Watson C9: The Human Office
8 min December 6, 2020
The C9 Rail is a power, voice, and data delivery system that is sleek in design and revolutionary in its function. When less density is required, the C9 Rail can pivot to provide occupants with greater enclosure and expansive sight-lines while simultaneously minimizing the health risk of face-to-face interactions. When the time comes to increase density in the office, straightening the rail allows for more occupants without the need to increase power, voice, and data infrastructure, all while maintaining recommended distancing guidelines.
The open office was created on the foundation that by reducing barriers and physically bringing people closer together, the free flow of communication and collaboration would be improved. Despite noble intentions, the goal of maximizing collaboration has come at the cost of individual privacy. These open office spaces fail to provide occupants with a sense of home and security. Occupants are surrounded by prying eyes, auditory disruption, and visual distractions. This problem has been compounded by a drive to increase workstation density. More people have been packed into smaller workspaces leading to an ever-dwindling sense of place for the individual.
These challenges have been further exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Giving employees more space is no longer just a way to improve morale and satisfaction; it is a matter of life and death. It is also only part of the equation. A traditional open-office plan with fifty percent of the desks unoccupied may address the distancing requirements, but it will do nothing to solve the underlying issues of privacy and distractions in the office. Maximizing privacy cannot be the only target; at the same time privacy needs ebb and flow as work requirements change. The workstation must be adaptable to these shifting requirements. For employees to accept the added risk of coming into the office, it must become the best place to do all varieties of work.
To keep up with the constantly-shifting requirements of today's world, workstations must have the flexibility to adapt to any number of challenges. Whether it's the near-term threat of COVID-19 or the future breakthrough technology that changes how everyone works, companies must be ready to adjust. The adaptability of the C9 Rail allows for just that.
The C9 Rail is the workhorse of the human office, a place devoted to the needs of people doing their best work. Beyond its ability to provide power, voice, and data to every user along its path, the C9 Rail also provides the platform upon which the balance of privacy and collaboration within the office are defined. Each segment of the C9 Rail is connected via a unique pivoting connector that allows for a continuous 180 degrees of adjustment between segments. This allows for an infinite array of layout possibilities without the need to add or remove any components. No longer constrained by fixed angles, the C9 Rail can navigate around columns and adapt to irregular floor plates.
This flexibility creates the opportunity to think beyond the traditional layout measurements of square feet per person and square feet per seat. By addressing the characteristics that satisfy our deep-rooted needs as humans, the C9 system can make the office both safe and rewarding place to be.
The flexibility of the C9 Rail can help achieve the necessary distance for a safe work environment during a pandemic.
Here we see how the distance between individuals changes when bending the rail. The red circles show the CDC recommended 6 feet of distance between individuals. In the linear layout the circles overlap showing inadequate distancing, while the angled layout shows a safe amount of space between each worker.
Linear Bench - 5.4ft
Angled Bench - 7.9ft
COVID-19 can be spread in the air through microscopic droplets of water. These droplets are released when talking, coughing, sneezing, or even just breathing. It is much more likely that these micro-droplets will be spread in the direction an individual is facing. Thus, we must consider the direction in which each person is oriented, and take extra precautions in that direction.
To the left we extended the distance bubble from 6ft to 12ft in the direction each person is facing. You can see how the linear bench has a great deal of overlap, while the angled bench orients each user away from one another.
Average Orientation Overlap:
Linear Bench - 4.2 instances
Angled Bench - 0 instances
Not Only Safer — Better
The flexibility of the C9 Rail affords the opportunity to make each desk a refuge space without having to sacrifice access to others. We have a deeply ingrained need as humans to recharge after prolonged exposure t o stressful events. Unlike our ancestors, whose stressors tended to be deadly predators, our stressors come in
the form of deadlines and deliverables. Refuge spaces, defined by their enclosure and protected backs, are ideal locations to replenish energy and focus. These refuge spaces are especially effective when paired with an expansive prospect looking outward. While expansive views may not always be possible in an office setting, the layouts made possible with the C9 Rail allow for greater prospect and visual stimuli than would be achievable through traditional layouts.
One way to quantify the quality of a refuge space is to analyze the accessible area behind each person. By encompassing the area within 7.5 feet of the user, excluding the area beyond a physical barrier, direct comparisons of enclosure can be calculated.
Average Enclosure Volume:
Linear Bench - 73.6 SqFt
Angled Bench - 37.3 SqFt
Another aspect of refuge spaces is the protection from others walking behind you. By overlaying a typical walking path for each person (as shown here with black lines) onto the enclosure area, it is possible to quantify and compare the likelihood of others crossing into your refuge space.
Average Enclosure Traffic:
Linear Bench - 2.8 intersections
Angled Bench - .66 intersections
To quantify the quality of each users’ prospect, the amount of a space within the 10 feet in front of each user is calculated, subtracting any area behind a barrier. These values represent the opportunity for visual stimulation and interest.
Average View Volume:
Linear Bench - 37.3 SqFt
Angled Bench - 100.4 SqFt
Looking at a Real Space
Each work-pod is just a single piece of the puzzle. In order to get a true sense of how C9 can change the work environment we must look at the entire space. The architecture you see here is based on our company headquarters. We created two space plans, one linear and one angled. You can see how they compare.
The office will continue to be the marketplace for collaboration and creativity. By shifting the focus to where people actually work, and by placing less emphasis on inauthentic communal spaces, the C9 Rail system can foster the next generation of work, where employees feel valued, revitalized, and inspired.
Find the Right Balance
The C9 Rail is a power, voice, and data delivery system that is sleek in design and revolutionary in its function. With its unique ability to pivot at each of its joints, the C9 Rail system unlocks infinite possibilities. By adjusting the angles at each connection, different levels of space density can be achieved without the need to install additional infrastructure. When less density is required, the C9 Rail can pivot to provide occupants with greater enclosure and expansive sight-lines while simultaneously minimizing the health risk of face-to-face interactions. When the time comes to increase density in the office, straightening the rail allows for more occupants without the need to increase power, voice, and data infrastructure, all while maintaining recommended distancing guidelines.
With this infinite flexibility there is sure to be a perfect solution for every space, no matter what the clients needs may be.