Sunday, May 31, 2009
Friday, May 29, 2009
Japanese office furniture manufacturer Okamura is advocating a low low seating position for office work. Check out these low slung recliner like task chairs. They claim that research has shown that this position increases productivity. I'm skeptical, yet right now at this very moment I'm slouching in my chair...hmmm. This reminds me of traditional Japanese dining at low tables sitting on cushions. Could this be a cultural preference?
Some of the advanced task seats we've posted from American manufacturers may have enough range to go this low, but not all of them. I can say with some certainty that the Aeron used to offer an extended range seat piston that allowed you to get low like this. I'm curious to see if this catches on as desks will have to respond. It could be a whole new class of work furniture.
Okamura is also pitching large multi-function desk tables - can you say Big Table Desking?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
A new coworking space in Birmingham, Alabama opens today. One of the founding partners is Drew Jones, one of the trio of authors of "I'm Outta Here! How coworking is making the office obsolete", which is about how the growth of independent workers is changing the workplace. Learn more about it:
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
New CoWorking space BetaLoft in Salt Lake City is offering a free beta test for their space from June1st-12th. A great way to introduce workers to this new space and community. Salt Lake City readers drop in and report back to us on your experience.
An interesting blog debate is going on around the idea of the necessity of the office. Has remote and virtual working replaced the need for a physical office? Lane Wallace from the Atlantic argues that it is, and that much of the purported advantages of the virtual office are lacking important factors that come only from face to face interaction. A counter argument is offered by Lloyd Alter from the TreeHugger blog who infact works in a virtual situation with fellow bloggers and site managers spread across the continent. Lloyd makes a credible case on many fronts that Lane Wallace has it wrong. My reading of it sees a difference in the degree of immersion. Lloyd clearly works with a team of people fully committed to interacting across this virtual interface. Furthermore they are competent with its tools and get the most out of the interaction it offers. I did not get the sense that Lane had such an experience with her own situation. It may be a case of you get out of it what you put into it?
An interesting outcome of this for me is another good argument for the desirability of coworking. Here the employers and organizations get the advantages of eliminating large central workplaces, and their workers still enjoy the benefits of community at the workplace, and still must leverage the virtual work tools to interact with their virtual workmates.
Monday, May 25, 2009
This beautiful office space in Turkey was built within the walls of an old salt barn. And it seems they are rocking Big Table Desking in their main room there. See more photos of the space at the Contemporist blog - link below.
Saturday, May 23, 2009
Posted by the Unplggd blog is this very interesting desk lamp. Bucking the trend of LED based desk lamps the Ribbon is using a cold cathode fluorescent lamp. But what it gains for this move is a variable lamp temperature - in plain words you can adjust the color spectrum of the light the same way you might adjust a dimmer. So if you want a bright white cold light source, you have it, but if you want the warm glow of an incandescent light bulb you can get that too. Very cool, and a great looking lamp to boot.
Unplggd has it coverd - go check it out.
There is a field trip to visit at least four different NYC coworking sites taking place on Wednesday 27 May, 2009. If you are a worker in New York City who has been curious about coworking then here is a great chance to visit several sites in your city, check them out, and see what this coworking things is. Tell them workalicous sent you.
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Loadbearing is a slick looking modular storage and shelf system. They are reconfigurable and also sold in prepackaged designs. Fun colors, clever designs for their packages.
Loadbearing is a US/Swiss company providing furniture for the home and casual office. The "Swiss" side of our nature requires practical, attractive, clever solutions. The "US" side wants to have it our way. Neither wants to pay a fortune. The combination results in smart, well-made, good value products that you can customize to fit your needs.
A very interesting chair formed from folded sheet metal by Misewell. There are both plain and upholstered back versions, both with wood seats. These are very fresh and clever, and they also have several similar tables, but sadly none that appear desk like.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
The International Contemporary Furniture Fair is was held this past week and the internet is awash with photos and product call outs. As I scan them I will post anything that seems relevant to us at workalicious.
This great desk and chair was posted by Dan Gregory over at the Eye on Design blog at houseplans.com. It is from the Oslo Line by Andrew Moe. I love it. It has a shaker x mid century mod vibe that really appeals to me. Built sustainably from recycled lumber to boot.
Furniture company Council is showing the Drake chair which looks like it could be a contender in our $100 plastic chair review, although it seems to be of welded steel.. Found at the A/N blog and Metropolis.
Monday, May 18, 2009
For the first time I'm seeing a consistent term applied to the Big Table Desking we've been posting about, and the term is Benching, or Bench Desks. It makes sense, and evokes the image of a long work bench as work tables are often called. We are going to stick with our term for now while this matures.
