The Office Furniture and Design You Don’t Think About

Office furniture considerations, when filling out your workspace, always go along the same lines. If you’re a considerate employer, your first thought will probably be the office chairs your employees will be using and their work desks. Finally you’ll consider the reception desk and reception area furniture, which addresses client’s perspective of your business.

But one often forgets the tiny details that can make a big impression on a client and improve employee morale, when they make use of any of these facilities.

Bathroom Furniture
Bathrooms can have more of an influence that you’d think, when it comes to how people perceive your brand quality. This is because people feel both cautious and vulnerable when using a non-domestic restroom, causing them to be more sensitive to hygiene and decor issue.

This is particularly pertinent if you don’t have those large public toilets on your premises, but rather private bathrooms.

Some bathroom furniture options to consider:

Basin cabinets

End tables
Wall mirrors
Hand towel racks
Standing or wall shelves
Kitchen/Break Room Furniture
Office kitchens and break rooms have a reputation for being somewhat drab or uninspired spaces, especially if they’re just for employees. But anyone who understands the influence of employee moral on productivity and work quality, can also understand that when their workforce interacts with these rooms, it can affect their moods and behaviour for the rest of the day.

Remember, this is where people go to get away from their work and let their mind refocus. So their break room should reflect this goal. This doesn’t mean it has to have pool table and a drinks mixer, but rather that it should be a little more visually exciting and relaxing for the people in there.

Some kitchen and break room furniture options to consider:

Cafe tables
Comfortable chairs
Stools/ottomans
Modern cafeteria tables
Kitchen cabinets
Counter tops
Kitchen islands
Outdoor Furniture
Obviously this only applies if your office building has an outdoor area, such as patios or sun rooms. Given South Africa’s sunny climate, outdoor areas are a popular meeting place with visitors and often serve as the smokers in your office’s break area.

Additionally, it’s often be the space where office events happen, such as a Friday braai and other team-building leisure activities. With this much traffic, it’s easy to see how much of an influence these areas can have on the way both workers and visitors interact with this environment.

Some outdoor office furniture options to consider:

Benches
Cafe tables
Modern picnic tables
Outdoor armchairs
Coffee tables
While this kind of furniture obviously won’t form part of your core furnishing considerations, as your office grows and fills out, you may want to consider them more. Because as we’ve show above, they can a huge impact on how your employees interact and perceive their workplace and reflect the brand image, inherent your organisation.

4 Pieces of Office Furniture for the New Generation

Office environments have been changing a lot recently. Beginning with creative and digital industries, there’s been an increased focus on employee comfort and how they emotionally interact with their environment. For instance, you’ve probably seen that some office have installed slides instead for people to get around.

This trend began with companies like Google, that saw endless cubicles under drab fluorescent lighting office environment, to be doing a lot of harm to innovation and productivity. The prevailing attitude before that was that anything pleasurable in an office, distracted employees from their work. But studies have proven quite the opposite.

Here are some of the latest office furniture trends sweeping across modern workplaces.

Standing Desks
While not exactly the latest technology, standing office desks have had a big comeback due to their reported health and ergonomic benefits. A recent study suggested that there was a proportional 11% increase in mortality threat, for every additional hour we spend sitting. Not to mention the threats of obesity, cancer and diabetes related to sedentary lifestyles.

Nap Pods
Letting your employees sleep at work doesn’t seem like the best way the make them work more. However, it’s when we ask too much of our employees without giving them sufficient time to recharge, that we see their work quality begin to slip and their productivity rate decrease.

A 20 minute nap has been shown to increase concentration by 34% and boost morale considerably. The naps pods have alarms that can be set in 15-20 minute sessions, blocking out light and cancelling out sound. The only dissuasive thing about this technology is the price of naps pods, which can range anywhere between R 25 000 and R 120 000 per pod. However, there’s always a more cost effective way to improvise these kinds of areas with other office furniture.

Bean Bags
Bean bag chairs and beanbag work areas are becoming a very noticeable workplace furniture trend. These areas are more suitable for people who do very typing-intensive work that doesn’t require a work desk or a wide range of motion, such as coders or data capturers.

The idea isn’t that they permanently work in these areas but these a merely transitory pieces of office furniture, much like the way you might move around your own home’s furniture throughout the day. As a person’s mood about their comfort changes, they have different options of work station: bean bags, standing desks, lounge chair, outdoor areas, etc.

Telepresence Robots
It almost seems like something out of a bad sci-fi film. Combining the technology being used in teleconferencing (Example: an iPad and a Wi-Fi connection) and a roller-base to get around, we get what is essentially a floating live video of the employee, navigating their way around the office, not bound by the reciprocal process required to setup teleconferencing.

These are often modified with a wide angle lens and background-noise cancelling technology to give the employee adequate awareness of their environment. Although it appears a little unusual at first, it gives telecommuters a more valuable presence in the office and allows them to interact with their workplace and colleagues in more productive ways.

While some of, or even most of, the above may not apply to your workplace, it’s interesting to see how different industries and organisations are approaching the modern idea of the workplace and office furniture. And that we can’t use the exact same office decor strategies across all industries, tasks and workplace responsibilities.

Is your Office Furniture Smart Enough to Keep Up

The technology analyst firm Research Nestor predicts that smart furniture demand will increase sharply between now and the middle of the next decade, with as many as 26 billion IoT (Internet of Things) devices connecting to smart furniture products by the year 2024.

If this prediction pans out, it will be following a classic “hockey stick” adoption model that’s typical of many successful tech products — a long, slow, early adoption curve (representing the handle of the stick) is followed by a sharp upward curve (the blade) as the buyer profile shifts from early adopters to mainstream consumers.

Where are we in this cycle? As it turns out, we’re about 14 years into the smart furniture era. Pioneering Japanese researcher Hideyuki Tokuda of Keio University presented one of the first conference papers on the idea of connected smart furniture back in 2004 at an IEEE conference in Tokyo. In his research lab, Tokuda identified how networked computers, sensors, and i/o devices, such as touch screens, would need to work together to provide new convenience and productivity features, such as keyless access, private message boards, and remote control video systems controlled by cell phones.

So if you are a business owner or office manager, what does the adoption of smart furniture mean for you in today’s office environments? Are you a die-hard early adopter or are you looking in from the sidelines to see if smart office products are for you?

