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The Hula Hoop Office

The Hula Hoop Office by Orangebox

Post Covid-19 / Pre-Vaccine Workplace

To keep ourselves and others safe, we all need to play our part, observing the new Covid-19 workplace protocols at all times. Confidence and trust are critical to success, and these will only be sustained if each of us not only behaves responsibly but is also seen to be behaving responsibly.

Orangebox has produced The Hula Hoop Office to help everyone, in any size of organisation, to understand, memorise and adhere to the new protocols. They’ve featured the Hula Hoop (a 1950s craze) as it offers a neat visual representation of what a safe distance from office colleagues looks like; the combination of one’s 1m hoop and other’s 1m hoop creating the mandatory 2m distance people need to maintain between themselves at all times.

As part of The Hula Hoop Office Orangebox have outlined some accompanying recommendations they feel necessary to consider in people’s new binding behavioral contract with their employer and fellow employees.

No 1.

Visualise your own 1m Hula Hoop (1m + 1m = 2m) to make it easier to maintain the required 2m social distance. Close contact can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 2.

Observe the new protocols, as these are designed to keep you and your colleagues safe. Without them the Hula Hoop Office isn’t viable. Failure to follow the protocols can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 3.

Adhere to the traffic flow protocols of your workplace, and never endanger a colleague by breaching the 2m protocol. Close contact can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 4.

Always approach your colleagues face on, never from behind. Close contact can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 5.

Carry your personal workmat with you wherever you go – and always make use of it. That way, you can make every surface your surface. A contaminated surface can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 6.

Use the Orangebox polyflute personal work screen when working at a worktable. Aerial transmission can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 7.

Please add another layer of protection by wearing a facemask, and you’ll help keep both yourself and your colleagues safe. Close contact can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 8.

Always wash your hands if you touch a new surface. A contaminated surface can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 9.

Always carry tissues, in case you need to sneeze or cough. Aerial transmission can lead to infection by Covid-19.

No 10.

Never leave personal items on your work area. This can lead to infection by Covid-19.

Re-appropriate & re-combine

The Hula Hoop Office requires us to always stay at least 2m away from our colleagues. This can be facilitated by modifying existing products, by creating new combinations, or through a combination of both.  Within the Covid-19 workplace, the Smartworking® 3 Ps have taken on new significance:

Proximity: visualising our Hula Hoops makes maintaining our new personal proximity protocols at all times easier!

Privacy: to safeguard trust within the Covid-19 workplace, always clearly signal to interrupt a colleague or get their attention, and never breach the Hula Hoop rule (1m + 1m = 2M).

Permission: to be operationally safe within the Covid-19 workplace, we must only use spaces in the permitted ways, and must always abide by the new protocols.

Orangebox The Hula Hoop Office

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Learning How to Learn and Teach Online

This article is part of our Steelcase 360 series Making Distance Work about working remotely.

Need some Home Study gear? Check our Working From Home page!

Hong Kong educators began the new year with a challenge: how to keep students engaged and learning at home, and largely online, during an extended school closure period. Due to public health concerns over the novel Coronavirus, schools have been closed since Chinese New Year for a period expected to be at least until 20 April. The unusual situation has become a springboard for innovation and creativity in adapting curriculum and lesson delivery, particularly for middle and high school students, so that they can continue learning without disruption. While every community and school is different, there are many lessons from Hong Kong that educators around the world can use, should they need to support remote learning.

Making Active Learning Virtual

The closure of schools isn’t entirely unprecedented – typhoons and other public disruptions have prompted the move previously, and at the Hong Kong International School (HKIS), events in late 2019 saw educators dip a toe in the water of the virtual environment.

HKIS associate principal for teaching and learning, Brent Brayko, says the school, which caters for students in Grades 9-12, was already using an online learning management system to distribute schedules, make resources accessible and submit assignments online. While this provided a foundation for online education, other elements were required to make learning as active and successful as possible.

“We learned there needed to be some accountability for students so the teachers knew they were online, and there was a time every day during class to touch base. That human contact, even though it is virtual, is still important”

Brent Brayko
Associate Principal, Hong Kong International School

This insight is supported by Steelcase research, outlined in the Blended Learning Ideabook, which found that blended learning works best when it combines online and face-to-face activities. Ordinarily, an optimal approach will combine web-based, mobile and classroom-based technologies. This combination improves learning effectiveness by allowing for individually-tailored content, pace and feedback; provides access to diverse, outside-the-classroom content and experts; and enables peer-to-peer and group learning. Given that this ideal scenario of person-to-person connection is not currently possible, educators are looking for other ways to bring these elements into the virtual classroom.

