wellness at work: Italy is increasingly sit-stand!

Smart working by now is an expanding working mode. In Italy as well – at last-  it has been regularly inserted into a regulatory framework thanks to law 81/2017 that deals with key subjects, such as job duration, terms of notice, control methods and so on. And furnishing as well is adapting to this trend; for example with “agile” sit-stand workstations as Linak demonstrates.

“Sons” of smart working are widespread working and coworking. Since work is increasingly itinerant, fast, smart and agile. Meetings are more and more stand-up meetings, but they are also held in lounge areas and in common spaces. Just to make an example, in Milan, the Porta Nuova district is a bulwark of widespread work and coworking. There are many areas that rent workstations in exchange for affordable fees. Getting connected in every place and at any time of the day has become a life habit and new technologies enable us to fully live this change.


Furnishing as well is adapting to this trend.

Pieces of furniture are designed to make our work simple and healthy wherever we are. From insulating panels to ensure a certain privacy though among people, to “variable” workstations, changing according to Activity Based Office to answer to different activities (for instance the focus room or the phone booth).
Up to sit-stand tables that are so popular  in North European offices and that are gaining ground in Italy as well, in prestigious head offices and in coworking areas. And the sit-stand trend perfectly integrates in the smart-working context.
Media have already highlighted, in different articles, the importance to keep a proper posture at work and to alternate sat down work to standing moments. This behavior enables to prevent disorders such as cervical, backache, dysfunction of the spine, thus reducing discomfort and absenteeism from work. Sit-stand desks, driven by Linak lifting columns, are gaining popularity in many offices and working places in Italy.
Plenty of Italian design companies are following this furnishing trend for office furniture to keep up with remote working, coworking, home office and everything makes a job highly smart. Italy is increasingly sit-stand!


Photo gallery:
1 Sit-stand desk by
Manerba  equipped with linear actuators Linak.
2 Sit stand table with central column by 
Emmeitalia equipped with linear actuators Linak.
3 Sit-stand desk  Estel equipped with linear actuators Linak.
4 It is designed by Tine Mouritsen and presented at Danish LIVINGroom the first sit-stand desk that integrates a power napping pillow. It is equipped with linear actuators Linak.





Smart Working: origins, incentives and dark side.

The meetings agenda at Isola WOW! Lavoro Agile 2016 (at Cozzi Swimming pool) included the seminar “Designing Smart Offices” in collaboration with Ordine degli Architetti di Milano. Here are the essentials of the opening speeches speeches by Renata Sias (editor WOW!) and Fiorella Crespi ( Osservatorio Smart Working). See also the article about the speeches by Alessandro Adamo (DEGW) and Pietro Fiorani ( Coca Cola)

Main steps to Smart Working.
The introduction by Renata Sias stressed the “agile “ origin of the office; as proved by the Latin word “bura” still living in etymology (bureaucratic, bureaucracy, bureau, etc): originally a cloth which the medieval merchant used to lay on the counter at the end of the day, to count the money and do all the paperwork.
In the following centuries that kind of agility has almost disappeared, especially in the industrial era and in the Taylorist office, as stressed in the “keywords” by Lewis Mumford in “The myth of the Machine”.

Even in its apparently more “fluent” forms, like Burolandschaft by Quickborner Group, which are not really flexible but meant as an assembly line of information.
New working procedures are made possible by technologies only by the end of the Seventies thanks to the Frank Duffy’s analysis  (DEGW) and the “time variable” enters the workplace.
This concept underlies Stone and Lucchetti’s studies in 1984, for the first time they talks about Activity Based Office in the article “Your Office is where You are” on Harward Business Review.
This approach was later updated by the same authors in 2002 with the article “Our Office is where We are” that introduced the “Community Based Office” concept.
Now the office is a social meeting place, knowledge sharing and common growth and the smart office is based on three levers: optimized spaces for different activities, slant-tech, and change management aims to employers trust and wellbeing.
Bricks, Bits and Behaviour, as explained by Philip Vanhoutte of Plantronics in “The Smarter Working Manifesto”.

