WDM Newsletter – March 2017

March 20, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 16/03/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Of course you do!

WDMheader2017-03A few years ago (in a time before Agile Working was a hot topic), a Facilities Manager told me everyone in his company had a dedicated workplace, there was no hot desking and they had no home workers. I had only question: does anyone have a laptop? His affirmative reply meant that the organisation obviously had personnel working at home (although not necessarily authorised). Today, nobody would make such a bold statement in the first place. With laptop sales significantly exceeding desktop models and a proliferation of smartphones and tablets, not to mention Bring Your Own Devices practices (again, not necessarily authorised) and widespread Agile Working programmes, employees are being positively encouraged to work away from the office. The home is just one such workplace but, for the purposes of this newsletter, we are focussing on a few of the specific issues of employees working at their own residence.

Understanding individual needs and responses

health-wellbeing-productivityFor those based in open plan offices, working at home can be an ideal way to address two of the ‘4Cs’ (contemplation and concentration, rather than collaboration, communication). However, many miss the interaction with colleagues and a key negative factor can be lack of direction and goals from their line manager. Many employers overlook the importance of the culture change and different (pull, rather than push) management style required. To ensure maximum buy-in from those working at home, managers need to be trained to understand the issues and the correct way to modify their behaviour and relationships with colleagues. It is also essential to provide instant access to central support for everything from internet and login issues to mental health and wellbeing.

Getting it right

assessment-equipmentMany people lack sufficient space for an office at home and the potential issues are compounded by the almost inevitable ‘out of sight is out of mind’ circumstances. Home workers need to be properly assessed and this can be done online or with a site visit. Site visits address issues that are far less common in the office (light levels, overall space, fire extinguishers) and can incorporate other essential services such as PAT testing. Many employers create a brief catalogue (with suitable control mechanisms) for homeworkers to identify and order key equipment such as laptop stands or separate monitors. It is generally accepted that nothing will be handed back if an employee resigns so it is important for employers to get good advice to ensure resources are optimised. Items such as our Capsule Collection chairs are the best possible balance of budget and ergonomics.

A multifunctional platform well suited to the home office

mukavaAppearance is an important factor when employees choose work products for use at home. What works in a minimalist warehouse loft is unlikely to work in a Tudor cottage! Mukava is at home in a multiple hot-desking environment but its clean lines, modern look and multifunctional nature make it a good candidate as a multi-purpose tool in a space-constrained home office. Combining laptop platform, document holder, white board, tablet and smartphone stand with built-in device charger, USB socket and magnetic grips, this small unit truly ‘does it all’! It can be mounted on any VESA monitor arm. Download the brochure for further details.

Averting problems from extended use

HandheldDevicesSmartphones and tablets are used almost everywhere, not just in the home. Management of the technology, what the products are used for and how they are used presents many challenges to responsible employers and the pace of technology makes it hard for organisations to keep up, let alone get ahead. Personnel  benefit from education to understand the issues and ensure they act responsibly. There are many adaptors and accessories to aid comfort when using handheld devices but the technology is all, fundamentally, badly designed for prolonged use! A key part of our handheld devices strategy is therefore to help users understand the postures to limit (or avoid).

WDM Newsletter – February/March 2017

February 20, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 16/02/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Design and innovation for commercial, hospitality and domestic markets

wdmheader2017-02One 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 wish list of products for my own home, there was work to be done! [Read more]

Free London seminar about seating and the sit-stand conundrum

future-of-seatingBack in October, I reported on the launch of the Axia Smart Active chair which links to a smartphone app to educate users about sitting and posture habits. On February 23rd, we are providing a free early-evening seminar in Clerkenwell to demonstrate how this technology can be used and also provide the latest thinking about sitting, standing and movement in the workplace. Stephen Bowden BSc (Hons) C.ErgHF MIEHF EurErg of Morgan Maxwell will provide an impartial overview of the latest research. Click here for the full programme, location and online booking form.

Stylish addition to a proven product

sofi_mesh2Launched at Orgatec and showcased at the Stockholm Furniture Fair, the HÅG SoFi Mesh is already establishing itself as the elegant new addition to the SoFi range. Designed in collaboration with the award-winning Frost Produkt and Powerdesign agencies, SoFi Mesh provides ease of movement without having to think about it. In the words of designer Aleksander Borgenhov, [we set out to create] ‘a beautiful object from something that is in fact a highly advanced machine’. As a result, all the features and mechanisms are compact and hidden away whilst the long-established HÅG in Balance® technology provides an energising platform for greater efficiency at work. For further information or to arrange a trial, please call us on 0345 345 0898.

Something to think about in a post-truth society

post-truthI have just read that ‘post-truth’ was the Oxford Dictionaries Word of the Year 2016. Although this and terms like ‘alternative facts’ have been gaining currency comparatively recently, they encapsulate something I have been pondering since long before the Brexit referendum and the Trump presidential campaign. In a society where growing numbers of people get their news from social media, how much can we ensure that the information we have is reliable? How can we be certain our business choices are evidence-based? It is probably fair to say we have always treated sales literature and marketing claims with at least a small ‘pinch of salt’ but, with the blurring of fact, exaggeration and downright lies, how can we be sure our commercial decisions are well founded? I shall be blogging about this soon but would love to hear from you if you have any strong views or particular experience of unreliable information.


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.

(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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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]

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.


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.

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.

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.

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.

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).

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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