One difference we see is that Bench furniture systems, conceived to work this way, often included shared legs between work stations which is efficient. They also typically have a central wire management feature and often options for small partitions and privacy screens. Our observations of Big Table Desking is that this is more often accomplished by pushing together less sophisticated tables. I want our discussion of it to be more inclusive, so Benching will be for dedicated Big Table systems, and Big Table Desking will remain more general and more inclusive.
photo: Teknion IE
Sunday, May 17, 2009
While we have been corresponding Drew has moved on to leasing a space for his new community in Salt Lake City, Utah, to be called BetaLoft. The story is happening as we are interviewing him! Our interview continues:
Greg: One piece of advice I've run into in researching CoWorking is that it should start with the community, and then grow into a space. Hence you see instances of CoWorking sites that have emerged from coffee shop working, or Jellys. On the surface it would seem you were going about it in reverse, yet you have such a strong concept of the community you want to build and a social mission along with it. Does this trump the conventional wisdom, or did your early efforts to locate interested people start the wheels in motion of assembling the community?
Drew: A great question. I feel that I've connected with an existing community in an evangelistic sort of way. The work I do for a living is not your typical coffee shop work (although I've edited a few times in coffee shops.) So it didn't seem like I could find a group of people and say "hey! Let's get together and Jelly!" It was difficult for me to hold Jellys or other types of micro-community building events because I was very focused on my research (70 miles to the south of SLC.) But I knew there were people that were already connected to each other who might be willing to support this space. The responses I received as I attended Tweetups, and Social Media type gatherings were all very positive. I agree whole-heartedly coworking spaces are about community. What I hope to further prove with my space, BetaLoft, is that a space that puts community before everything else can succeed. Is it a community I created and helped find a home for? No, but it's a community of freelancers that I've worked on joining and being part of. To that end I think I've succeeded.
G: What came next? A mission statement? A business plan? A web site? Meet ups with interested people? Give us a brief of your agenda between deciding to go ahead, and beginning a site search. What foundations did you have to lay before you really took your first steps?
D: What came next was a little more 'market research.' I needed to know there were people willing to pay for a space. I created a temporary website where I could inform interested people about the progress I was making. I continued to tweet about my idea and share my idea with everyone I met at events. I even put out an ad on Craigslist looking for partners. All of those things found me a list of interested folks that I kept in touch with through the web site. We had a lunch meetup with 4 attending besides myself and two of my advising friends. I met a second time with another small group and decided on a model of operation– not-only-for-profit. There were those 'interested partners' who initially wanted to see the cost projections. How much could they make if they invested in my space? That wasn't the partnering I was looking for. I did find some that were interested in seeing a place succeed for the benefit of the freelance community at large. I worked with them for advice, I as looked for a space and made decisions. It was at this point that I really flushed out my business plan. I made the plan initially to enter it in the University's prestigious Business Plan Competition. Having the plan meant I could share it with others and break it down and build it up again. I got a lot of great creative help from @lutez, a young guy with a dream and plenty of drive. He approached me as one of those partners that knew that SLC could support a space and he knew he wanted to be a part of the creation of it. He's been a fantastic asset.
So in short I did enough market research through actually talking face-to-face with people to prove to myself that the concept was viable. I joined the Social Media Club of SLC and quickly offered to be their resident video streaming guy. I make it to every monthly event and talk with people there and tell them what I'm up to. The landing page on U-Stream for viewers of the video stream says "brought to you by BetaLoft — coworking is coming to SLC!"
I think the interesting part of this particular part of the process is that I was still applying for teaching jobs out of state, and other video jobs. I was telling people that I wanted to start this space but I was personally very afraid of the risk it entailed. It was almost like the more adventurous part of me was subconsciously moving the idea forward, while the more grounded part of me was trying to find another path to take. Even up until this weekend, I was contemplating alternate directions for me and my family. It's almost like I did a site search, gathered support, created a web site, designed a logo, and wrote a business plan before I "decided to go ahead."
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Tony Bacigalupo is one of the trio of authors of "I'm Outta Here! How coworking is making the office obsolete", which is about how the growth of independent workers is changing the workplace. Here he is interviewed about CoWorking - wow, is this workplace concept on the rise or what?
I think the interviewer is seeing CoWorking as something that is falling out from the recession, which I don't think is true at all. The recession may be adding some workers to the CoWorking population, but the majority of the newly unemployed are not necessarily landing in independent worker status, nor are they necessarily in the type of work that can be taken into CoWorking.
