As we began to consider the return to the office post-pandemic, there was one particular item or space that really seemed to highlight the development that we’ll need to take on board and that also summed up how ACS hopes to help its clients. This is what we at ACS called the Teams booth. We felt that the return to the office would include some time working from home or other spaces, creating a dispersed workforce, and so this piece of furniture would really become quite important.
Interestingly, smart-working specialists Orangebox, a short time before, had released a new product called On the QT which is a part of its Campers and Dens range and fulfils the structural elements of a Teams booth.
Technology has evolved for use from office-to-office and, in the last year, home-to-home, but we feel this will shift to office-to-home calls when some workers choose to remain working from home, or when different teams are in the office at different times. We also feel that the video barrier had been broken and video calls will become the main medium for this type of call. But whatever medium is used, there’s still a need for cross-departmental working and On the QT enables that.
On the QT comprises personal and phone booth-style pods for when people need privacy in an otherwise open-plan office. The taller style proves popular with those wanting to make a quick call in private, rather than moving to stairwells or corridors, or walking round the office disturbing others. The smaller pods provide a comfortable seating area where users could happily stay for longer meetings of an hour, for example, or could complete a work task which requires quiet and concentration.
Both types are designed for connectivity, allowing wifi to work and including power sources so that you just step in with your phone, tablet or laptop and you’re set up ready to go.
I believe technology is the ‘grunt’ when it comes to effective working, it’s what makes things happen, but carefully designed furniture is what encourages people to use that technology correctly and feel comfortable when they’re doing so.
With this in mind, I spoke to Nathan Hurley, Research and Insight Manager at Orangebox, and his colleague Mark Partridge, who is Design Manager, to find out more about the thinking behind their innovative product.
I started by asking Mark if he thought tech or furniture was the enabler.
“I think they are symbiotic. Desks were originally necessary because the tools we used, telephones, typewriters, etc, were anchored to one point. Desks are becoming less powerful because technology gives us the freedom to move around. The only restriction is in our minds, the way we think about a workspace.
“We wanted to produce a toolkit of products that could fit into any space and give workers somewhere that was open and collaborative but where there was a comfortable space to take themselves away when they need to.”
Speaking to Nathan and Mark, it seems their vision is to move the office to something more like a hub, where people come together in ways they can’t do from home. It’ll be somewhere they want to visit, not have to visit, and when there’s a mix of home and office working, On the QT facilitates that required connection.
Nathan added: “We use expert research to carefully consider the functionality of our furniture – technology, acoustics, comfort and the psychological effects of the space – how it makes the user feel.
“Everything is for a reason. So, we added the Kink, which is part of the ergonomic design of the booth, and that not only deflects sound waves in the right direction, so you don’t get bounce-back, but it also creates just enough extra leg room to make sitting in there for a one or two-hour meeting so much more pleasant. Similarly, we looked at things like the thickness of the glass, so that it is private but still allows excellent wifi connectivity.
“As we move away from traditional office spaces, human beings have to be at the heart of that. From now on, the action is not going to be focused on each workstation but is going on all around – offices will no longer be purely enclosed, or purely open plan, but will break down barriers and provide a space that suits all users.”
Talking to Nathan and Mark confirmed our thinking that the process has gone from what was maybe termed ‘flexible offices’ into something that is more like an ‘evolved office’. At ACS we have termed this ‘Beyond Flexible’.