Four levers to support smart working.


Fiorella Crespi, resercher of School of Management POLIMI and director of Osservatorio Smart Working, after presenting the results of the OSW 2015 study, has gone into the subject of smart working levers and the importance to start consistent projects in four different fields of application:
Organizational policies (flexibility in time, places and use of devices)
Digital technologies (user friendly, to support Social Collaboration and “bring your own device” policies).
Layout (different and reconfigurable, according to the requested technologies and an effective use of space);
Behaviour and leadership styles (enabling the correct use of technologies, to create sense of belonging, flexibility and to feel responsible empower).
Smart working has undeniable benefits – for the company, people and society – yet their “dark side”, actual difficulties but even false myths, could make the process long and complex, as proved by the Coca Cola case study.



An actual smart-working experience poolside.

Here are the pictures of the Isola WOW! Lavoro Agile 2016 in Milan. For the new ways of working, we chose an absolutely uncommon setting: the stand of a swimming-pool. Thanks to the collaboration of Milanosport, the Cozzi swimming pool changed in a temporary coworking and a hub to share Smart Working Visions. We thank all those who brought forth this venture. Here are the pictures of the Agile Working Island.

The relaxing sound of the water moved by “agile” swimmers and the music beating time during the course of water aerobics have been the accompaniment to a lively and vital week. Although the noise and temperature weren’t perfect for an office, it was quite a positive experience appreciated by the Cozzi Pool-goers and smart workers attracted by this cutting-edge event.

As an activity based office, the area included several kinds and extremely comfortable and dynamic workplaces (furnished by the WOW’s partner companies Akzo Nobel, BTicino, Dieffebi, Caimi Brevetti, Cardex, Emme Italia, HW Style, Kinnarps, Sedus, Interface, Linak) for different tasks, made more stimulating by the presence of luxuriant plants and aroma diffusers (HW Style).

Flexible workstations equipped with recharge stations (Emme Italia, Linak, Bticino,Kinnarps), bench desks (Cardex), storage units and multipurpose drawers (Dieffebi), cocoon armchairs (Cardex, Kinnarps, Sedus), meeting table (Sedus), lounge furnishing (Sedus, Kinnarps) and a small “home” to protect privacy (Kinnarps),


task chairs and ball-chairs, coffee area (Caimi Brevetti) and conference area (NEC, Sagsa)… Everyone could choose the most suitable space for their jobs.

The relaxing breaks were “softened” by the complimentary coffee (by Nespresso, what else?) and bio-snack by Noberasco.
Various kinds of meetings were held in the relevant area: a training course for architects and a workshop on the link between Smart Working and Real Estate; even some informal Jelly Sessions to discuss case studies and mind maps, or to create a set of rules defining the key points for a new concept of ergonomics for the smart office.



Shopify: creativity, acoustic comfort, work-life integration.

Linebox Studio (arch Andrew Reeves) recently designed Ottawa’s headquarters of Shopify, world leading Canadian e-commerce platform, that accommodate over 800 employees. The mandate was to create an innovative and creative workplace focused not just on productivity but also employee health and well-being. The balance between privacy and socialization was achieved by various spatial layouts and acoustic strategies, among these the large sound absorbing light fixtures produced by Luceplan.

The first challenge was to convert a new but standard office tower into a creative innovation hub. The solution was to maximize movement through a myriad of linked communal spaces to stimulate casual, unplanned interactions and informal meetings.

The spatial organization starts from the large open stairs rising through all eight floors, Integrating socializing seating along the side for creative conversations; in addition a large two-storey cafeteria/café space as a flexible performance and social gathering and healthy food venue.
All the workspaces offer a balance of spaces facilitating both collaborative interaction and focused individual work and include a structured ensemble of varied spaces providing workers what they need and want at different times for different tasks according to activity based office model. Each has an assigned “home” workstation; but within a non-hierarchical and vibrant office landscape, choice and control over where work is done resides with each employee: clusters of workstations in open spaces, enclosed boardrooms, semi-private nooks, armchair salons and also upholstered pods, sort of “creativity wombs”.
Enclosed meeting rooms eschew fish bowl transparency opting for visual privacy but with light from strategically placed ribbon windows.
The focus on acoustic comfort suggested various acoustic strategies from calibrated glass for interior windows to large fabric covered light fixtures to absorb sound and reduce echoing: Pétale (design by Odile Decq) and Silenzio (design by Monica Armani) produced by Luceplan (lighting design by Dark Tools.