And here is the Jelly Tony mentions as coming up at the WTC Winter Garden:
From Tony's Twitter stream
Remodelista continues to slay me with great finds this week. Like this Thonet Steel Pipe Chair in dark gray ($575.75), Thonet Steel Pipe Desk ($675.75), and matching Steel Shelf ($235.75) at MUJI.
More furniture pieces in the same post at Remodelista.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
The founders of Indy Hall, Alex Hillman and Jeff DiMassi created this FAQ video at this year's South by Southwest conference. This is a great primer for anybody thinking they want to start their own space. Video embed after the link.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
As promised last week the Remodelista blog today published 10 affordable desk lamps, affordable being coming in at $200 and less, some much less. Little in the way of style given over to price here. Dig in.
A great series of photos on the Shedworking Blog of George Bernard Shaw's writing hut. Its fascinating that many authors have utilized a small out building for their creative work. A definite pattern exists.
Monday, May 11, 2009
Drew Tyler is a video producer in Salt Lake City who has set out to create a CoWorking community in Salt Lake City, for himself, and for his future coworkers. We approached Drew and he has agreed to correspond with us and track his process of launching his coworking site. Through Drew's story we hope to be able to illuminate the process for others out there seeking to do the same.
Greg: Why did you become interested in starting a CoWorking community? How had you heard of CoWorking?
Drew: I had the idea over a year ago to create some sort of 'digital salon.' I wanted to offer media services and support to the many freelance videographers here along the Wasatch Front. Kind of an umbrella operation for independent media producers. Long story short, I pitched the idea to business types, and they all had the same fear—freelancers on freelancers' budgets could not financially support the concept. I looked over hill and dell to find someone somewhere executing this idea. I found a few here and there. (one great one in Canada Emmedia.) So the germ of the idea of coworking has been with me for quite some time, I just didn't know if it was feasible. Until...
Drew continues: My sister forwarded an article from the SL Tribune about a space that had just opened in Orem, UT. Cowork Utah. Honestly my first reaction was, "oh snap! someone's taken my dream, now what?" It didn't take more than 30 minutes for my wife and others to help me see the benefit of this event. The Cowork Utah website and the newspaper article introduced me to the term 'coworking' and led me to some fantastic coworking resources online, like the google group and the coworking wiki. I was like a kid in a candy store, reading everything I could on the movement, devouring every blog posting I could, exploring all the existing coworking spaces' websites. I examined the models and methods, and explored the concepts sustainability, synergy, collaboration etc. My coworking 'research' almost overshadowed my Graduate Research. =)
In finding the trend and literally the word 'coworking' I found my concept of a 'digital salon' could be sustained. Being in Grad School with no prospects for jobs after graduation I decided to test the idea using social media. I followed the guidelines and suggestions of coworking gurus, like Alex Hillman, Tara Hunt and others. They explained you can't just build a space and expect people to show up. Likewise, you can't create a space to be a successful money-making operation if the community doesn't exist to sustain it. So I went to work spreading the idea of coworking through Twitter and facebook, everywhere I went I would talk about it and listen to feedback. I even put a few ads up on Craigslist to see if the interest existed. After discussing career options with my wife we decided that if we wanted to continue to live in Utah and be near to family, we decided starting a coworking space would give us the means. I found that as people would ask what my plans were after graduation I would tell them I was starting a coworking space. It was like I was subconsciously painting myself into a corner.
I have done much of my research in School on the normative theory of Social Responsibility as it applies to the television news industry. I'm a firm believer in businesses giving back to the community, above and beyond the service or product they offer. My 'digital salon' was going to offer community access to knowledgeable professionals and community resources for digital production. I had even dreamed of requesting that each member of the 'salon' offer monthly services for non-profits as a sort of 'social tax.' The idea of coworking and social responsibility seemed to fit quite nicely, which made the transition from creating my 'salon' to creating a coworking space pretty natural.
G: What do you hope to get from it? Why not just rent space somewhere for yourself?
D: I think for me I hope to have lifestyle business that I can be proud of. Something that will provide the necessities for my family whilst allowing me to provide services to others. My hope is that this space will help all of its members increases their productivity and networking channels, and ultimately allow them to each provide better for their families. I could have chosen to live the life of a freelance videographer/producer with or without a commercial space. However, I believe this area has too many videographers as it is. I also have never liked the idea of living paycheck to paycheck.
I saw a need in SLC, a niche I could fill, by creating a space where I could assist others in the pursuit of their dreams and I could still do video production as it came along. I have always planned, depending on funding, to create a small video studio in the space geared to creating podcasts for members and non-members alike. It's the best of all worlds, I get to continue to do video work, I get to help others, give back to the community and provide a new solution for working in the recent economic situation.
