What Creative Workers Need in Their Office Interior Design.

Ad agencies take their office interior design cues from a vast variety of influences. To see the variations in design among a number of top agency offices, it’s apparent that they take their inspiration from the gamut of human creativity.

Leo Burnett keeps it simple, with raw brick and timber; Moove Media incorporates plenty of “found” elements in their office interior design. Hemels van der Hart’s office interior design is modernity personified.

Still, the rules are not totally flexible, as the example of ad agency TBWA/Chiat/Day shows. Agency head Jay Chiat decided to remove all personal spaces within the ad agency, putting virtual offices in their stead. People would check out laptops and phones at the front office, then plug into any available space.

But good spaces were hard to come by, and people became hard to locate. Productivity took a hit. TBWA’s open office became a byword of what not to do with ad agency office interior design.

At its core, ad agency work boils down to teamwork; agencies are made up of teams with a certain degree of interdependence. To use Bell and Kozlowski’s model of task dependencies, advertising creatives represent an intensive combination of reciprocal and sequential workflow: an ad agency’s work and activities flow unidirectionally from one member to another. But not entirely in one direction: feedback from clients and suppliers can send a project moving back down the line for revision, and then back in the right direction again.

The “open office” plan may not work completely for the modern ad agency’s workflow – privacy-enhancing spaces, such as conference rooms, private offices, and high-walled cubicles, ought to be in place alongside conference rooms and open collaborative spaces.

More on creative office interior design after the jump. Read more…

Office Space Planning for Pooled Workflow: Working Alone, Together.

The Internet’s growing importance in the office has caused a major rethink of office space planning practices. A “team” has ceased to depend on members working in the same space; today, teammates can be widely distributed across the country, or across the world.

The Internet has given rise to the telecommuter – though nominally part of a team, such workers are separated by time and space from a regular office, often working individually to contribute to the overall group effort.

“In a virtual team, members are dispersed geographically or organizationally. Their primary interaction is through some combination of electronic communication systems,” explains Wayne F. Cascio in his paper Managing a Virtual Workplace. “They may never meet in the traditional sense. Further, team membership is often fluid, evolving according to changing task requirements.”

More on office space planning for pooled workflow after the jump. (Read more)

Hot Desking: The Space Planning Concept That (Sometimes) Works.

Office space planning is in a bit of a tumult lately, what with a troubled economy, shrinking work forces, and changing technology turning what was previously a stable work environment into an arena ripe for revolution. The late unlamented recession has actually been good for the average space planner, who has found more leeway to put new ideas to good use.

One of those new ideas that’s getting another look is the concept of “hot desking”. We’ve talked about hot desking before: the practice of having no assigned desks per worker, allocating them instead to the first worker who uses or reserves it for use.

Office space planning professionals use hot desking to reduce property costs without decrease the labor force in turn. In Edinburgh, Scotland, Telford College’s faculty and staff have joined the bandwagon, implementing hot desking in their Granton campus to allow the same number of people to work in a smaller space.

Technology has allowed hot desking to gain the critical mass it failed to reach in prior decades. When Jay Chiat of Chiat/Day ad agency tried it out in the Nineties, it was a famous failed experiment in space planning. Today, high speed Internet, cheap laptops, and Wi-Fi has allowed most firms to succeed where Chiat failed.

More on hot desking after the jump. Read more….

The Shrinking Office Cubicle: Making More Out of Less.

A recent study shows that the average office cubicle has shrunk, compared to its size from the 90s. The average office cubicle worker enjoys about 17% less cubicle space than his equivalent from 1994, who had a glorious 90 square feet of space to work in, compared to today’s measly 75 square feet.

The same study, published by the International Facility Management Association (IFMA), finds that most cubicles have shrunk from 8×10 to about 5×5. (Check out this article from the Chicago Tribune to see exactly how much space has been trimmed out from under us!)

The Score: Cost Cutting 1, Office Cubicle Space 0

Where’d our spacious office cubicles go? Part of the blame for their disappearance goes to our tottering economy – soaring rents, among other rising overhead costs, are behind the push to cram more workers into smaller spaces. After all, real estate costs are known to be amongst the largest cost for businesses, after the payroll.

“In recent years, we’ve seen how companies are trying to shed real estate cost,” says Shari Epstein, director of research at the IFMA. “When you have less space to work, you will try to cram as many people into one space.”

“Knowing the rents with the spaces they have, they’ve got to cram people in,” said Don Wehr of Office Furniture World in Santa Rosa, California. “Mathematically, it makes sense.”

More on shrinking office cubicles after the jump. Read more…

Space Planning for Your Office: Designing for Optimum Workflow.

Office furniture is designed to solve problems, not create them. But haphazard planning and execution can make the office space planning process unnecessarily grueling and expensive. The problems that crop up when office layouts interfere with worker efficiency show that there are many more ways to get it wrong than right.

Facility managers need to recognize that there is no such thing as a generic, one-size-fits-all office. What’s right for an accounting firm might not be right for an advertising firm. Even different departments in the same company may have diametrically different requirements – just try moving an advertising art director down the hall to an account executive’s cubicle, and you’ll see what we mean.

In this white paper, we will describe design issues that may crop up when another variable is introduced into the mix, one that varies from office to office – that of workflow.

Finding the Right Office Chairs for the Really Tall – and Really Small.

If you fit in regular office chairs, that puts you within “normal” body dimensions – the range of body types that fall between heights of 5’2″ and 6’2″, and weights of 120 to 300 pounds. Office workers who fall outside these outliers, though, are out of luck.

