh chair is a logical and successful addition to the portfolio, demonstrating contemporary aesthetics for the design-led office without compromising all the key features and ergonomics of the existing range. Contact us for a demonstration.

ADVERTISING IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR
Extending the brand message

advertising_public_sectorVolume 23.6 of Government Business magazine includes an article by BIFM about the current outlook for the FM industry (pages 19-23). We saw this as an ideal opportunity to reflect our growing activities beyond the traditional furniture sector in key areas such as wellbeing and training (page 22 of the article or here).

CLERKENWELL SHOWROOMS
Growing portfolio of partner premises

clerkenwell2Our key partners have showrooms in Clerkenwell and this gives us the perfect opportunity to demonstrate a broad range of concepts and designs within a small geographical area. Conversations are often more about how people work than about specific products. As a result, clients always leave with new ideas. Whether you have specific needs in mind or you are just looking for inspiration, we are happy to show you around. Contact us for further information.


Orgatec 2016

November 17, 2016

orgatec_2016_entranceI have attended every biennial Orgatec since 1994 and the most obvious difference between then and now is how much smaller the exhibition has become. Conspicuously, the fact that only 8 halls were in use meant that the Piazza and parts of the Central Boulevard were closed. As a result, walking between the South and North Entrances involved some rather circuitous routes through halls, reminding me of Las Vegas casino design.

Despite the size reduction, there was still more than a million square feet of exhibition space and more than 600 organisations displaying their wares. My visit this year was somewhat disrupted by a cancelled flight and resultant delay. However, with dogged determination, I managed to visit all 8 halls, covering about 35,000 steps or nearly 24 km according to my FitBit! This article is therefore my own view of what I saw and makes no attempt to provide a comprehensive review of the entire event.

img_6268Sit-stand continues to be a topical issue in the UK but exhibitors i Cologne fell into very distinct categories: European office furniture manufacturers now treat sit-stand as ‘business as usual’ so sit-stand variants were displayed alongside more traditional seated-height options. By contrast, frame manufacturers, especially the substantial number of exhibitors from the Far East, displayed all the variants of their frame designs without tops, focussing on function rather than appearance. Interestingly, neither of these approaches recognises the culture change issues surrounding sit-stand or the need to manage their introduction with a Change Management approach rather than a simple case of desk replacement.

img_6290A wide variety of perching stools also reflected the interest in sit-stand desks. As well as the established specialists like the Aeris Muvman and Hag Capisco, there were many cheap copies and a variety of saddle stools. Again, the majority were displayed simply as products. Only a very small number came with a story.

Some manufacturers of seating and desks are starting to introduce apps and electronic tools to encourage movement. However, most of these look like an afterthought, many are just branded versions of someone else’s software and I think it still seems sensible to look to third parties for good furniture/app integration.

img_6276Moving away from workstation furniture, designs for soft seating and other breakout areas were well represented but most ideas here seem to be evolutionary rather than revolutionary. A key factor is the integration of acoustic benefits into the larger pieces. The importance of reducing noise distraction to improve productivity is now well recognised and many manufacturers reference this. One of the more interesting concepts was the Team Up Study which offered easily movable breakout seating with magnetically  linking side panels.

img_6280Also in evidence were many examples of multi-function chairs. Commonly, these are based around a single seat and back moulding with multiple leg and upholstery options. This creates a single family that suits breakout, canteen, training, breakfast bar, meeting room and other applications.

On the accessories front, fully configurable monitor arms to provide instant adjustment for two large monitors in an elegant manner are now widely available and a handful of monitor arm manufacturers also offer some sort of IT integration in the form of a multi-adaptor hub built around the arm mounting.

If you need to improve acoustics, retro-fit pads are available in every conceivable shape and size. The days of concealing such products are long gone and the common approach now is to make the acoustic provision into a design feature in its own right.

img_6294-1Continuing the acoustics theme, pod manufacturers continue to explore the ‘office within the office’ concept with units varying from single telephone boxes to pop-up boardrooms. This office-meets-study-meets-garden-shed concept particularly appealed to me as a short-term breakout area.

In summary, therefore, I found nothing revolutionary and some of my favourite items lacked practicality for everyday use. However, the world’s furniture manufacturers continue to evolve their designs to meet the rapidly changing needs of today’s market.

 

For more pictures, visit our Pinterest page.

 


WDM Newsletter – October/November 2016

October 25, 2016

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 20/10/2016. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

THE CONNECTED CHAIR
Is this the future of seated wellbeing?

wdmheader2016-10We offer many high quality chairs with excellent ergonomics and comfort. However, we believe that the BMA Axia Smart Active chair is unique worldwide in delivering Bluetooth connectivity to a smartphone app. By downloading the free Apple or Android app and pairing it (instantly) with the chair, the user creates a personal, multi-functional posture coach. Working in a similar way to a wearable fitness device and connecting to sensors in the chair seatpan, the smartphone app monitors movement, sitting time and posture changes (or lack of them). When necessary, it prompts to encourage dynamic chair use and gives personalised tips and practical advice according to the individual’s behaviour. The Smart Active technology is available in any BMA model from the Axia 2.0 series and replacement seat cushions can be retrofitted to existing chairs (or standard products bought in the future). Crucially, the upgrade costs significantly less than £100 + VAT per chair. For further information, view the video or contact us for a demonstration.