To help you decide, we’ve broken the topic of smart furniture down into four categories:

Smart Office Desks Bring Health and Wellness Benefits to the Office

Flexibility, Thanks to Multi-Function Smart Furniture

Using Data Collected by Smart Furniture to Measure Activity at the Office

Future Developments in Smart Office Products

Smart Office Desks Bring Health and Wellness Benefits to the Office

By now, you’ve probably read that sitting for too many hours during the day could be as deadly to your health as smoking cigarettes.

Smart office desks from Formaspace Office can help. You and your employees can start the day off right with our Weldmarx line of sit-to-stand desks. Our smart office desks can adjust up or down to your preferred height as you walk toward them first thing in the morning — by using a blue-tooth enabled app on your phone. During the day, use your phone or a desk-mounted pushbutton control to move the whole desk up or down in order to avoid sitting too long in one position at work.

If you’re not getting enough exercise at work, here are some additional ideas. Two Formaspace tables can be joined together for an impromptu game of office ping pong! These smart tables are also connected to an app on your phone by a Bluetooth connection, so you can raise and lower them for use as desks or tables.

Our custom smart ping pong table was one of the big hits at our 2017 NeoCon Office Furniture display booth.

If you don’t have time to take a break from your desk to play a game of ping pong, you can get a workout at your desk when it’s equipped with a built-in exercise treadmill. Even walking at a slow pace can help you lose pounds and keep trim while you work.

Feeling blue at the office during the winter? Smart furniture products can not only sense the temperature and humidity at your desk to keep you comfortable (by silently alerting the HVAC computer that a person is occupying the desk), they can also turn on special solar-style lights to help combat Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) brought on by dark winter days.

Flexibility, Thanks to Multi-Function Smart Furniture

Smart furniture can also make you more productive by integrating existing functions.

For example, aren’t you tired of seeing cables and wires in the office tangled up everywhere?

We offer a solution.

Our no-wires charging panels allow you to simply place a smartphone on one of our desks or tables — it will charge up automatically with no wires required. We also offer integrated power supply outlets as well as USB power and networking ports in our office furniture — say goodbye to the visual clutter of wires as well as dangerous trip hazards, such as extension cords and plug adapters.

For extra simplicity and clean lines, choose our motorized access solutions as shown in this bespoke Formaspace conference table above. At the touch of a button, motorized compartments can open up for easy access to network connections and power supplies, but when they are no longer needed, they can be stowed away for a clean, clutter-free look.

Ori Systems uses clever space planning and mechanical sliding systems to alter the core furniture system into many different functional configurations.

Professor Carlo Ratti, Director of MIT’s Senseable City Lab and founder of Studio Carlo Ratti Associati, has his own futuristic take on smart office furniture. He has designed a system of individual motorized components, called “Lift-Bits,” that can move up and down to form a variety of seating options for your collaboration area or break room — from lounge chairs to large, comfortable couches suitable for impromptu meetings.

Using Data Collected by Smart Furniture to Measure Activity at the Office

In an effort to reduce healthcare costs, many employers are encouraging employees to use activity trackers, such those from Fitbit or Apple, and to encourage them to be more physically active.

Smart furniture manufacturers, such as Hermann Miller, have introduced software systems that can track the activity of employees working at their desks, to gain insight into aggregate data, such as how many hours are employees sitting, moving around or standing at their desks.

Steelcase is also looking at ways to use smart furniture to track employees at the office. Their Steelcase Workplace Adviser uses sensors built into the furniture to keep tabs on where people are located throughout the work day; the information is sent to the cloud. With this information at hand, office managers and space planners can gain insight on information, such as which areas have high (or low) occupancy during different times of the day.

Future Developments in Smart Office Products

What new developments will we see at CES 2018 next week?

One safe prediction is more integration of consumer electronics into furniture products found in collaboration zones and conference rooms. Large touchscreens will become more common as businesses invest in telepresence tools that connect employees around the world. Virtual reality / augmented reality visualization tools will continue to expand beyond their entertainment roots to help businesses visualize complicated processes and discover unexpected insights found in big-data sets.

Here’s another prediction, taken from the automotive industry: air-conditioned and heated seating. In a car, it’s more energy efficient and faster to heat and cool the seats, so we may find this innovation working its way into the office furniture market at some point in the future.

What about self-leveling furniture? How many times have you moved furniture to an uneven floor and found that it rocks or pens roll off the desk? Built-in level detectors could automatically adjust the height of the legs to maintain a solid, level surface.

Finally, we can’t overlook major changes that are coming to the way that we design, specify, and purchase smart office products in the future.

For example, here at Formaspace, we’ve been working on an easy-to-use, browser-based virtual reality app that lets you design and configure your furniture online. Try out our new 3DConfigure tool here! As you specify optional components, such as monitor stands and power connections, or select different work surface materials (including hardwoods, such as maple or walnut hardwood), the furniture updates instantly on screen.

Stopping This Habit at Office is Good For Your Health

Varicose veins are noticeably enlarged veins with a twisted, bulging appearance and a distinguishable color, usually red or blue (but sometimes flesh-colored as well). Their smaller cousin, spider veins, are closer to the surface of the skin and typically look like spider webs or tree branches.

Age is a major contributing risk factor. It’s estimated that more than 50% of those aged 50 or older are showing signs of varicose or spider veins.

Our veins, which return blood to the heart, tend to lose effectiveness as we age. The little valves inside the veins can degrade, allowing blood to reverse course and leak back into the veins to collect there, creating the characteristic visible color and bulging of varicose veins. Spider veins, on the other hand, are due to blood not flowing properly; as blood gets blocked from moving, these veins become highly visible.

Are Varicose Veins and Spider Veins a Sign of Health Problems?

The relationship between varicose veins and spider veins and major health problems is not completely clear.

However, a very recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association looked at the historical medical records of 425,000 patients in Taiwan. The study found that there was a high correlation between those patients who had varicose veins and those who experienced deep vein thrombosis (DVT). A similar, but less significant relationship was found between varicose veins and pulmonary embolism (PE), and peripheral artery disease (PAD).

Given the potential seriousness of these cardiovascular problems, you should see a doctor about your varicose veins if you encounter any of the following issues:

  • A varicose vein begins to bleed.
  • A varicose vein becomes swollen and warm to the touch.
  • The color of the varicose vein changes to red.
  • You experience rashes, color changes, or thickening near the ankles.

