Looking for Work

Over the years, office furniture has repeatedly adapted to perceived trends – the paperless office and desk-sharing being two examples. Yet most of these adaptations have failed to gain sway.

One problem is that the modern work landscape is continually evolving. An increasing number of employees are constantly on the move, equipped with only a cell phone and a laptop. Their colleagues back at the office are working just as flexibly, alone or in groups, depending on the job at hand. As a result, modern offices have embraced the open-space, communication-intensive environments that group staff together in relatively small areas, believing such cluster arrangements encourage the informal and rapid exchange of information. In fact, one rather extreme idea on display at Cologne’s Orgatec this past fall involved replacing individual desks with large benches or platforms for multiple workers, thereby almost enforcing a communicative environment for teamwork.

Of course, with all this space comes a need for isolated micro-environments and sanctuaries for concentrated work. Orgatec showcased a dizzying array of solutions, ranging from cubicle desk systems that can be fitted with screens to soundproof partitions that can create temporary quiet zones for uninterrupted work. One rather arresting solution for generating privacy in an open plan is to wrap employees in a sort of cocoon with nest-shaped chairs with screened-off tops. The Bouroullec Brothers did something like this called Alcove for Vitra.

Ideally, such open-space offices should be designed strictly according to workflow, without any consideration of hierarchies. But executives still want to feel special, and there was plenty of seating and desks on display that convey an impressive amount of prestige and power – for example the CEOO (Chief Executive Officer Office) by EOOS for Walter Knoll.

Since the quality of the working environment is one of the crucial “soft” factors when it comes to recruiting and motivating employees, the design of the workplace deserves special attention. But since the diversity of office concepts corresponds to the pluralism of our lifestyles and working situations, you can’t talk of any one single trend – so Orgatec responded by inviting them all to the party.