The Office as a Communication Center

Although the new products at Orgatec 2006 (October 24-28) are still a closely guarded secret in the design departments of major suppliers, it’s already clear that many of the office solutions on show in Cologne will highlight the increasingly interactive nature of the office as a center of communication in modern companies. These solutions combine the elements of furniture, lighting, flooring and noise management, create zones of interaction, and thereby confirm once again the long standing trend towards maximum flexibility and openness.

More and more companies today recognize the key role played by office design. It expresses a company’s values, outlook, and culture in a tangible way and communicates its corporate identity as a source of motivation for employees and a visible sign for business partners and the general public. Given such requirements, quality design is an absolute must in this field, and many companies are now looking for all embracing solutions for the office as a place to live and work.

As a genuinely social environment, the modern office should ideally fulfill the functions of communication, interaction, and concentration and provide a combination of facilities for sitting, standing, resting, eating, drinking, and working. In response, suppliers are now coming up with innovative office concepts in collaboration with customers, architects, ergonomics experts, consultants, and trend researchers. In addition to featuring quality design, flexibility and openness, today’s offices are also increasingly expected to facilitate workplace sharing.

Flexible buildings with room-in-room concepts
Today’s architecture regards a building as a multifunctional shell featuring a host of design possibilities within. Business owners are able to use such buildings in a flexible way, which in turn makes it economically more attractive to rent rather than buy a property.

The design specifications of the modern open office environment, with its need for mobile fixtures and readily accessible power and communications supplies, can often end up producing something very similar to the once popular open plan office. However, it is now widely recognized that the latter stifles productivity.

People who work in a classic open plan office tend to become less flexible and less creative. Noise and a lack of privacy are just two of the psychological factors that lead to a drop in performance.

On the other hand, project oriented teamwork in fluid groups is becoming an increasingly important part of office life. As a result, the number of employees who require a fixed workplace continues to fall. The need for streamlined processes, synergies, flexible working hours and adaptable workplaces therefore demands open and mobile office environments that avoid the disadvantages of classic open plan offices and lead to enhanced communication, interaction, and tangible cost benefits.

Flexible room-in-room systems
The room-in-room systems on show at Orgatec offer a viable approach here. Independently of the layout of the building, they can accommodate the specific organizational form favored by a company and flexibly adapt to any changes.

For example, cube shaped elements freely positioned within the open office space create—like a self-contained island—a room within a room for the purposes of concentration, communication, and regeneration. Such elements offer space for all the activities that cannot be well accommodated in open office environments. They can be used for private meetings or concentrated work away from the pressure of a team. In general, they provide space for individual work, rest and regeneration as well as for communication.

In the offices of the future, the importance of communication zones will undergo a radical reevaluation. In turn, a major part of office work will shift from fixed workplaces to variably used interactive areas. As the crystallization point of a company’s corporate identity and a nerve center for innovation, such zones require high quality fittings and design more than ever before.

Complete solutions with lighting, flooring, noise management, and consulting
Modern office environments create more room for greater output and performance. The integrated approach, which combines lighting, flooring, and noise management, marks a move away from pure product development and towards an interdisciplinary design platform generating complete solutions for modern office environments.

Today’s industry does much more than just supply office furniture; it advises customers and helps them solve their design problems. This includes comprehensive consulting and the ability to respond quickly and economically to specific customer wishes.

Office fitting and facility management
Working together with customers, office suppliers also develop ideas and solutions to make existing offices meet the added requirements of today’s business world. Following analysis of the organizational structure, processes and corporate culture of the client company, suppliers then develop new and efficient office concepts on the basis of the latest findings in the fields of ergonomics and facility management. Today the worlds of office fittings and facility management are moving ever closer together.

Showcasing new trends at Ultima Office
Providing a host of background information on all the latest developments in office work and design will be Ultima Office, the new creative heart of Orgatec 2006. The Dialogue zone, for example, will feature a series of talks, discussions, and workshops on all the major trends in the fields of office furnishings, lighting, flooring, and noise management. In addition,
Ultima Office will pick up on all the latest trends of 2006 and develop them into a powerful scenario to showcase a vision of life and work in the year 2030.

More than 800 exhibiting companies from around 40 countries are scheduled to attend Orgatec 2006. Products and services for the full office workflow—from planning and design all the way to management—will be on show.

The key target groups are architects, specialist retailers, ergonomics experts, real estate management companies, purchasers, and decision makers from industrial companies, representatives of public institutions and facilities, and commercial users. Around 55,000 trade visitors from 95 countries attended the last Orgatec in 2004, and almost half of all visitors came from abroad.