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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.

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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.

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Body, Mind and Environment: a 3D wellness in the office.

If anyone has to pick up a concept to sum up the nowadays evolution of the workplace, he would choose “feeling good”. As the biopsychosocial model has become used to defined wellness and health, the environment has been understood to have a fundamental role in shaping the different dimensions of employees’ well-being: physical, psychological and social.

Do you want to improve the level of well-being of the employees working in your company? Start from the environment they live in. The environment, infact, as also the OMS has recognized, highly affects the physical, mental and social state of humans. In the office design, as well, this concept has become essential to build the scaffold of a healthy and productive working ecosystem.

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Bio
Today’s office design is taking a step forward, in order to keep the workers healthy and therefore more productive. Problems and diseases of the musculoskeletal system due to wrong, long-lasting sitting positions, for example, are prevented by dynamic ways of working, agile workstations, sit-stand working desks, or unusual seats like the Technogym’s wellness ball or the ones that Kinnarps has presented at the last Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair.

Also, the arrival of the IoT has played a fundamental role, helping to improve the quality of the air, the lighting and heating system, allowing also to personalize them through personal smartphones.
Moreover, other services in the office are thought to encourage the employee to take care of themselves: company restaurants with healthy menus and fully equipped gyms come along with wellness rooms and dedicated doctor’s appointment.

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Psychic
If you’ve never heard about happiness at work at work, probably you have been in another planet for the last years. The working environment and HR management get inspiration from the marketing and advertising industries as “creator of experiences”, while it resembles more and more to a theme park, where anyone can try fun and different things. The keyword is “human experience”, a mix of engagement, fulfillment, and empowerment, capable of successfully leading the company through the future challenges.

A new interesting trend comes from the new findings from neuroscience that have brought in the office a new concept of equipped relax areas, music, and spaces capable of reducing stress and facilitate concentration, even in noisy and dynamic open spaces.

Hoofddorp, 19th of March 2017 – Plantronics office. Photo: Mats van Soolingen

Social
Casual meeting as the occasion of new and original ideas. The office design aims to increase the chance of encounter among employees (in-between, break and informal meeting areas) and between the inside and the outside of the company (co-working spaces attracts external professionals while more frequently curious customers visit the exhibition spaces, attend classes or use the services offered by the company’s environment).

The symbol of the social experience of the workplace is the ever-present foosball table and the Dutch Plantronics office’s rehearsal room, while couches, armchairs and kitchen spaces enhance the home-feeling that a working space nowadays has to give. A good work-life balance, at last, helps to live more easily the working environment experience: company’s kindergartens, pets in the office, agile and smart working strategies are just some examples of the more and more blurred boundaries between office and private life.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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Real Estate and the Human Experience in the office.

The workplace is more than a property, is a living ecosystem, where numerous experiences take place. The study by JLL (Jones Lang LaSalle’s brand name)Workplace powered by Human Experience” underlines three most important drivers: Engagement, Fulfilment and Empowerment. Real Estate is confirmed to be a powerful changing factor, leading a company through the present and future challenges.

“As workplace strategy moves from practical, design-based decision making to a more experience-led approach, expect an overlap with functions that have traditionally been the domain of HR teams. This will impact workspace design and decision-making”, with these words Marie Puybaraud, Global Head of Research di JLL Corporate Solutions, comments on their report “Workplace powered by Human Experience”.

The research was run over 40 client companies and 7.300 people (age 18-65), in 12 different countries: Australia, China, France, Germany, italy, Japan, India, Netherlands, South Africa, Spain, U.S.A. and Great Britain.

The study has found that there are three priorities to drive the change: Engagement, Empowerment and Fulfilment. Engagement means fostering a sense of commitment and creating mutual trust and kindness. Empowerment, instead, is about giving people a sense of control in their working environment and the opportunity to take the initiative, while fulfilment can be achieved making sure work feels comfortable “beyond the surface level of happiness”, giving the chance to grow professionally in a challenging environment.

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Some key findings of the research are that spaces dedicated to collaboration and teamwork have the strongest impact on productivity, that agility improve performance, and that effectiveness is linked to a low density in the workplace.
The innovative offices are the ones that offer a mixture of collaborative and community spaces, support services and creative environments. Additionally, 28% of the companies provide an incubator, a dedicated space enabling colleagues and external talent to develop personal projects while making use of the company infrastructure, support and advice.

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70% of the interviewed people agree that happiness at work is the key ingredient for a good human experience, while the 54% see positively Chief Happiness Officer should be fully devoted to employee wellbeing. While large corporations are still attractive, employees crave an entrepreneurial culture: 46% of employees aspire to work in a start-up environment.
“A workplace that is powered by the human experience goes beyond a work-life balance” Marie Puybaraud concludes. “It drives how people feel about their place of work. How empowered, engaged and fulfilled they are, it’s the purposeful fusion of life and work based on authentic human experiences”.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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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”.

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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.

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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.

 

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Adjustable height desks require a new office design.

Adjustable height desks are becoming more and more popular and soon they are gonna be the new standard in the office. The Gensler’s interior designer Amie Keener has defined them a new challenge for the workplace design that has to rethink the space in order to include these agile, dynimc and “well-being oriented” workstations in the best way.

“Sitting-standing” desks, as any other innovation in the beginning, offer indisputable benefits, has we already talked about, but they also need some change to give their best.
The downsides, has we are going to see, are not about the object itself, but problems that can be easily solved with a different office design, capable to give an answer and integrate all the new working environment’s trends like flexibility, smart, activity based, hybrid, sharing.
Amie Keener, on the magazine GenslerOn, has counterposed the ergonomic, physical and psychological benefits of the dynamic posture (that supports a flexible use of the workstations and helps to prevent health problems) with some downsides, she has personally experienced in her everyday’s office life, mostly linked to wires and power sources, noise and eyesight.