Each floor has its own theme, all these themes are expressed with authenticity through multi sensorial stimulation: raw materials, custom work by local artisans, graffiti and street art works. Colours are bold and fresh, natural and muted or subtle and sophisticated depending on the theme and functioning of the space. Even olfactory stimulation is considered, provided by a cedar clad lounge in which the aroma of the wood encourages relaxation.
The design of Shopify’s office responds to an emerging idea that moves beyond work/life balance to work/life integration where the work environment can be as comfortable as home.
The two large photos below are by Younes Bounhar.

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Smart Working isn’t a fashion.

Despite a “legislative vacuum”, in Italy nearly 50% of the big companies has adopted flexibility-oriented policies (hours and work space, technological equipment, review of the office layout, changes in leadership styles). The big companies, who have started Smart Working projects have increased by 17 % (over 8% in 2014). A further 14% is getting ready for future projects and another 17% has started flexibility polices concerning special roles or requirements. Instead, just a 5% of small-sized enterprises is concerned.

Smart Working isn’t a fashion, but a cultural change requiring a long and deep evolution path. “It means to go beyond the introduction of single tools to create a result-oriented organization, based on trust, assumption of responsibilities, flexibility and collaboration” as explained by Mariano Corso, in charge of Scientific Research of Osservatorio Smart Working.
On the occasion of the conference named “Smart Working: scopriamo le carte!” at Centro Servizi of Banca Popolare di Milano, were presented the results of the study by Osservatorio Smart Working of School of Management of Politecnico di Milano (; a survey carried out on over 240 public and private organizations.

The impassioned speeches of those who told their experience prove that there is not just one formula of smart working, as Fiorella Crespi, Director of Osservatorio Smart Working explains “… it’s necessary to consider one’s specificities and try a consistence with objectives and business strategy to find balances. The subject of the middle management ‘s resistance was repeatedly broached, Philip Vanhoutte of Plantronicsauthor of Smarter Working Manifesto– declares that managers should go back school to learn the instruments of the new leadership modes.
Dynamism and Flexibility are keywords of Smart Working,
in all its possible applications, including also the need for an office layout that can be reconfigured according to the standards of the Activity-Based Office. Ergonomic and comfort-conscious spaces designed to make people want to change. Even the posture, for instance with height-adjustable desks, that have shown considerable benefits in terms of health and prevention, as quoted Ernst Holzapfel of Sedus.
71% of managers think that Coworking is also an opportunity for organized companies, owing to the time/cost reduction of the home-office commuting and the feeling of isolation given by home working. Yet, just 36% of companies considers the Coworking space as one of the possible options. For the employees, the chief barriers to the use of Coworking concern the worry about the security measures of the corporate data (58% of interviewees).
Smart Working Award
The companies in nomination for were: ABB Italia for the project “Lavoro Agile @ABB”, Banca Intesa Sanpaolo for the project “Lavoro Flessibile in Intesa Sanpaolo”, BNL – Gruppo BNP Paribas for the project “Smart Bank”, L’Oréal Italia for the project “Be Smart! Work Smart!” and Siemens for the project “Siemens Office”) the Smart Working Award 2015 the winners are: Intesa San Paolo and Siemens.

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The visionary TeamBank HQ: a new way of working in a bank.

After the Google Office in Tel Aviv and the Google Campus in Dublin, Evolution Design designed the interior design of the new TeamBank HQ’s in Nuremberg, that will host 700 employees. A vibrant workspace, inspired by city planning and designed for the new ways of working and to perfectly convey and integrate the brand’s values through the space.