Designing office chairs for the whole range of body sizes may sound simple, but it’s not.  The variation in sizes and dimensions between the opposite ends of the mean suggests that office chairs designed for the “average” human body type causes discomfort to a large subset of the population. Designing office chairs only to the average means that the long tails of the body-fit bell curve – the tall, wide, or diminutive – have to work in less than optimal conditions.

For shorter folk, their feet may dangle from their office chairs, when the OSHA specifies that feet must be able to lay flat on the floor for optimal comfort. For more generously-sized individuals, regular-issue office chairs may be too cramped or permit too little movement.

Over time, the bad fit can become a quality of life problem that affects productivity and increases operating costs needlessly.

Office Chairs That Solve the Problem

To solve the conundrum, facility managers and employees need to exert a little more ingenuity to get the office chairs and system furniture that fit their unique size needs. (Read more)

Office Desk Organizing, Japanese Style.

Modern office desk philosophies vary from “creative chaos” to the antiseptically clean, and ordinarily, you’ll find little agreement between employees on the best system to use. And then the Japanese came along: Japanese businesses have crystallized an organizing philosophy for every office desk that bears a closer look.

It’s called the “5S” system – a deceptively simple name for a comprehensive workplace organization methodology that’s taken the office world by storm.  Implemented correctly, 5S fosters effective workplace organization, simplifies the workplace environment, reduces waste, and improves work quality all over the office.

The “S” refers to the Japanese words that name each system, which Western implementors have translated with an equivalent English word beginning with “S”: sorting (seiri), or putting things in order; straightening (seiton), or arranging items properly; systematic cleaning or shining (seiso); standardizing (seiketsu), or maintaining a mindset that promotes constant cleanliness; and sustaining (shitsuke), or commitment to the process.

Sorting (seiri) is the practice of eliminating unnecessary tools and systems from every office desk, keeping only materials deemed essential to work. What you do keep should be prioritized depending on the requirement, and kept within reach as needed. This saves time for the average employee – seiri cuts down on time spent searching for necessary tools by removing clutter.

The elimination process doesn’t have to be done outright; a 5S practitioner might “tag” items on her office desk, adding a red tag with a use-by date on items that may prove useful in the future. If the use-by date passes without the object being used, then into the waste bin it goes. (Read more)

Office Desks of the Rich and Famous: the Resolute Desk.

[Image is a work of the US Government - public domain.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Image is a work of the US Government - public domain.]

Do you find office desks boring? Try looking at them from a different perspective – you could be famous someday, and your most humdrum of office desks could be enshrined in a museum, with gawkers wondering how such a humble piece of furniture allowed you to come up with such glorious ideas.

Or you could find yourself in a powerful office where the desk is almost as famous and popular as its user. Office desks like the White House Resolute Desk fit in this category: few office desks have powerful stories behind them, or have served as a turning point in international diplomacy.

The Resolute office desk is one of the most famous symbols of the American Presidency, a desk gifted by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 and used almost continuously to the present day.

The name ought to tell you that this most famous of office desks was built from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, a British ship that had become ice-bound, abandoned, and re-discovered by American whalers. Returned by the U.S. to Britain, the Resolute served in the Royal Navy for over twenty years. At its decommissioning, Queen Victoria requested that some of the ship’s timbers be recycled into a desk, which she then sent as a gift to the United States.

While all the Presidents since Hayes have used the Resolute desk at one time or another, it played second fiddle to other office desks. The recipient of the Resolute desk, Rutherford Hayes, had other Oval Office desks at his disposal, and kept the generous gift in other parts of the White House. Hayes’ successors did much the same. (read more)

Comfort in Office Seating: A Neglected Criterion?

Affordability and durability may be your top criteria for office seating… but what role does comfort play in determining what office seating to buy for the workplace? In today’s cost-conscious world, most people look at the price tag before they check how easy each chair is on the user… but it’s important to remember that comfort levels have very real effects on your bottom line.

Consider what happens when comfort is taken entirely out of the picture. We’ve talked about musculo-skeletal disorders (MSDs) before – these injuries are the cumulative effects of repetitive actions done in the workplace. Over time, if such actions aren’t mediated by a more comfortable workplace, an MSD may be in the worker’s future – leaving the employer vulnerable to workers’ compensation claims.

Dollars and Cents of MSD

Charles Jeffress, the former assistant Secretary for Occupational Safety and Health in the U.S. Department of Labor, breaks the cost of MSDs down: “Nearly two million workers suffer work-related musculoskeletal disorders every year, and about 600,000 lose time from work as a result,” Jeffress said in 2000. (read more)

Binge Computing: Get Off of That Office Chair!

Image © Tamer Tatlici

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Image © Tamer Tatlici.]

Hi, I’m Mike, and I’m a binge computer worker – my bottom is practically glued to my office chair. This blog entry, in fact, is the end  result  of a long binge on my PC, having come out of several hours’ work producing a couple of blog entries, several emails, and now ?  a few Twitter and Facebook updates.

Binge computing is no joke, really. Defined as intensive computing for long stretches without a break, binge computing is commonplace among college students and office workers alike.

In a survey of college students at two college campuses, a link was discovered between binge computing and musculo-skeletal disorder (MSD) symptoms; longer hours of bingeing led to greater MSD severity and concurrent hampering of lifestyle.

Binge computing for more than six hours seems to be connected to a greater than 100% increase in the risk of severe MSD, compared to computing hours of less than 4 hours per day.

Such health problems are a growing risk for coeds who can’t get off of their office chair – as the Herman Miller Well-Being Blog reports, “increasing numbers of university students [have] computer-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. Surveys at two American colleges found that 40-50 percent of undergraduates suffer from upper extremity pain due to computer use.” (Read more)

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