How can you Prevent Cardiovascular Problems, Such as Varicose Veins?

As we mentioned before, age is a contributing factor for cardiovascular problems, such as varicose veins. Genetics can also play a role. We can’t stop the aging process or change our genes (at least not yet). But we can address some of the other contributing factors.

Minimize Sun Exposure: if you’re fair skinned, use sunscreen or avoid the sun to prevent spider veins, especially on the face.

Pregnancy and Hormonal Changes: Pregnant women sometimes experience temporary varicose veins during their pregnancy. Women on HRT may experience an increased incidence of varicose or spider veins.

Control Your Weight: Maintaining a healthy weight can decrease the pressure on your veins.

Eat a Low Sodium, High Fiber Diet: Reducing salt can reduce swelling while high-fiber foods help reduce constipation, both of which are associated with varicose veins.

Avoid Sedentary Lifestyle at Work or at Home: Avoid standing or sitting for long periods of time. Using a Formaspace Sit-to-Stand desk can make this easy to accomplish during the day. Be sure to get up and walk at least every 30 minutes. Avoid crossing legs for extended periods of time, which can restrict blood flow. Choose low shoes over wearing high-heels to increase the movement of blood through calf muscles.

Start an Exercise Program to Improve Your Cardiovascular Health

Whether you are younger or older, in good health, or are experiencing an ongoing health issue or disability, regular exercise and physical activity will help improve your long-term cardiovascular health.

Daily exercise and physical activity can also reduce the risk of developing serious health problems, such as heart disease and diabetes.

Even If you do have a chronic health condition, such as arthritis, heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, balance problems or difficulty walking, you can benefit from a personalized exercise program tailored to your needs.

Steps to Take Before Starting an Exercise Program

If you have not been physically active for some time, you should schedule a physical and a consultation with your physician prior to beginning an exercise program to identify any special concerns or risks.

Having a physical can help identify any undetected health issues, which may arise during vigorous exercise as well as establish a current health baseline for evaluating your overall health progress.

Depending on your personal health history, a consultation may include any or all of the following:

identification of specific exercise goals that are appropriate for your present physical condition
recommendations concerning any of your personal health concerns (such as high blood pressure or medications you are currently taking)
ways for diabetics to manage their blood sugar when exercising
advice on exercise during periods of rehabilitation or recovery from surgery or other major health events (such as a heart attack)
safety tips to prevent re-occurrence of past injuries
evaluation of bone density, especially for women over 65 who are at special risk for osteoporosis
review of when to call 911 emergency services if you experience any unexplained symptoms during vigorous exercise (e.g., chest pain or pressure, pain in your joints, dizziness, or excessive shortness of breath)

Developing Your Own Personal Exercise Program

For many individuals, the start of a successful exercise program begins with a diary that logs your current physical activities. Knowing your current habits will make it easier to set new, achievable goals — for today, tomorrow, this week, this year and next year.

You can also confer with your physician who can help you identify exercise goals that are appropriate for your current health and physical activity levels.

Generally speaking, a well-rounded, personal exercise program will include four main categories: flexibility, endurance, strength, and balance.

Four Components of a Balanced Exercise Program

1. Improving Your Flexibility

Stretching or flexibility exercises are an important part of your physical activity program.

Spend about 5 minutes at the beginning of your exercise program to warm up. If you are walking or running, start slowly for the first 5 minutes. If you are swimming, first perform exercises to warm up your arms, shoulders, and legs.

During the middle of your exercise, do some stretching exercises 3 – 5 times. Slowly stretch into the desired position, as far as possible without pain, and hold the stretch for 10 to 30 seconds. Relax, breathe, then repeat, trying to stretch farther.

A mild, uncomfortable, “pulling” sensation when stretching is OK. However, if you feel a sharp or stabbing pain, or pain in your joints (either right away or even the next day), you are stretching too much.
Avoid “bouncing” or jerking into position when stretching; this can cause muscles to tighten, possibly leading to an injury. Use slow, steady movements instead.
Avoid “locking” your joints into a fully straight position; keep your joints slightly bent while stretching.

At the end of your routine, you should cool down with slower exercises to gradually return your muscles to rest.

2. Building up Endurance

If you are new to participating in an exercise program, try to build up to at least 30 minutes of moderate-intensity activity each day of the week. The exact amount of time recommended will depend on your current level of physical conditioning.

What does sustained ‘moderate-intensity’ mean in practice? A rule of thumb is you should be able to talk during moderate-intensity activity. It will be difficult to talk during vigorous activity.

Brisk walking (4 miles per hour) is a good example of moderate-intensity activity. (Remember to drink fluids even if you don’t sweat.)

At this rate, you should be able to work up to walking three miles in a little over 45 minutes, which is a good goal for a lunchtime exercise break.

Over time, you will be able to increase the intensity or duration, or both.

3. Increasing Your Strength

Weight-bearing exercise (also known as strength training) is recommended for everyone. Women age 65 and older and/or those diagnosed with osteoporosis will especially benefit from lifting weights.

Try to do a 30-minute strength training session of your major muscle groups at least 2 or more days a week. (Avoid training the same major muscle group two days in a row — it’s best to mix up your routines to give them at least a one day of rest before repeating).

Depending on your physical condition, you may start out with 1 or 2-pound weights (or no weight at all). If you can’t lift or push a weight 8 times in a row, it’s too heavy for you and can cause injury. Reduce the amount of weight immediately.

Take 3 seconds to lift or push a weight into place, hold it in position for 1 second, and take another 3 seconds to return to your starting position. Don’t let the weight drop; returning it slowly is very important.
Try to do 10 to 15 repetitions of each exercise. Think of this as a goal. If you can’t do that many at first, do as many as you can. You may be able to build up to this goal over time.

Over time, you will want to add more weight to challenge your muscles to get the most benefit from strength exercises.

4. Maintaining Your Balance

Each year, more than 2 million older Americans have fall-related injuries that require a visit to the emergency room.

Balance exercises can help prevent harmful falls, which can lead to serious fractures (including arm, hand, ankle or hip fractures) or even long-term disability.

What are balance exercises?

For many, the choreographed poses practiced in tai chi classes help improve both flexibility and balance.

You can also learn specific balance exercises appropriate for your needs.

If you have balance issues, you can stand next to a chair and practice increasingly challenging poses — such as holding the chair with one hand, then (as you progress) with one finger, then with no hands. As you gain confidence, try the exercises with your eyes closed.

