Embrace the New with HuddleVu: Innovative Screen Sharing and Collaboration Table Solutions from SMARTdesks

From business to education, collaboration and leadership are the cornerstones of today’s workplace. Technology, the ultimate tool for consensus building and problem solving, has shaped how we communicate ideas and develop solutions at a faster rate than ever before. From network building to our instant access to information, the culture of sharing defines how we think, work, and play.
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SMARTdesks recognizes that sharing technology in the office and university increases productivity and success across an array of collaborative work environments. Our BoostTM Collaborative Conference Table presents the all-in-one solution. The BoostTM comes outfitted with a FlipIT Lift monitor display easily visible from all sides of the table, and that neatly hides away when no longer needed. In addition, the easy-to-install HuddleVuTM HDMI video switcher enables up to four users to plug their computers in and seamlessly toggle the main display to show their individual screen at the touch of a button. For small meeting rooms and open-plan spaces alike, the BoostTM and HuddleVuTM make an elegant pair, bringing collaboration to your fingertips. With a simple installation and no software or programming required, sharing your screen has never been so easy.

Classroom Design for the Modern World

The "Lampe de Marseille" is a characteristic lighting fixture by Le Corbusier, and shows the importance of aesthetic illumination in office and classroom design.
The “Lampe de Marseille” (1949-52) is a characteristic lighting fixture by Le Corbusier, and shows the importance of aesthetic illumination in office and classroom design.

“Modern life demands, and is waiting for, a new kind of plan, both for the house and the city,” famous Swiss architect and designer Le Corbusier said in 1923. His words are still relevant today not only for the home and the city, but also for classroom design and office design.
Le Corbusier was among the pioneers who developed a relationship between interior design and architecture. Many of his furniture designs have become hallmarks of 20th century architecture history. Although he worked before the ubiquitous presence of computers and technology, his prescient view of furniture design and organization applies to the thinking behind cutting-edge classroom and office environments of the 21st century. Le Corbusier’s seamless integration of lighting fixtures, shelves, cupboards, and cabinets into their surrounding environment parallels the best contemporary classroom designs, where those elements are accompanied by comprehensive wire management systems, podiums, computer tables, and collaboration furniture.
High quality classroom design, complete with computer desks, computer tables, and collaboration tables, falls into a category that Le Corbusier called “human limb objects” — physical things that extend human capabilities and productivity.  In the world of furniture and classroom design, his words apply to tables and chairs as artwork of their space: “Certainly, works of art are tools — beautiful tools. And long live the good taste manifested by choice, subtlety, proportion, and harmony.”
The careful balance Le Corbusier articulates is one of aesthetics and functionality. It forms the core of sound classroom design and ergonomic desks and chairs. The versatility and flexibility of convertible computer tables are the key components of an advanced technology center or modern learning space. Architectural efficiency was one of the Le Corbusier’s most prominent ideologies, and it still plays a vital role in classroom and office space planning.
Here are a few tips and guiding questions to keep in mind when designing for efficiency in your own classroom.
1. Before beginning the planning phase, brainstorm all possible uses for the space. Does your classroom design need to include ample space for breakout activities and modular-shaped furniture, or are lines of computer tables for a more traditional approach most suited to your needs?
2. Computer tables and conference tables come in a plethora of shapes and sizes. Which accommodates your existing technology infrastructure best, and/or what is the technology infrastructure you would like to change or develop?
3. Consider the scale of your room(s). From K-12 environments to higher education to the corporate boardroom, the size of your furniture will define your space and the activities within it.
4. Similarly, what is the maximum number of people who will need to occupy the space? How can you choose furnishings in a way that makes the room feel as open as possible?
5. Chairs should encourage both comfort and good posture. This is most easily achieved through ergonomic design, which enable people to accomplish their work with greater ease and sharper focus.
6. What limits need to be placed on the available technology for your classroom design or office design? If participants will partake in both computer based and paper-and-pencil pursuits, your computer tables must offer sufficient ergonomic design to accommodate both.
7. Aesthetic and flexible wire management is an important part of designing any modern working and learning environment. Do you need moveable outlets, or would you prefer a more static arrangement? Careful consideration of technology needs will show you where and how flexible to need your computer cable organization options to be.
8. Finally, how long do you need this classroom design or office design to last? Will it be updated in the next ten years, or sooner? Think about building a space that incorporates the timeless element of high-quality furniture materials with the flexibility to update technology, such as computer monitors and smart boards, as each new model is released, and before your next major renovation.
If you’d like more ideas for designing your space, feel free to call us at 1-800-770-7042 without cost or obligation.
 