The new TeamBank HQ’s interior design by Swiss architecture and design studio Evolution Design, had to face the challenge to change the space from a traditional workspace with dedicated desks to a completely new activity-based and smart style of working.

The internal functional organisation of the building, 15.000 sqm created and executed by Baumschlager Eberle and GP Wirth Architekten, recalls the idea of a city: a main staff restaurant and a barista bar with a vibrant “marketplace” feeling, the inner ring of the building as the “Meet & Create Zone” and, around it, the “Homezone”, consisting of several “Homebases”, creating individual local neighbourhoods for the employees to work in. Each “Homebase” consists in an unique mixture of different workplace typologies to cater for the different needs of the employees depending on their daily activities. On the other hand, the “Meet & Create Zone” is the driver for creativity and innovation, including a large number of specially designed different informal areas.
Like in a city, these public areas are all linked together with “parks” and “streets”, spaces in-between designed to encourage a higher frequency of informal and accidental meetings.

Another  important feature of the project is the identity and branding concept. Throughout the building all spaces were designed in order to bring the company’s culture and vision alive, resulting in a workplace where TeamBank and its employees can find an inspiring home, in which they can share their values of fairness, teamwork, transparency and communication every day.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

01. First and Second Floor, Homebase Work Area, Garden Typology.
02. Ground Floor, Barista Bar, Cafe Central.
03. Ground Floor, Restaurant, Eat & Meet, Dining Area.
04. Ground Floor, Homebase Work Area External, Standard Typology.
05. Ground Floor, Meet & Create, Project Area, Lounge.
06. First Floor, Meet & Create, Informal Area, Green Lounge.
07. Second Floor, Meet & Create, Coffee Point, Sunshine Bar.
08. First and Second Floor, Homebase, Meeting Room, Lounge Typology.
09. First and Second Floor, Homebase, Meeting Room, Standard Typology.
10. First and Second Floor, Homebase, Informal Area, Diner Typology.
11. First and Second Floor, Homebase, Informal Area, High Backs Typology.
12. First and Second Floor, Homebase, Informal Area, Dining Table Typology.
Photo credit: TeamBank AG / easyCredit.

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Tag Milan Calabiana: a 8500 sqm coworking campus with labs and swimming pool.

Tag Milan Calabiana is Talent Garden‘s coworking campus located in one of the up-and-coming neigbbourhoods of the town, just close to Fondazione Prada. An 8500 m2 space designed by Carlo Ratti Associati for 400 workstations meant for digital professionals. Not just an open space, but also private rooms, labs, training rooms, cafeteria and … a terrace with swimming pool to work outdoors. Not desks, only, but even english and yoga classes.

The space is one of the biggest of its kind in Europe. Talent Garden has invested €1 million in this Coworking meant for the community of digital innovators and it’s the second one in Milano (a third one will be opened in the Sempione district). It is situated in a suburban and mostly industrial estate, 5 stops only from the Duomo Cathedral, and is now one of liveliest city districts.

Davide Dattoli, AD and co-founder of Talent Garden, calls it an “office cloud” that moves its philosophy from square meters to rent to the concept of membership. he quotes ‘’Looking at the high rates of youth unemployment in the entire Europe, it is important for us to support entrepreneurs and help them discover the future methods of working. Now it is the right time to start innovating the workplace culture. This is what we are currently putting all our energy into. Talent Garden Milan – Calabiana campus will duplicate the number of members in the entire Talent Garden network and bridge Italian ecosystem with the rest of Europe.“