Other balance specific exercises include:

Standing on one foot behind a chair. Hold this position for up to 10 seconds and repeat 10 to 15 times. Then do the same with the other foot. If needed, grasp the chair for balance.
Walking Heel-to-Toe with one foot just in front of the toes of the other foot. (Your heel and toes should touch or almost touch.) Walk for 20 steps. If you are not steady, try this against a wall that you can reach if you need to balance yourself.
Try a slow “balance walk” with your arms extended out to the sides. Focus your eyes at a distance point and walk in a straight line with one foot in front of the other. Pause at each step to raise your back leg for 1 second before proceeding. Repeat for 20 steps for each leg. As you progress, try looking from side to side as you walk, but skip this step if you have inner ear problems.

Balance exercises work well in combination with lower-body strength exercises, such as Back Leg Raises, Side Leg Raises, Knee Curls, and Toe Stands.

Ways to Exercise throughout the Day

Counting Your Steps

Wearable step counters, such as those from Fitbit, can help you keep track of your endurance activity, set goals, and measure progress. You can also increase your steps by using a Formaspace Sit-to-Stand desk, which allows you to move your worksurface from a sitting position to a standing position at the touch of a button.

Most inactive people get fewer than 5,000 steps a day, and some very inactive people get only 2,000 steps a day. Wear the step counter for a few days to see how you’re doing:

If you have fewer than 5,000 steps each day, gradually try to add 3,000 to 4,000 more steps a day.
At about 8,000 to 10,000 steps a day, you’re probably meeting the recommended activity target.
At 10,000 or more steps a day, you can be confident that you’re getting an adequate amount of endurance activity.
If you are achieving 10,000 steps a day comfortably, try for 15,000 steps a day, which would put you in the high-activity group.

You’ll find taking a walk around the building where you work several times a day will not only help clear your head, it will also help you reach your fitness goals.

Over time, you will discover other ways to increase your steps, such as taking the stairs instead of the elevator or walking to local shops (or parking further away when driving). Another possibility is taking the time when you go shopping to walk the entire mall or every aisle of the grocery store.

You can also incorporate strength and flexibility training opportunities during the day. Lift your grocery bags up in the air a few times before unloading them into the car or the fridge. Stretch your legs during long conference calls.

How to Stay Motivated

Make exercise a social activity. Enlist a co-worker, friend, or family member. Many people agree that having an “exercise buddy” keeps them going. If you don’t already have an exercise partner, find one by joining a walking club at your local mall or an exercise class at a nearby senior center. Take a walk during lunch with a co-worker. Take a yoga class with a neighbor. You can also use the social media features of fitness and weight loss programs, such as Fitbit and LoseIt to share, encourage, or challenge each other with friendly competitions.

Join a gym or fitness center that’s close to the office or home. You can be active all at once, or break it up into smaller amounts throughout the day. Do more of the activities you already like and know how to do. If you love the outdoors, try biking, fishing, jogging, or hiking. Listen to music or an audiobook while walking, gardening, or raking. Plan a hiking trip to a nearby park.

Try new activities to keep your interest alive. Sign up for dance lessons. Talk to your friends about bowling together once a week. Join a water aerobics class. Save gas by walking to your nearby grocery store.

Review your goals. If you are able, do your activities longer, farther, or harder. If you walk 30 minutes at lunchtime every day, make it 40 minutes. If you only have 30 minutes for lunch, pick up the pace so you’re walking faster and farther in the same amount of time. Try using a pedometer or step counter to track your progress. Seeing the number of steps add up can be great motivation. If you usually swim half a mile, build up to three-quarters of a mile. Use a harder resistance band when you do strength exercises.

Take Health and Safety Precautions when Exercising

Whatever activities you choose, it’s important to stay safe.

Follow these tips to avoid injury or dangerous situations:

When starting an exercise program, begin slowly with low-intensity exercises.
Wait at least 2 hours after eating a large meal before doing strenuous exercise.
Wear appropriate shoes for your activity and comfortable, loose-fitting clothing that allows you to move freely but won’t catch on other objects.
When exercising outdoors, pay attention to your surroundings — consider possible traffic hazards and the weather as well as strangers. It’s safer to go with a friend.

Do not isolate yourself by listening to loud music on headphones. Keep one ear free to hear passing cars, horns, or other people walking or riding their bikes.
When walking, watch out for low-hanging branches and uneven sidewalks. Walk during the day or in well-lit areas at night, and be aware of your surroundings.

Wear a helmet when bicycling. Helmet use has been estimated to reduce the odds of head injury by 50 percent, and the odds of head, face, or neck injury by 33 percent.
Be sure drivers can see you. Wear brightly colored clothing, and if you walk during low-light hours — dusk or dawn — be sure you have reflective material on your jacket or walking shoes. Carry a flashlight or have lights on the front and back of your bicycle.
Take a cell phone, an ID, and health insurance card (if you have one) along with you, especially if you are out exercising alone.

Warm up with low-intensity exercises at the beginning of each exercise session.
Drink water before, during, and after your exercise session. Be sure to drink liquids when doing any activity that makes you sweat. By the time you notice you are thirsty, you probably are already low on fluid. This guideline is important all year round, but it’s especially important in hot weather. Older adults can be affected by heat and cold more than others. In extreme cases, too much heat can cause heat stroke, and very cold temperatures can lead to a dangerous drop in body temperature. If you are going to be outdoors, dress in layers so you can add or remove clothes as needed. When it’s not possible to be outdoors, you may want to try indoor activities.

Stop Exercising if You:

Have pain or pressure in your chest, neck, shoulder, or arm
Feel dizzy or sick to your stomach
Break out in a cold sweat
Have muscle cramps
Feel severe pain in joints, feet, ankles, or legs.

Why Live Edge Tables Are Trending in Offices

The popularity of live edge furniture made from reclaimed wood slab lumber is on the rise in commercial office space design. And no wonder. Each piece of live edge furniture is a unique piece of art, made from a one-of-a-kind piece of wood expertly crafted to highlight the natural characteristics of the reclaimed wood slab, including the unique natural grain, knots, voids, and surface imperfections.

The Natural Wood Trend is IN: Live Edge Furniture Brings the Feel of Nature Inside the Office

Natural wood is having a moment in today’s commercial office environments.

