Office design is moving into a new era with advances in technologies, improved ergonomic furniture and strategic lighting replacing the tired and often boring offices of the past. But as our work spaces are changing is this having a knock-on effect in the way we are working?
Our offices no longer consist of simple desks and fax machines. Open spaces and adaptive furniture are all starting to be incorporated in an attempt to boost productivity in the workplace. Moving on significantly from the early 80s where the biggest considerations were cabling and the overheating of bulky new technology, to today, where creating minimalist spaces to boost creativity is fast becoming the norm.
From paperless offices right through to hot desking, the office dynamic is starting to see a change. Many of us are still sitting behind desks from 9-5. But as these trends are developing they could quickly end up coming our way. The way offices are being designed is changing in a variety of ways, with open plan offices encouraging team collaboration and versatile furniture enabling work in an array of environments.
The push for a reduction in expensive office real estate has also lead many companies to introduce open plan design and hot desking, sometimes with little thought to the impact on workers.
Business owners must consider changes to the office environment, from physical appliances to interior design, in an effort to promote a positive mood throughout the office. According to RIBA, thousands of people are using their office space for 50% or more of their waking hours, so ensuring that these spaces are effective, inspiring and energetic is high on the priority list.
However, distracting noise and visual stimulus in open-plan offices can actually account for a drop in employee effectiveness. The workplace still needs to be balanced so that workers can choose their work space depending on the task.
Advancing technology allows companies to be less reliant on keeping their staff in one place throughout the day. Employees are becoming more flexible in the way they work and with adaptive space and new technology, the office of the future looks set to keep staff on the move.
Innovative companies such as LEGO® have introduced flexible work zones with no designated seating arrangements and a management team without offices. Bali Padda, COO and Executive Vice President, explained, “the lack of fixed seating is a very tangible consequence but the biggest impact is that the traditional physical concept of department has been dissolved, which enables cross-organisational collaboration even more than we are used to.”
The new office in Central London offers different floors for different zones of work. These open plan zones encourage employees to collaborate right across the company, introducing central locations for various teams to integrate, discuss ideas and resolve problems.
In a survey undertaken by JLL, a staggering 81% of those surveyed believed that open office plans promoted improved behaviours when compared to individual office plans. By opening up space and encouraging engagement between employees, many businesses are seeing a positive impact in both happiness and productivity.
Brad Krauskopf, CEO and founder of Third Spaces Group, on behalf of Entrepreneur, said, “The distant future of functional workspace will also be about using virtual reality and creating a fourth dimension’ throughout office spaces.”
Keeping up with both design and technology is a big factor in many offices of the future. But with these futuristic ideas are the smaller, less advanced offices going to fall behind and will employees be able to adapt quickly enough to stay ahead of the game?
In a report by Arcadis, it is expected that by 2020 the number of physical objects connected to the internet will grow to 50 billion. This added pressure will introduce more technology to the workplace, making progressive technology even more important to allow companies to succeed in the digital world. There is also the addition of augmented and virtual reality being introduced into many office environments to encourage increased work flow. This advancing technology is leading the way with offices of the future.
Additional material from JLL, Workplace Design and Practise on the Ethical Environment
Families put off moving their loved ones to a care home, but eventually, it can feel inevitable. A recent survey of British adults found that, on average, they estimate that residential care will cost £549 a week. In reality, the figure is £866 for a place in a standard nursing home.
Often, the huge cost of nursing homes is a deciding factor when choosing where a relative receives care. However, the social and emotional impact of living away from home and keeping loved ones together is also of the utmost of importance when deciding, along with the concerns with the quality of care. Staying in their own home and keeping their independence is becoming a more attractive option for the elderly.
With technology moving forward so quickly and the arrival of smart technology, the possibilities are endless when it comes to integrating it with your home. One of the biggest concerns for families with relatives who receive care at home is ensuring that they can maintain their independence while being subtly monitored to reduce age-related risks.
At Accuride, we can imagine a world where interconnected devices throughout the home aid the care of the individual. We see a future where sensors, appliances and devices can talk to each other to provide the same level of care from a qualified professional with full discretion and independence.
By relaying certain information to family members, they can have peace of mind that their loved one is being looked after properly and continue to live their life without the hassle. By utilising the technology available families can gain a better understanding of the care that their loved ones need and receive.
A simple process could be a device recognising that the person in need has woken up, which then would prompt the blinds to open and turn the television on, it could even boil the kettle. While this would be fantastic for anyone, it would also let a concerned family member know that the one in care has woken up and could inform them of the duration and quality of sleep.
For family members who require tablets or prescriptions, making sure they take them on time can be tricky. The safe storage of medication is also a consideration when elderly relatives are living with the family and young children are present. Having medication kept out of sight can cause elderly relatives to forget to take it. Sometimes, the best approach can be a gentle reminder that tablets need to be taken if they haven’t already.
