What would Europe’s workplace sector do without its most important and longstanding office design exhibition, Orgatec? Well, in 2020 we’ve had our chance to find out.
First off, the lack of a show is a missed opportunity. A biannual event offers up a snapshot of a sector on the move in ways that might be less perceptible in an annual show. Secondly, the events of this year would have made it arguably the most important Orgatec since 1994, when a new generation of products emerged to respond to a first wave of changing workstyles inspired by the advent of the Internet and mobile technology.
Finally, nobody does trade shows like the Germans. They are events in their own right and take over cities. The last Orgatec hosted over 60,000 people and featured 753 exhibitors from forty odd countries. It’s a social and learning experience as much as a launchpad for products.
So what do you do in the absence of this opportunity? Create your own, of course. Which is exactly what Sedus did with their New Dimensions event at the end of October.
True to form, the event was as much about new ideas as it was new products which made it a must-attend for hundreds of people from around the world. Hosted at the company’s base in Dogern, Germany, the event was true to the Sedus mission to shape workplace thinking as much as create the products that meet its changing needs.
Kicking off with an interview with executive board member Holger Jahnke, who introduced the new products and described how they had been applied at the Sedus headquarters, itself a model of Smart Office thinking that predates the changes in workplace thinking catalysed by the events of 2020.
All of the new products acknowledge the changing workplace but also hold to some eternal principles of productivity, wellbeing, ergonomics, collaboration and sustainability. Indeed, as Holger explained, the pandemic has made these issues even more important and emphasises the important role the office plays as part of a distributed ecosystem of places where we work. Some of these same dynamics of distributed working are evident in the design of Smart Offices, he explained, offering people choices about where and how to work when they are within the office as much as outside it.
Head of Marketing Ernst Holzapfel then explained how the idea of New Dimensions reflects the great opportunity offered by the changing world of work for people to share ideas, express their genius and create great things. The office is the hardware that allows us to connect the dots of people’s working lives, he argues. But it also sits alongside the software of culture, collaboration and other factors that can transform organisations and people’s experience of work.
The third expert keynote was delivered by researcher and trend forecaster Birgit Gebhardt who looked at new forms of collaborative work, based variously on togetherness in the office, online and in other settings. She placed current trends in a historical context, highlighting how many of the new ways of working we now see emerging can be seen in settings from hundreds of years ago. Crucially she said that the important new role for the office will be as a stage for activities and shared experiences that cannot happen elsewhere. Rather than meaning the end of the office, the changes we are seeing in 2020 will draw out its strengths and emphasise their important role in organisational success and people’s lives. Sedus continues to pioneer not only new approaches to this new era, but the new products that make the office the best it can be.