January 2017 archive

Examining the Future of Office Furniture and Office Design

Office Furniture

Using Office Furniture to Respond to Evolving Ways of Working


The way that we work is constantly revolutionised by advancements in technology and changes in human habit. How we work compared to say, 20 years ago, has developed considerably. Back then, computers were installed in just a few offices. Now, the desktop is slowly becoming obsolete. With wireless technology and the Internet of Things, many office workers do not even need to be sat at their desk. Remote working is on the rise for several reasons, which is why the office is increasingly being forced to adapt to the changing requirements of workers.

Just because working from home can be more convenient does not mean that it is the most effective way available. The main advantage of staying in the house is the comfort it provides. No distractions, refreshments within 100 metres and pleasant surroundings. Environments such as these will help with concentration levels, enabling workers to produce more effective work. However, a key drawback is a lack of connection with the business. Barring video calls, the worker has no face-to-face contact with co-workers and the opportunity for collaboration is severely reduced. So, on a core level, the future of office furniture needs to create something which is comfortable and situated at the headquarters of the business, while incorporating collaborative spaces into the design.


Office Furniture

Office Pod


Using Big Data to Peer into the Future


In the past, office design has been based on this idealised vision we have of how our offices should work. With a pair of rose tinted glasses, designers saw workers happily working away in their pods. However, this severely overlooks privacy concerns, lack of physical activity, and distractions from others working in close proximity.The resulting health issues, both mental and physical are well documented. This is why leading manufacturers are now collaborating with research institutes to get to the core of what should be prioritised in an effective office design. The aim is to create solutions which are moulded around how people really behave.

This means creating environments which are genuinely comfortable. Spaces which are completely free from distractions. A common misconception is that the working playgrounds of Google and Facebook are the future. While they may work for the coders and creative minds of those businesses, the same cannot be said for other fields of work. Some tasks require a more individualistic approach while larger group projects will need a larger, contained space.


Using Office Furniture to Make the Office Comfortable and Enjoyable


As discussed earlier, one of the key factors holding back office design and a host of businesses is being unable to make it an attractive proposition to employees. Not only does this affect their happiness, but it also influences the chances of retaining that member of staff. Many factors now need to be considered when hiring employees, otherwise, there is the risk they may join a competitor. Combined with a daily commute, creating a setting which is better than the comfort of their own home is a considerable challenge.

10 years ago, considerations such as privacy and comfort were only just being introduced to the design of office furniture. We began to see ergonomic chairs, wrist rests, monitors with varying heights, and much more. These addressed some of the more apparent physical health issues. However, they did very little to touch upon the mental strain which the office can have. The University of California established that humans can on average only concentrate for 4-5 hours a day before becoming exhausted. In fact, office workers were reported to become distracted every 3 minutes and it often takes another 23 minutes to regain full flow.

The solution is to create dynamic office furniture which allows different tasks to be completed in various environments. Rather than a static desk, workers are being equipped with a laptop and then given the freedom to pick out an environment which suits them. Need to concentrate? Individual acoustic booths provide the perfect escape from the rest of the office. Require the input of a colleague? Larger acoustic office pods are excellent for enabling collaborative activities without disrupting the remainder of the office.


Creating Privacy Within Open Plan Offices


The ‘cubicle farm’ which became the staple of most offices worldwide is finally being phased out. To address growing concerns about privacy, workers are being given greater freedom in the office to decide where they work. This has led to innovative new designs which adopt the features of an acoustic pod and integrate them into a succinct and individual pod. Equipped with acoustic screens, this cuts down on both visual and audible distractions. The result is a private workstation which makes the most of the space which is available.

The combination of collaborative pods and individual pods provides complete freedom for workers to pick out the best environment for the work they are doing. Including acoustic foam into the panels as well as the walls is effective at absorbing sound waves. This dampens the ambient background noise of every office, making it a more peaceful environment to work in. These then include ergonomic seating while providing consideration for other physical problems than can arise from sitting in an office for 8 hours and more a day.


Office Furniture

Modern Office Furniture Design – Credit: BAKOKO


Rap Industries designs and manufactures bespoke office partitioning and acoustic pods for clients from a variety of industries. Established over 40 years ago, our designs are inspired by the needs and requirements of our clients. To find out more about how we can enhance your office, please get in touch. You can either call 01733 394941 or send an e-mail to sales@rapind.com.

