NeoCon 2019: If you want adaptable furniture and mobile power for collaboration spots, or a wall mount for Microsoft Surface Hub 2S, see Steelcase’s award winners

by Brianna Crandall — June 24, 2019 — Global furniture and technology provider Steelcase unveiled several new products at this month’s NeoCon 2019 contract furnishings show in Chicago, including two that earned Gold awards in the prestigious Best of NeoCon Competition as well as a mobile power device.

Steelcase’s Flex Collection of adaptable furniture won Gold in the Furniture Collections for Collaboration category, and the Roam wall mounting system for the new Microsoft Surface Hub 2S took Gold in the Technology-Integrated Solutions category. These two introductions and the new Flex Mobile Power, all described below, support the ability of employees to work anywhere with all the connectivity they need, enabling collaboration and teamwork around the workplace.

Gold: Steelcase Flex Collection

Steelcase Flex is an integrated collection of furniture and accessories designed to meet the needs of modern teams and their changing activities. Steelcase Flex creates dynamic team neighborhoods that can be adapted on demand.

Steelcase Flex Collection of adaptable collaborative furniture

Steelcase Flex Collection is an integrated collection of furniture and accessories designed to meet the needs of modern teams and their changing activities. Image courtesy Steelcase

As organizations strive for growth and innovation, teams need to quickly generate new ideas and solve complex problems. Team-based work is increasing, as people now spend 54% of their time working with others, according to new Steelcase global research. But the nature of teamwork has fundamentally shifted to become more interdependent, fast-paced and fluid. Today’s hyper-collaborative teams have embraced agile and design thinking methodologies to help them move faster and stay more closely connected to their customers. These practices require rapid shifts between diverse activities.

Ken Tameling, Steelcase general manager, Global Furniture, remarked:

Teamwork used to be more like a running a relay, with coordinated handoffs. Today it’s more like basketball or soccer, as teams have become hyper-collaborative. But despite this dramatic change, most fixed workplaces are still designed to support a more linear work process. Teams need to be empowered to adapt their space for group or individual needs on demand, control their privacy and transition to different work modes while staying in flow.

According to Steelcase, the best workplaces support the activities of the team while nurturing the needs of individuals. Teams need a home where they can surround themselves in their project and display their thinking and ideas. They need to be able to quickly switch between collaboration and focused work. And they need control to rearrange their space at any time, on their own.

Starting in 2017, Steelcase researchers observed the daily activities of creative and high-tech teams in North America, Europe and the Middle East. They saw teams who became frustrated and hacked their offices to improve their space — claiming territory with makeshift barricades, repurposing everyday objects to create places for group work and covering walls and ceilings with sticky notes to display information.

These high-performing teams inspired the Steelcase Flex Collection, which includes moveable desks, tables, markerboards, carts, screens and accessories. Wheels, directional rollers and glides make all the elements easy to move. Anyone can easily reconfigure its pieces and adjust boundaries and screens to provide the right amount of privacy for team and individual needs.

Steelcase’s new global research also addressed understanding the broader needs of hyper-collaborative teams around the world. It found that 90% of workers believe working with others is essential to creating new and better ideas. People who work in teams are positive about collaboration activities overall but also feel their workplaces and technology don’t fully support the new ways they’re working.

The study revealed that most environments do not support hyper-collaboration:

  • 70% of people are still trying to collaborate in traditional fixed conference rooms;
  • 81% of collaborative work is scheduled; only 19% say their collaboration is at least somewhat spontaneous;
  • 68% say they struggle to stay focused amid distractions; and
  • 62% of people are unable to move their furniture to support changing activities, while the majority would like this feature.

Steelcase Flex is designed to address these research findings about the needs of today’s fast-paced, flexible teams.

Steelcase Flex Collection seamlessly integrates with the new Steelcase Roam wall mounting system for Microsoft Surface Hub 2S, described below, which gives workers the freedom to collaborate virtually anywhere. Made for the Microsoft Surface Hub 2S, Steelcase Roam Mobile Stand and easy-to-hang wall mounting system gives people the freedom to collaborate wherever their ideas take them.

Steelcase Flex Collection is expected to be available in summer 2019 in North America, fall 2019 in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and late 2019 in Asia-Pacific.

For more information on the Steelcase Flex Collection, or to discover how Steelcase Flex can be configured to support different types of teams, visit the Steelcase website.

Steelcase Flex Mobile Power

Steelcase Flex Mobile Power, which the company touts as its vision for the future of power in the workplace, is enterprise-level, contract-grade low-voltage mobile power that gives teams the freedom to work anywhere. Sleek, portable and powerful, each Mobile Power unit can charge up to three laptops or personal devices for a full day. It’s easy to carry anywhere, sturdy enough to hold up under heavy use in the workplace, and yet the design was inspired by hand-crafted tableware, so it fits in workplaces that range from upscale to casual.

Wooden cart of black Steelcase Flex Mobile Power devices

Steelcase Flex Mobile Power provides enterprise-level, contract-grade low voltage mobile power that gives teams the freedom to work anywhere. Image courtesy Steelcase

Steelcase Flex Mobile Power is a collaboration between Steelcase and Anker Innovations, the global charging experts for smart devices.

