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New trends from Worktech17: Living Office, co-design and IoT.

A self-learning space, open-designed for the future needs, based on the individual experience and wellbeing. This is the way of designing that was debated at the forum Worktech 2017, among leader companies as Herman Miller and Interface and architecture firms like Carlo Ratti Associati, Zaha Hadid Architects and Studio Banana.

The office must follow the life that takes place in it. That’s the core of the Herman Miller’s seven provocations, seven statements thought to guide the discussion between designers and companies, and based on the last company’s research “Living Office”, presented at Worktech17, one of the worldwide most important forum dedicated to real estate, technology and innovation. The study has involved anthropologists, psychologists and designers in a new holistic approach to the workplace, aiming to define the facts we need to understand when we think about today’s ways of working.

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One of these provocations states: “we feel before we think”. The environment has a great impact on us, therefore it is the main feature we have to take care of. It must be a living environment, where communication takes constantly place (quoting a provocation, “you + me = 3”) in a “wonderful mess” that facilitate creativity and innovation.

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Ulrich Blum, from Zaha Hadid Architects, has given a really good insight during his speech “The self-learning workplace”, describing a way of designing that starts from the use of IoT and sensors to collect data about the habits of every employee. “We have to think about the office as a “living network” Blum said. The data are divided in different parameters as distance, visibility and lighting, in order to give to designers the right knowledges to create a space that fits with the needs of every single person living in the workplace, optimizing the desk arrangement, the communication, the use of working time and the disposition of different environments. Furthermore, datas give the opportunity, using the generated algorithms, for creating more effective team works and arrange them in an ideal workplace. “The idea is to enhance the hierarchy of the office as it really is, and not as it is in the boss’s mind. We have to join furniture and artificial intelligence in order to increase the flexibility the furniture can give us”, Blum concludes.

As we can already see, technology is crucial in nowadays office, even though, quoting another provocation, “we have to forget about it”, meaning it has to be like a comfortable shoe: we have to perfectly walk in it, without feeling anything. As Marco Maria Pedrazzo, by Carlo Ratti Associates, said, exposing the firm’s research about the “technological management of the workplace”, “technology has to create a resilient environment. We have to change our perspective: it is the environment that has to adapt to us, not us to the environment. We have to design as we are designing 20 years ahead, and the only way to do that is making experiments, trying prototypes and see how people react to them“.

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Even though it seems in contrast with Herman Miller’s provocation “The next thing isn’t for you”, it isn’t, because innovation must be based on the company’s culture, and design must fit with the actual ways of working and corporate policy of each situation, but at the same time it has to be open-designed, giving the chance of being reinvented in the future, following the evolution of the company itself and of the times.
Something too ahead, in fact, can scare people, while innovation has to generate engagement, fulfilment and happiness.

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Key Portilla, from Studio Banana, suggested some interesting approach, like co-design sessions, where managers and employee are an active part in the workplace’s construction or restyling, or university-campus-like offices, based on a different environment that supports different states of mind and activity.

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Finally, even in a new tech-workspace, nature can be the secret of a happy and stress-free office. Oliver Heath, from Interface, has talked about “biophilic design“, meaning the need to recreate the “sense of nature“, enhancing the presence of real natural elements, like light, plants and water, or a reference to them, using colors, patterns and materials that help to recreate visually and emotionally the feeling of really being in a natural environment.
Report by Mario Colombo (Herman Miller), editing by Gabriele Masi.

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Will technology create happy workplaces?

Augmented reality, cloud services, wearable devices, IoT: these are the four technologies that are changing our ways of working and living, and these are the tools we can use to start to build a happy office: they increase our ability to manage our time, our relationships, the environment we live in, our professional growth. These are the main findings of the research i-Enjoy by Sedus, presented with the app se:connects for agile and smart working spaces.

Technology can give a crucial support in the office, either it is “passive”, meaning as a tool for a better environmental comfort, either “active”, for an implementation of the working activities. Technology really has several advantages like a better organization of the working time and space and a better “ergonomics” of the intellectual work, leaving all the repetitive stuff to the machines and leaving to the humans the creative part”, Daniele Andriolo of Plantronics says in the main interview of the Sedus’ s study i-Enjoy. “But we have to be careful that the massive data we continuously collect, won’t let us lose the sight of what really counts”, he concludes.

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The fast development of technology in the working spaces is rapidly changing our working culture, making employees a more active part in the organizations that, on the other hand, has increasingly focused on the individual wellbeing.
If talking about happiness at work means also talking about engagement, fulfilment and empowerment, therefore technology can have a key role to turn the office in a place where a big part of our happiness can be pursued.
Already nowadays we can see augmented reality tools or cloud servers creating a faster and more transparent communication, while dedicated apps and software as Happify Health or Awesome Boss take care of the people, giving to employees tools to motivate themselves or to effectively manage the teamwork.

Space and time are very much affected by the technology and most of all architecture and design. New concepts like “environmental happiness” leads to build spaces that are easy to control in every aspect: heating, lighting, planning, scheduling,… On the other hand, IoT and wearable devices are perfect to collect useful data, intercepting and elaborating people’s preferences, and helping to design offices that are capable of satisfying employees’ needs.

A good example is the Sedus’s app se:connects, especially designed for helping to solve some of the main problems of the changing towards agile and smart ways of working: using their smartphone, employees can easily find a free workstation, register their position and be able to find their colleagues. These data are collected in a complete and updated report that gives all the information to optimize the usage of the space, making the company and the workers both happier.
Text by Gabriele Masi.

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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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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

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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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