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Incorporating Technology in Modern Workspace Design

  • The BOS workspace
    Merging Technology and Workspace Design
     
    Technology is the perfect complement to physical meeting areas -- an idea that full-service office furniture dealer Business Office Systems (BOS) likes to promote to its customers. Toward that end, the company recently hosted an event at its Roselle, Ill., showroom to showcase how technology fits into modern workspace design.
     
    Incorporating technology into office space design isn’t always how BOS has done things in the more than 70 years it has been in business. But having recognized the need, it responded by creating a Workspace Digital division, which combines design consultancy services with furniture and technology procurement to help clients align and maximize their physical and digital spaces, as BOS CMO George Lucas Pfeiffer told me at the event.
     
    “Technology is worthless if no one is using it,” he said. “That’s why we love dynamic technology and an agile approach to design.”
     
    Through its Workspace Digital program, BOS works with technology partners to show customers the kinds of things they can do in office environments and how they can best use their space. And because work, technology, and workspace trends are constantly changing, BOS puts a strong emphasis on adaptability in its designs. Designs must be adaptable because workspace needs will be different in two to three years, Pfeiffer said.
     
    From the event, I got a good look into how the physical and digital are coming together in modern workspaces. Page through this slideshow to get a better understanding of how these two worlds can be bridged.
  • Workspace design elements
    Looking at Space Elements
     
    Modern offices comprise many different types of spaces, for varying purposes. For a large presentation room like the one shown above, lots of different components come into consideration. To start, for a room of this size, acoustics can be tricky to get right. Acoustic felt is commonly used, but it doesn’t have to be plastered on the wall in boring sheets -- it can be its own form of art. For example, the red pattern against the far wall is acoustic felt, as are the red hanging grid discs.
     
    Lighting is also important in any room design. In fact, according to Pfeiffer, more enterprises today are focusing on employee wellbeing by working to ensure they have access to natural light in workspaces. And ceiling lights, as the above slide shows, don’t need to be traditional canned lights or fluorescents. Lighting can be another way to inject some artistic design into any workspace.
     
    Walls are another factor. Trendy modular glass walls, for example, can create acoustic headaches. And of course, furniture placement and room layout impacts lighting and acoustics as well, so it’s important to know how all these elements fit together and impact one another.
  • Bluescape ideation system
    Ideating with Flexibility
     
    At the event, BOS showcased several technology partners. One such partner, Bluescape, a collaborative workspace company borne out of office furniture maker Haworth in 2013, demoed its immersive ideation system. When placed on a stand with wheels, a Bluescape ideation system is movable from one meeting or presentation room to another -- providing that adaptability aspect Pfeiffer referenced.
     
    The ideation system Bluescape showcased at the event featured a Webcam for video calls with remote meeting participants and a touchscreen display. The PC component was tucked away on the back of the display so there were no separate boxes or cables to manage. (Separately, Bluescape just announced that it has extended its partnership with Dell, and will now use its newest interactive touchscreen monitors. This will bring down the price point on its systems, Bluescape said.)
  • Digital signage
    Bringing Workspace Signage into the Digital Realm
     
    Signage is important in any enterprise, helping businesses to promote their culture, welcome guests, and communicate with their employees and office visitors. Signage is also useful for branding and customizing a space.
     
    By going the digital signage route, businesses can be just as adaptable as the spaces they’re working to design. A business can regularly swap out the messaging on digital signage so whatever is most important at the moment is on display.
     
    Many modern ideation and conferencing room system allow their displays’ use as digital signage when no meeting is in progress. This allows for cost-effective technology investments with assets that serve a dual purpose. As Pfeiffer said, it’s not so much about what technology brands you use, but how you use the products.
  • Boardroom table with wireless charging
    Upgrading the Boardroom
     
    We talk about meeting room technology all the time here on No Jitter, and many of those discussions of late are about making the technology work with the physical environment. While collaboration systems like the wall-mounted display in this slide are part of this, they’re not the only consideration.
    Room design must effectively account for speakers and mics so that no matter where an individual might be in the room, he or she can participate in the meeting. You also want to make sure that remote participants can hear everything everyone is saying.
     