With Accuride’s Electronic Access Control Locking Systems, the storage and control of medical products could not be any easier or safer. Family members can discreetly check which compartments are being opened and if a draw hasn’t been opened after a certain amount of time, a notification can be sent to any family member. This discreet and gentle system allows elderly or vulnerable people to have as much independence as possible while giving peace of mind to the family.
At Accuride, we love to break down boundaries and develop drawer slides that will inspire future generations. Our Electronic Access Control Locking Systems are ready for future applications with retina scanning and fingerprint technology, making sure that they are as secure and adaptable as possible.
The possibilities are endless with smart technology and the Internet of Things, so when will we see more families choosing care at home over a care home?
Technology is evolving faster than it ever has before. 40 years ago, ‘computer’ was not a household word. Since the turn of the millennium, phones have evolved from the trustworthy and tough Nokia 3310 to the mind-blowing capabilities of the iPhone 7.
Tech companies constantly battle to release the biggest and best inventions from game consoles to smartphones. The digital technology industry is currently growing faster than any other industry in the UK, contributing approximately 93 billion pounds a year to the economy.
Virtual reality is being seen across brands to give their customers a feel for products before they actually purchase them. From in-store retailers such as North Face right through to car manufacturers such as Jaguar and Audi, virtual reality is offering an immersive experience to effectively ‘try before you buy.’
A report from digital agency SapientNitro said: “Virtual reality is going to fundamentally transform the human experience of shopping,” predicting that it would, “lift sales for those retailers who get ahead of the curve.” With virtual reality software becoming more of a household name, it’s seemingly becoming more popular with retailers across the world when looking for cutting-edge marketing techniques.
High-end manufacturers are utilising these experiences with many seeing an increase in sales as a result. Jaguar has previewed models including the F Type, F Face and Discovery Sport with Robert Herd, head of communications at Jaguar Land Rover UK saying: “Initially consumers think it’s a gimmick but they quickly convert and it is driving a lot of additional car sales for us.” Benefits are being seen for high-end retailers across the globe making virtual reality a valuable marketing tool.
Since the first flight simulator in the 1920’s, virtual reality (VR) has been on the minds of many technology experts. Professionals soon started to realise the benefits of this new concept and began developing new ways for it to be used.
As virtual reality improved over the years, it became ever-more relied upon in the aerospace and military industries. Trainees are able to learn difficult manoeuvres without leaving the ground, reducing the risk of death or injury and saving the respective industries a lot of money.
Virtual reality headsets or head-mounted displays (HMD) were created in 1961 to help helicopter pilots fly in complete darkness. Small infrared cameras would send images of the surroundings to the HMD. The camera’s angle would correspond with the pilot's head movements offering an unparalleled flying experience. These technologies are continuing to develop and are an important part of the training process.
The military is increasingly using virtual reality to train their staff in dangerous situations. Gaming technologies such as the Oculus Rift and HTC Vive are bringing cost effective solutions to the table, which is essential for government funded industries.
Tech companies are often battling for first place with new products being released at cheaper prices to attract new customers. This competition benefits the consumer as new advances are released quickly at a lower cost. Virtual reality systems are becoming more accessible every day, with the cost of this specialised equipment recently dropping to below £700.
The introduction of VR in the military is giving non-combat personnel such as medics the opportunity to work within combat scenarios without the associated risks. Medics must be able to focus in some of the most difficult situations and new technologies can make training for these situations much easier than ever before.
The Human Interface Technology department at the University of Birmingham has developed a VR scenario that incorporates helicopter turbulence and the sound of machine gun fire into the scene. This unrivalled technology will hopefully save many lives in the future.
Gaming is a massive sector within the entertainment industry. According to the Association for UK Interactive Entertainment, the global gaming industry is worth $99.6billion. With approximately 31.6million people playing games in the UK alone, it’s not surprising that companies are constantly trying to come up with the newest, most exciting consoles.
The integration of motion sensors in products such as the Nintendo Wii in 2006 and augmented reality (AR) hitting the high street with Pokémon Go in 2016 has increased physical interaction with the gaming world.
As with other areas of science and technology, virtual reality and simulator systems have greatly improved in the last century. One of the original, less serious, applications of VR was to improve the gaming experience of dedicated players. It is still one of the main industries for VR and the release of the Oculus Rift was purely intended for gaming.
The idea of virtual reality gaming is to put the player in the game. Their actions will determine how the game plays out, with the use of motion sensor gloves or special handheld devices to control virtual hands for example. In terms of gameplay, the person is more involved than ever before.
Virtual reality has already become very accessible. Advances in the technology have seen the likelihood of motion sickness lessen. Concerns still exist over personal safety whilst playing with VR headsets however it seems as though the benefits of this advanced technology will out-weight any negatives.
We can be sure to expect VR to become part of our daily lives in the future, whether that be travelling to exotic parts of the world from the comfort of your sofa, as part of the education system or visiting your GP without leaving the house.