Victor d’Hauteville, an 11-year-old student in Hong Kong, says his online maths lessons have been almost like a normal school day. The class commences with the teacher explaining concepts and tasks, answering questions, through the video platform, Zoom. The students are then assigned some individual exercises to work through with a specified submission time, to ‘hand in’ work via Google Drive. Project-based learning activities enable students to work in pairs. Victor and a classmate use WeChat video to collaborate on a research project together.

At HKIS, teachers have been using Zoom to conduct online lessons either from home or their usual classrooms. The videoconferencing platform lets teachers see and interact with students in lecture, Q+A and discussion formats while also offering the chance for teachers to divide the class into breakout ‘rooms’ for smaller group work and interactions.

Though nothing can replace the experience of being together in person, being able to use video conference, rather than just attend a voice call, improves the quality of virtual interactions considerably.

A 2014 Fuzebox survey found that 80% of the messages people receive come from body language, and according to the article, ‘Making Distance Disappear’, in Steelcase 360 Magazine, making eye contact switches on parts of the brain called mirror neurons, which enable us to ‘read’ other people’s intentions, building mutual understanding and empathy.

“Those extra tools have made interaction and feedback more efficient, because that’s important in this virtual learning environment. It can make the difference between an information “dump” and being an information curator. It’s very easy to just put a bunch of material online, but we need to teach,” Brayko says.

Personalising Learning

While technology can certainly provide connection between teachers and students, one of the challenges, says Sarah Wheatley, a high school humanities teacher at HKIS, is adapting course content to a teaching mode that is less interactive by nature.

“So much of my course is based on class discussion, and how do you replicate that?” she asks. “What I figured out is you can’t quite replace it, though we can have online written chats or Zoom chats,” says Wheatley.

To achieve their learning objectives, teachers need to be far more creative in the way they plan lesson delivery. For example, music teachers film videos to teach students how to make musical instruments from household items, or ask students to practise a song and record themselves singing.

One of the advantages of utilising technology in education, according to Steelcase research, is that it can supplement face-to-face interactions with access to the enormous repository of knowledge available online. Teachers and students can then spend class time focusing on higher-level cognitive learning with rich discussion and more dynamic, active interaction.

Wheatley augments her online lessons by providing interactive learning tools for students to follow up after the lesson, including Google slides with links to further information, such as definitions for new vocabulary words.

“We’re flexing a lot of our creative muscles right now, but making it fun.”

Sarah Wheatley
Humanities Teacher, Hong Kong International School

A Holistic Approach

Having students spend eight hours of each day in front of a screen, isolated from their peers, is obviously an undesirable scenario, so educators are thinking deeply about how they can manage the social, emotional and physical wellbeing of students.

Teachers in areas of the curriculum such as physical education are getting kids active by setting activities such as going for a run and documenting what they see on the way; providing a yoga routine to complete, and then taking photos of themselves in the poses; or in the case of Victor’s class, teaching students how to juggle.

This lateral thinking is extending to subjects that lend themselves less obviously to physical activity. Wheatley has provided novels by mail so that when possible, her students can read a physical book rather than a screen, and has designed a lesson around a podcast – which students could listen to while on a walk – with a follow-up discussion planned for ‘class time’.

HKIS has also brought its wellbeing check-in system online, so that school counsellors can continue to touch base with students via video calls. And importantly, school hours have typically been shortened to allow for more outdoor activities and more family time to try to compensate for the valuable interpersonal interaction that ordinarily happens in the school environment.

21st Century Skills

Fostering essential skills such as creativity, curiosity and collaboration – for both students and teachers – is an unexpected benefit of what is an extremely disruptive scenario, Steelcase WorkSpace Futures Senior Design Researcher Aileen Strickland-McGee explains.

“Because this is a new situation and nobody has all the answers, people seem more apt to see the possibilities of the situation, rather than the limitations. Creativity happens not just when there is an open, blank canvas, but when new constraints force ingenuity and innovation. So, this new situation is a fertile ground for adaptability, agility and creativity to be practised and flourish,” says Strickland-McGee.

It has also provided the opportunity for students to learn accountability and take responsibility for their own learning while operating autonomously.

Steelcase research on personalised learning has found that when students are extended trust to take responsibility for themselves and their learning, they generally step up, which not only builds these traits but also nurtures a sense of trust with their parents and teachers. “By understanding how students behave when given freedom, teachers can adapt their approach and respond to learner needs and interests”, says Steelcase WorkSpace Futures Manager, Andrew Kim. This has certainly been the case at HKIS. Brayko reports that attendance has been strong, even for students who remain overseas in different time zones, many of whom are still attending the virtual classes. Students can access course materials easily and teachers are proactive in following up to check on any students who are not participating in class or completing work.

“By understanding how students behave when given freedom, teachers can adapt their approach and respond to learner needs and interests.”