The recycling movement known as “upcycling” might be stoking the wood design trend; for example, have you noticed the increasing use of rough-sawn barn doors (using highly visible overhead rails) used in both commercial and residential interiors?

Another possible explanation is a renewed fascination with wood and its properties as a material. After all, wood is a uniquely sustainable and environmentally-friendly material (when harvested responsibly) that reconnects us with the natural world, while at the same time, reducing our carbon footprint.

Indeed, wood seems to have caught the attention of architects and structural engineers in recent times.

For example, the proposed 70-story wooden structure now under consideration in Tokyo, Japan would be the world’s tallest wood building (at 1,148 feet) when completed.

The renaissance in wood’s popularity is also fueled by the taste sensibilities of the Millennial generation. Not only do they love plants in the home and in the office, they are also busy rediscovering the great furniture designers of the mid-century, modern design period, such as Charles and Ray Eames, famous for their bent plywood furniture creations, and George Nakashima, the Japanese-American master of live edge furniture design.

Nakashima’s live edge furniture designs highlight the natural features of reclaimed wood slabs by emphasizing the features that are usually hidden from view (by careful sawing at the lumberyard), such as natural bark surfaces, as well as internal voids caused by stresses, knots, etc.

Born in Spokane, Washington in 1905, Nakashima earned his Master’s in Architecture at MIT, then he traveled the world before moving Japan during the 1930s, where he worked for one of Frank Lloyd Wright’s architectural collaborators in Tokyo. In his explorations of Japan, Nakashima was able to experience firsthand the Japanese design aesthetic known as wabi-sabi celebrates natural defects and variations in materials (in contrast to the prevailing Western design aesthetic that promotes uniformity and perfection.)

The wabi-sabi aesthetic influenced Nakashima’s work as wood sculptor and furniture maker throughout his career. By carefully selecting reclaimed wood slab pieces, Nakashima was able to make one-of-a-kind furniture pieces that are wildly collectible today. (If you are interested in an original Nakashima, check out listings on 1st Dibs, the high-end auction site for architects and designers. You’ll find prices can go up the high 5 figures for his live edge wood slabs table and bench designs.)

You want Hand-Made Live Edge Furniture Designs for Your Office. We Make it Easy.

Given the rarity and cost of original Nakashima furniture, today’s architects and interior office designers looking to incorporate this design aesthetic into their office environments will commission a custom piece of furniture incorporating a reclaimed wood slab.

Here are three of the top reasons our customers choose Formaspace to handcraft their live edge furniture projects.

Make a Signature Design Statement:

There’s no question about it. Specifying live edge furniture for the office sends a powerful message about your company and your brand. Live edge furniture is not for the meek. It makes a powerful, engaging, eye-catching, memorable, and unique statement.

On Trend Aesthetic Design Elements:

Prevailing design trends make live edge furniture the right choice, thanks to its use of unique, one-of-a-kind recycled natural materials that incorporate popular mid-century modern design aesthetics and biophilic design elements.

Commitment to Sustainability:

Reclaimed wood slab tables, desks, countertops, and conference tables tell a story about your company’s commitment to sustainable business practices that are hard to ignore. Formaspace takes this very seriously. Unlike some of our competitors — who have been found to be harvesting virgin trees in sensitive forests (such as those in Brazil) — we only supply wood for live edge projects from local American trees that have fallen due to natural causes.

Live edge furniture design brings you closer to nature and makes you feel like a part of it.

— Philip Mayes, Formaspace Wood Shop Foreman

As a heritage manufacturer of custom furniture for the industrial furniture market, Formaspace has the requisite experience and expertise in making durable custom furniture for the office market. Our clients include top Fortune 100 and Fortune 500 companies, from Google to Capital One, as well as many of the new start-up companies based to here in our hometown of Austin, Texas, in the SF Bay Area, and across the country.

Our thorough ordering and quality manufacturing processes make it easy to order hand-crafted furniture products that will last for years and years. (Ask about our no-questions-asked 12-year guarantee.)

It’s also important to note Formaspace has the capacity to scale up your custom order as needed. For example, a recent project we completed for Capital One was for thousands of custom desks for their Bay Area tech operations.

How to Choose the Perfect Signature Live Edge Wood Slabs Table Material

We can help you select the ideal wood slab specimen for your live edge furniture project. In fact, we keep a steady inventory selection on hand that you can choose from. We can also search for a unique slab that meets your needs.

To make an informed selection, you’ll want to consider factors such as how the furniture will be used, e.g. whether it will be used as a table, desk, bench, or countertop, and the size required.

The choice of wood species is also important as it affects the overall aesthetics of the project.

Here are three of the popular choices used in creating live edge furniture.

Oak:

Thanks to its inherent strength, oak is a preferred choice for furniture making where durability is important. Red Oak is one of the most popular oak species, and as the name implies, it has a warm, reddish texture with prominent “rays,” — the short dark lines that flow in the direction of the grain; these add a lot of character and visual interest to the surface finish.

Black Cherry:

Often associated with modern Mission and Shaker furniture, black cherry has reddish, brown heartwood with a grain pattern that varies between straight and curly, depending on the stock selection. Exposure to sunlight can darken the color of cherry wood, so that needs to be taken into consideration.

Black Walnut:

Walnut is known for its rich, lustrous finish and fine, straight wood grain. Used in high-end cabinetry as well as a rifle production, walnut is recognized as a luxury material. However, available walnut stock tends to be narrower than what can be obtained from larger trees, such as oak. This can have an influence on the ultimate design of your live edge furniture project as several pieces of walnut stock may be needed for large surface expanses.

If your favorite is not listed above, rest assured that we offer many more species to choose from. Contact your Formaspace Design Consultant to discuss your preferences and wood stock availability.

Finally, once in a while, we have a customer who comes to Formaspace with a reclaimed piece of wood for their live edge furniture project. In this scenario, it’s often the case that the piece of lumber in question has exceptional sentimental value. Perhaps it came from a favorite tree, which was overturned in a windstorm or damaged by a lightning strike. We will work closely with you to make the most advantageous use of this type of reclaimed wood.

Choose Your Base Design to Compliment the Live Edge Wood Surface

Once you’ve selected your wood species, the next step in the process is to choose an appropriate base design.

Here at Formaspace, we are known for our heavy-duty, industrial-design inspired metal base designs that are part of our heritage as furniture manufacturer for industrial factories.

