Product Design, Mechanical engineering
privacy and collaboration
FOR THE OPEN OFFICE
A8 is a height adjustable table system built to improve productivity in an open office environment by embracing user needs for both privacy and collaboration. To accomplish this, Minimal embraced a “Desk as a cockpit” philosophy, bringing the entire workstation up with you, allowing focused work to be done sitting or standing. A series of wrapped fabric screens move with the desk, limiting visual distractions without creating full barriers between teams members. A8 is also highly modular, giving teams and facilities managers the ability to reconfigure on the fly without losing access to power and data, supporting the changing demands of teams and their work styles.
Developed over four years, A8 represents a long term partnership between Minimal and Allsteel. Our design and engineering teams collaborated with Allsteel on the entire system from the initial concepts of the desk and accessories, through prototyping, refinement and production. A8 was launched at NeoCon in 2018.
Common in workplaces for decades, the open office concept is intended to promote collaboration and increase productivity by dropping barriers and fostering communication between workers. In practical application, this leaves workers exposed to a wide range of visual and acoustic distractions, often limiting productivity by inhibiting focused work.
Sitting for long periods of time, such as over eight hours a day, can have adverse health effects. Changing positions in a 50/50 ratio between sitting and standing is known to reduce many of these effects. Although it is still being studied, there is evidence that height adjustable tables, when properly used, can improve a wide range of conditions such as back pain, overall mood, energy levels and potentially increase life span. For these and many other reasons, HATs have become popular and widely accepted in the workplace.
Using height adjustable tables in the open office compounds the issue with focused work. When you stand, you are more exposed to visual and acoustic distraction. Add in the already chaotic environment of the open office environment, and focused work becomes almost impossible. Through field research, we learned that many workers sit down to focus, and stand for other types of less intense work. This issue severely limits the effectiveness of HATs, minimizing the health benefits, the reason users wanted them in the first place. Together with Allsteel, MINIMAL developed a flexible architecture to address different workplace needs.
The heart of A8 is the power beam. This clean, minimalist volume is intended to reduce visual noise when the desk is raised and exposed to the office. Mounted below the desk, it routes power, data and all necessary cables to anywhere they need to go. An integrated power strip is customized at the factor level with any combination of power plugs, USBs or ethernet/data.
End users can access power though the quick access panel on the top of the desk, or flip down the center door of the power beam and route cables up through the quick access panel. IT and facilities managers access the two side doors to during install or swap cables when desks need to be reconfigured.
A8’s privacy screens have carefully chosen dimensions that tune a user’s sightlines creating the right balance of privacy while still feeling open. Three screen designs, straight, L-shaped and U-Shaped enable desks to be used in almost any configuration. All screens are tackable and accept a wide range of textiles.
Developing A8 was not a “throw it over the wall” process. To realize the designs, Minimal’s design and engineering teams worked directly with Allsteel on every element of the system. Development spanned several years as designs were conceived, prototyped, revised and proven out in manufacturing. Along with the initial engineering concepts and construction, Minimal helped resolve manufacturing strategy, assembly, cost and delivered detailed engineering CAD to communicate these solutions. Prototypes were created by Allsteel in their model shop and and production facilities in Muscatine, IA.