Andrew Kim
Manager, WorkSpace Futures

Virtual School: Tips For Theachers

Educators admit it can be a steep learning curve to make a rapid transition from being primarily classroom-based to adopting a blended learning approach, but collaboration and communication are key – both internally within the school and with colleagues in other schools, who may share experiences, ideas and policies.

Again, technology can be an enabler of information exchange – at HKIS, a tech expert has been upskilling fellow faculty members with tips and tricks on the platforms and applications they are using, while a shared Google doc allows all teachers to post helpful finds and workarounds to accelerate the process of adapting their lessons. While it’s not quite the same as being able to ask a colleague a quick question in the staff room, other tools such as Google hangouts and WhatsApp groups can facilitate communication.

Advice For Parents Supporting Students

  • Create a personalised space for learning. Home is a place that we look to for inspiration in learning environments, for comfort and a sense of belonging. Soft lighting, a comfortable upholstered chair, a favourite photo or books on display, or a warm, cozy blanket – elements of home create personalised learning environments where students feel a sense of ownership. Also consider access to power; ability to change posture and move throughout the day; some access to privacy for focus where possible; and proximity to work tools, other people at home and refreshments.
  • Try to establish a dedicated – or at least regular – space in the home for students to do their virtual learning, even if it is a corner of the kitchen table. “It might be helpful to say, ‘This area is where school happens’ – there is something psychological about that routine,” Brayko says.
  • Routine is important. Ask children at home what their schedule of classes is, from checking attendance in the morning and through the day. Particularly as some schools have rotating schedules, this is one way parents or caregivers can help children ensure they are organised.
  • Take advantage of breaks in the day such as free periods, and before and after school hours to replace the physical activity and social interaction they are missing while not with their peers: active family outings such as going on a walk or a hike, or going out for a meal together, can give their mental wellbeing a boost.
  • Keep checking in with your child about how they are doing, and encourage them to take any concerns or frustrations to their teachers so they can be resolved.

For the short term, as school in Hong Kong remains online, there will continue to be opportunities to explore creativity and build student resilience and responsibility.

And while Wheatley has been impressed by her students’ commitment in this new way of learning, she is looking forward to returning to regular school: “The best part of my job is interacting with my students in the classrooms and having that relationship. I really miss the face-to-face time with them and my colleagues.”

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Suddenly Working from Home? Four ways to help you stay productive and sane.

This article is part of our Steelcase 360 series Making Distance Work about working remotely.

Need some Home Office gear? Check our Working From Home page!

Working remotely is on a lot of people’s minds today especially in light of the Coronavirus (Covid-19) health crisis and the desire to rethink travel as a means to reduce carbon footprints. For some people, this is a regular practice, but for many, it’s a new way of working — and presents new challenges if you are trying to manage in a small space while juggling family who are home as well.

People are all at once discovering the benefits and frustrations of remote work. And because no two people are alike, there’s no one-size-fits-all approach. But you can take cues from great workplaces. You’ll get more done and feel better when your technology, space and the ways you need to work come together. Working from home should be no different.

Here are some practical tips about how to improve the work from home experience.

Think About What You (and Your Teammates) Need First


It’s tempting to be “on” constantly when you work from home. Others find being home distracting and challenging to stay focused and productive. Identifying boundaries can help you maintain a healthy and productive balance. Keep in mind each person may have different boundaries depending on their life or the day. Decide on your schedule each day and try to stick to it.


If you are not at your computer, be sure to communicate that with your colleagues. Make your calendar visible to your team, update your status in any team/collaboration software you use or even leverage your out-of-office auto reply. Let your team know when you’re going to be away and when you’ll be back, especially when you work in different time zones.


Think about ways to keep relationships intact while working from home. Consider creating a group chat for social interactions – during stressful times, everybody loves a good meme. Set aside time for more informal conversations to foster team cohesion. Schedule coffee with a colleague over video to catch up. Remote workers need more of these checkpoints than those who are in the office.

Think Agree How You’ll Work Together


It can be easy to slip into a siloed work experience when everyone is working on their own. Institute a quick daily virtual team connect to keep work moving forward.


The tools available to distributed teams aren’t perfect. No one technology does it all. Pick some consistent tools for instant messaging, video conferencing, sharing documents, file transfers, etc. But, don’t stop searching for the next best thing. You may find a process that sticks around long after this uncertainty has ended.


Take a lesson from agile teams and start a virtual project board. List your tasks, progress and deadlines to keep everyone on the same page. Plus, you get the added benefit of people knowing where to jump in and help when needed.

Look Beyond Your Laptop


Conference calls invite participants to multi-task, or worse “zone out” — because you’re hidden from view. Video should be the default setting for any remote collaboration. Seeing facial reactions and body language lets you “read the room,” plus people are less likely to interrupt or speak over one another. To do it well, keep the computer at eye level — put it on a stand or further back so it isn’t looking up your nose. Look into the camera and use natural light, but avoid putting your back to a window or you’ll look like a silhouette.