First of all, Amie Keener had to deal with length of wires problems and the need of having the power sources in the proximity of the desk. This, of course, has a strong impact on the position of the desk in the space: motorized adjustable desks and mobile devices, as laptop, needs power to work properly. So, as the designer said, it is useful “to consider a neat wire management spine or enclose to hide wires and cords”.
An interesting issue is the relationship between adjustable height desks and acoustic comfort. In fact the acoustic design of the space need to be changed, because an higher position requires different solutions to avoid the voices and the noises of the office to disturb.
Dealing with a new position of the subject in the space, it is necessary to rethink the partitions and the dispositions of the workstation and of the sound absorption elements.
The last problem Amie Keener has pointed out is the terrible eyesight given by a messy high desks, striking more at a glance due to the fact that it is closer to eye level than a standard desk height.
“Even the most elegant workspaces can quickly come resemble barely organised pig sites”, she writes.
That’s why adjustable height desks require an higher level of responsibility from the workers, something, however, that is  already required by the new ways of working, that are based on the concept of space and object’s sharing.
As also Keener has to admit, adjustable height desks are growing more and more popular in the office, and they are becoming the standard that the office design and the management need to consider in order to create spaces where they can be perfectly integrated.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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“Agile”, even working at your own desk.

Movement is the elixir of our life, and it’s a source of wellbeing and health also at the office. That’s what the Michele De Lucchi’s installation “The Walkmaintains and is proved by several studies showing how unhealthy immobility is and the physical and mental advantages of a dynamic posture, starting from the desk, which should be of the “sitting-standing” type according to ergonomists.

Prolonged sitting is a risk factor for all: people who sit for 11 hours or more a day are 40 percent more likely to die over the next three years. Of course, no doubt,  gym, walking, swimming, cycling, outdoor pursuits… but what can we do during the about eight hours a day on the job?
An office organized by activity settings proves to be healthier compared to the one keeping us stuck in front of a worktop, and those companies supplied with gyms, yoga areas and gym teachers offer their employees much more than a relaxing break; the same applies for companies, the offices of which are furnished with “sitting standing” desks, which is not yet so popular in Italy but quite widespread and even compulsory in several European countries, where Wellbeing Awareness is more deep-seated ( WOW! posted an article about sit-stand desks at Orgatec).
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(Caption upper photo: USM Kitos)
The quality of life can start from the desk: “We improve your life” is the motto of Linak a world leader in electric linear actuator (desk top height adjustment equipments).

Better safe than sorry, as they say, and health benefits (blood circulation, drainage, muscle strengthening,bone and skeletal systems..) coming from a sitting-standing posture are definitely proved.

UNI Rule EN 527-1:2011
There is a UNI rule still valid, yet rules are voluntary and maybe an incentive to make companies aware of this theme could be useful. The newest release of the European standard EN 527-1:2011 “Office furniture — Work tables and desks Part 1: Dimensions” replaces the previous edition EN 527-1:2000.
The EN 527-1:2011 specifies dimensions of work tables and desks for office tasks to be undertaken in a seated, a sit stand or standing position.
Compared to the previous edition the new standard updates the sizes of desks taking account the technological progress of PCs, now all flat screen (and no longer CRT), which allows to get office desks with depth significantly lower.
The standard divides the desks classifying them into four types:
Type A: height adjustable (the height can be changed anytime by the user
Type B: height selectable (the height can be adapted to the user at installation)
Type C: fixed height
Type D: height adjustable or selectable, with limited range of adjustment

The EN 527-1:2011 also introduces the concept of “sit standing desk” allowing the user to vary between standing and sitting position during the working day and obviate to spend several hours sited. This type of height adjustable desks are mostly used in the northern Europe.
The new release also presents new requirements, room available for legs has been increased with more freedom of movement or, regarding desks with fixed height, that height is raised.
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Walking …at your desk.
Why just stand at your desk when you can walk? A walking/working posture should be healthier than standing still… The answer is a ridiculous treadmill desk. It’s not a joke, a Canadian research reported in the journal Computers in Human Behavior shows that treadmill desk has a beneficial effect on attention and memory. A good solution to save your fitness center admission fee!

Status and dynamic vision also for the executive table( lower photos).
Element, designed by Foster + Partners for Unifor, is a board meeting of great elegance that responds to a more dynamic vision for the executive workplace. For the manager who does not like the static, it provides the twice use as large round desk or conference table, both allow the standing or sitting posture. The height adjustment of the heavy desk top sets magically pressing a hidden button.

Reconfigurability on four wheels.

Flexibility, space saving and teamwork are key concepts in Smart Working, in Conference Centers, in hotels, in Coworking, in “third places” and wherever is banned everything that is static.

Flexible space needs primarily a flexible Way Of Thinking and an “agile” corporate culture. In this approach furnishings become the instrument to implement Ways Of Working which refuse stillness. Modularity and wheels are foundamental requirements to furnish an easily reconfigurable and flexible conference room. To effectively answer to time and space saving and easy mobility needs, it is also important to chose a folding table system that ensure the speed and ease use and the ability to store it in small spaces. Archimedes system by Ibebi Design allows greater functionality of the meeting room because no special personnel is required to set up, break down, or move the table. Company Promo by Ibebi Design

Archimede System, by Ibebi Design (Design by Angelo Pinaffo). Folding and easily moveable tables to rapidly create functional working areas. The various forms, measurements and finishings available have been studied to adapt to all space and furnishing requirements.