ENDURANCE
UK manufactured 24/7 chair

enduranceHistorically, we have always recommended Scandinavian or Dutch chairs for control room and heavy duty use. In the past, we have been unable to find a UK product that met the quality, comfort, durability and ergonomics standards we demand. Although we continue to promote those legacy products, we are delighted to be able to add a chair from a UK manufacturer to our portfolio for this demanding sector. Endurance is based on an existing product with minor modifications to meet our requirements. With a 30 stone weight limit and 3-year 24-hour warranty, the chair offers a viable and effective solution where budget is constrained. With a choice of two backrest heights and an integral head support in the higher back variant, it provides a comprehensive selection of options to meet many of the most demanding seating applications. Contact us for further information or a demonstration.

ORGATEC
New visions of work

orgatecOctober 2016 sees the return of this biennial exhibition which started over 60 years ago. In particular, I expect to find lots of sit-stand furniture and ideas for agile working. Acoustics is another ‘hot’ topic and has had its own zone in recent years. This is due to greater recognition and understanding of open plan office environments and the 4Cs (collaboration, communication, contemplation and concentration). The main theme for the event this year recognises how the work environment can impact creativity and productivity so I am looking out for lots of interesting and a few ‘off the wall’ ideas! I shall be writing a full report of my findings by the middle of November but, if you use Twitter, the Orgatec feed is a useful source of immediate information.

ER60 FLEET
Our specialist logistics team

er60fleetIn addition to the expert partners we use for larger installations, we continue to provide a national installation service for small projects, one-offs and specials with our own trained personnel and vehicles. Each van in the current fleet has an ‘ergo’ number – ER60 NOM, ER60 NOW, ER60 VAN, ER60 YES – but we are running out of options. I have no idea what number we shall be able to find for the next vehicle. I have now trawled the entire list of available choices on  the DVLA web site (that’s how sad I am!) and there are no meaningful words remaining. We have no immediate need so this is something to ponder on but we welcome any inspired suggestions for the future.


WDM Newsletter – September/October 2016

October 21, 2016

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 15/09/2016. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

HAS THE UK SIT-STAND MARKET FINALLY GROWN UP?
A more focussed message and clearer thinking?

wdmheader2016-09It is nearly twenty years since we sold our first sit-stand desk but the real growth in interest amongst UK employers has arisen since early in 2014. Initially driven by publicity about the potential health impacts of sedentary behaviour, employers were bombarded with news, statistics, research and plenty of online ‘noise’ predicting dire consequences if there was not a rapid and immediate transition from traditional office environments to workplaces populated with ‘standing desks’. [more]

AIRCHARGE
Stylish and practical wireless phone charging

airchargeI have been using an aircharge sleeve on my iPhone 6s for several months and, as well as protecting the phone, it is much more desirable than fiddling around with a Lightning connector cable when I need to recharge the battery. We offer aircharge facilities for staff in the office and I find it in a growing number of hotels, coffee shops and hospitality environments. Of course, in Clerkenwell, you can find aircharge in almost every showroom! For organisations wanting to offer this facility to their own personnel and visitors, there is a choice of options. The most common version – the surface charger – fits an 80mm diameter hole so it can be retrofitted to a standard desk grommet. Others can be incorporated into monitor arms and task lamps. See some of the variants here or contact us for further information. (If you are curious about the technology, you can find out more here).

SEATINGEXPERTS.UK
New product sections and pop-out design

seatingexpertsWe originally set up the seatingexperts.uk web site alongside sitstandexperts.uk to reflect our knowledge beyond the specialist ‘ergo environment’. Working with a variety of manufacturing partners we now offer a broad portfolio of products to address every need in the workplace. The web site is still a work-in-progress but the sections for Reception & Breakout, Office Project, Modular, Meeting & Training Room and Boardroom have been completely redesigned. As mentioned last month, we are also working on a Comfort Score system to help buyers make a decision based on suitability as well as on aesthetics. More information about this coming soon!

DOING GREAT WORK WELL – ENERGISEYOU
People we like whose work we respect

energiseyouEnergiseYou helps innovative organisations to thrive by:

  • Coaching your people to improve their energy and be the best they can be.
  • Coaching your leaders and managers to create energised, engaged, and high performing teams.

They do this using a unique approach in their workshops, webinars, podcasts, energy events, 1-2-1 coaching and motivational talks. Creating a positive, energised workforce leads to greater engagement, performance and retention whilst reducing absence. Find out more at EnergiseYou


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