If possible use a cable/Ethernet connection, because Wi-Fi can be unreliable. If you’re on a video call, close any open applications to preserve computing resources for the video. Video requires more bandwidth, so if you need to share a big file consider using a second device.


Avoid rooms with lots of hard surfaces that echo (like a kitchen). Choose rooms with rugs or other softer materials (like a living room). Headphones provide a better experience than computer audio. And, if you switch from one video platform to another, close one before opening another because the software may grab hold of your microphone. Finally, if you’re late to an online meeting or not speaking, mute your audio to avoid disrupting the conversation.

Pick Places that Work for You


Not everyone has a home office, so think about establishing a territory that clearly signals “I’m at work.” Discuss protocol with other members of your household to signal when you’re “on at work,” even if you’re reading on the sofa. If you tend to be distracted by other household demands, find a way to create visual boundaries so you don’t see the dirty dishes. And, if acoustics are an issue and you can’t shut a door, headphones may be your new best friend.


A risk of working from home is becoming more sedentary. Look for ways to vary your posture and the spots where you work throughout the day.  Sit, stand, perch, go for a walk — activating the body, activates the brain and can keep you from going stir crazy.


Look at the physical distance between you, your furniture and your technology to make sure it’s comfortable and effective. Residential furniture isn’t always designed to be optimal for work. Is your laptop easy to reach? Can you avoid “text neck” and slouching over a coffee table? If you spend the day typing at your dining room table, for example, you may feel like your shoulders are in your ears.


Joy is one of our six primary emotions and research shows experiencing joy actually makes you more productive. Surround yourself with things that make you smile like a bright colored coffee cup, inspiring pictures or silly tchotchkes. It may seem trivial, but it’s proven to make a difference.

If you or someone on your team suddenly needs to work from home, it will take time to establish new rhythms and practices. Working from home sounds simple enough, and even desirable. But when you’ve been working alone for days or weeks at a time, it can feel isolating and be difficult to stay connected with your teammates and engaged in your work. When you create a healthy routine, an effective place to work, and use technology to get work done and also maintain relationships, you’ll be more productive and feel good while doing it.



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Power Your Team. Anywhere.

Flexibility, mobility, choice and comfort are expectations of today’s workforce. Informal, casual meeting nooks, cafés, lounges and outdoor spaces continue to dislodge traditional work environments such as benches and workstations, as more and more employers recognize that inspiring work environments attract top performers and fuel creativity and innovation.

There’s just one problem: We left the power that everyone needs for their technology, stuck in walls and floor boxes. So, people and teams – one by one and at the most inopportune times – are either forced to find another place to work to recharge their devices, or remain stuck without a working device. Even with longer battery life on many devices, people tend to wait until their battery runs low before thinking about where to recharge. Workflow is disrupted and people grow increasingly frustrated.

But what if the future of power is mobile? What if it could easily move wherever people want to be?

“People don’t want to sit along the perimeter of a room where outlets happen to be,” says Bo Anderson, Steelcase product manager for computer support and power. “We are more collaborative than ever before, and we simply won’t tolerate being tied down by building infrastructure. Teams and individuals need the freedom to work in a range of spaces, but access to power limits where they can go and prevents teams from getting their work done.”
This insight became the genesis of Steelcase Flex Mobile Power. Steelcase partnered with Anker, a global leader in charging technology, to create Flex Mobile Power and its proprietary home docking station to bring enterprise-level mobile power to the workplace. “We saw that people want to move their furniture more often, based on the type of work their team is doing. They’re also spending more time than ever in group work, and so we wanted to accommodate multiple users and democratize power distribution – that is, reroute power to the devices that needed it the most,” Anderson explains. “And we had to figure out a way for people to take power with them throughout the day, wherever they wanted to be, without the tangle of cables and cords that ties them down.”

Each Steelcase Flex Mobile Power unit charges multiple devices simultaneously, detecting which device is running on the lowest power and directing the most energy there, so all team members can keep working.

Another insight: “Just as battery life is getting longer, devices are getting smaller and thinner, with more laptop manufacturers standardizing on the USB Type-C connector. USB-C allows a great deal of power through a very thin connector. “We have more devices, we have lower wattage requirements. We designed Flex Mobile Power very intentionally with three USB-C ports and one USB-A port, no outlet.

Unlike USB-A ports, which will top out at between 12 to 15 watts in the best-case scenario, a USB-C device has smarts in it. “It has the intelligence to do a handshake between the device and the charger to safely provide the appropriate amount of power.” The same USB-C port can charge a phone at 10 to 15 watts, says Anderson, but if that USB-C port has enough power behind it, it can charge a laptop up to 100 watts. And it negotiates along that path to be able to provide the right amount of power at the right time for any device plugged into it.

