ORGATEC 2014, the world-leading fair for Office & Object, will bring the international office furniture industry on the same platform once again from 21 October to 25 October in Cologne.

The working world of tomorrow is mobile and the trend towards intelligently organised office and knowledge work is unstoppable. Flexible working practices and networked information technology are accepted as part of everyday office life and will only become more ubiquitous. Renowned office furniture producers see a clear connection between office design, a living corporate culture and the long-term success of a company as they respond to changes in the working world with the newest technology, smart furniture solutions and integrated furnishing concepts.

ORGATEC 2014 will welcome architects, interior designers, designers and industry visitors, from decision-makers at small and medium-sized companies to buyers and HR managers at multinational companies, all seeking inspiration and consulting expertise from leading manufacturers in the areas of flooring, acoustics and lighting as well as media and conferencing technology.

Cross-generational working in the ‘Feel-Good Office’

Workstations are becoming spaces for working within the most diverse scenarios and on differentiated tasks. The increasing individualisation of the working world requires individual solutions. The modern office is flexible, mobile and virtual and should promote communication and knowledge transfer as well as facilitating periods of withdrawal, concentration and regeneration. Current buzzwords such as open space, desk-sharing, third place working and activity based workplaces represent future-focused solutions. Change management consultants and office space managers support the substantial change processes in companies.

According to a recent survey by the Association of Office Furniture (bso/Büro-, Sitz- und Objektmöbel), only 49 per cent of employees currently believe that their places of work positively support communication and collaboration between staff, while 21 per cent would like to see an improvement in health aspects and only just half of subjects polled believe that their company is well represented by and reflected in its style of furnishing.

Qualified employees, alongside their own personal work-life balance, increasingly value an optimally designed working environment with feel-good elements and individual character. It is not a coincidence that ‘feel-good’ furniture, reminiscent of pieces from a traditional living-room, is increasingly finding its way into modern offices. Stylish designer sofas for the reception area, modular lounge systems, high-quality cosy furniture for chill-out zones and relaxing upholstered seating made from the finest leather create a friendly and homely working atmosphere. Even mobile deckchairs have found a place in the multi-functional office.

It has become common knowledge that a healthy mix of younger and older staff has a positive effect not just on the working climate of a company but also on its financial performance. Manufacturers are taking this fact into account by using integrated concepts and ergonomically and orthopedically designed office furniture. The multi-generational office and co-working spaces inspire interior designers and designers to come up with unusual solutions. Architects develop flexible working environments, integrating nature and the environment where possible, reflecting the huge Urban Nature trend. Manufacturers provide appropriate furniture for these new environments, such as combinable seating furniture, the design reminiscent of smoothened pebble stones.

Trend expert Birgit Gebhardt observes that it’s important to bring together the different views and work practices of the various generations within the company and promote interaction between them. Her most recent study examines change within business structures and multi-generational cooperation within German offices. ‘Generational diversity in the office’ is also a trending topic at the ORGATEC Trend Forum in Hall 6 where highly qualified experts will discuss current trends on all five days of the fair. Demographic change, new work order, change management and gamification will be discussed as will staff motivation and movement in the workplace.

Team work with intelligent technology

Futuristic ideas are already well-entrenched in the modern office world. The mobile, flexible and virtual modern working world is defined by tablets, smartphones and PDAs; intranets support companies’ internal processes, and cost-effective video-conferencing, 360° round-table cameras, Web 2.0 and an open authoring system for websites using ‘Wiki’ have all become established elements in technically well-equipped offices.

In light of the huge amounts of data and information available today, productive teamwork is of fundamental importance. The newest technological wonders allow several people to simultaneously work on one interactive surface within a highly networked office and process the most diverse of information sources, analogue as well as digital.

Visitors to ORGATEC 2014 can experience live the practically boundless opportunities of current technology and learn how internationally connected communication systems actually function at the ‘Mobile’ competence centre in Hall 11.2 in one of the interactive room installations.