    Another interesting consideration for the modern boardroom revolves around incorporating technology into the furniture. For example, in the room pictured above, the table features embedded wireless charging areas, from ChargeSpot. These allow participants to charge their phone and tablet devices during a meeting without needing to plug in.
     
    While modular glass walls make acoustics more challenging to manage, as I mentioned earlier, they do enable a business to change room sizes as needed.
  • Framery phone booth
    Hopping in the Phone Booth
     
    As modern workspaces continue to move toward open office design, the need for huddle spaces grows. Framery, showcased at the event, creates pods, or phone booths, that provide private spaces for open office environments, as shown above. In fact, the founders came up with the idea for the company based on their work experience: Two coded all day, while the third was constantly on the phone and disrupting their work. The two coders jokingly told him he should go to the North Pole to take his calls, and he countered: “Make me a phone booth.”
     
    Framery designed the pods, which feature custom furniture that includes a power outlet built into the table, to let natural light through glass walls. The pods aren’t completely soundproof, but when sitting inside one, most of the outside noise is blocked out. Framery wants just enough sound to come through so that you’re not entirely cut off from the environment around you, but enough of the sound blocked to allow you to focus on your call or meeting, as a company representative told me at the event. The walls are lined with acoustic felt so you’re not sitting in an echo chamber, and each pod has lighting and fans for ventilation.
     
    While that’s me sitting in the Q model, Framery also makes a larger pod -- the Q2 -- that accommodates a table and five people, as well as a smaller pod -- the O -- that’s just for one person.
  • Yulio VR demo
    Visualizing in VR
     
    Technology can come in handy when working on workspace designs, too. BOS, for example, uses Yulio virtual reality technology to demo room designs to clients. The Yulio platform enables designers to share their ideas in an immersive way. They can upload their designs into the platform and virtually walk clients through the different components, annotating on top of them in real time.
     
    Yulio’s platform also enables remote demos, using a Webcam and built-in communications capabilities.
  • Freespace for Workplace  Fabric
    Freeing Up Some Space
     
    Especially for larger office buildings, finding open rooms for employees to gather for collaborative work or meetings can be somewhat tricky. But sensor technology and the Internet of Things is changing the game. At the event, BOS showcased one of its Workspace Digital partners working in this area, Freespace by Workplace Fabric.
     
    Freespace sensors monitor room occupancy and employee engagement. Via a digital display, as shown in the above picture, employees and other office visitors can get a look at which meeting areas are open for use and which are occupied. Businesses can then run analytics on this Freespace data to better understand how space is being used. If the data shows that a large conference room is rarely used but an open collaboration space is always busy, for example, the business could make design changes and adapt the space to better suit needs, Pfeiffer explained.
  • Office environmentals
    It’s the Little Things
     
    While it’s easy to think about the impact of larger investments in office environments like seating, walls, and technology, don’t forget about the finer details. Little things can have a big impact on how employees feel in a space, which in turn impacts their productivity levels.
     
    In walking around the BOS showroom, I noticed several smaller things that make a big difference in how the environment feels. For example, the building’s windows feature displays showing some of the designs the team is working on, as seen in the upper-left corner. From inside the building, however, you can’t even tell anything is on the windows because the signage is on special perforated material that’s designed not to be visible from the inside and to let in natural light.
     
    In the top-right corner of the above slide, there’s a plant. A cutesy sign on it reads, “Hi! I look forward to helping purify your air every day!” This is another element that serves a dual purpose -- the plant purifies the air and it serves as a design element by bringing some fresh greenery into the workspace, which can help boost employee mood.
     
    Finally, stretching across the bottom of the slide is a large mural that BOS has in the center of its showroom. To BOS, it signifies the company’s commitment to helping businesses find their path through the forest. Details like this can help reinforce company culture and goals. In fact, all these little details can make a big difference to the employees working in the space, Pfeiffer said.
  • WorkSpace Connect logo
    Attend WorkSpace Connect
     
    Prepare for the future enterprise workspace at WorkSpace Connect, coming to Dallas, Texas, in September. WorkSpace Connect 2019 is the place for enterprise teams to learn how to harmonize technology with the spaces, policies, and practices that surround modern employee work styles. Register with discount code NJPOSTS to save $200 off the Advance Rate!

A snapshot of how modern offices that bridge technology with physical spaces can have maximum impact for businesses and their employees