The first of its kind enterprise-level, high-capacity mobile power solution allows workplaces to become more fluid and for teams to work wherever they need to. “Steelcase Flex Mobile Power can power three MacBook Pros from dead to full – that’s how powerful it is,” Anderson says. “And our charging system can recharge five units in less than eight hours. Both are optimized for the workday. I think this is a great example of how our development team can innovate around a true customer need and create something truly distinctive.”

Steelcase Flex Mobile Power brings true mobility to the workplace. It’s easy to grab, go and get things done. Still, it’s a first step, says Anderson. “The new planning paradigm has to allow for new types of spaces, untethered to the power grid and easily changed. As technology develops and we see changes in how devices and products get along, we’ll be presented with more interesting opportunities for mobile power.”

Function Meets Form

“Simple, delicate, with a sense of poetry” is how Steelcase industrial designer Hyun Yoo describes the ceramic vessels she began slip casting several years ago as a way to rediscover her artistic voice outside of work and explore new shapes and materials.

She never imagined her artistic explorations would become the inspiration for a mobile power solution. We asked Yoo a few questions about the project and her creative process.

360: How did your personal work in ceramics intersect with this project.

Hyun Yoo: My colleagues had seen some of my ceramicware and admired it. My aim is to create objects that are simple and delicate in line but scaled and proportioned to feel sturdy. I applied the same principles to Flex Mobile Power. It was incredibly gratifying to be able to address the design constraints of architects and engineers while also creating a device that gives people more control over how they work.

360: We hear you were sold on the idea of mobile power before this project even started?

HY: I was working on a design project in Munich, consolidating our offices and groups of people into a multifunctional workspace and showroom. With the changing landscape and nature of construction, we really struggled to find a place where we could collaborate and get power where we wanted. It became difficult and expensive and was extremely frustrating.

360: What kind of parameters were established for the Mobile Power project at the outset?

HY: The shape had to allow a person to easily carry the device through doors, ideally in one hand while also carrying a laptop and a cup of coffee. But it also had to be large enough to hold enough power to allow a person or small team to get through the day without having to recharge. We wanted to create something people would be attracted to. But we didn’t want it so distinct that if you saw many of them in the office they would become a distraction. In the end, I think we achieved a sophisticated appearance … a soft and silky finish … and a certain tactility with the added embossed pattern. We thought the handle should maintain its pill shape when resting but respond slightly to the user when picked up.

360: Were there any stumbling points along the way?

HY: The size of the unit and conduit rings increased over the life of the project, but we embraced each new requirement. Rather than try to hide the large rings, we decided to treat them as elegant brass touchpoints in the design. The home tray – where the units are stored and recharged when not in use – evolved in a lovely way, too. Thinking about the unit as tableware inspired a truly elegant and distinctive product.

Before joining Steelcase in 2006, Hyun Yoo studied art and furniture design at UCLA (B.A.), the Rhode Island School of Design (M.F.A.), and the slightly less conventional Northwest School of Wooden Boat Building in Port Hadlock, Washington – where she learned, among other things, how to confidently eyeball a “fair curve.”

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Fast Company Awards SILQ for Innovation by Design

2019 Innovation by Design Awards honor creative work at the intersection of design, business and innovation.

Fast Company’s 2019 Innovation by Design Awards honored SILQ™, a Steelcase chair that transforms seating through design. Through an innovation in materials science and a patent-pending process, Steelcase designers and engineers created a new high-performance composite material without the expense of using carbon fiber. The result is a chair that responds to the natural movements of the human body with only one adjustment— height.

“It’s an honor to be recognized by Fast Company alongside other groundbreaking innovators,” said James Ludwig, vice president, global design and engineering. “The way SILQ is shaped, what it is made of and the way it performs are inseparable. Our team pushed the boundaries of materials science to create SILQ, a chair that’s more organism than machine.”

SILQ is designed for the way people work today. People are moving from one space to another and need a chair that is intuitive to use. The way SILQ responds to a person’s posture and stature is unique to each user because of the way the materiality, design and motion of the human body come together.

“The simplicity of this chair means anyone who sits in SILQ is going to be supported and delighted no matter where or how they are working,” said Ludwig.

SILQ received an Honorable Mention in the Workplace category in Fast Company’s 2019 Innovation by Design Awards. Innovation by Design honors creative work at the intersection of design, business and innovation. Fast Company editors and writers spend a year researching and reviewing award applicants. This year’s applicant pool was the most competitive ever. SILQ is being honored alongside innovative companies such as Microsoft, Nike and Gensler.