4 Ways an Office Pod Can Enhance Your Environment

Modern Office

Enabling Open Plan Offices with Modern Design


The open plan office is something which most white collar workers can sympathise with. Barring a career path working for a slew of forward-thinking companies, chances are that at some point, we have all experienced the ‘cubicle farm’. Packed in tight like sardines and equipped with a desk and computer, the hum of offices like these can be deafeningly depressing. Studies have lamented this now 50-year old design for its propensity to ‘dehumanise’ humans, rather ironically. Fortunately, some bright spark in the last decade decided to find out what would happen when people were given freedom. Unsurprisingly, the result has been overwhelmingly positive and the office pod is the result of such thinking.

Rather than focusing on figures, statistics and the bottom line, corporate management is finally having its eyes opened towards alien concepts such as; innovation and collaboration. Rather than trying to squeeze every bit of life out of an employee, they’re starting to see the value in allowing people to be creative. Innovation and inspiration are the only way we move forward and stifling it has held many businesses back over the past half-century. Office design continues to evolve with modern innovations such as the office pod, paving the way to a brighter future for office workers.


Modern Office

Modern Office Design – Credit: Complete Interior Design


1. The Future of the Modern Office is in Fluid Design


The ‘cubicle farm’ is notoriously structured. Strict regiments of workers, contained in fabric boxes, with only a computer and a few possessions to accompany them. Hardly the kind of setup which is going to convince people that company is going to be worth working for. Modern office design needs to introduce fluidity. The structured approach strangles innovation, although, it’s important to note; full freedom will lead to a business losing sight of its goals. Therefore, any office design should seek to strike a balance between the two. Forward-thinking office designers envision this taking place in the open plan layout, with clearly defined neighbourhoods.

Teams are increasingly scattered in clusters, allowing group discussions to be contained without needing to be bellowed across the office. The design should consider the type of work taking place. For example, if you have a customer service team on board, consider the audible distractions they produce. Situating them next to designers will cause more problems than you are trying to solve. Collaborative and spoken tasks should be contained in one neighbourhood, reducing further disruptions for the rest of the office. This creates a comfortable environment for each team, allowing them to concentrate and ultimately, produce more effective work.


2. Office Pod – Tailored for Meetings


We discussed the office pod briefly before and to expand, it is increasingly being considered as a cornerstone of modern office design. Equipped with an innovative design, these can provide an additional layer of fluidity in an open office. Sometimes collaborative group work will need privacy and the freedom to express itself and the main office is no place to thrash out ideas or practice presentations. So, the office pod can become an adaptable space, separate from the office and acoustically equipped to cope with audible distractions.

Whether it is for group meetings or meetings with clients, an office pod can provide privacy for anyone without requiring a permanent room. Even for individual workers, the office pod is effective at providing peace and quiet when working to close deadlines. The traditional open office is renowned for becoming a cacophony of noise and distractions. Therefore, separating these groups enables creativity and innovation to flourish.


3. Conduct the Ideal Interview with an Office Pod


The clear majority of modern start-ups are incorporating these fluid concepts in their own designs. Nowadays, the design of your workplace has become a reflection of the company culture as a whole. Blanket white tones and a rigid layout set a more serious tone. Meanwhile, floods of colour and savvy technology strike resemble a more positive and relaxed company. For many of these start-ups, the goal is to attract the newer generations. Ideally, those with fresh ideas and a firm handle on whatever social media is. Even at the interview stage for prospective employees, a candidate is often assessed for how well they could fit in with the team.

Turn up for an interview at a ‘fun’ company wearing a suit and you may actually risk costing yourself the job as you do not fit in with the culture they are trying to achieve. Once again, it is no longer the bottom line (CV) which seals the deal, but the characteristics which make you human. In terms of office design, an office pod provides an ideal environment for such interviews to take place. Separate from the main office, yet with an insight into how things operate, this is designed to provide flexibility. As the business grows with new employees, should you need the space again, the office pod can be packed away or simply moved.


4. Learning without Distractions


As one of the main features of the office pod is its ability to create private space, this means that its usefulness extends outside of the office. To be specific, when learning is taking place, whether that is of children in school or new employees, creating the right conditions will help to provide them with a head start. In an office, you may be fortunate enough to use headphones. However, without a block on external distractions, the distractions caused by open plan layouts will undermine the learning process.

Considering initial training will almost always be the first thing a new employee does, it is still important for you to make a good impression as a business. Simply throwing them on a spare desk and leaving them to their own devices hardly strikes of a considerate business. Employee expectations for working conditions continue to grow in tandem with evolving office design. Therefore, as competitors continue to adapt, failure to do so makes your business a less attractive proposition to potential candidates.


Office Pod

Acoustic Office Pod


The office pod is a key innovation in modern office design. Here at Rap Industries, we have manufactured office partitioning and exhibition stands for over 40 years. Throughout this time, our products and designs have adapted to meet the evolving requirements of our clients. To find out more about the office pod as well as our other products, please get in touch. To do so, either call 01733 394941 or send an e-mail to sales@rapind.com.

