June 20, 2017
NeoCon 2017: Flexible Tech-friendly Solutions Dominate the Show Floor
As predicted, NeoCon 2017 was a virtual fantasyland of possibilities in commercial design. One consistent theme was flexibility, which was demonstrated through the prevalence of open work spaces. Another overarching theme, which I noticed, was tech-friendliness, evident through features from smart cord management to charging hubs integrated with conference tables. A less tangible but undeniable trend: the blurring of lines between home and office. And last but not least, shrinkage was consistent among different types of work spaces.
Flexibility in office furnishings in 2017 covered a few broad categories:
- Flexibility to sit or stand: Sit/stand desks are gradually becoming the norm, as opposed to a fixed sitting or standing position.
- Flexibility to adjust furniture for different scenarios on the fly: Desk groupings where two sides face each other and are separated by a partition now allow the pocketed partition to disappear when the two sides need to meet for discussion. The space once occupied by files has also evolved into storage spaces for things like backpacks, gym gear and snacks within individual desk areas.
- Going both ways: Reversible chairs have made their appearance. They boast a ledge on which folks can rest a coffee or tablet or lean on for conversation, and the chairs can be swiveled around so that the ledge becomes the back of the chair.
Tech-friendliness has become a necessity:
- What a tangled web you no longer have to weave! Integrated cord management means that the nest of cords once inherent in desktop computer setups are no longer an issue. Hardware channels designed to house and separate cords make connecting and reconfiguring a breeze.
- Hubs of activity: Conference room tables large and small are now designed with the varying power needs of users in mind. No need to worry about charging your mobile device before coming to meetings — power hubs now provide a selection of standard power plugs to keep you going even through the longest meetings.
- The truly connected desk: Remember the sit/stand desks that I mentioned earlier? They don’t just shift height; they function much like wearable devices were originally designed to — they keep you aware of your activity level. Not only do many desks have adjustable height, but they also give you a nudge when you’ve been in one position too long, reminding you to sit or stand.
- Office spaces are increasingly focused on the comforts of home: One way this concept has manifested itself is that traditional residential elements, such as lamps, are increasingly finding their way into offices.
- Major players have also introduced solutions designed to take home offices to a new level.
- Office lounge areas are feeling more and more like living rooms.
Shrinkage is real (the Seinfeld fans out there already knew this):
- Size really doesn’t matter: Although workers in decades past were introduced to the notion of 10’ x 10’ cubicles as opposed to the private offices of days gone by, changes in work technology mean that workers don’t need that much space any more. Large desktops for old-school monitors and desktop computers, generous filing cabinets and more are no longer necessary, so work spaces have shrunk in response. A more typical workspace today is in the 6’ x 8’ range.
- Conference rooms are increasingly replaced by modular meeting “pods”: Like cubicles, the footprint of more intimate meeting spaces has shrunk. They have been replaced by modular nooks around 6’ x 8’ made up of a typical seating arrangement of two chairs and a small occasional table.
- It’s OK to be in your own world (in the middle of a shared space, no less): NeoCon boasted many flavors of what can best be described as Cocoon Chairs (or depending on your age, “Mork from Ork” Egg Chairs). These chairs literally surround you — they filter out noise and allow you to be in your own world with your thoughts.
Being at NeoCon was a full immersion into all the cool things that I’ve been hearing about in the design world. It is eye-opening to see how these elements come together in the real world. There is no doubt that the way we work and the environments in which we work are changing. I look forward to seeing how things evolve from here.
For those of you who attended NeoCon, what emerging trends stood out to you? If you’re planning a commercial space and weren’t able to make it, reach out; I’d love to fill you in!
POSTED UNDER: Environmental Design
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