“It always gives us great pleasure to honor the best design and designers working today—but this year was unique, not only because of the sheer number of entrants (more than 4,000!) but because of the strength of the works submitted,” said Stephanie Mehta, editor-in-chief, Fast Company.

Innovation by Design award honorees are featured online and in the October issue of Fast Company magazine.

SILQ is available globally. You can find more information about SILQ on our website.

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Designing With Pods

Four things you should think about when adding pods to your floor plan.

For most of us, a typical workday involves jumping from task to task, often switching gears from group work to solo focus. In order to support these different moments and provide people and teams with the privacy they need, designers suggest offering a range of private office spaces that people can select from based on their needs. Is there an easy way to offer people choice and control without the disruption of traditional construction?

Cue: privacy pods. With sleek designs and small footprints, these stand-alone spaces can offer an escape and a place where you won’t disrupt your work neighbors.

Let’s examine four things to think about when adding pods to your workplace.

If you brought in a plate of muffins for your team, you’d probably place it somewhere in the middle of the office, so it was easy for everyone to take one, right? Well, the same can be said for pods. By placing them in centrally located places within your workspace, it’s easier for people to pop in and use them, and it’s so much simpler to see if they’re occupied.

No more craning your neck to see if that one conference room is open or doing laps around the building to find a place to take a quick phone call. With pods front and center, you can slip in for a few moments of silence without having to step too far away from your team.

In the world of pods, one size does not fit all. Especially since each workday calls for many different work modes, from quiet focus to group collaboration. By providing a range of pods in various sizes, you can accommodate a variety of user needs, including phone booths for private conversations and larger pods that give everyone in the group a comfortable seat to collaborate without interruption.

Picture it: you’re trying to collaborate with a colleague, in a sea of silence. You don’t want to disrupt your hyper-focused neighbors, but it’s also really hard to be creative when you’re whispering and don’t have whiteboards or other helpful collaboration tools on hand.

Many offices today are seeking to promote creativity and collaboration while still providing places for focus and privacy. Whether you’re in a pinch for a little peace and quiet or you need a place where your group can speak freely without disrupting your neighbors, pods can help to create an ecosystem of spaces—some that support private moments and others that support collaboration.

One easy way to enhance your workspace is to give your pods a little personality. For starters, you can select the furniture that will be placed inside, depending on what you want the pod to support—rejuvenation, focus or group work.

Also, you can choose from a myriad of surface materials, including woodgrain or laminate finishes, customizable films, markerboards and acoustic panels for added privacy. This way, your pods can either stand out or beautifully blend in with your office decor.

Discover which pod is right for you. Visit OrangeboxSnapCaband IRYS for more information.

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Office Boost

How this pup-approved textile recharges your body

By Deidre Hoguet, Director of Applied Research, Designtex

I am writing this story while sitting in a chair with an enhanced upholstery. I don’t feel too cold or too hot, scientific studies prove that my circulation is improved by eight to ten percent, and that my capillaries are vasodilated allowing more oxygen to flow to my body tissue. How can a textile improve my health while I’m sitting?

The upholstery is made with Celliant, a fiber embedded with 13 safe, naturally occurring thermo-reactive minerals, including titanium dioxide, silicone dioxide and aluminum oxide. The Celliant technology was created by Hologenix, a responsive textile company, and the fiber has been determined by the Food and Drug Administration to be a medical device and general wellness product. It increases blood flow by opening up capillaries, which promotes greater oxygen flow to cells. This improves energy and can promote alertness and overall comfort.

Multiple research and clinical trials have been conducted to prove that these claims are true. But if you don’t believe me, or these studies, just ask some dogs. We conducted a non-scientific test of Celliant, putting the fiber into dog beds and placing them next to non-Celliant dog beds. Without fail, dogs chose the Celliant beds every time!

Our work with Celliant began in 2014 when the Steelcase Materials Innovation and Exploration team (MIE) was looking at responsive fibers, or fibers that interact with their environment. The group started investigating whether the benefits of Celliant were perceptible enough to be useful in seating. Realizing the best application was in a textile form, Designtex, an MIE member, began developing an upholstery product in 2015.

With live user tests, we found that the benefits of the upholstery became apparent within minutes of sitting, raising the level of oxygenation in a user enough for that user to reap positive benefits: increased energy, increased blood flow and better thermo-regulation.

The minerals in Celliant are those found in the Earth’s crust. While we modern humans spend so much of our time indoors (90 percent on average), we are missing out on contact with these minerals in the environment. We also spend much of our day sitting (12 hours on average) and this sedentary lifestyle is spiking a host of health problems, from obesity to poor circulation.