We offer metal bases in natural metal finishes, including clear coat protective finishes that let the metal show through while protecting against corrosion. We can also powder-coat our metal bases in one of our standard colors, or we can match a color sample that you provide.

Interested in a different style of base? Not a problem. We can hand-craft bases made of wood or any other material you desire, built to your exact design specifications.

We also offer design services, so if you are not entirely sure what you are looking for, our Formaspace Design Consultants can help you choose or create a design that you will be pleased with.

Live Edge Furniture Manufacturing and Care Processes to Know About

You might be interested to know some of the manufacturing processes that we and our high-quality lumber supply partners do on your behalf in order to deliver a successful live edge furniture project.

Working with our lumber partners, we create and maintain an inventory of available slab pieces you can select for your live edge furniture project. A few steps are involved in the selection and preparation process.

The first step is working with top-notch lumber suppliers. The quality varies a lot across the industry, and we only work with the best companies.

Next, we look over the raw lumber to determine if it will fit the requirements necessary for the intended purpose of the furniture. Sometimes this is an interactive process. A unique piece of lumber with interesting flaws can inform what kind of furniture could be made from it, whether it’s a long bench or countertop or a small desk or table.

Depending on the species and the condition of the unfinished lumber, it may be possible to incorporate the original bark into the design; however, this may be undesirable from an aesthetic point of view or may not be possible due to the condition of the bark and its potential durability for use in a furniture project.

Raw lumber may have a high internal moisture content, particularly if it was recently cut or if it has been stored in a high humidity environment.

Unlike fine wood furniture, where the lumber stock needs to be kiln dried to achieve a uniform moisture content in order to fit the pieces together uniformly, the primary issue with lumber used in live edge furniture projects is different. Dimensional stability is less of an issue where the entire surface is constructed from one piece of wood. Warping, distortion, and cracking, however, are important considerations. Therefore, it’s prudent for most projects to allow the wood to dry out by running it through a kiln drying process.

High-temperature kiln drying can also serve a secondary function, which is very necessary when manufacturing live edge furniture projects. Here, we’re talking about fumigation. Natural logs can have any number of unwanted guests inside, ranging from burrowing worms to insects such as termites or boring beetles, to mold, or fungus infestations that must be treated before bringing the finished furniture project inside.

After the successful kiln drying and fumigation processes are completed by our lumber supply partners, Formaspace places the slabs in our inventory for customer projects.

Why You’ll Love Your Reclaimed Wood Slab Table, Desk or Countertop Hand Crafted by Formaspace

We really enjoy working with our customers to design and hand-craft fully custom, bespoke furniture.

And the live edge furniture projects are always among the most exciting and rewarding — both for us as the manufacturer and for our customers, who will enjoy many years of pleasure from owning a signature piece of furniture.

Commissioning a piece of live edge furniture is like buying a unique, one-of-a-kind piece of art that brings the natural element right into the heart of your office interior.

Social Spaces That Work Throughout the Workday

Far from distracting employees, breakout areas and spaces for socialization can actually improve productivity. A casual chat over lunch can spark an idea. Bumping into a colleague on the way to the coffee pot can lead to collaboration.

“Previously, business owners didn’t want to waste square footage on plazas, multipurpose rooms, breakout areas and socializing spaces. They wanted to see how many bodies they could fit in the space,” explains David Chason, Partner of AEI U.S. Studio. “It has come full circle in the last six to eight years. Designers have always put that into our designs, but clients and business owners
are now listening to that and using square footage in a different way that affects retention of employees.”

Thoughtful renovation can turn a humdrum breakroom into a space that achieves maximum use throughout the workday. Try these tips to draw people in.

Pay attention to cafe and breakroom design. “Food draws everyone together,” says Amy Klinefelter, Interior Designer for Gresham, Smith and Partners. “Providing large gathering spaces to collaborate and eat together is a great way to draw in younger employees and retain them longer.”

Instead of a breakroom, look at social spaces with multiple functions in mind. Chason views these areas as the “town center” around which the workplace revolves. “We look at spaces as cities,” he adds. “You’ve got houses in the suburbs, you’ve got townhouse and skyscraper buildings, you’ve got parks, and that’s how we look at the landscape of office space for a business. You also have enclosed private conference rooms – like when you plant a hedge for privacy – and open plan workstations where everyone has a visual of each other – the same as when you live in a city with lots of neighbors.”

Consider white noise or other acoustic solutions for open and common areas to keep socialization from bothering people in nearby workspaces.

The Perfect Workspace (According to Science)

The spaces we occupy shape who we are and how we behave. This has serious consequences for our psychological well-being and creative performance. Given that many of us spend years working in the same room, or even at the same desk, it makes sense to organize and optimize that space in the most beneficial ways possible.
When it comes to building your workspace you can aim for the trendy look and flick through some interior design mags, or you can let science guide the way. Based on recent psychology and neuroscience findings, here are some simple and effective steps you can take once to improve your productivity for years:

Take ownership of your workspace
The simple act of making your own decisions about how to organize your workspace has an empowering effect and has been linked with improved productivity.

Craig Knight, Director of the Identity Realization workplace consultancy, showed this in a 2010 study with Alex Haslam involving 47 office workers in London. Those workers given the opportunity to arrange a small office with as many or few plants and pictures as they wanted were up to 32 percent more productive than others not given this control. They also identified more with their employer, a sign of increased commitment to the team effort and increased efficiency.

If you are an office manager this suggests you should give your staff as much input into the design of their office and immediate workspace as possible. Many companies even give their employees a small amount of money to furnish their space. Alternatively, if you’re a creative in an open-plan office, try to find ways to make your mark on your immediate environment. Even the simple use of a pin-board to post your own pictures and messages could help you feel that the space is yours with consequent benefits for your work.

Choose rounded furniture and arrange it wisely
If you have the luxury of designing your own workspace, consider choosing a layout and furniture that is curved and rounded rather than sharp and straight-edged. Creating this environment has been linked with positive emotions, which is known to be beneficial for creativity and productivity (added bonus: there’s also less chance of knocking an elbow or knee on a sharp corner).

In a 2011 study, hundreds of undergrads looked at computer-generated pictures of room interiors and rated those filled with curvilinear (rounded), as opposed to rectilinear, furniture as more pleasing and inviting. Another study out this year found that people rated curvy, rounded environments as more beautiful than straight-edged rectilinear environments and that the rounded spaces triggered more activity in brain regions associated with reward and aesthetic appreciation.