I am in a position, where I have the time, ability and means to take on a larger risk than most. I can lock myself into a 3+ year lease for a larger space and provide more security for space members to have a professional creative workspace without the same long-term commitments.
Drew's Bio: He considers himself a jack of all trades digital and master of one—Editing. He has been in video production for nearly 10 years, and recently took a break to obtain a Master's degree in Mass Communications from Brigham Young University. He married his best friend nearly eight years ago and together they have two beautiful kids, one two and a half, and one 2 weeks old. One of his dreams has always been to own and operate his own business. He's done this on a minor scale, co-owning a small production company that turns 2-3 small video projects each year.
additional bits 'bout me: I love to cook gourmet, I love the ocean & disneyland, I love music and creating things. I love to teach others, and I speak fluent Tagalog.
Catch Drew on Twitter.
Follow workalicious for future installments.
This young architecture firm 23°S ARQUITETURA from Brazil is working in an appropriated metal industrial building. The walls are obviously clad in corrugated sheet, and the open truss framing of the roof is visible on the inside. Notable is how they are using direct and indirect lighting bouncing of the side walls of the space.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
A few weeks ago I published notes from an interesting conversation I had with Todd Sundsted about CoWorking. Todd is one of the trio of authors of "I'm Outta Here! How coworking is making the office obsolete", which is about how the growth of independent workers is changing the workplace. Our talk led down many other paths so to follow up Todd agreed to an informal interview via email which we will present here as a serial. So click through for the first installment, and keep watching workalicious for more.
Greg: Our readers would be familiar with your thinking about CoWorking from out past posts on your book, and the notes from our talk. So I'd like to cover other topics with you in our interview. You've expressed an interest in design issues surrounding the workplace. What are the questions you are asking about workplace design and what experiences have brought you to ask them?
Todd: I want to point out that when I think of workplace design, I'm only partly thinking of design in the sense of interior design, layout, lighting. I think as much about the design of the organization and the work and workflows that go on there, as well as the design of the business as a whole, from the perspective of management and leadership.
Consider this (true) story. I worked for a company that invested a tremendous amount of money in a very nice cafeteria for the employees -- the physical/concrete part of the work environment. And it was very nice. And I'm sure it was intended to excite and motivate the employees. A short time after it opened, management circulated a memo telling us we could no longer eat at our desks; we had to eat in the nice new cafeteria. Okay... whatever. They'd spend money on the nice cafeteria and they wanted us using it. But there was a problem. We couldn't eat at our desks, so we stopped buying food and drinks from the vending machines down the hall; I personally just stopped snacking, rather then head down to the cafeteria. There must have been a financial lever in there somewhere, because a short time later another memo came out telling us that we couldn't eat at our desks *unless* we bought the food from the vending machines.
The point of this story is that the company, when they thought about the employees at all, thought only about the physical attributes of the workplace. The wonderful investment in the creation of the cafeteria was completely undermined by awful design decisions at the management level; specifically in the design of programs that motivate employees.
They made this kind of mistake many times. Ask me about the QUISP chips sometime.
What I love about coworking is that it illustrates how little the physical attributes may in fact matter, if the people are engaged. I would say that most/many coworking spaces are terribly designed in comparison to an office, as far as ergonomics are concerned. One or two big tables, cheap chairs, no thought to lighting. Of course not all spaces are like this. And almost everyone would enjoy a comfortable chair and good air conditioning. But right now I'm writing this in a cafe, the air conditioning isn't working, and I'm sitting on a tall bar stool kind of chair. And it's much noisier than any office I've been in recently. But I'm totally into writing my thoughts down for you, so I don't give it much thought.
G: You've painted a picture of a workforce that is increasingly decentralized, and increasingly networked; composed more and more of independents, and companies relying on independent oriented organization. In trying to project what this would mean for workplace design it suggests to me a shift from employer provided facilities and managed assets (like furnitrue and equipment) to an outsourced, or rather an independent oriented facility and asset model (like coworking, home working, coffeshop working, etc). Does this mean a rethinking of these facilities and assets, or is it the same old stuff in a new location, owned by a new entity? If they are rethought then what are the new behaviors driving the new designs?
T: I don't think we know the answer to this yet. But it's an incredibly good question, because if there is a type of office furniture that appeals to this growing crowd of people working outside of an organization and a common office, then this might be a great blue ocean opportunity for someone or some existing firm.
On the business side, however, I don't really expect organizations to give up the savings they plan to achieve by letting employees work outside of the office by fully funding an employee's personal office. So any solution that is equivalent at the price point level (office to home/3rd place) isn't going to fly with consumers, nor will it fly with the cost conscious operators of alternative work spaces.