What does this all mean? More circulation means more energy, performance and comfort, as well as a more moderate internal body temperature. While sitting on Celliant upholstery, the body is able to increase circulation, rebuild and recharge, without making changes in your normal work day (though for your health’s sake, we still encourage moving around and
getting outside).

Most people don’t think about upholstery when they’re trying to improve the health of those who sit for long periods of time. We explored how responsive textiles could increase circulation and improve health simply by sitting at your desk. This upholstery addresses wellbeing in general, and the FDA designation as a general wellness product reiterates that point. It’s great for people who spend the better part of their day sitting in front of their computers or patients who may be sitting in a treatment area for any length of time.

To achieve the widest application possible, the Designtex R&D team focused on getting Celliant into an upholstery backing, instead of the upholstery itself. That way, we can pair Celliant’s benefits with many different aesthetics, including novelty yarns, textures and even coated, faux leather materials, that are applicable for healthcare and many other markets. The durability and aesthetics of the contract fabric is not sacrificed, and we’re able to offer the widest variety of materials.

Celliant fibers emit infrared energy, which is a normal, safe wavelength, often found in sports recovery settings and infrared health saunas. It’s known to pass through walls, just as heat or sound might transfer from one room to another. We developed and tested many iterations of nonwoven backing formulation to ensure enough minerals were present and evenly distributed to pass through even thick-pile fabrics and coated textiles to reach the user.

Maybe it’s time to do a test in your office. If workers are given a choice between a Celliant or a non-Celliant chair, which will they choose?

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World Health Organization Labels Burnout “Syndrome”

The good news—there are more ways than ever to help people think, feel and move better at work.

Stressed at work? Take a breath. You are not alone. While the World Health Organization (WHO) is just now recognizing burnout, a result of stress, as an “occupational phenomenon,” the conversation around wellbeing at work is not new. If we learn anything from this newest designation, it’s that wellbeing cannot be ignored because the need to focus on it continues to intensify.

In May, WHO included burnout for the first time in its 11th Revision of the International Classification of Diseases which goes into effect January 2022. It described burnout as “resulting from chronic workplace stress that has not been successfully managed.”

WHO says you may be experiencing burnout if you feel:

  • Energy depletion or exhaustion
  • Increased mental distance, negative feelings or cynicism related to your job
  • Less productive at work

Two years prior to WHO’s announcement, Rand Corp., Harvard Medical School and the University of California, Los Angeles delivered a powerful study on more than 3,000 U.S. workers. It showed people are stressed at work and their physical and mental health is suffering as a result.

While WHO says it is working on guidelines for mental wellbeing in the workplace, this is far from a new conversation and there’s a lot we already know about how to feel better at work—mentally, physically and emotionally. Here’s some tips to avoid burnout:


The relationship between physical activity, creativity and collaboration is vitally important. There’s no denying our body fuels our brain. The research around this mind-body connection continues to grow—Stanford University even found that walking increased creative output by an average of 60%. On the flip side, sitting can slow brain activity. Find ways to encourage people to set aside passive, sedentary behaviors for more active, physical engagement with colleagues and information to generate better ideas. (Read: The Science of Collaboration)


We also know people can’t be “on” all the time. The best workplaces support teams while nurturing the needs of individuals (Read: New Work. New Rules). People need a place to breakaway. Sometimes they need to focus and other times they just need to let their mind wander. It’s these moments of solace when the brain can make serendipitous connections that lead to fresh ideas and new ways to approach problems.


The rise of ergonomics in the 1980s has put forth a tremendous amount of research around how to support the body at work. The bottom line—people need more than a chair they can adjust. They need the ability to change their posture throughout the day and they need to be encouraged to do so. The good news is there are more ways than ever to help people remain active and energized at work.


At its core, work is a social endeavor. People are happier at work when they have meaningful relationships and a sense of belonging. The workplace is an important tool to encourage social connections.


In addition, we know people feel more engaged when they understand how their work connects to a bigger purpose. Whether purpose manifests in social impact or by advancing the larger business strategy, people want to feel like their work matters. The workplace can provide visual cues and reminders about an organization’s values and what’s being done to achieve its overall goals.

To learn more about how to design for wellbeing, read Wellbeing: A Bottom Line Issue from our 360 Magazine archives.

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Creating a Healthy Workplace

Healthy Workplace
Businesses now have an increased desire to improve employee wellbeing by creating a healthy workplace. Science tells us physical, cognitive and emotional wellbeing are linked, and improving holistic wellbeing in the workplace will lead to a better workday and better work performance.

Tips to Create a Healthy Workplace by Steelcase

Get on your feet

Some have said sitting is the new smoking, but it’s not sitting that’s hurting you, it’s how you’re doing it. The bottom line is it’s a positive for your physical wellbeing to get out of your desk chair at frequent intervals throughout the day. Take a walk around the office, go visit a friend in a different department, simply stand up and stretch; all are good for giving your mind and body a break. One way to combat the hazards of sitting? Try out a standing desk or make sure you’re using a variety of postures throughout the day.