The innovative workspace at the heart of Milan was developed in close collaboration with
Carlo Ratti Associati.
To facilitate the meeting of talent, technology and creativity, the historical building – a former printing house, recently transformed in  a fashion showroom by the entrepreneur Marina Salomon – was completely reshaped.
Carlo Ratti, CEO of Carlo Ratti Associati says: “Technology allows us to put the needs of the human ahead of the machine, and this is revolutionizing both the design of workplaces and their social dynamics. Rather than working from home, self-employed professionals favour common areas to share services and ideas. They demand work environments where they are comfortable. This was our vision while designing the interiors of the new Talent Garden branch in Milan. Calabiana is not only about shared offices: it is a laboratory of ideas, a place to establish new partnerships and become part of an international professional network.“
It is a place of innovation and collaboration, offering the entire infrastructure for creative work and idea manufacturing on 8.500 m². Developed according to guidelines of collaborative design and equipped with the latest technology, the campus aims to foster entrepreneurial interaction and growth.
The campus will host 400 professionals, comprised of freelancers, startups, agencies and large corporations. As corporate coworking demand is now increasing, some of the major players like IBM and Cisco will also establish labs with integrated technologies to be closer to the innovation community. Digital Magics, Italy’s largest publicly traded venture incubator, will join the space as well and take lead on campus startup investments.

Workspaces with smart tools for idea manufacturing and integrated digital technologies turn Talent Garden’s new campus into an accelerator for ideas. Kinect Media Walls, robo administrators and an internal digital platform for communication between members – all are designed for an exceptional experience and to facilitate effective collaboration. The program is rounded off by Tag Cafe, an aperitif area, a rooftop terrace with outdoor activities, a swimming pool, a mini cinema, several event spaces with a total capacity of 1,000 persons and a large open space equipped on the activity based office concepts.
Another feature of the Talent Garden Milan – Calabiana campus are corporate labs, arranged in partnership with companies such as Cisco and IBM. With their integrated digital technologies their aim is the fusion between innovative startups and large multinationals in order to foster the growth of the local ecosystem. The offer of the new branch is completed by the TAG Innovation School which is focussed on reshaping traditional education and teaching emerging skills.

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How to survive in open-space offices.

We are aware of the benefits given by Smart Working and obviously, as proved by the many articles published in WOW!, even in this number, the smart working mode requires a different logic in planning work environments meant as strategic to the company’s growth. It reduces the space reserved for personal use in favour of collaboration, to improve the spontaneous sharing of information.

Non-territorial and activity-based offices imply an open-space layout in most cases, and even if designed by the book, conscious of people’s wellbeing, comfort and privacy requirements, they may raise some major issues among workers.
Especially if the latter are not involved in the change project or informed about the company strategies. This factor was stressed also during the workshop organized by Sedus and IFMA Italia, to understand the characteristics and evolutions of workplaces and furniture for the Smart Working mode.
As explained in Jena McGregor’s interesting articleOffice designers find open-plan spaces are actually lousy for workers. posted on Washington Post “Innovations in the world of office furniture design have tended to serve one of two purposes. Some are designed to help the corporations who pay for them — open-plan offices are supposed to make workers more collaborative, for example, and cubicles or “hotel” desks help save on real estate costs. Then others are designed to help improve workers’ health — like ergonomically designed office seating, balance ball chairs and standing desks”.
The natural “dislike” for the open space isn’t just an Italian problem, as proved by several articles found on International websites that have analyzed the effects of open space on workers and found that the lack of privacy is one of the strongest stress factors. (Talking About a Devolution: The Privacy Crisis in America’s Offices by Ken Ashley of Cushman and Wakefield ) e and suggest some tips to survey “open workplaces hell” Jaquelyn Smith in her article Tips to survey an open space office.” on
With pragmatism and a good dose of sarcasm, Smith proposes 8 solution for what she considers the chief factors of discontent.
1. Take advantage of private conference rooms.
2. Use the golden rule with your colleagues.
3. Don’t invade your neighbour’s territory.
4. Communicate openly.
5. Use a headset and noise cancelling headphones.
6. Be patient.
7. Don’t complain to your boss.
8. Leverage the situation.
Take advantage of the benefits. Keep your eyes and ears open to what’s going on in the company; approach those on the team when it’s a good time; and observe how successful people operate.
Editorial by Renata Sias, editor WOW! Webmagazine.
Plantronics’ smart working office in Paris.