The smart generation of chairs and desks

Back problems are the number one health affliction of our culture. Highly flexible work practices, power density and permanent flexibility are increasingly seen as triggers of stress and burn-out syndrome. More movement at one’s desk, unconventional meeting formats, targeted and planned detours and taking the stairs instead of the lift serve not only facilitate healthy movement but also promote direct communication. When one is moving, one is more attentive and alert, more communicative and more efficient. Active office concepts and movement-promoting seating and office furniture are and will therefore remain a huge trend.

Office chairs assume particular importance in this context. Today the most used piece of office furniture is an ergonomic and health-promoting high-tech product. Variably moveable and adjustable seating heights, reclining options and angles of inclination are just some of the countless norms and regulations dictated for ergonomic seating. The exhibitors at ORGATEC 2014 go beyond these functional benefits to offer corporate responsibility and health as part of corporate planning.

Up to nine different seating positions with as close to natural three-dimensional movement as possible should help relax muscles and relieve joints and vertebrae. The latest swivel chair ranges impress with appealing aesthetics, pioneering ergonomics and the simplest handling.

The smart generation of the latest office chair even has sensors, which evaluate sitting posture and will give a corresponding signal in the event of bad posture. A new stool design features a ball track integrated into the base of the stool to give acoustic feedback on levels and quality of physical activity. Even smartphones play a role in the newest generation of seating: A movement app equipped with an interface to the new Apple Health Kit iOS8 allows office chairs and stools to become fitness trainers in the office, with the app recording movements, graphically visualising them and encouraging the sitter to perform playful exercises for back and body.

Ergonomic and dynamic solutions are also driving movement with the desired health benefits in desks and conferencing systems. Mobile folding and collapsible tables and table systems with ingenious linking mechanisms provide almost limitless application options. In addition to the standard norms for size and stability, collision protection and the absence of vibration are important criteria for purchasing within the premium market segment. Waist-high desks allow meetings to take place standing up and, thanks to the integrated electrical connections, can be combined with the monitor.

Individualisation is the norm now with customised solutions and models that can be adjusted and combined. Interchangeable individual elements can be adjusted to perfectly fit the body and also take into account the sustainability factor. Young designers see the future of office desks and work spaces as something that can be set up and taken apart in just a couple of steps, and are trendy, lightweight and simple to assemble. The hotly discussed trend of gamification is said to promote good moods and increase motivation. Gamification means integrating playful elements into our daily lives and work processes. A brand new ‘object of motion’ will guarantee playful access to active working processes, with lots of bright cheerful colours to promote good mood, encourage interaction, and with its dynamic interface, be a real trendsetter. With presentations and best practice examples from companies such as SAP, Rabobank and Centigrade, Gamification Day at the Trend Forum on 23 October covers every element of these top trends.

Lighting, acoustics, flooring

With its broad range of applications, the flexible office makes challenging demands of the acoustic conditions within the workplace. According to experts and environmental psychologists, even low levels of noise can cause stress and impact performance levels, making optimum room acoustics vital for employees’ concentration, performance and health.

Solutions available to improve the work environment include room dividing systems, acoustic absorbers with micro-perforations and acoustically effective wall and ceiling panels in addition to noise-absorbing desk surfaces and functional wall paper providing heat or sound insulation. Elegant and flexible felted acoustic panels create a warm, harmonious atmosphere and also serve as a projection wall or a pin-board.

Currently in trend are sound-absorbing dividing walls made from naturally fragranced materials or ‘Human Nature’ flooring reminiscent of forest floors or fresh-cut grass. The large format wall prints, which not only bring art into the work place but also discretely improve the room’s sound absorption levels, are an optical treat. A new type of room divider, which can be combined with seating furniture, brings together equal elements of flexibility and sustainability.

The ‘Space’ competence centre in Hall 11.2 will demonstrate how to achieve the optimal room experience using the trio of acoustics, lighting and carpeted flooring. The special show was developed by Cologne interior designer Sylvia Leydecker (100% interior) and Dr Christian Nocke (Akustikbüro Oldenburg – Oldenburg Office for Acoustics). Spatial concepts, lighting, acoustics and interior climate are the focus of the ‘Workplace Congress’ on 22 October 2014 in the Offenbachsaal.