Get moving, seek out nature

It’s true that a brisk walk outside or a little jog can boost your physical wellbeing. But, if you don’t have time to sweat, shower and get back to the office, just getting outside for a few minutes can improve your cognitive wellbeing. Research shows us nature has the ability to help us refocus, reset and lessen stress. So, take a meeting outside or instead of sitting in a small conference room with a colleague, consider taking a few laps around the parking lot while you talk.

If you don’t have a chance to get outside, you can get your steps in by taking the long way between appointments. You can also find ways to stretch your legs while working with a Walkstation treadmill desk and look for spots to work near natural light to bring some of the outside world in. If you can’t leave your desk, don’t give up. The Washington Post illustrates 12 ideas for how to work out in the workplace including how real employees felt while doing the exercises.

Get social

Your desk can likely serve several purposes, but it was not meant to be a dining table. Some 80% of Americans report eating several meals per week at their desk. Taking a lunch hour or a water break can allow you to do more than grab a snack. Finding times to socialize is an important part of today’s experience at work. Social connections and relationships allow people to feel a sense of belonging and see their relationship to the organisation leading to a sense of purpose in their work.

Get focused

A healthy person at work needs to balance social and collaborative activities with time to focus. By finding a private space to get away, we give ourselves the opportunity to practice mindfulness, to concentrate and to come up with new ideas. It’s only when we remove ourselves from the group and find solitude that we can absorb information, generate our own point of view and become better collaborators.

Get rejuvenated


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Before Investing in a Fitout

4 Questions to Ask Before Investing in Your Workspace by Steelcase

New ways of working are driving the demands for different kinds of spaces at work. People are looking for more informal, comfortable places to get work done. Workers want to feel like they can be themselves at work leading them to seek out spots that remind them of home. But, while a couch and a coffee table might look inviting, they don’t all survive the rigors of the workplace.

There are four questions you need to ask before investing in casual spaces. Whether it’s a bench, lounge chair, coffee table or something else — what works for a seating area at home doesn’t always work at the office.

Does it feel good?

Just because it looks good, doesn’t mean it feels good. But, at times, the lure of a cool vibe or a relaxing setting can cause people to set aside their physical wellbeing. It doesn’t have to be that way.

“Design, engineering and ergonomics need to all work together to make something beautiful that also performs,” says Rob Battey, Steelcase engineer. Battey and his colleagues spend a lot of time focused on improving performance.

A global posture study conducted by Steelcase sent people out with cameras to a number of cities including Munich, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, New York and Los Angeles. The images gathered allowed engineers and designers to see how people were using different spaces without any preconceived notions. As Battey tells it, people always surprise you.

“We went out to try to understand people and space. We wanted to let user behaviors inform the space solution.” The results of these global observations helped inform solutions for a variety of workplace behaviors such as collaboration.

Engineers also work with ergonomists to evaluate chairs, lounges and bench seating. Ergonomists live in the realm between doctors and engineers and are an important piece of the puzzle when it comes to creating the best comfort and fit. It’s one thing to create a nice sitting area where someone can host a quick, informal conversation. It’s quite another to create a work area where people can gather, spend time together and get real work done.

By applying the science of ergonomics to the new ways people want to work, it takes these settings up a notch — allowing them to be both beautiful and comfortable.

Can you plug in?

Is the area you’re planning to add to your workplace designed for working or waiting? If it’s for working, people need to be able to use the right tools to get their job done. On average, people carry three devices with them during the day. As mobile devices multiply, power needs escalate. If an area isn’t designed with the person in mind, you’ll end up finding people stuffed in a corner or sitting on the floor to get closer to power.

A well designed seating area considers how people need to work with technology. Power can be embedded in the furniture or stationed conveniently nearby to make sure people aren’t having to stoop under a bench or awkwardly reach behind a chair to access an outlet. In addition, there should be considerations given to the accessibility and ease around using the right technology. For example, is there a place for a laptop at the right height so that someone can comfortably sit, type and see the screen? These are some of the details that make the difference between creating an area for work versus an area to sit.

Will it hold up?

Never underestimate the creativity of the user. True, some people use spaces as they were intended. But, every time something new is developed, new user behaviors are discovered. That’s why Steelcase engineers turn to heavy users to do vigorous testing.

Field testing is done in college common areas and 911 dispatch centers. These kinds of places, like a workplace, get extreme use in a short period of time.

“Users can almost never tell you what they really want because they don’t even realize they have a problem,” says Battey. It’s only through years of observations and testing that designers and engineers can understand the problems they are trying to solve and provide solutions that will last.

Can you be proud of it?