Hyun Yoo, principal designer, Steelcase, noted:

People work in fast-paced teams with changing activities and they need to be more mobile than ever. We wanted to truly empower teams to work however and wherever they want. So we collaborated with Anker to design mobile power for the workplace that is not only functional but beautiful.

Steelcase Flex Mobile Power not only charges multiple devices simultaneously, it detects which device is running the lowest and directs the most power there, so everyone can keep working. The proprietary charging tray from Steelcase and Anker charges five units overnight and sits on any flat surface or can be integrated into a Steelcase Flex Collection cart to go wherever teams need it. It is designed for USB-C port connectivity — rapidly becoming the global, universal connectivity standard, and also has a USB-A port, which the company says delivers best-in-class 218 watt-hour capacity with 117W charging output across all ports.

Steven Yang, CEO of Anker Innovations, pointed out:

Whether it’s a lunch meeting in the break room or a creative session on the company couch, battery-powered devices like laptops and tablets have given us the freedom to move away from our desks and work where we feel most inspired. But at some point, those devices will need to be charged, and then you’re back to your desk. This is why we are excited to announce our partnership and bring Anker charging technology to the new Steelcase Flex Mobile Power. Now teams will be able to free themselves from the constant desk-to-meeting room cycle, and work anywhere they want.

The design for Steelcase Flex Mobile Power was inspired by Yoo’s artistic work in ceramics and her explorations in fine tableware, with the goal of creating objects that are simple and delicate in line but scaled and proportioned to feel sturdy.

Steelcase Roam mobile stand and wall mount system for Microsoft Surface Hub 2S

Steelcase Roam is a mobile stand and easy-to-hang wall mounting system designed for the Microsoft Surface Hub 2S. Image courtesy Steelcase

Steelcase Flex Mobile Power will be available in the US and Canada later this year. For the live product introduction video explaining more about the product, watch “Live Reveal! Steelcase Flex Mobile Power at NeoCon.”

Gold: Steelcase Roam for Microsoft Surface Hub 2S

Microsoft and Steelcase introduced a new way to give teams an unprecedented level of control over how they collaborate, putting people at the center of how place and technology intersect. Microsoft launched its next generation all-in-one collaboration device built for teamwork: Surface Hub 2S. And Steelcase introduced Steelcase Roam, a mobile stand and easy-to-hang wall mounting system designed for the Surface Hub 2S that allow teams to collaborate almost anywhere. These solutions meet the increasing demand for rapid innovation and problem solving by helping people access the right spaces and tools needed to create new ideas.

Great ideas can’t always be scheduled. The Microsoft Surface Hub 2S is an all-in-one digital whiteboard, meetings platform and collaborative computing device that brings the power of Windows 10 to teamwork. It is an interactive team device with a slim, sleek design that can turn any space into a collaborative space. Through the Hub, teams can brainstorm together and collaborate across devices, even if they are in different locations.

Microsoft worked with Steelcase to design Steelcase Roam, a mobile stand and easy-to-hang wall mounting system, that allow people to use the Surface Hub 2S to collaborate in planned sessions or spontaneously. The mobile stand can be moved easily with one hand, and its small footprint fits in all kinds of spaces. The wall mounting system is suitable for private offices or smaller spaces, encouraging standing and active postures.

Collaborative work at its best is active work: neuroscience has established the strong connection between physical movement and improved creativity, learning and problem solving. Earlier Steelcase research, focused on active learning in the classroom, inspired the concept of active collaboration for the workplace. Microsoft Surface Hub 2S and Steelcase Roam support active collaboration by encouraging teams to move, stand, gesture and become more physically, mentally and emotionally engaged in their collaborative work.

The benefits of active collaboration are backed by research, including the new Steelcase Active Collaboration Study 2019 mentioned above that explored collaboration in the workplace and identified gaps that exist between how people are currently working and what they need. In addition to the results listed above, the study found:

  • 72% of people want to move when collaborating, but only 53% can;
  • 70% would like to use an interactive collaboration device, but only 42% have access to one;
  • 66% say they lack technology to visually display work; and
  • 75% of traditional conference rooms are enclosed, and 81% of collaboration sessions are scheduled, while only 19% are spontaneous.

Steelcase Roam and Surface Hub 2S prime people for creative work whether they are physically together or working remotely, without having to wait for scheduled meetings or scheduled spaces. A more relaxed, authentic collaborative experience eliminates hierarchy since people can see eye-to-eye, and encourages equal participation. Remote team members can move around with the team and participate more fully. Teammates can see and hear crisply and clearly — making sure everyone has a place at the table.

Microsoft Surface Hub 2S and Steelcase Roam are expected to start shipping in the US in June, with additional markets soon to follow. They will be sold through Microsoft authorized device resellers.

For more information on Steelcase’s 2019 award-winning products, click on the product links above. With over 105 years of experience, the Steelcase family of brands includes Steelcase, Coalesse, Designtex, PolyVision, Turnstone, Smith System, Orangebox and AMQ, which offer a comprehensive portfolio of architecture, furniture and technology products and services in over 800 global Steelcase dealer locations.