Is Your Office Job Hurting your Health?

Thanksgiving is right around the corner; and if you are like us, you are eagerly counting your steps and tracking what you eat in hopes of maintaining your diet and health regimen during a holiday season known for sugary desserts, over-eating, and often inevitable weight gain. While you may be focused on your current health goals due to the time of year, we encourage you to think about you and your employees’ life-long health. The way your office is designed, whether in your home or where you work, can make or break a healthy lifestyle.
The majority of Americans spend most of their lives sitting at office desks for their professions. Our day-to-day routines require us to sit in cars to drive to work where we arrive to once again sit at a desk for 8+ hours a day, 5 days out of the week. Unfortunately, engaging in regular activities outside the home is simply not enough; especially when many people come home from work exhausted and want to sit and relax on the couch after a day filled with sitting (how ironic!).
That is why we, at SMARTdesks, believe that we need to rethink the work culture. Many companies and employees with home offices are getting rid of their comfy office chairs. The two most popular replacements are using no chair and creating a standing desk or developing the desk into a fitness station with a customized treadmill or seated bike designed with the workplace in mind.
Why make the change? Research has shown that sitting for the majority of the day is bad for your health, linking prolonged sedentary activity like sitting to being more prone to breast cancer, prostate cancer, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, hypertension and depression.
The benefits for employers who adopt wellness programs are not only beneficial for the employees, but for the companies themselves. Not only does investing money in employee health allow for lower absenteeism and health care costs, but most companies witness increased employee satisfaction and retention.
A study released by Avner Ben-Ner, a professor at the University of Minnesota’s Carlson School of Management, and Dr. James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic in Phoenix, found that employees who use fitness desks had an increased level of quality of work, opinion of work and productivity. Instead of feeling physically exhausted or distracted by the movement, employees felt more engaged. Engaging in exercise and movement releases endorphins into your brain, which is proven to improve your mood and decrease your stress level.
This holiday season consider giving the gift of health to you or your employees. To recap, here are the top 6 reasons to make the switch:

  1. Increased productivity
  2. Increase in endorphins giving your brain a boost
  3. Improved focus
  4. Reduced back pain
  5. Increased employee satisfaction
  6. A healthier life that keeps your heart healthy!

Backpain
The Washington Post recently released the following graphic outlining the negative effects of sitting. We encourage you to share it around the office to remind coworkers to get up and move; if not, it could result in a chain of problems!
To find out more, check out these great articles, from Vox and Forbes, that served as the basis for this article.

Announcing our New Line: Fit-at-Office!

We live in an ever-increasingly health conscious world, with fitness bracelets and apps to track calories and weight loss with the click of a button, and SMARTdesks has now joined the trend!
We now offer a complete line of LifeSpan® treadmill desks and bike desk workstations designed for the home and office. Desk options include: electric height adjustment models that can be used collectively by multiple people in the office, manual adjustment models for 1 or 2 people and if you already own a stand-up desk we have available treadmill and bike options that work for you as well. All models include our patented step counting feature “Intelli-Step” to automatically count your steps or pedal revolutions while you walk or bike. Using the standard Bluetooth feature, you can track your progress on your Mac or PC and wirelessly sync your activity results.
Add a traditional seated desk to one or both sides letting you sit and walk or pedal throughout the day. Whether you are self-employed and working at home or part of a large corporation, SMARTdesks Fit@Office products can help you increase physical activity while you work without taking time out of your busy schedule.
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The entire SMARTdesks Fit@Office product line is designed to bring physical activity back into the workplace with safe, quiet, and reliable activity stations that are proven effective to improve your health and the health of your employees. Our products are equally well-suited for more “recreational” purposes as well — surfing Youtube and scrolling Facebook news feeds can now come with the added bonus of burning calories from the comfort of your home!
If you have any questions, please feel free to contact a SMARTdesks Fit@Office product specialist at 1-800-770-7042. We can answer questions about how others are using our products, discuss the best approach for introducing activity stations in your company or help decide which model is right for you.

