Smart furniture for smart offices
One of the drawbacks of an open office is that people can sometimes feel the lack of quiet spaces to work productively, observes Dhiren Gopal, Director, Featherlite.
To fill this gap, Featherlite offers workstations that offer people privacy without burdening electromechanical systems as they use light and ventilation from the surroundings. As open spaces necessitate better acoustics, these ‘pods’ (as the workstations are called) are enclosed in aesthetic, soundproof walls made of frosted screens and/or acoustic panels composed of layers of perforated wood and polyester.
Godrej Interio offers the Immerse Work Pod, a workstation designed as a personal space that allows the occupant to connect with the external office space through partial visual access.
Visual access is critical in an office, says Rahul Kumar, Principal Architect, Rajinder Kumar & Associates (RKA). “Retaining some visual access fosters communication and collaboration, a key objective in offices. Even in cafeterias, the preference is shifting from four to six to 12 to 14 seater tables, which encourage conversation and collaboration.”
Gopal believes workstations designed for multiple users are less expensive than traditional offices and more space-efficient. For instance, Featherlite’s three-plus-three seater Genesis Multiply workstation doubles up as a micro-office and is suited to today’s office environment where average workers occupy a third less space than they did a decade ago. Recently, Featherlite released S-Pods for single users and D-Pods for meetings. Both products have motion sensors that enable fans and lights to turn on as soon as someone steps into the pod.
Technology and furniture converge in workstations such as Featherlite’s Genesis, which is fitted with electrical attachments for laptops, USB and LAN associations and a LED light.
Featherlite’s range with inbuilt smart technologies includes products like Bluetooth-controlled height adjustable tables and soundproof telephone booths with plug-and-play electrical connections and ventilation sensors.
“We’re seeing increasing demand in the market for technology-enabled smart furniture,” says Gopal.
“Furniture that can incorporate wiring is preferred,” agrees Bipratip Dhar, Principal Architect, Epsilon Architecture.
However, at Godrej Interio, the objective of the design team is not to just integrate technology into furniture. As Sameer Joshi, Associate Vice-President, Marketing B2B, Godrej Interio explains, “Technology changes at a much faster pace than the furniture in which it is embedded. So, we support technology solutions with relevant modular furniture.” For instance, Godrej Interio’s collaborative audio-visual solutions are supported by pieces like the COLAB conference desk and range of AV-integrated meeting tables. Upbeat desk bases separate networking and power cables from the main furniture to give designers and end-users the flexibility to create and recreate layouts. Upbeat can meet the need for regular, high, mobile, meeting and conference tables.
Health consciousness at the workplace is increasing, observes Kumar. “The practice of working while standing has become very common in Europe and, hence, this is factored into office design. However, furniture with hydraulic mechanisms tends to be more expensive. In India, we are seeing demand for taller desks with high bar stools or sit-stand desks with adjustable heights.”
“Smart furniture, like standing desks, has become common,” agrees Dhar. “In future, we expect desks to understand people’s preferences and adjust to their needs, to further enhance productivity.”
Featherlite has recently released pods with height-adjustable desks. Godrej Interio offers a motion chair that makes people move even when they are sitting to release the static pressure on the spine.
“With the work environment getting increasingly stressful, more companies are willing to invest in softer, ergonomic furniture that is conducive to employee health,” opines Joshi.
- CHARU BAHRI