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Onward and Upward

The growth of the collaborative concept has caused individual workspaces to shrink, forcing manufacturers to offer more versatile, mobile products that allow designers to build up, rather than out.

By AnnMarie Martin

The growth of the collaborative concept has caused individual workspaces to shrink, forcing manufacturers to offer more versatile, mobile products that allow designers to build up, rather than out.

As Interiors & Sources reported back in January, the open office plan is now (and has been for some time) the dominant choice for corporate spaces. A recent benchmark survey done by CoreNet Global, a worldwide association for corporate real estate and workplace professionals, has backed up our research with some interesting findings.

By 2017, at least 40 percent of the more than 465 global managers of corporate real estate that responded to the CoreNet survey indicated that their individual space utilization will reach an all-time low of 100 square feet or less within the next five years. Fifty-five percent of respondents reported that square footage per worker has already decreased between 5 and 25 percent over the last five years.

“The main reason for the declines is the huge increase in collaborative and team-oriented space inside a growing number of companies that are stressing ‘smaller but smarter’ workplaces against the backdrop of continuing economic uncertainty and cost containment,” says Richard Kadzis, CoreNet Global’s vice president of strategic communications.

So what does this mean to today’s modern worker? Kadzis’ answer is no surprise when he states that “… they use unassigned space when they are in the office, settings that often change daily. This trend is enabled by technology and by cost measures, as they require smaller footprints.”

Consequently, these smaller footprints are requiring designers to pack more (and more versatile) offerings into an even more compact square. While occupants might not be reporting to a specific cubicle on a daily basis anymore, their needs remain the same: storage, desktop space and easy outlet access. Here’s how some manufacturers are finding new ways to meet them.

This is perhaps the most obvious of solutions. Nesting tables and chairs will need to step up to the plate in the coming years, as they will not only have to offer up super-efficient storage capabilities, but they’ll also have to meet a variety of uses, going from the conference room to smaller, impromptu desk-side meetings.

The Odis table from Versteel offers a worksurface for any environment. Its lightweight frame has dovetail, passive link glides for ease of movement. It comes in adult (29-inch) and youth (23-inch) heights, and optional personal storage can be added to each table. It can also be linked to an existing configuration.

Jiminy™ nesting seating from National Office, previewing at NeoCon 2012, can be used “anywhere you need 2 to 200 chairs,” says Nick Blessinger, National Office’s marketing communications manager. This chair is highly mobile and smartly flips, folds and nests conveniently with adjustable arm depths and a mesh flex back.

building up, not out
As the space around us shrinks, there’s nowhere to go but up. Products that can grow incrementally are ideally suited to address this trend.

With the Exhibit wall rail solution from National Office, existing walls and columns are transformed into useful office space. Various inserts, slat walls and work tools, marker and tack boards are available, and can support National’s WaveWorks worksurfaces and overhead cabinets. The rail, along with tackable and marker board inserts, can be field-scribed for a custom fit.

OFS Brands has developed a new table mechanism, conceived from the same technology used for power windows in the auto industry, that raises them from occasional to conference level. Integrated into the First Office “Intermix” line, these tables are also scheduled to launch at this year’s NeoCon show.

The Priority line from Kimball Office gives designers the option to build “out,” if necessary. “Kimball Office’s goal was to develop a simple kit of parts that were available in 6-inch width and depth increments so they were dimensionally compatible with our Xsite, Cetra and Interworks EQ panel systems,” says Jay Henriott, senior product designer for Kimball Office.

Table frames can accommodate 24-, 30-, or 36-inch tops; 48- or 60-inch frames can accommodate 48- or 60-inch single tops, two 24-inch, or two 30-inch back-to-back tops. Stanchion frames can accommodate two 24- or 30-inch tops divided by tackable privacy screens, shared shelving or overhead cabinets. Movable privacy screens that adjust in 1-inch increments from 12 to 16 inches are also available, as well as an optional center stanchion for benching that supports overhead storage and offers visual privacy with acoustical tackable or slat tiles.

“Compact efficiency” is the key with the Rover series from Versteel. Turn personal workstations into all-in-one mobile offices by adding modesty screens, paper management trays and additional shelves to one or any combination of its four products: Rover Pup™, Rover Computer™, Rover Utility™ and Rover Daddy™. The series offers single-wheeled locking casters standard on all models, so a room can be transitioned from an office space to a conference room at a moment’s notice.

Storage space is offered on the lower shelf for computer products. Wire management ships standard with all Rover products and all can be ordered with the company’s Henri power source.

centralized storage
With shrinking individual workspaces, storage is moving towards a more centralized system or “high school locker philosophy,” says Mike Wagner, senior vice president of sales and marketing for OFS Brands. Products that can bridge this gap from private office or cubicle to open plan and touchdown areas will find the most favor with designers in the future.

Epic™ from National Office is one line poised to take advantage of the shift; it features an epicenter that facilitates data and electrical and organizational tools for collaborative spaces, while also providing seated height visual privacy. It also provides unique organization tools such as sliding project shelves and doors.