It’s called Macbook Pro Retina, but “Retina” or not, it could be hurting your eyes

In today’s world, technology is everywhere. One might even say that it runs our lives. From our computers, smart phones, tablets and gadgets, most people are around technology every waking moment. And, for children, classrooms are becoming outfitted with greater amounts of technology to support teaching curriculum and to serve as a new learning style. It is estimated that 40% of teachers use computers for instruction, and at least one computer is in 97% of all American classrooms.
In honor of Children’s Eye Health and Safety month, we wondered how much technology time children should have both in and out of the classroom.
Don’t Start too Young
Parents should slowly introduce their children to technology. Since 2009, the American Academy of Pediatrics and the White House Task Force on Childhood Obesity (2010) have recommended waiting until the child is at least preschool age, or over the age of two years old, to introduce the child to technology.
After the age of two years old, it is recommended that children have no more than one to two hours of total screen time per day, and this includes all the way up to teenagers. A two hour limit is unrealistic for teenagers, who require screen time for homework tasks, but younger children should prevent straining their eyes for as long as possible.
For youngest technology users (under five years), experts believe that they are not being given a chance to explore the world around them. This could result in a skewed reality and inability to differentiate between technology and the real world. For young children, the emphasis in research has been less about the health and safety risks, although those should be assessed, and more about the development of learning about the world around them.
Digital Eye Strain
According to a survey by the American Optometric Association, almost 1/3 of children use technology for a full hour before taking a visual break. Optometrists are concerned that blue light rays emitted from electronic devices could affect and age the eyes. When technology is used for extended periods of time, the individual could experience what is called Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS).
The American Optometric Association defines CVS as eye and vision-related problems that result from prolonged computer use. The most common symptoms of CVS include:

  • eyestrain
  • headaches
  • blurred vision
  • dry eyes
  • neck and shoulder pain

These symptoms are often caused by:

  • poor lighting
  • glare on the computer screen
  • improper viewing distances
  • poor seating posture
  • uncorrected vision problems
  • a combination of these factors

Combat Eye Strain
Here are a few ways to combat the negative effects of eye strain:

  1. 20-20-20

Children and adults alike are encouraged to practice the 20-20-20 rule to decrease the effects of eye strain. Every 20 minutes, spend 20 seconds looking at something 20 feet away.
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  1. Practice good posture and viewing distance.

Whether in the classroom or in an office, you should have a comfortable working posture where your joints are aligned. Optimally, when working on a tablet or computer, the screen should be 15 to 20 degrees below eye level (about 4 to 5 inches) and 20 to 28 inches from the eyes.
Smart phones — probably the singular piece of technology most frequently used with poor posture — should be held up at eye level and approximately 16 inches away from the face.

  1. Remember to blink!

This one seems obvious, but blinking can improve focus and reduce dry eyes. If you are suffering from dry eyes, drops can also help.
For some more eye health tips, check out this article from TIME.
Do you find that your back or neck hurts after using technology? How many hours do you spend watching TV, using your smartphone, or working on the computer?

