Neocon, the National Exposition of Contract Furnishings, is an annual trade fair held in Chicago, with exhibitors demonstrating innovative products and resources for a whole range of commercial workplaces and environments.
This year’s event attracted more than 40,000 people with more than 700 exhibitors and permanent showrooms demonstrating the hottest new products for corporate, hospitality and healthcare interiors.
- Moving and working
Evidence over the past few years in the US has suggested that significant health risks accompany sedentary desk jobs. Alternatives to sitting in one place at a desk all day were a significant trend emerging at NeoCon. Height adjustable desks and desks that encourage movement have been developed, and the market is now in a rapid growth phase.
KI went a step further by including a mobile and tablet application allowing employees to track the amount of time they spend standing at their desks. They can then accumulate these points as part of fitness programs.
Focal, a newcomer to the market, offered a different solution in the form of upright furniture, including a chair reminiscent of old tractor seats, only much more comfortable. Another exhibitor, Markant, demonstrated their Oxidesk, which apparently allows you to efficiently combine work with a healthy dose of physical exercise – whether this is as effective as they say, I’m not sure.
- Technological tie-ins
For many years, incorporating technology into furniture has been a focus, but this year saw a particular trend of technology joining the work environment, particularly with the global increase in device usage. Only 40 percent of your work gets done while alone at your desk, which indicates a growing ability to work anytime, anywhere. The workscape has expanded far beyond office borders.
Companies launching new ‘technology walls’ proved why NeoCon gives us insight into the latest in innovation and technology. Haworth, an office furniture-maker, unveiled a wall-sized touchscreen called Bluescape, giving users up to 160 acres of virtual space to collaborate, innovate and create. This interactive workspace is designed to encourage effective, involved work environments.
Steelcase launched VIA (Vertical Intelligent Architecture), which hosts large-scale video and display technologies. Designed to help people who are struggling to visualise data, VIA encourages the creation of spaces that fuel the innovation process.
In the not-so-distant future…
So what does this mean for the future? Steelcase suggests that walls will not only define private offices, but also private experiences such as video conversations, brainstorming new concepts, and confidential conversations.
Jan Johnson of FIIDA predicts that physical spaces will still have a role to play in future workspaces, but that they won’t “necessarily need to be owned or managed by one’s employer.” This is certainly an intriguing way to think about workplaces, and furniture will need to keep up to follow this trend. Looking forward, contract furnishings will need to adapt to new technology and the changing needs of employers and employees.
Ian Cooper is the head of global sales and marketing at Integ, a division of Modtec Industries.
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