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Soft Work: a new modular sofa system by Barber & Osgerby made its debut at this year’s Orgatec|||
Soft Work: a new modular sofa system by Barber & Osgerby made its debut at this year’s Orgatec
31 Oct 2018

Vitra’s Raphael Gielgen predicts the future of the office

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During this year's Orgatec, Raphael Gielgen, head of research and trend scouting at Vitra, identifies the key topics that will shape the office of the future

Category: Opinion

Since joining the Vitra team four years ago, Raphael Gielgen, head of research and trend scouting at the Swiss furniture company, has been improving the quality of offices and public spaces.

By constantly seeking to unlock the future of the workplace, Gielgen serves the Vitra team with the results of his observations, trend clusters, market analysis and business cases. “I spent most of my life providing workspaces – and companies like Vitra – with office furniture, but I was always more interested in what my customers were doing, rather than my business,” says Gielgen. “When I go into a company, I want to understand what they are doing, what drives them and what the challenges are – out of that I understand the whole industry.”

But how exactly can you shape the offices of tomorrow? Gielgen explains that there are “urgent topics” to be addressed by both the architect as well as the client. Identifying these topics, however, can be somewhat of a whirlwind in the ever-changing industry. “I would say that these topics are those that keep you up at night, and should keep you up at night,” he continues. “What makes it difficult is there there’s a double movement – where people focus on all the digital topics but they forget the memory, or the essence, of the physical world.”

Of course, wellbeing continues to strike with importance. What’s changed is that we are currently “stepping into a new period”, says Gielgen – “a period where we are able to reach 100 years old, if you get the opportunity”. He adds: “We have new expectations that’s not just about the ergonomic chair or sit-stand desk; it’s much more about food, sport, employees and leisure.”

To help us navigate the future, Gielgen shares the foresights below in his Work Panorama – a round-up of the key topics affecting the industry. 

vitra orgatec2Vitra's 'WORK 2018' showcased new and familiar products at Orgatec

1. Cluster Typology
“Connectivity is the key as a critical driver of economic growth and prosperity. Clusters grow out of connectivity, and not out of city districts or places by themselves. To build up a complex network with the flow of goods, services, people, ideas and capital, you need to think in a bigger picture. Proximity will increase interdepartmental interaction, collaboration and work efficiency, which is a contrast to old office models. There is not just one way to build up these clusters!”

2. Campus Community
“The Campus has become a center of gravity for new flexible, multipurpose and urban community structures. It is an environment that provides the space, community and services to all members’ needs to create their life’s work. The new corporate HQ and Campus will enable employees and clients to better access the full depth and breadth of their industry leading capabilities, while fostering employee engagement, imagination and growth. It’s a remarkable space that combines such well thought out technology, while at the same time is human, social, inspiring and uplifting.”

3. Talent Transfer
“The Garage Spirit brought us big technological innovators and entrepreneurs, but we can’t reduce that spirit just on a minority of the society. Future skills in a labour changing market require lifelong learning and a transfer of personal talent. Re- skilling and retraining are essential levers to fuel future economic growth. The objectives for the workspace of tomorrow are threefold: retain, reskill and recruit the best talent by creating a workplace with exceptional tools that enables them to do the best work of their careers.”

4. Transversality
“Architecture dissolves; the boundaries between industries, classifications and disciplines are gradually dissolving, requiring a continual reinterpretation of spaces and functions. Buildings and rooms are not the same anymore. Humans merge the rooms they occupy into the space they need.”

vitra orgatecVitra's Tip Ton all-plastic chair gets a colourful update at Orgatec

5. Permanent Beta
“The current economy is not based on the idea of solid products anymore, but driven by permanent modifications and optimisation. Every product or technology we use is supported by permanent iterations. Technology, humans and space are always on the move. The new office shows what permanent beta can be, and also doubles as a lab for testing new digital ideas and applications its clients can benefit from.”

6. Human Core
“Increasingly healthy lifespans will change how we live and work – companies must focus on that fact. They have to rethink both productivity and vitality. We should be focused on the ways that buildings – and everything in them – can improve our comfort, drive better choices, and generally enhance (not compromise) our health and wellness. As the Well Being Institute and the Living Building challenge show, the company of tomorrow does not just maintain their employee health, but improves it.”

7. Sustainability
“We have to take a holistic view on what the key global issues are in our society and markets. How can we raise awareness about our environment and get a sense of urgency? Instead of focusing on specific tasks we have to take a holistic view on social, economy and political topics.”

8. Machine Minds
“The world around us is shifting into a unified cloud-based environment that transfers any device into a cognitive machine. Cognitive building solutions give real estate and facilities management professionals the necessary tools to better manage energy use, optimise space, reduce operating costs and simplify real estate planning and management. In a world where employees are spending less time in the office and more time in alternative workplaces, a cognitive buildings strategy can also enhance employee productivity.”

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