New SMARTdesks Classrooms at Union County College

Early this year SMARTdesks revamped four classrooms at Union County College in Cranford, New Jersey. The project was a collaborative effort between the Design Team at SMARTdesks, the Union County IT department, and other college administrators. SMARTdesks generated layouts for the rooms within a week of receiving floor plans, and through GoTo meetings and live presentations jointly developed a vision for the classrooms.
SMARTdesks’ challenge was to turn this type of old-fashioned classroom, previously furnished with fixed desk chairs, into an ADA compliant, collaborative classroom with multi-use FlipIT desks. (The blocks in front of the white board are the new floor, pre-measured and ready for installation).
The Starting Point . . . 
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The Final Product . . .
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In four days, SMARTdesks finished the makeover. To begin, installers covered linoleum floors and old carpets with the Floor + Furniture Integrated Technology (FFIT) carpet flooring, which distributed power to 15 duplex outlets and each of the moveable computer workstations. The FFIT can be rearranged according to the desk layouts.
A new power system . . .

FFIT Floor raised carpet tiles.
FFIT Floor raised carpet tiles.

This new floor was designed with fire code regulations and ADA compliance in mind. A ramp leads into the classroom for wheelchair accessibility.
ADA Compliance . . . 
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The furniture itself had to accommodate a minimum of 24 students, and is built on locking casters that enable mobility. They can be arranged back-to-back (shown here), around the perimeter of the room, or in rows, depending on the professor’s needs.
Top of the line desks . . . 
Closed monitor lids offer a flat workspace when needed.
Closed monitor lids offer a flat workspace when needed.

These desks feature the FlipIt, which allows for both computer and traditional pen and paper desktop uses. They will be used for library and classroom  work, conducted in teams or independently. As Michele McHenry, director of design at SMARTdesks said, “This answers the need for adaptive teaching and learning styles.”
In your opinion…What does your ideal classroom look like?

Collaborative Spaces: Designing The Modern Classroom

Collaboration is becoming the catchphrase of modern office and education institutions. Days of the cubicle are numbered, and straight lines of desks in schools are overlooked in favor of more flexible desk arrangements.
What is collaborative learning?
Collaborative learning is the process by which students or employees form teams to tackle a significant problem. It can take place in close proximity or long distance, through teleconferencing and Internet communication technology.
Problem-based learning is a common theme in a collaborative approach to education, in which students engage with their peers and teammates to best understand the subject at hand.
How can we design classrooms that foster collaboration?
The key to collaboration is successful communication. Desk arrangements can determine the ease with which students and professors interact. SMARTdesks iGroup and Exchange tables offer flexibility in their configurations. Desk element interlock with each other in a variety of shapes; just a few options include the hexagon, pinwheel, leaf, and wave shapes, as seen below.
SMARTdesks iGroup computer collaboration tables, specially designed for K-8 environments:

Collaboration-Tables-Modern-Computer-Desk-K-8-Learning

This iGroup table is located at the Hackensack Public Library in New Jersey, and specially designed for elementary and middle school student use.
This SMARTdesks iGroup table is located at the Hackensack Public Library in New Jersey, and specially designed for elementary school student use.

SMARTdesks Exchange Collaboration Tables, for high school, university, and collaborative office use:
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This is just one example of how Exchange elements can be combined. As you can see below, collaborators can work on projects using computers or have a clear desktop depending on their needs. This flexibility is critical in collaborative classroom design.

Classroom Design fosters Collaborative Learning

Two views on collaboration . . . 
While recent media has stressed the importance of collaborative learning, particularly at the university level, according to this study (from Virginia Tech) there is little empirical evidence that it actually augments students’  critical thinking skills.
Nonetheless, some professors swear that a collaborative approach has improved their students performance. For an excellent story on one journalism professor’s movement from lecture-based to peer-to-peer learning, click here. And here is a study that focuses on computer-based collaborative learning.
Check back soon for some tips on how to make collaborative learning most effective!
What is/was your educational experience like? Do/did you participate in collaborative learning environments? 

The standing desk: is it really better for you?

How many hours per day do you spend seated at work? At least 5 days per week, 8 hours per day…it adds up quickly. This BBC article claims that we spend as many as 12 hours per day in idle positions, not including a 7-hour night’s sleep.