If I were making the bet, however, I wouldn't be thinking about desks and chairs, because people have already demonstrated that they'll sit and work almost anywhere. I'd be thinking about the rooms and spaces themselves, and the tools they're outfitted with. Space for quiet heads-down work, space and tools for noisy collaboration, space for learning... these are all things that you can't do in a coffeeshop, or a park, or in many coworking spaces.
to be continued,
catch Todd on Twitter
Saturday, May 9, 2009
The dezeen blog posted this funky task chair by Magis presented at the Milan furniture show. It has a very unusual configuration, with a plank like seat pad, and a blocky back pad with an integral handle. There are several diffrent configurations, a stool, a chair, with casters and without. There are also a family of desks and carts that go with the chairs.
The big question is, how well does this unusual seat and back pad work as a task chair? We've seen before chairs designed with an irregular seat pad shape in order to accommodate different seating positions. Those chairs usually have smooth rounded contours or corners carved away from the seat pad. But this design seems to defy common sense. Again I have to compare it to a bicycle seat, where although it is narrow, it supports the pressure points of your pelvis, and can be quite comfortable. I don't know what the pad material is like, but I'm anticipating that it would have to be firm, but resilient.
Check out all of the 360° at dezeen.
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
The Remodelista blog today has published their list of the 10 best desk lamps, and its a great list, if not a sometimes expensive list. But take heart - they promise a 10 best affordable desk lamp post next week. We'll link it when its up.
2creativo out of Barcelona is a web design agency working out of a renovated loft space. They are doing Big Table Desking in a big way. This is really a phenomenon at this point - I see so many creatives working at large common table desks like this. Where did it start? We need to dig into this.
Also note the nice raw space they have here. Large timber posts and beams painted black, industrial window sash. A great space.
Depending on the workplace circles you travel you may have heard the term "Jelly" tossed about. As in "Will I see you at the Jelly at Bob's place next week?", Or "I've decided to host a Jelly at my loft every other tuesday - drop in!" No, it has nothing to do with toast. Or at least toast is optional..
I can't find a strict definition, but my take on it from what I've read is that a Jelly is a loosely structured work get together hosted at a particular dwelling or studio space on a regular or scheduled basis, although it seems sometimes they form spontaneously. Its like a work party, not to paint your place, but for people to bring their own work to do for a day at your place. At a Jelly friends, associates, all generally independent workers, will drop in to the designated location to work and/or to collaborate. The idea is that the participants will gain the benefits of interaction with colleagues, the elimination of distractions they may have working at home, or just a more studious environment coming from your focused coworkers - the library reading room effect! We've seen this same relationship to coffee shop working, and CoWorking entities. But also this seems to generate a fresh focus for the independent worker, where the new workplace situation may actually help them experience greater productivity. I know I've experienced this phenomenon when forced to work in ad hoc situations, while traveling, or waiting, suddenly there is a reservoir of focus on hand. Some Jellys go on to develop into a CoWorking collective reinforcing the argument that the community often exists before the CoWorking site does.
But that is just my limited perceptions. I'd love to hear more from Jelly participants in the comments. Also here is an article on Jellys from the UK's On Office magazine - link.
Monday, May 4, 2009
OnOffice magazine is a UK publication all about workplace design. Its more style and products than our own focus here, but the best thing about it is regular glimpse of office products from Europe and the UK. They have a portion of their articles posted to their website each month and while the magazine is free in the UK they offer a postage only subscription to the US.
The Great Place To Work Institute is an interesting concept. They have established an ISO like standard for determining and grading whether or not your company is a great place to work. They offer evaluations to help company's build marketable bragging rights, something that can make a corporation more competitive in the job market, and more likely to retain their best employees. They have a 5 point concept: Credibility, Respect, Fairness - with these three intended to build Trust, and Pride and Camaraderie. They maintain lists of leading companies, and small companies to bring cache and legitimacy to the ratings.
This is perhaps geared towards bigger companies and corporations, but there are lessons here for everybody about the workplace, including small companies, and communities of coworkers.
Saturday, May 2, 2009
The Remodelista blog posted this great Military Field Desk. I love the way it closes up into a small trunk. If this is your cup of tea you will find links at Remodelista that will take you to the surplus shop that is selling them - yes, you can have your very own.
Friday, May 1, 2009
An architecture office in a plastic tube set into the ground in the woods. How great is that?
I love the zen of the space - half "inside" white minimalism, translucent top, and half "outside" with green "earth" wall and yellow "sunshine" floor. Can you see it?
It is the Selgas Cano architecture office designed by the office for themselves.