This contrast between straight edges and curves also extends to the way we arrange our furniture. Apparently, King Arthur was on to something: sitting in circles provokes a collective mindset, whereas sitting in straight lines triggers feelings of individuality – something worth thinking about at your next meeting if you want to encourage team cohesion.

Apparently, King Arthur was on to something: sitting in circles provokes a collective mindset.

Take advantage of color, light and space
Choosing the right color and lighting scheme for your office is one of the simplest ways your environment can enhance your performance. Different colors and light levels have different psychological effects, so the ideal situation is to install a lighting system that allows you to alter the hue and brightness of your room to suit the kind of work that you’re engaged in.

For instance, exposure to both blue and green has been shown to enhance performance on tasks that require generating new ideas. However, the color red has been linked with superior performance on tasks involving attention to detail. Another study out this year showed that a dimmer environment fostered superior creativity in terms of idea generation, probably because it encourages a feeling of freedom. On the other hand, brighter light levels were more conducive to analytical and evaluative thinking.

Not as easy to modify, but ceiling height has also been shown to have psychological effects. A 2007 study found that a higher ceiling was associated with feelings of freedom, together with a more abstract and relational thinking style that helped participants see the commonalities between objects and concepts.

Make use of plants and windows
If you only do one thing to optimize your workspace, invest in a green plant or two. Research has repeatedly shown that the presence of office plants has a range of benefits including helping workers recover from demanding activities and lowering stress levels. As a bonus, there’s also evidence that plants can reduce office pollution levels.

Another feature of an optimized office is a window with a view, preferably of a natural landscape. This is because a glance at the hills or a lake recharges your mind. Obviously a view of nature isn’t possible for many people who work in cities, but even in an urban situation, a view of trees or intricate architecture have both been linked with restorative benefits. If you can’t negotiate a desk with a view, another plan is to choose an office in your building that’s the shortest stroll from an urban park. A visit here will revitalize your mind and compensate for your lack of a view.

If you only do one thing to optimize your workspace, invest in a green plant or two.

The benefits of a messy desk
There’s a lot of pressure these days to be organized. How are you supposed to get your work done if you can’t even find a clear space on your desk to roll a mouse or place a plant? But new research suggests Einstein may have been onto something when he opined: “If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?”

Kathleen Vohs and her colleagues at the University of Minnesota found that participants tested in a messy room at a desk covered with paper came up with more imaginative uses for a ping pong ball than participants tested in a tidy room. This matches the views of consultant Craig Knight who has argued against the modern trend for “lean” workspaces. “We don’t understand psychologically why putting someone in an impoverished space should work, when it doesn’t work for any other animal on the planet,” he said recently.

It also fits with the advice from Eric Abrahamson – co-author of A Perfect Mess: The Hidden Benefits of Disorder – who says people with highly ordered desks often struggle to find things because their filing systems are so complicated. He also points out a key advantage to a mess – you can find things in it that you didn’t expect. Discovering that ground-breaking idea you scribbled on a piece of paper two years ago could be just the spark to get your next project off the ground.

It’s easy to neglect the importance of your workspace, especially if you’re under pressure of deadlines and not so into interior design. But hopefully this review has convinced you that the spaces we occupy really can affect us psychologically. It’s vital that you choose an office space that you feel happy and comfortable in. If your freedom is restricted, shape the space as much as you can to make it your own. Get your surroundings in order and the rest is sure to follow.

Why sleeping during work is beneficial for both employees and employers

Our need for sleep is basal and even one of the first necessities in life. Still, a lot of people experience sleeping problems, which for instance causes them to be sleepy at work. But tired or not, we don’t easily give in to our need for sleep. “That has to do with our Calvinistical mentality,” says Alexander. “In our Western society, we still associate sleep with laziness. Although big companies like Google, Facebook and Uber have powernap rooms nowadays, in most work environments this is something that people save their money on.” And don’t forget that we almost consider it an achievement to sleep as little as possible. “You can see this mindset for instance at doctors that take 24 hour shifts. Sleeping is the opposite of commitment and drive. Sleeping is inactivity.”

Research shows that during your sleep, your brain plays a sort of programme, that alternates between deep sleep, light sleep and REM sleep. Alexander: “During these different stadia, your body is recovering and acquiring new energy.” In the first couple hours of sleep, your muscle tissue and DNA material is being repaired and new cells are made. “That is where the term ‘beauty sleep’ comes from: if you sleep enough, you look fresher and better.” It takes about 7 to 8 hours for the full programme to be completed. “If you don’t give your body enough time for this, you get the same effect as when you empty your washing machine before is it finished: your clothes are not completely clean and soaking wet. Not the result you were looking for.”

Big risks
If the sleep deficiency gets structural, your physical and mental health gets influenced negatively. “Your body recovers not as fast as before. You get more emotional, grumpy, irritable.” Next to this, your hormones get confused. There will be an inbalance between the hormones leptin and ghrelin, that tell you when you are saturated and hungry. “Your body thinks you have an energy shortfall and therefore wants to eat more. Thus, you can actually get slim while sleeping,” says Alexander laughing.

For the longer-term, the consequences of sleep deprivation are much more serious. “The risk for diseases is getting bigger, because your immune system is less strong. Physical complaints, depressions, burn-outs; it can all be linked to a shortage of sleep.” Eventually this will lead to absenteeism, which is inconvenient for both yourself and your employer, as absenteeism costs a lot of money. “But also being present while not performing optimally due to too little sleep, costs your employer a lot. This is called presenteeism and it is even a bigger problem,” explains Alexander. “The estimated costs are up to six times higher than costs of absenteeism.”

One piece of furniture, three solutions
Thus, it is for employers well worth the money to invest in ways to relax during work. Alexander: “You can see the sleep revolution is starting now. More and more offices have furniture that allow employees to get the most out of their moment of relaxation, like the Loungescape Powernap. This piece of furniture is very convenient, as it is suitable for both sleepy and tired people.” But what is the difference? “You are sleepy because you have sleep deprivation: you have been tossing and turning during the night or maybe you are jetlagged. Tiredness has to do with physical or mental exertion, like hard work of sports.”

