Design matters: designing offices for productivity, image and sustainability.

Author:Held, Shad

BOOSTING EMPLOYEE productivity can help businesses gain a competitive edge. But providing employees with the latest tools and equipment is just one avenue to that destination. A 2006 U.S. Workplace Survey conducted by Gensler, a global design consultancy, estimates that poor workplace design costs American businesses $330 billion annually in lost productivity.

Here are some of the latest trends in office design and furniture to watch, according to award-winning commercial interior designers and furniture manufacturers around Indiana.

Comfort, According to Rita Bacevich, principal of Schererville-based HDW Commercial Interiors, the buzzword in commercial interior design continues to be ergonomics. Established in 1991, HDW Commercial Interiors has been named best office interior design for 2005 and 2006 by the readers of Northwest Indiana Business Quarterly.

"In the past, many people bought furniture for a look or a price," says Bacevich. "Now people are willing to pay that extra price for something that is going to give them a more ergonomic work environment."

Kimball Office, a unit of Kimball International, recently launched Wish, an adjustable ergonomic task chair that reduces physical stress during extended periods of sitting. The Jasper-based company has won awards for several of its lines: Xsite frame-and-tile systems, Evoke casegoods, Aspire conference tables and Skye ergonomic executive desk seating. It also offers a variety of sit-stand desks and tables and furniture lines that optimize work surface and storage space.

"All of these products contribute to better workplace design, which in turn can drive employee excellence, business objectives and, ultimately, the bottom line," says Sandy Horton, director I of product line management for Kimball Office.

Space saving. Executive I offices and cubicles alike have been downsized during the past 10 years, initiating a wave of furniture design that maximize a compact workplace.

"With some systems you can fit eight cubicles in the space that once housed six," says Bacevich. "Now, you may think you are cramming these extra people in, but that is not the case. Manufacturers have designed these systems to save space and to keep employee comfort a top priority."

At a recent world trade show, Bacevich says furniture manufacturers introduced tables that fit under desks and can be pulled out to accommodate impromptu meetings.

Carol Payne, vice president of design and customer care for...

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