One of Accuride's most recent customer projects, which went into series production, was the development of an electrically operated sliding armrest for a luxury vehicle. As well as the ergonomic functionality, the armrest also serves as a small storage compartment that is easy to reach by both the driver and passenger.
While manually adjusted armrests need detents or latching systems to keep them in the end positions, this electrically operated armrest automatically moves to the end position, or can be put in any intermediate position by the driver. In addition, the driver can select the cup holder position. This just gives access to the cup holder while keeping the compartment underneath closed.
Thanks to its compact design, the Accuride sliding system does not require any compromise regarding the shape or the trim of the armrest. And while the extra comfort comes with a small penalty on weight compared to traditional systems, the unit is surprisingly light thanks to the clever use of aluminum and plastic. The motor and the sensors connect to the car via a single automotive grade harness and connector.
Accuride developed the armrest slide in close cooperation with the customer’s engineers. Together they optimized both design and manufacturability to ensure a compact, yet cost-effective and compelling slide design.
Here’s what Mike Harvey, the lead engineer at Accuride, says about the development project:
‘As this was a completely new armrest concept, both the automotive customer and our design team were treading in new territory with this project. We developed a great working relationship with our customer, supporting each other throughout the project. With the communication flowing so well all challenges were handled quickly and efficiently, culminating in a fantastic product that we are all proud of.
Every engineer loves new challenges and this project certainly provided that for me. For this reason, and the great relationship we have with our customer, means that this project is one of the best projects I’ve had the pleasure of working on.
For me, as the project manager, the project was a very special challenge. Accuride acts as a Tier-1 supplier here so we dealt directly with the OEM. Since an electrical system comprises many more externally sourced parts than a traditional automotive slide, there was much more focus on supply chain development than in traditional projects. Thanks to the team, both at the customer and at Accuride, we succeeded in mastering this challenge and delivered the project on time with the expected quality level.’
Just like Accuride's mechanical armrest slides, this electric sliding system is assembled on a semi-automatic machine and is automatically 100% inspected by a dedicated system. The values recorded during inspection are 100% traceable via the label applied to the slide. The system fulfills the OEM's operating and abuse specifications and supports the console in passing the crash test by keeping the lid in place even in such conditions.
While the cost of electrical operation is obviously higher than traditional manually operated sliding systems, it is able to integrate several potentially costly latching and unlocking systems. In addition it allows Tier-1s and OEMs to offer their customers a totally new level of convenience - an excellent differentiator in the competitive market for luxury vehicles.
With developers looking for innovative ways to meet these demands, especially in built-up city areas, there has been a rise in ‘smart living’ – a concept to make life more efficient, more controllable, economical, productive, integrated and sustainable. These spaces, although adaptable in their function, offer substantially less space for the inhabitants than previous new-builds.
There has been a dramatic increase in the build of micro apartments, especially where building land supply is low and therefore expensive. Five years ago the phrase wasn’t being used, but now these micro apartments are appearing in major cities world-wide.
Although the term ‘micro apartment’ is new, for the British they are just a modern version of the bedsit. Bedsits, or studio apartments, usually consist of a single room with every amenity included. These rooms are designed for those on low incomes and students, so the comfort is fairly basic – but at an affordable price.
However in major cities, like London, rent for city centre, one bedroom apartments can easily reach figures of £3,000 a month for a very basic room. For young professionals, who don’t want to flat-share, the only alternative is to commute from more affordable areas. The price of housing along these transport corridors is continuing to rise as a result.
As property prices increase in space-deprived cities, so do rental rates. Landlords and developers are now realising the profitable potential for luxury small apartments in city centres. Through innovative solutions and ingenuity, bulky furniture and fittings can be re-designed to maximise the space and give tenants the space of a much larger apartment.
RIBA’s Case for Space* investigates the need for more space in houses that are being developed across the UK. These spaces are often being built to meet requirements rather than the need for comfort, with the average new home being built in Britain meeting only 92% of the recommended minimum size.
From their research, it was found that newly built homes are failing to provide two of the top three things home buyers were looking for; adequate indoor and outdoor space. With over 48% of those surveyed saying they didn’t have enough space to entertain visitors, these homes are not only having a social impact, but are also having a knock-on effect on health and education.
These figures are representative of the UK home buying market - our European neighbours offer newly built homes that are 80% larger than in the UK.
With innovative design solutions, everything from hidden kitchens to surprisingly spacious storage can be incorporated cleverly to ensure nothing is lost within these compact homes.
Sliding components remove the wasted space that is taken up by traditional hinged doors. Room dividers that double up as shelving and the efficient use of all vertical space can help to create significantly more living areas.
A very popular UK TV series called ‘George Clarke’s Amazing Spaces’ has highlighted the very ingenious ways that people have embraced this concept of ‘smart living’. The programme has encouraged new ways of looking at how we can live in small and affordable places.
Watch the video from camper trailer manufacturer 'Into the Wild Overland' to see how clever use of Accuride's 9308 heavy duty locking slide is used to mount their equipment.