We’ve all seen countless articles about how sedentary work habits contribute to depression, obesity, and serious metabolic conditions. This study, published by the US National Library of Medicine, shows that people who sit for 6 or more hours per day are at a greater risk of mortality from cardiovascular disease. We’ve known standing is better for us for quite some time; in 1950, a Lancet study showed that bus conductors (who work standing) versus bus drivers (who work sitting) were half as likely to develop heart disease.
So, knowing that standing is better for us, what can we do about it? Sit-stand desks, otherwise known as standing desks, are the logical, ergonomic choice for anyone looking for a healthier work environment. (But keep in mind, and stand up/adjustable height desk might be the best choice because too much standing can actually be harmful – check out this personal account from the Washington Post).
SMARTdesks offers the Cirrus line of adjustable height desks and sit-stand desks that can help you work in a healthier way. A wide variety of finishes are available as well as floating balance, ratchet, spring pin, and motorized option for adjusting the height of the standing desks and tables.
motorized-adjustable-height-table
And because neither standing not sitting is ideal for extended periods of time, the motorized lift memory function makes it easy to save both your sitting and standing heights.
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For more information and studies from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention about standing at work, click here.
In your opinion…How do you like to work best? Seated, with intervals of movement, standing all the time, or standing and sitting depending on how much strain your feet can take?

Did you know? Standing at work puts you in good company. Winston Churchill, Ernest Hemingway, and Benjamin Franklin all worked at specially-built standing desks.
Courtesy of the Washington Post.
Courtesy of the Washington Post.

Designing The Modern Computer Desk

The SMARTdesks Quark, a computer conference table for Telepresence, Teleconferencing, Video Conferencing and Collaboration.
The SMARTdesks Quark, a computer conference table for Telepresence, Teleconferencing,
Video Conferencing and Collaboration.

2014 is here, and as we progress into the second decade of the 21st century, computer desk designs continue to changing quickly with technology innovation and office design trends. The modern computer desk must adapt to an increasingly collaborative environment and one that favors open-architecture spaces over cubicles. Desktop computer use is on the decline as mobile device usage increases steadily. Creative work environments improve productivity and foster innovation.
Within contemporary educational and office spaces, SMARTdesks strives to innovate and design creative and modern computer desks.
iGroup-Accessorized
iGroup is a reconfigurable collaboration table that offers a variety of possibilities for customization, including inset iDrawer or FlipIT options for iPad or computer.

Check out how some offices around the world have implemented their ideas of the modern computer desk here, including workstations from Google, Skype, and Twitter, among many others. Apple has even patented a ‘desk-free’ computer that operates on laser-powered projection, eliminating the need for a monitor on the desktop. And here’s a list in pictures of office trends that are on the way out in the next ten years according to HuffPost.
In your opinion…What do you think are the most important features of the modern computer desk?
 

Our New Year’s Tech Resolutions

Happy New Year from SMARTdesks! Here are our top 5 furniture and technology resolutions for the New Year.
1. Treat yourself to better ergonomics in 2014. You spend hours in front of the computer and your work shouldn’t be causing you pain. For a guide to optimizing ergonomics, click here.
2. Use the cloud to store your work and share information with collaborators, whether they be fellow educators or employees at your company. It’s safe, secure, and efficient. Here are some tips on using the cloud to the best of your advantage.
3. Find the best organizational apps for you at home and at work. Here is a list of the top 10 for entrepreneurs and startups according to venturebeat.com for entrepreneurs.
4. Keep your email inbox clear of clutter and junk. Seems like a difficult task? Check out unroll.me to get rid of email subscriptions you don’t want and consolidate the ones you do want into just one message.
5. Finally, collaborate, collaborate, collaborate. In the classroom or office, a team-based approach to learning and solving problems is invaluable. Here are some collaboration tips from Tech Republic.
Here’s to a healthy, happy, and productive 2014!