Live work Media scape and hospital Pockets

June 10, 2011
| By Pete Daly |
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The largest of West Michigan’s Big Three office furniture makers has a long reach, as can be seen at the Steelcase Inc. showrooms at NeoCon. The furniture concepts range from a blending of work with the comforts of home — or home with the demands of work — to impromptu sharing of laptop files to wheeled Pockets, which doctors can use to haul their iPads along on hospital rounds.

Nurture, the Steelcase division that produces furniture for health care, is introducing its Pocket Tablet mobile workstation, which, according to a Nurture announcement, is designed to “support the active work of health care professionals by accommodating both the demands of the task at hand as well as emerging portable tablet technology like the iPad, Xoom and Playbook.”

Alan Rheault, director of product design, said one of the key principles is to accommodate changing technology. He noted that when the first version of Pocket was introduced last year, iPad was not even on the market. Now as Pocket Tablet comes out, iPad2 is already on the market.

Mandated electronic medical records is one of the drivers for doctors to have an electronic tablet device with them on the job.

Pocket has a cubby for storage and a height-adjustable tablet holder, a small footprint and magnetic accessories. It has “a high adoption rate by physicians,” according to Jan Carlson, vice president of marketing and product development at Nurture.

Meanwhile, back at home, people are working more — while at the office, people are socializing more — and that means furniture is adjusting to those changes.

“The office is becoming more of a social place,” said Tom Di Lillo, director of marketing communications for the Coalesse division at Steelcase Inc. He said office workers today are largely “un-tethered” and research has revealed that people who work at home often don’t work in their home office. They work in the dining room, living room or sometimes in the bedroom.

He said coming to work now is actually more of a social event for those office workers because that’s when they interact and collaborate with fellow workers.

Coalesse, which bills itself as “the leader in live/work furnishings,” is also starting to design things for the home, said Di Lillo. Its Power Pod, which became available to consumers in March at the Steelcase online store, has a heavy-duty cord that plugs into an outlet. The Pod is placed on a table or other surface where multiple laptops and other devices need electricity. It has several outlets that are tastefully covered when not in use by a convenient holder for office items like pens or sticky pads.

At NeoCon, Coalesse is launching the Millbrae collection of lounge seating and occasional tables, and there is a residential version of it, according to Di Lillo.

Sebastopol, designed by Emilia Borgthorsdottir of Iceland, is an occasional table collection that the Coalesse showroom will introduce at NeoCon. Inspired by geometric shapes, it is a flexible line of furniture that can accommodate a variety of settings, from a lounge area to an impromptu meeting space.

Another introduction at the Coalesse showroom is Emu Pattern, the newest series of indoor/outdoor steel furniture from the Emu Advanced Collection designed by Arik Levy. It consists of stackable one-piece armless chairs, bench seating, and round and square tables, all featuring a cut-out hexagonal pattern. De Lillo said there will be an Emu Pattern side chair for office use at the showroom, too.

“We are not going to lose what we do in corporate (furniture),” said De Lillo, when questioned about Steelcase’s move into residential furniture. But, he said, the best direction is toward a cross-over idea.

The Steelcase brand showroom will introduce enhancements to the Answer line, a panel system with a patented frame design that increases its flexibility. Answer is designed with a range of panel heights and widths to create the level of privacy needed or promote collaboration.

Steelcase spokesperson Chris Congdon said a major object of furniture design now is to “optimize every square foot of space. Organizations just can’t have unused real estate.”

Congdon said a workplace needs to “attract, develop and engage employees.”

“You want to keep people, particularly the best and brightest,” she added. But at the same time, many people are working longer hours, combining those spent at the office with work done at home, and many are tired by the end of the day. Employers are aware of the growing need to safeguard the physical and mental well-being of their employees, according to Congdon. “The workplace can have a huge impact on our well-being.”

Office workplaces now need spaces where teammates in different locales can collaborate, according to Ryan Anderson, a Steelcase brand marketing manager. The Steelcase FrameOne bench with Media:scape can accommodate up to eight individuals who can share their laptop contents with one another or other employees around the globe in HD videoconferencing sessions.

Media:scape electronics embedded in a table enable an individual with a laptop to project its data onto a nearby wall screen.

Until now, Media:scape electronics was available in 29 styles of tables from Steelcase; now there is a small Media:scape mobile device, which allows its use in any space.

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