Posts tagged workstations
Makers: Innovant

by Rob Kirkbride 

Innovant is well known for its highly technical desking and height adjustable table products. Its FORm_office is a standard for many of the top financial firms in New York and beyond…

With the understanding that not everyone needs such a high performance, highly technical product, Innovant is launching NIGEL, a new product line that features a modern, yet classic design that is still suitably sophisticated and simple to specify. 

It has a lightweight appearance because of its slim frame and lack of hardware, giving it a residential feel. It certainly does not replace the company’s hit FORm_office line, rather enhances it by giving customers other options. NIGEL works well for customers seeking Innovant’s design methodology – clean, intelligent and tailored products – who do not have the high-level technology management needs. 

Its design draws upon the Parsons Desk frame, with a quick assembly, knock-down design for easy transportation and rapid installation or reconfiguration. While FORm_office is a perfect fir for financial firms where a trader might have eight computer screens and a high need for technology integration, NIGEL is suited for technology, media, real estate and design firms. Customization comes through material selection or adapted storage and privacy accessories… 

“There are many clients who come to Innovant who don’t need that horsepower [of FORm_office] under the hood,” said Bruce Wells, director of marketing and development. “They are looking for our sensitivity to design and want all the unique, client-driven features and detailing, but don’t necessarily need the level of engineering that comes with FORm_office.”

It is a similar approach to what car maker Tesla is doing – drawing in trendsetting and influential customers with its top -of-the-line model and offering models with less features later. Still, Wells insists that NIGEL is not a step down from Innovant’s commitment to quality. Instead, it is a different product for a different set of customer requirements…

NIGEL hopes to [further] open up Innovant products to a new category of customers… The company has quietly emerged from the New York financial market and has been gaining traction in other sectors… The company continues to branch out from there.

Originally published in the Monday Morning Quarterback, June 8, 2015.

Open Offices Back In Vogue - Thanks to Millennials
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Attention, Millennials: Advertising agency Grey has an office just for you. As reported by PSFK, the company’s New York location has set up a Millennial-only wing called Base Camp. Rather than being seated in separate client account teams, young workers all share desk space in a central area away from their supervisors. It’s the latest iteration of the open plan office, which has gradually overtaken cubicles as the standard workplace layout as managers look to promote collaboration and cut costs. This design will likely to continue gaining momentum thanks to Millennial workers eager to bond with their co-workers.

Over the past decade, the open office has become a fixture of the modern workplace. The private offices and high cubicle walls of yesteryear have increasingly given way to workspaces with no or low partitions. These offices often have long rows of tables where staff members work alongside managers and executives. Several big-name companies, including Microsoft, Cisco, and CBRE, have gone even further and established “free-address” workplaces with no assigned seating. Overall, about 70% of U.S. offices have some type of open floor plan, according to the International Facility Management Association. And platforms like Grind and NeueHouse even rent out similar environments to freelancers who would otherwise work from home.

Many consider open offices a less stuffy alternative to cubicle life. In theory, this design promotes transparency and fairness: Fewer walls and doors make management seem more approachable and encourage information to flow freely. Former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg famously applied this model to City Hall, creating “the Bullpen” to encourage openness and communication. Meanwhile, the ubiquity of open offices among Silicon Valley titans—Google, Facebook, eBay, and Yahoo! among them—has made the design shorthand for free-wheeling, innovative enterprise where ideas can be exchanged on the fly.

Companies have also embraced this design for a less utopian reason: It saves money. Open layouts maximize existing space while minimizing costs, particularly in an era when more employees are telecommuting and leaving cubicles empty.

The debate over open offices reflects stark generational differences. Those who complain the loudest about this office concept are older workers, particularly Boomers. Not only does this generation value workplace privacy the most, they also tend to see office space as representative of one’s level of achievement and value. After finding out that his employer would be shifting to an open floor plan and he would lose his office, one Boomer lamented to NPR: “I earned a window. That was important to me.”

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Millennials, on the other hand, are this layout’s biggest proponents. This arrangement is well-suited for a group-oriented generation that values the opportunity to socialize, work in teams, and get help from co-workers. Their mobile style of working also means that they don’t equate space with worth and are eager for more egalitarian spaces that encourage everyone to contribute. To be sure, young people’s perceptions of open offices aren’t all positive: According to a 2012 study of Finnish workers, Millennials find conversations and laughter just as distracting as older generations do. But they’re more likely to believe that the trade-offs are worth it.

In moving toward open environments, young adults are also going backward to the workplaces of their grandparents. Back in the 1950s and ‘60s, open bullpens for workers were the norm. This changed with the introduction of the cubicle—a modular system dubbed Action Office II—in 1968. Its creator envisioned it as a way to liberate Boomer workers by giving them more privacy and autonomy—which ended up becoming a double-edged sword as managers arranged them into dreary, uniform “farms” that packed in as many people as possible. Between 1977 and 1997, cubicle sales in America grew 20-fold. And now the walls have begun coming down again—this time spurred by a generation of employees who’d rather collaborate than work alone.

Going forward, it’s likely that the latest incarnation of the open office won’t look like its predecessors. In the light of mounting evidence against a no-walls environment, designers are offering modified spaces that allow for privacy according to job function rather than seniority. While a marketing team, for instance, could benefit from a chatty atmosphere, a writer on deadline might need space to concentrate.

Some tech companies, like AECOM, have created “coding caves” that require total silence; inside, workers aren’t allowed to chat, take phone calls, or play music. And on the main floor, they follow different guidelines governing conversation volume and appropriate times to interrupt colleagues. In some sense, open offices might come to resemble the military—where soldiers have long followed strict protocol in order to operate in close quarters. In this way open offices will not only allow employees to be social, but will also teach them sociability.

Content originally published in Forbes, March 31, 2015.