Watson’s Updated C9 System Creates Safe and Socially Distanced Workspaces

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Elise Shapiro
Elise Shapirohttps://www.workdesign.com
Elise Shapiro is a contributing editor. Little did she know that her first job, in the facilities department at Ralston Purina, while obtaining her M. Arch at Washington University, in St. Louis would foreshadow where her career would lead. She has always been a strong advocate for providing the best possible spaces for people to work – where aesthetics meet function and drive business success.

How people work together will change. The updated Watson C9 system meets these challenges to create a safe workspace.

Watson C9 evolved
Watson’s C9 system evolves to meet today’s workplace requirements.

As companies are moving to recreate their office spaces, furniture manufacturers are re-thinking their product lines to enhance and improve their flexibility to meet the challenges of the “physically distanced” workspace that is evolving out of the COVID-19 pandemic. We revisited the Watson C9 system and the changes they have made to make it easier for designers to manage product reconfigurations and build new workstations that meet enhanced requirements for the health and safety of employees returning to their offices.

Bring us up to date on the C9 system and the design changes you have implemented with this year’s product update.

The Watson C9 system is a collection of workspace furniture designed with the human in mind. We believe with this system we aid the user to ensure they can do their best work at the office. The system starts with a four-leg height adjustable desk using the four slimmest lifting columns on the market, an apron frame with integrated accessory mounting and innovative wire management options.

Watson C9 simplicity
The simplicity of the C9 Desk and Storage

At the workstation, the desk is supported with a power, voice and data distribution system called The Rail.

The C9 Rail has three unique innovations over previous PVD system; the joints between the segments house a patent pending mechanism to allow each segment to articulate 180 degrees with respect to the previous segment while keeping the cables contained from strain, the top of the rail is a continuous mounting slot so accessories can positioned with freedom even spanning two segments, and the duplex receptacles are hidden behind sliding panels to maintain a clean aesthetic. Included with the rail system is a variety of accessories including divider screens, work shelves, planters, and a rail mounted light.

aerial view Watson C9
The unique power rail allows the system to be configured beyond the standard 90°angle.

Launching this summer the C9 system is being expanded to include an offering of meeting tables, updated personal storage and additional options for workstation privacy. The meeting tables are constructed using the same frame components as the workstation desk with the inclusion of a T-joint casting so the tables can run to endless lengths. The accessories included with the meeting tables have been purpose built with the meeting table in mind to include undersurface openable cable trays, flexible cable towers and a frame attached large format screen mount.

Watson C9 configurations
The meeting tables can be configured to meet any situation

The personal storage selection is being expanded with a trolley-style unit called The C9 Trolley. This unit offers all the traditional function of a mobile pedestal unit with filing, pencil tray accommodations and lockable storage with some key innovations. The tray portion of the unit lifts up and out on a four-bar linkage ensuring it stays parallel to the floor and can lift up to seated height to act as a secondary work surface. The pencil tray can completely lift off the unit to be work tool storage at the desk. Hidden beneath the pencil tray is a secondary storage location for small items.

mobile storage
The mobile storage is designed for the flexible office

The cushion on the unit is perfect for quick conversations at the desk or impromptu socially distanced meetings.

Building on the steel privacy options existing in the C9 line we are launching a desk screen with a fabric wrapped panel along the long edge of the desk and a steel side panel. These screens are available in both a L and U configuration and maintain their non-handed nature by being able to flip over. 

How does the C9 system impact workplace design?

The C9 rail system was designed from the ground up with the idea of giving people a better workstation experience. By allowing the joints to articulate, more space planning schemes are available and more importantly more space per user is possible. This can be particularly useful during times of public health crisis, but that was not why this was developed. We believe the issue in the open office is the drive for maximum density and feel that by taking some space back from ancillary spaces we can create a more successful open office experience.

aerial view of system
How people work together will change. C9 meets these challenges to create a safe workspace.

Does the product support agile and activity – based workplaces that are becoming so prevalent in new and refurbished facilities? If so, how?

The flexibility of this system supports an agile workspace. The ability to reshape the rail, and rearrange the accessories mounted to it allow the same furniture to be arranged in many different ways. This means the system can be optimized to match changing needs. Whether that is collaboration, individual work, density, or social distancing. C9 has the flexibility to keep pace with modern work for years to come.

Can you tell a story or give an example of how this product or service will help our readers design and implement great workplace solutions?

With the advent of Covid-19 we will have to take a deep look at what our office spaces do, and how they do it. This pandemic has made it clear that the future of the office will not center around density. The days of packing as many people into a space as possible are over.

Instead we have to start thinking about what makes a space better. How we can create a space that better balances the needs of teams, and individuals. That can help bring people together and create a shared sense of purpose, yet creates an environment where people feel comfortable getting work done.

The flexibly of C9 lets you transition from a workstation focused on density, to one focused on human needs. It can help distance workers appropriately and take maximum advantage of this extra space allotted to each person. Now that we all know we can work from home, C9 can help make the office into a space people want to come into.

Watson C9
C9 components offer the opportunity to create a workspace tailored to the type of work to be done.

What was the inspiration for this design of this product?

C9 began with the desire to create the most beautiful height adjustable desk. However, once we solidified the design of the C9 Desk our thoughts expanded to encompass the environment this desk would be used in, the open office.

We noticed a growing dissatisfaction with the open plan. High density and a lack of privacy was leading to a growing sense of discontentment with the status quo. With C9 we wanted to take on this problem head on.

What innovations in use of materials or fabrication are utilized in the manufacture of this product?

The C9 desk features the worlds slimmest height adjustable desk legs that were developed and are produced exclusively by Watson.

Throughout the product line, we push the envelope on what is possible using steel construction. Steel is often seen as a harsh and industrial material, but by implementing large radius bending tools, and seamless construction techniques we were able to bring and elegance and inviting softness to this line.

We also balanced our use of steel, though the use of soft biophilic materials such as wood, fabric, and linoleum.

Watson C9 details
The elegant detailing of the C9 system

Where do you think the installation of this product will be most effective?

The C9 system is perfectly suited for any open environment, with many options to create separation and privacy needed in the evolving office landscape.

A year from now what would be the most exciting thing you could think of that would find out about how the product has been accepted, specified, and installed in projects?

For us, the most exciting thing would be to see people living and working in some of these novel layouts created with the C9 system. To see how by better supporting each person’s fundamental needs for openness and collaboration, balanced with privacy and refuge, we can create an environment that simply works better.

What is the availability of the C9 product line?

The Desk and Rail are available now, the meeting tables, Olli and hybrid screens are available for order August 3.

What do you think our readers will love about the C9 system?

The space planning flexibility and clean aesthetic.

Are you able to share any cost information about this product?

Readers can access our price list and specification guide here.

Are there any other unique features that would interest our readers?

The patent pending articulation of the rail, and the slimness of the desk profiles are the key design elements that separate this product line from the pack!

When and where do you plan to exhibit C9?

C9 is on display in Watson showrooms across the country including NY, Seattle, Omaha, Minneapolis, San Francisco and Columbus. Watson is moving to a new showroom on the 3rd floor of the Merchandise Mart in Chicago this year. Our build out was stalled by the pandemic but we are aggressively moving forward with the project now. You will definitely see the complete Watson C9 collection there!

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