The History of Open Office Design: Inspiring the Future

Open Office Design

The Cubicle was Inherently Flawed, But the Future is Bright for Office Workers


When office workers sit at work like drones, churning away at a computer which grumbles whilst trying to run Excel in tandem with a web browser, it’s rare they take a moment to absorb their surroundings. The office is synonymous with clocking in at 8:58, sitting at a desk and staring longingly at the clock as it ticks towards twelve ‘o’ clock. It’s generally perceived the life of the office worker is full of misery, brightened once a year when Christmas is a few weeks away. Why this is the case is surprisingly easy to track, but the designers of the open office never intended it to be this way. Feel like a walking zombie when you walk into the office? Yeah, you can thank corporate suits for that.

The layout which adorns the vast majority of offices worldwide is 52 years old in 2017. The ‘Action Office Plan II’ as it was known back then has been so successful, that it has only undergone a few minor tweaks and changes since. We’ll get onto why the second iteration was such a longstanding success, whilst its predecessor barely got a sniff. To put things into perspective, George Nelson, one of the designers who assisted in the design of the action office, reflected on the creation. Simply put, the action open office design was “for employees, for personnel, corporate zombies, the walking dear, the silent majority. A large market.”


Open Office Design

Cubicle Farm – Credit: Chris Campbell


How the Cubicle was Born and How it Set Out to Revolutionise Open Office Design


The open plan office has been around since architect, Frank Lloyd Wright designed the Larkin Administration Building in New York, in 1906. Its design took inspiration from factories of the time by incorporating as few walls as possible. Workers would sit in lines of desks, surrounded by their managers. The idea being there was a constant figment in their mind they were being watched. For sixty years, office workers were merely seen as cogs in the machine. If the cog does not work efficiently, the bosses at the top simply pop out the ineffective part and replace it with one which does work. The concept of humanisation was hardly popular at the time.

George Nelson and Robert Propst finalised the designs for the ‘Action Office I’ in 1964. The result was a combination of their theories of how the office should operate. This design was the first to consider that flexibility and freedom might have some place in the office. It was well known at the time that Nelson and Propst rarely saw eye-to-eye. However, they collaborated to create an office which would promote productivity, privacy and health. Unfortunately, these factors come at the cost of space efficiency and the ever-important tipping point; money.

Early reviews raved about this modernist approach to open office design. It was supposed to mean liberation for workers who were trapped in their classroom style layouts. However, for corporate managers, even during a period of economic boom, the revolutionary design simply was not worth the outlay. As offices grew, they wanted a design which would cram them in tighter. Nelson was removed from the project after refusing to accept this, but Propst finished the product. What became known as ‘Action Office II’ would forever burden him with the tag as the ‘Father of the Cubicle’.


How Open Office Design is Changing in 2017 and How Those Ideals Are Finally Being Realised


The Action Office II sacrificed style for sustenance. While Propst managed to incorporate privacy and adaptability into the design, it’s unlikely he realised the human cost. Corporate managers loved it, cram them in like cattle, cut the cost over a long period, with the only offset being that they must give employees a bit of privacy. So here we are today, victims of a demand for a ‘cubicle farm’. The Action Office was conceived to help people enjoy the office environment, rather than being racked by stress, anxiety and depression which the mundane nature of the work often induced. While the design was certainly a great solution for corporate bosses, both Nelson and Probst knew that it failed to achieve what they set out to create.

52 years on and there may be light at the end of the tunnel for white-collar workers. Led by start-ups and forward thinking businesses, the new generation of corporate bosses are beginning to realise the value of developing a happy and healthy workforce. While it is elementary now, it is baffling that for nearly 100 years, nobody latched on to the idea that keeping people happy and healthy would lead to better results, more efficient results and increasingly innovative results. Who knew that treating employees like humans would lead to a more productive business, boosting the flow of money into a business’ coffers?


How the Office Pod is One of the Key Tools in Realising These Ideals…


Courtesy of new technology, modern open office design is finally starting to achieve the ideals of freedom and flexibility which the Action Office never could. Being anchored to a desk is becoming a thing of the past. Rather than all employees being clumped into a large cattle-grid, offices are now being laid out into ‘neighbourhoods’, keeping relevant groups together. For noisy group work, separate spaces are even being created to maintain harmony in the wider office. It all sounds so simple, but the effect it can have is substantial.

