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The living office: warm, fluid and engaging

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Haworth's Openest Collection features office lounge furniture that is both tactile and approachable, bringing a sense of comfort and ease to the workplace.

THE latest workplace designs are all about creating "living" spaces that take the well-being of your employees seriously. By making people "feel at home" in the office, designers are optimising productivity with functional, and turning the workplace into a more personal environment.

To stroke the imagination further, companies could think of tactile furnishings that are inviting yet fitted with a host of practical functions; Schiavello's Goodwood Table that bridges the gap between a café and office or its Parlay table that introduces a sense of community and collaboration.

For fresh concepts, there is also Haworth's Openest Collection by Patricia Urquiola. This series of office lounge furniture is both tactile and approachable, bringing a sense of comfort and ease to the workplace.

Keeping in mind that a healthy workforce is a productive workforce, having bright, naturally-lit environments are increasingly emphasised today with colours and warm textures aimed at raising comfort levels. Playful furnishings - such as the Magis Happy Bird stool from XTRA - offer a sense of surprise and creativity.

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However, employees may want to keep such gestures to dedicated zones where innovation and creative-thinking are likely to occur.

There are also other latest products focusing on restoring balance and keeping minds healthy after long periods on a task - including those that use natural elements to keep spaces refreshed.

Green walls continue to be popular here; for a more quirky option, Greenology turns nature into artistic centrepieces with its Living Art series. For a more modern take, the Garden Wall by Tait from Stylecraft offers a stackable wall system allowing foliage to emerge.

FLUID AND FLEXIBLE

Workplace products are also responding to the demand for choice and flexibility - whether it's the way people work or where they work. Adjustable fixtures allow workplace teams to decide how they work best.

Emerging ergonomic tools include products that enable users to customise the positions of monitor screens, laptops and tablets. Even switching between sitting and standing can be facilitated with Knoll's Antenna Telescope with height adjustable table systems, coupled with horizon privacy screens.

Designers are also responding to the changing needs of today's dynamic workplace. There are flexible systems that can adapt to changing business needs, while allowing room for future expansion or contraction. The Vitra WorKit, for example, is an office furniture system that excels in offering a wide range of configurations.

A new slew of design solutions are available to carve out alternative work areas that promote collaboration. Employers can take inspiration from the Vitra Alcove Sofa or the Buzzihub from Vanguard Interiors. These cocoon-like spaces create conducive social spaces for smaller groups, while keeping teams focused on the task at hand.

Screens are a stylish, yet flexible, way to demarcate collaborative spaces from an existing floor plan. Sound-diffusion qualities, which minimise noise distraction, are a great value-added feature, as seen in the freestanding Plume Screens from Haworth's Openest Collection.

Another way to enhance collaboration is providing people with easy access to more communicative settings along with the tools they need.

The Longo system by BW Furniture offers an intriguing modular system which combines sofas, desks, storage and even sound-absorbing panels. For a more light-weight alternative, Haworth's Habor Work Lounge allows users to switch from focused work at their desks to brainstorming with colleagues at stylish lounge seats.

LIVING LANDSCAPES

In many ways, offices can be designed as living "landscapes" optimised for different work activities.

Open-plan offices have been the rage for years but increased distractions have prompted companies to go back to the roots of more holistic space-planning.

Companies are looking to create workspaces that are balanced in trying to meet two different objectives - getting employees to focus and to collaborate with one another. They should hence seek out designers who are research-based and forward-thinking.

Herman Miller, for instance, offers a global Living Office solution where designers and strategists seek to understand a company's vision, purpose and needs before customising solutions.

Companies are also recognising the need to increase employee engagement by creating inspiring environments that express the organisation's unique culture and vision.

The next phase of workplace design will likely see livelier environments that consider dynamic working modes, employee well-being, corporate goals and a unique celebration of a company's brand.

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