Design motivation

Design is an important market and competitive driver and is one of the keys to economic success. A pleasant working environment and emotional design also promote creativity and performance of staff. The move toward complex working and living environments with the demand for well-being means new challenges for products and designers equally. Design awards represent success in the market and are evaluated on the basis of degree of innovation, functionality and ergonomics as well as user friendliness, comfort, ecological compatibility and the ‘emotionality’ of a product.

In 2014, the leading office furniture manufacturers demonstrate once more the outstanding degree of innovation of their products with a host of design awards. The internationally renowned ‘red dot design award’ went among others, to ORGATEC exhibitor Giroflex (Stuhlfamilie 353/656 or Chair Family 353/656), Sedus Stoll (Drehstuhlfamilien/Swivel Chair Families Swing up and Quarterback) and the Spanish manufacturer Andreu World (Ronda Chair). A double award went to König + Neurath’s work place system TABLE.T and the transparent glass room solution THINK.TANK for creative expertise and design excellence. Office furniture manufacturers were also placed in the design champions’ league at the design awards: the Stapelstuhl A-Chair – (A-Chair Stacking Chair) designed by jehs+laub and produced by Brunner was awarded the red dot best of the best for the highest design quality in its category. Conceived by Stuttgart designer Michael Schmidt, the many variations and versatility of multi-purpose programme MeetYou ensured that Haworth brought home the if design award.

Katharina C. Hamma, Chief Operating Officer of Koelnmesse GmbH comments that innovation and design are essential innovation drivers for the development-intensive office furniture industry in particular. The large number of award-winning products by ORGATEC exhibitors makes a compelling case for the high levels of innovation of these companies and the design and technological quality of their products.

Economic Sustainability

According to EnergieAgenturNRW (EnergyAgency.North Rhine-Westphalia), an employee in Germany uses on an average, approximately six technical devices a day. Around 17 million people in Germany alone work in offices. Sustainable management integrating ecological, social and economic elements and observing environmental factors are essential in light of the high energy costs within the office, and product planning in particular as well as the procurement of technical office equipment. A recent survey revealed that a large number of companies are prepared to invest more in return for environment-friendly information and communication technology.

Environmentally aware office furniture manufacturers use regionally sourced woods from sustainable forestry. They favour formaldehyde-free glues, their varnishes and waxes are sourced naturally and they treat surfaces with environment-friendly herbal oils. Public institutions are also promoting environmentally aware company policies to increase ecological efficiency, like the City of Cologne and the Chamber of Commerce of Cologne with their current consultation and qualification programme 'Ökoprofit’ (Eco-Profit). The Federal Environmental Agency UBA is using its website to publish a series of guidelines to support small to medium businesses in particular, for sustainable procurement. The introduction of an international sustainability certificate for office furniture is also planned by the European Federation of Office Furniture, which will be brought into force at ORGATEC 2014.

According to Burkhard Remmers, director of international corporate communication at Wilkhahn, sustainability means, first and foremost, careful handling of resources to achieve mid to long-term successes. Office work links traditional environmental themes such as energy consumption, emissions, material efficiency and product lifecycles to organisational and psycho-social elements such as task structure, working atmosphere and health.

Burkhard Remmers is one of the speakers at the ORGATEC Sustainability Day, taking place on 23 October 2014. Organised by ORGATEC and the German Environmental Management Association (Bundesdeutscher Arbeitskreis für Umweltbewusstes Management /B.A.U.M.), Sustainability Day will demonstrate through practice examples and expert presentations, how sustainability can be reconciled with everyday office requirements.

Protection of the environment and sustainability also require the development of innovative materials. According to Dr Sascha Peters at Haute Innovation, it is especially important to develop, alongside environment-friendly and healthy products, innovative lightweight construction solutions for mobile working, multi-functional and smart materials. At the ‘Innovation of Interior’ competence centre in Hall 8, the special exhibition ‘IOI – Smart Office Materials’ will present the latest developments and trends.

Physical/Digital Working World

The working world of tomorrow will be flexible, mobile and virtual. However, despite flexibility of work practices, mobile offices and high-tech gadgets, the physical office will continue to exist. Physical/Digital – the central meeting point and communication platform for solution workers in the digital world is an important part of successful business management. With their unique concept, ORGATEC 2014 demonstrates the latest developments, innovations and trends from the world of office and object furnishing for the modern working world of today and tomorrow.