Cologne, Germany - The growth in knowledge-based and project work, new communications structures and shifts in demographics are changing the modern working environment. The rapid advance of technology is also having a direct effect on office configuration. From 23rd to 27th October, ORGATEC 2012 will present the latest trends and solutions for the office of tomorrow in Cologne. Additionally, the ORGATEC trend forum will focus on the working environment, with new speakers every day and reports on examples of international best practices and global trends.

Collaboration-friendly workplace concepts

Knowledge-based work is becoming more important and generating more communications and project work as a consequence. A cooperation-friendly configuration of office space is therefore essential. It’s a matter of inspiring the employees and encouraging them to communicate and share their knowledge, while also promoting a sense of well-being. A mega-trend theme is the use of open-plan solutions, with separate partitioned-off work zones, creative meeting points and state-of-the-art conference technology. These concepts, which will change the workplace of the future, will be some of the highlights in Cologne. New, modern “open spaces” — in which there will be nothing left to remind one of the familiar, sterile open-plan office — will be characterised by individual zones that are adaptable to the specific tasks of the employees. Whether it’s sofas in an area partitioned off for some quiet “chilling”, cubicles for telephoning or acoustically protected zones for concentrated work — ORGATEC will present the latest developments from the leaders in the sector and will address this important theme at the trend forum. For example, on 25th October executive officers of

well-known planning and consulting associations, including a representative from the ver.di labour union, will discuss the pros and cons of the open-plan office concept.

Wonderfully changeable and open to the world

In order to keep up with the rapid dissolution of rigid office solutions, office furniture manufacturers are offering furniture that is more and more flexible and transformable. That’s why room modules are a trend theme at ORGATEC, for example. Freestanding, self-supporting, and insulating users against noise, they can divide the office into zones and areas by means of movable walls or shelves — all without making any modifications to the structure of the building. Panelling, boxes, shelves, tables, lamps, etc. can be distributed along both sides, for example. Foldable tables, electrical outlet modules and containers on wheels add variety to the daily office routine.

Digitisation is speeding up

In the age of digitisation and networks, the office workplace is becoming increasingly mobile. “50 per cent of my communications take place using video,” says Stefan Keuchel, media spokesman for Google Deutschland. With a few clicks, a person can connect with any of Google’s other video conference rooms around the world. This development has an effect on the configuration and organization of the office. The office in your pocket via smartphone, iPod and tablet PC isn’t really compatible with permanent, inflexible office structures. That's why many manufacturers at ORGATEC are addressing the question of how this modern technology can be integrated into project work and spontaneous meetings that are often short. Standing tables, lounge chairs and the like are becoming temporary workstations. Media walls that provide shared access to Web 2.0 applications or other data sources are already becoming a part of office routine. This development also includes new software solutions, displays and meeting tools. One state-of-the-art exhibit in Cologne is a video conference system that combines innovative design with the latest high-tech materials — and it’s ready to plug in. Rapid developments in technology require different work cycles and flexible solutions. That's more than enough reason for ORGATEC to illuminate the theme “Media Technology” in detail in its own competence centre.

Demographics: old and young — a strong team

By 2060 about one out of two Germans will be 65 or older. In comparison to 2008, that means up to 34 per cent fewer people who are of working age. At the same time, people are already working beyond their 65th year. So it’s even more important that the workplace of the future be able to accommodate the differences between young and old — to bring experience together with entrepreneurship and élan so that meaningful synergies emerge and mixed teams feel motivated and work well in the same environment. It’s particularly important to maintain the health and well-being of the employees over the long term and make use of their potential for the good of the company. The exhibitors at ORGATEC will address this need by showing ergonomic and orthopaedically healthy seating furniture. Permanently flexible support membranes make different sitting positions possible, and fine adjustments allow for individualized comfort. Just how “athletic” it can be at the office is demonstrated at ORGATEC with dynamic seating furniture and table systems with adjustable heights. They promote a healthy balance of movement in the office. This is based on occupational physicians’ recommendation of the “ergonomic formula”: a person should only spend a maximum of 50% of his or her working time sitting; the rest of the time should be spent standing (25%) and moving around (25%). The new “standing/sitting table” makes this possible.

