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Catena Office Landscape – design solutions in the new normal

Catena Office Landscape – design solutions in the new normal


With physical distancing and protective practices set to become mandatory for workers beginning to return to their pre-COVID workspaces, a system like the Catena Office Landscape will help to offer peace of mind for users of those spaces.

As the restrictions around Australia begin to ease following nearly three months of hibernation, the population is yawning, stretching and poking their heads above the metaphorical parapet to see what the world looks like in the ‘new normal’. While the coronavirus pandemic is far from over and indeed may not be for months or even years, there are moves afoot across the globe to reopen society and kick-start economies that have been moribund for weeks.

Workers who have become used to the acronym WFH are now asking themselves, will they soon not be ‘working from home’? And does this mean a return to BAU?

But the truth is that ‘business as usual’ will not be the same ‘usual’ we knew before the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic. As the restrictions are eased in considered and monitored stages, one of the final strategies to implement will be getting workers back to offices and workspaces. The challenges are manifold. It’s not just navigating the realities of returning to shared spaces, and utilities such as kitchens and public bathrooms, there’s the undoubted anxiety that a mass return to public transport will see packed commuters paving the way for a second wave of tsunami proportions.  

So this stage will require careful planning and implementation, with those in charge of workspaces everywhere needing to actively consider how they will alter and adapt not just their procedures and processes, but the actual physical layouts of those spaces.

The overriding principle of safe distancing will continue to be vital for the foreseeable future, both in the short and long term. The welcome news is that there are already systems and products designed that will help this practice immeasurably.

Catena Office Landscape

With what now looks like remarkable prescience, the team at Herman Miller has developed the Catena Office Landscape. Originally designed as a specific solution for a global tech company that was looking for a product with agility at its core, that could also readily cater to future wire management requirements, the system has now revealed itself as a tailormade response to the challenges of a post-COVID work environment.

So much more than a simple divider, Catena is a whole partitioning system that has versatility in its very DNA. Catena means ‘chain’ or ‘connected series’ in Italian, and this refers to its ability to be configured and reconfigured with extraordinary ease. It’s a lightweight connective system that completely supports the agile workplace of the future, but also, more importantly, the safe and healthy workplace of the now.

It’s a mobile system that isn’t fixed to the floor, which means that it can create distinctive and discrete spaces to suit not only the tasks at hand, but the need for employees to be physically distanced from each other while carrying out those tasks.

With screens and intuitive and strategic positioning of the elements of the system, staff are able to work according to the optimal health and safety guidelines developed during the pandemic, without disrupting fire safety regulations, ceiling plans or lighting distribution.

Catena Office Landscape

Clever configurations

Catena is designed to respond to user behaviour and is, therefore, equipped with fittings that allow it to turn 90 or 120 degrees. It can easily shift from rectangular and grid formations to triangular or honeycomb settings, taking advantage of its flexibility and adaptability to protect workers and provide an environment in which they can feel as secure as possible.

The other advantage of Catena is that it was originally designed as a solution for a reduced footprint. Now that consideration has evolved, with organisations looking to widen the space between their employees, but they still want to maximise the usable space they have available. Consequently, Catena’s ultra thin construction – 60 millimetres compared to the usual 100 millimetres – means that safety doesn’t come at the expense of real estate.

Aesthetics play an important role too. While everyone wants to feel protected in their place of work, no one wants to feel hemmed in by bulky and clunky protective furniture and equipment that leads to an overwhelming sense of claustrophobia more than anything else. The lightweight design and muted colour palette of the Catena Office Landscape promote feelings of calm and confidence – exactly what is needed in a world where people have had their sense of security and normality threatened and challenged.

So much more than simply a room divider, Catena’s lean spine ensures even greater flexibility. Unlike traditional skeleton systems, it eschews linearity in favour of the ability to be configured in many different ways – but all with safety and security as the  paramount considerations.

Going back to work may come with challenges and trepidations, but with systems in place to address the physical restrictions we all must adhere to, those challenges can be mitigated and the trepidations lessened. And in an uncertain world, that’s welcome news indeed.

Catena Office Landscape


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