The three programmes make the Loungescape Powernap suitable for many different target groups. With the corresponding app, you control the Whole-Body-Vibration matrass – powered by Neurosonic – that vibrates pleasantly on different parts of your body. “The programme ‘Powernap’ is ideal when you cannot perform well and need a boost in your productivity. The vibrations make sure you get active and alert within 12 or 24 minutes.” Do you have weary muscles because you have to deal with stressful situations at work of because you have been working out? Then the programme ‘Relaxtion’ (10, 20, 25 or 39 minutes) is ideal. It lets you relax and reduces stress considerably. “Next to this, the furniture is practical when you have an irregular day and night rhythm, for instance because you are working in shifts or travel a lot for your work. The programme ‘Recovery’ lasts a bit longer with 37 to 41 minutes, but gives you enough energy to be able to continue your tasks fit and alert.”

But what if you cannot fall asleep in such a short time? “That is not absolutely necessary,” explains Alexander. “By simply lying down, your body can also relax enough, especially if you use ‘Relaxation’. But if you are really tired and use the programma ‘Powernap’, you will fall asleep 8 out of 10 times.” Otherwise, you could also train yourself. “If you lie down every day at the same time, your body gets used to that moment of relaxation. If you keep on doing this for a longer period of time, at one point you might even fall asleep. Napping can be learned.”

Curious about the Ahrend Loungescape Powernap and how it can help you? Check out this page for more information and contact us to try the furniture for yourself!

Make your employees happy with the perfect employee experience

The creation of the employee experience already starts when you step into an office for the first interview. The principle is the sum of each and every experience you gain inside an organisation – until the second you close the door behind you on your last day of work. Creating positive experience is the perfect way to build a good engagement: dedicated employees that make an effort for their organisation from an intrinsic motivation and pure enthusiasm.

It is not without reason that more and more companies shift their focus from employee engagement to employee experience. Research shows that dedicated employees are more productive, deliver a higher quality of work and get higher customer satisfaction scores. On top of that, absenteeism and attrition rates decrease too!

A weapon in the war for talent
Another reason to invest in the employee experience is the war for talent that is getting more and more fierce. In every industry, organisations realise that they have to distinguish themselves from the competition to attract and keep talent inside their company. That means more flexibility, better technologies to work with and extensive feedback so that employees can be their best version – for themselves and the company!

Step by step
According to research from Deloitte, 80 percent of the CEO’s acknowledge the importance of EX, but only 22 percent considers their own employee experience as positive. Plenty of work to do!

Getting started with the employee experience isn’t complicated, says Morgan. As an organisation, you have to focus on three main aspects: corporate culture, technology and the psychical work environment.

› The corporate culture involves a good interaction between employees. The social relationships we have with our colleagues have a strong influence on our effectivity as well as our perception of our organisation.

› As to the technology aspect, it is about the tools employees need in order to be able to perform their work. Does the organisation offer the right technologies? And can employees also properly use these technologies?

› Finally the physical workspace is seen as one of the most important components of the employee experience. It involves the design of individual and team work spaces and the right environmental factors. But what does the ideal work environment look like?

The ideal workspace
First of all, think about how your office space is arranged. Brainstorming with a group of colleagues or working in silence while being concentrated? A good office is an environment in which employees can carry out their tasks optimally and can use the right and necessary means. Smart, because research shows that diversity and Activity Related Working can lead to an increase in productivity, a better exchange of knowledge, lower costs and most of all flexibility.

Also environmental factors, like the right amount of light, an agreeable temperature, an ergonomically set up workspace and enough ventilation can influence one’s productivity positively. Do you want more control over the environmental factors in your office? Try out the Comfort Workstation! Using this desk, employees can change all of these components to their own preference. Extra convenient: connect the desk with the individual ergonomic passport on your phone and it automatically adjusts itself to your personal preferences!

Despite a digitalising society, we remain to have a need for real-life social contact. Successful organisations want to stimulate people getting together to work, to learn and to socially connect. Smart technologies can help organisations achieving this goal. An example is the Ahrend Smart Working app, which allows employees to find their colleagues and free workplaces quick and easy. Especially in open workspaces with flex-workers, this tool can come in handy.

Technology-embedded office furniture keeps employees healthier

Sitting in an office chair hunched over a computer screen for 40 hours per week can cause permanent damage to the body’s bone structure.

The proper medical term, according to Mayo Clinic, is kyphosis, which can result in the weakening of back muscles and cause extreme pain. Most of us know it as “hunchback,” for which there is no cure.

Evolution in technology and the careful collection of data throughout the furniture industry, however, has resulted in office furniture products that can be personalized for each employee in an effort to provide better working environments that don’t put so much strain on the body.

Data collection of workspaces has allowed companies like Open Systems Technologies in Grand Rapids to collaborate with manufacturing companies such as Steelcase and Herman Miller in West Michigan to develop technology that connects to the furniture they are developing, according to Alex Jantz, solutions architect of OST’s connected products and data analytics practice.

“We partner alongside them in areas like the cloud and data analytics platforms they are going to use to collect the data, the software they are going to use to either embed into their products and/or create mobile application experiences,” Jantz said. “We are also often a part of the strategy conversation.”

OST helps to build web and mobile applications by using its cloud providers, Amazon Web Services (AWS) and Microsoft, to collect data and provide insight.

The data comes from surveys or questionnaires companies ask their employees that cover such areas as how they work and how they feel like they should be working best. That information is used to help install connected furniture.

“The software that we work with to partner with any manufacturing company is specifically customized to meet their needs,” said Michael Lomonaco, director of marketing and communications at OST. “Those cloud platforms, whether it is AWS or Microsoft Azure, are the foundation of these connected furniture or products.”

Once the furniture, like a connected chair, is made with the software installed in it, employees not only have the option of adjusting the chair the way they would like by using a button on the side of the chair, but they can do it via a mobile app if they have opted-in.

Jantz said employees using a connected phone app can take their saved preferred work settings and use the app to connect to any furniture that features the smart technology, resulting in comfortable and supportive personalized seating adjustments from work station to work station.

“With a connected chair, you will be able to get feedback saying ‘you are not sitting well or you may need to adjust your lower back or you are perched on the edge of your chair,’” Jantz said. “There are sensors in the chair that will be able to send you notifications on your phone that (suggest ways you can) adjust the chair.”

One of the apps is called Steelcase Rise, which pairs with a smart phone via Bluetooth technology and can remind users when to sit, stand, walk and track movement throughout the day if desired, according to Steelcase.