Acoustic screens, adjustable desks, ergonomic chairs, the office pod and glass walls, all just a snapshot of modern furnishings. 50 years ago, office furniture was manufactured to be cheap and needed replacing every few years. Now, quality is at the heart of modern designs and they are produced with the future in mind. Rather than being viewed as a constant outlay every few years, businesses are now realising the value of designing offices as an investment. With adaptability at the core of the design, the office can flex and grow in tandem with the business.


Open Office Design Innovations

Office Pod


At Rap Industries, we have manufactured office partitioning to meet client’s demands for over 40 years. During this period, we’ve seen the market shift and all of our current products are designed with this mind. For many information on the products we produce, 05please get in touch. Either send an e-mail to sales@rapind.com or give us a call on 01733 394941.

Behind the Design: Acoustic Pods

Acoustic Pods

How Acoustic Pods are Revolutionising the Modern Workplace


Acoustic pods are an emerging trend in modern office design and this has happened in tandem with the integration of wireless technology. As tasks are no longer restricted to the static workstation, people now have greater freedom to work more efficiently. Collaboration is the latest buzz word being bounded around as the key to inspiring innovation. While this statement is not absolute, the potential for ideas to be created from multiple minds, rather than just one, increases the chance of a well-rounded result. However, individual work remains essential and acoustic pods can play a key role in maintaining harmony in the workplace.

The open place office sets the standard for any modern office design, however addressing its issues is vital to creating an efficient workplace. Open plan designs commonly struggle with escalating volume levels and a plethora of distractions. Fortunately, the cubicle layout is in the past, but the idea at the heart of that design is driving modern innovations. Acoustic pods are a key development in this. Equipped with acoustic technology, these pods excel at dividing office space and providing an area for collaborative work to take place.


Acoustic Pods

Acoustic Pods


What are Acoustic Pods? 


The design of acoustic pods has undergone extensive development over the past decade. At the core, the concept of the pod is to create separate and private working spaces. While the cubicle attempted to create privacy for every individual, acoustic pods succeed in creating working spaces which are separated from the main office. When equipped with acoustic foam in the panels, this creates the ideal environment for collaborative work. Importantly, this feature enables the acoustic pods to be used for meetings, presentations, interviews and other group work.

In theory, acoustic pods are simply just another room, however, it benefits from being free from several strings attached. Importantly, when the pod is being installed, there are next to no disruptions. No building work and no logistical nightmares ensure they are incredibly practical for businesses looking to keep the momentum going. Being simple to set up also ensures they can adapt if the office design changes in the future. This should be an important consideration if you expect the size of your team to grow.


Why are Acoustic Pods Worth the Investment?


Acoustic pods are designed to accommodate the important changes of thought behind office design. With modern technology, the nature of work has drastically changed over the past 15 years and as the result, the way we think about where we work has subsequently adapted with it. Having our own workstation is still common, but the tasks we complete there are changing. A growing amount of work undertaken is now seen as collaborative and it is these tasks which the office pod is targeted towards. If meetings and group discussions take place in a fixed office design, the amount of audible and visual distractions is considerable, causing issues across the office floor.

Acoustic pods address this by containing both these audible and visual distractions. This allows the static office work to continue to operate without interruption. Because of that, group discussions have the freedom to take place without risking a few grumbles from those trying to concentrate in peace. Flexibility is a key issue now being incorporated into office design. Importantly, this looks at giving employees the freedom to choose where they work to be the most efficient. When an employee is happy with where they work, their morale and job satisfaction will steadily improve and as a direct result, so will the quality of their work.


Flexible Options to Enhance Any Office


Many manufacturers of acoustic pods out there, Rap Industries included, will create every product bespoke. This means designing around the existing office layout, company culture as well as the thoughts of those who will be using it. As such, there is a huge range of materials available, with fabrics, woods, glass, Perspex and much more on offer. Like the result which the acoustic pods are designed to provide, flexibility is at the heart of every project. Individual pods can be designed to integrate into any corner of the office, with various sizes, shapes and finishes.

If there is plenty of open space to spare, then pods can even be designed to be partially closed. As such, it is possible to divide open plan layouts to incorporate break rooms and individual meeting areas without disrupting the rest of the office. Often, this is achieved by introducing acoustic office screens. Their stylish design can be manufactured in a straight or curved panel, allowing the area to be customised in any way required.


Acoustic Pods

Partially Closed Acoustic Pods


Integrating Acoustic Pods into your Open Plan Layout

All the acoustic pods are unique and because of this, it is easy to find a design which fits in with the existing aesthetic of the office. Colours, accessories and final touches of detail can all be included to add your own stamp to the pod. For example, the acoustic office pod from Rap Industries is available with a huge range of fabric colours. If you opt for a Perspex screen, we can even add printed graphics. This enables the pod to be completely customised with branding, therefore helping to embed the company’s ethos.