Working in the right light

Contrary to popular belief, the workplaces of younger employees are not much different from those of their more experienced colleagues. A central role is played by lighting, however. In order to maintain a steadily high level of performance, it is important that the workplace be optimally lit. For older employees, it’s best to provide 850 lux of illumination in place of the more standard 500 lux, and the addition of asymmetrical work lighting is also a useful idea. "80 to 90 per cent of the information we take in we perceive visually. Glare or other optical disturbances mean that some of our performance capacity is being used to compensate for these problems," asserts Christian Bartenbach, founder of the renowned Bartenbach LichtLabor (light laboratory) in Austria. As a cooperating

partner of the “Lighting Competence Centre”, Bartenbach’s lighting professionals will present the latest results of their illumination research at ORGATEC 2012. The leading manufacturers of lighting solutions will also be on hand in Cologne to display their exciting innovations.

Feelings of well-being in the absence of disturbing noises

Acoustical planning is also playing an increasingly important role in office configuration and design. That’s because good acoustics have a direct effect on concentration, performance and health. Noise reduction and acoustics are among the “must-haves” in the new office and are an mportant theme at the trade fair in Cologne. Adjustable textile coverings are an example of this trend. These are integrated seamlessly into every office configuration, where they swallow up uncomfortable ambient noise. Sound-absorbing surfaces, which can be fitted to tables for example, damp down the volume of conferences and help to reduce reverberation and echo effects in open offices. Acoustic panels — cleverly designed as large-format picture walls — look good while creating a better acoustical atmosphere. The latest developments on this theme will be presented at ORGATEC. Additionally, the “Acoustics Competence Centre” will make the basics of room acoustics easy to comprehend under the heading “Understanding Acoustics?!”

Motivate with colour and design

In general, a comfortable working environment ensures high-quality performance and promotes creativity. Because they influence the senses, colour, materials and design affect employees’ feelings of well-being and are therefore an important factor in the “psychosocial” design of the working environment. “Colour and materials are being used in very deliberate ways in the design of new office buildings these days,” say the independent lecturers Dr. Jürgen Glaser and Dr. Britta Herbig. “They are also used to delineate the character of different zones — for example, to emphasize the difference between areas for concentrated work or communication and reception zones.” In particular, the colour schemes that are available for plastic panels open up an El Dorado of possibilities. Whether it’s cool teal, lush leaf green, powerful ochre hues, intense berry colours or pastel purples — Orgatec will present all of the latest trends in colours and the effects they have on the office environment.

Technically sophisticated

Along with aesthetics, high tech is especially important when it comes to seating furniture and office chairs. Therefore, the office professionals at ORGATEC will be showing completely new possibilities, such as the use of “space-frame technology” borrowed from the automobile industry. Examples include seat and back frames as well as the leg joints of chairs that are thermoformed from thin sheet steel and then welded together by robots. The result is an ideal union of flexible comfort, load-bearing strength, and a chair that is robust — all this with economical use of materials and a total weight of only about 5 kg! In order to do justice to the visual aspects of the modern office environment, design and ergonomics are merging more and more to become one thing. For this reason more wood veneers and simulated wood surfaces are being used in the office, bringing it a more liveable feel. Alongside the new wood surfaces, plastic and metal surfaces will also play a role in Cologne. All of these materials have been engineered to withstand every kind of office “acid test”. For example, the surfaces of a work station that has a computer monitor should not cause glare or be too shiny, too bright or too dark. Any mirroring or reflections are taboo. At the same time, modern work tables and office cabinets easily take abrasions, scratch marks, heat and chemical stress in stride. They are also hygienic and easy to care for, but despite all this they are also attractive in their design.

Sustainability is required

Another important aspect at ORGATEC 2012 is the theme of environmental protection. In addition to aesthetics and tactile considerations, recyclable materials, products with a long service life and furniture that doesn’t have chemical additives are more and more in focus. Along with reducing waste and cutting down on water consumption, furniture manufacturers are saving measurable amounts of electricity and chemicals. Production methods that protect resources, environmentally friendly materials and forward-looking logistical planning are increasingly becoming the standard for leading office product companies. Among the themes in focus at ORGATEC are CO2 neutrality, wooden materials from sustainable forestry, water-based finishes, products that at the end of their service life can be separated

according to types of material, natural product labelling, health, and emission-free materials. The certified environmental management system that fulfils the requirements of DIN EN ISO 14.001 is also spotlighted. ORGATEC will present numerous examples of the theme of sustainability and will highlight the latest developments in the sector.

Once again this year, ORGATEC will present numerous exciting innovations and a comprehensive portfolio for the world of office and facility furnishings.

Source: Koelnmesse

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