What are the benefits of coworking? How will offices be different in the near future? And how does building digitalization come into all this? We asked Šimon Opekar, who works as a manager at the office furnishing specialists Techo, and who is also the co-founder of the TechoCon international conference. This year’s TechoCon is coming up this September.
The main topic of this year’s TechoCon is coworking. Why?
We’re seeing this trend grow in importance not only for offices, but also throughout the market. It’s both a great business model and a trend that companies worldwide are picking up on more and more often. 19,000 coworking centers are expected to be in operation worldwide by the end of 2018, with about 70 in the Czech Republic and over 40 in Prague.
What do you like about coworking centers?
The community that they create. After all, “co-working” means “working together.” The users of coworking spaces can share more than just an office—they can share ideas that might help to develop their business.
Speaking of community, looking at it from the outside it may seem that coworking only brings together a narrow community: creatives, freelancers, people from startups. Will they be a mainstream affair in the future?
It’s true that in the beginning, coworking spaces were most advantageous for startups and the self-employed. To a large extent, this trend is continuing, but international firms have a growing desire to implement coworking as well. I see three main advantages in this: community, service, and flexibility. Flexibility, above all, is extremely important at the moment; in a way it reflects the modern age, which is full of innovations and modern technologies.
LESS IS SOMETIMES MORE
Has Techo ever furnished a coworking space in the Czech Republic?
We cooperate with a company named WorkLounge, for example; they have two centers in Prague and one in the USA, and they’re among the first coworking centers in the Czech Republic.
Did they have any special requirements for their furnishings compared to ordinary offices?
Every project is entirely different from the rest. We at Techo specialize in comprehensive office furnishing services. The way that we try to work is, we first study how the company in question works and functions, and then we customize their interior to reflect that.
Office furnishings are going through some unbelievable developments right now. Today companies take a great deal of care to break up their spaces into parts, to include relaxation zones, and also to include focus zones. They also want to have open areas where people can meet each other and, say, have coffee.
I believe the number of relaxation zones will grow in the future. They’ve also become a place for meetings; they’re no longer just for relaxing.
What are the most frequent or most regrettable mistakes that companies make when furnishing new offices?
When creating an office environment, it’s very important to keep in mind that the spaces are being created for the employees. Each space needs to be adapted so that its users have good infrastructure. And the second point that I would emphasize is acoustics. That’s an aspect that’s often forgotten when furnishing offices, but in its final result it’s an important element for an office’s overall conception.
Should occupants themselves play a part in designing their own new offices?
Well, it’s never good when there are too many people involved in the design. What’s ideal, not only for us but also for the other parties that are putting together the office space, is to have a few representatives of the company that can speak for the remainder. Today architects, who play a role in offices’ design, are also decidedly important among the persons influencing office furnishings.
SLIDES ARE RIDING HIGH... OR ARE THEY?
In the past, the slide inside of Google branches was viewed as an iconic element for the very most modern offices. Is there something like that today?
I have to admit that we haven’t deployed a slide in a long time. The last one might have been the one in our showroom.
And does anyone use it?
I try to adapt each space to its occupants, so that everyone has fun and feels comfortable there. To exaggerate a bit—so that they feel at home there.
What are the new things appearing in place of slides?
Actually, today things have gone so far that we’re deploying climbing walls, office gyms, and saunas.
Your conference’s motto is “Workplace of the Future.” So—what will workplaces be like in the future?
We can’t stop technology; it would be a mistake to try. We have to make use of it fully. Several elements of building digitalization—sensors, reservation systems for conference rooms, mobile apps, energy consumption and air quality analysis software, etc.—are becoming easier to find. We’ll definitely see a gradual move away from cabling and an effort to make more and more devices wireless.
When you compare your vision of the office in 2023 with what’s here in 2018, what will be the most significant change?
Virtual reality. It will be reflected in offices’ organization in a significant way, for example in the form of touch or touchless dividers, various canvases, and special monitors.
“The aim of the TechoCon conference is to create a community of people with an interest in work environments, trends, technologies, and innovations related to these,” says this conference’s co-founder Šimon Opekar of it. This year brings the second annual TechoCon, offering presentations from foreign guests, workshops by experts, and samples of a variety of solutions from partner companies.
You can sign up for TechoCon 2018 for free HERE. #MORETHANOFFICE is a media partner of TechoCon.