Ergohuman: Bang-for-your-Buck Ergonomic Office Chairs.


[Image © Ergohuman, all rights reserved.]

Ergonomic office chairs have an undeserved reputation of being expensive. This has prevented many office managers from investing in office chairs that may help prevent the onset of carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries.

With the introduction of Ergohuman ergonomic office chairs, office managers now have a mid-price contender: a less pricey alternative to expensive ergonomic office chairs that delivers the goods nonetheless.

When compared with our list of criteria for the best ergonomic office chairs, the Ergohuman acquits itself quite nicely. (read more)

Materials For Office Seating – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Executives can choose from a variety of materials for their office seating requirements. Traditional fabric chairs are quickly being supplanted by classier materials like leather, or more exotic materials, from simple vinyl upholstery to space-age mesh office seating.

But why choose one material over the other? What advantages and disadvantages do mesh, leather, and vinyl have over each other? If you’re graduating from fabric office chairs, what material should you choose?

Mesh Office Chairs – Breathability and Comfort Go Together

Mesh Office Seating – Good. Mesh office chairs are designed with one purpose in mind – to allow air to circulate between areas “covered” by the user, the seat and the back. This provides a high level of comfort, and prevents sweat and odor build-up (as moisture is allowed to evaporate through the office seating).

Mesh office chairs are known to stay fresh, even after years of heavy use. If you work in a humid environment, or even a normal one, mesh office seating can be your most comfortable alternative.

Mesh Office Seating – Bad. The relative novelty of mesh office seating and the limitations of the material constrict the types of design available for mesh office chairs. Unfortunately, all other material types boast of more designs and colors than do mesh office chairs.

Mesh Office Seating – Ugly. Finding the perfect balance between comfort and durability is an even bigger challenge where mesh chairs are concerned. As we’ve explained in an earlier article, mesh chair users are stuck between the compromise that designers have to strike: soft mesh is more comfortable, but sags quicker; stiff mesh is less comfortable, but lasts longer.

More after the jump. (read more)

Office Desks On Steroids.

[Image © MotoArt.]

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

[Image © MotoArt.]

Executives in the top echelons of business love to spend on office desks – the type of office desks that telegraph accomplishment, prestige, and money to burn.

They’ve reached the pinnacle of accomplishment, or so the thinking goes – therefore these top-flight executives need office desks that show off their newfound rank and privileges to whomever might drop by their office.

Office Desks That Make a Strong Impression. Take the C-119 Flap Desk by MotoArt pictured above – one of a series of office desks crafted from wing flaps salvaged from the Fairchild C-119 “Flying Boxcar” airplane that saw action in the Korean  and the Vietnam Wars. Now what does that kind of office desk tell you about the guy who sits behind it for a living?

MotoArt goes to extreme lengths to give the Flap Desk an intimidating impression, spending thousands of man-hours of labor cutting, polishing, and burnishing these impressive office desks, and topping them off with a 3/8″ glass top that conforms to the flap’s shape–

Customized to match the contours of the flap, it exposes the rivet detail and handsome intricacies of its construction. The legs are made of 4” x 8” architectural aluminum I beams. The legs are lightened by cutting radial holes at the top and bottom and are then powder coated for a rugged black wrinkle finish.

The Flap Desk is a limited edition office desk – after all, how many C-119s are around to provide their wing flaps, anyway? – which makes these office desks a rare but attractive proposition for executives on the rise.

More office desks on steroids after the jump. (Read more)

Exercises You Can Perform from Your Office Chair.

Just because you’re stuck in your office chair doesn’t mean you can’t exercise there. And it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, either. As we’ve mentioned before, staying put at your office chair can be hazardous to your health. The office can do real damage to your body if you’re not careful – repetitive strain injuries, lumbar pains, muscle tension, and other very real problems can strike if you don’t do something to ward them off.

Yoga poses can be just the thing the doctor ordered. Certain yoga techniques can be performed even without getting up from your office chair; such office chair yoga techniques can relax sore muscles, release spine tension, and provide an overall restorative effect to your poor overworked body for the short term.

In the long run, your body will gain relaxed muscles, added flexibility and tone, added strength, and a greater sense of calm. All that with regular exercises done from your office chair – how cool is that? You don’t have to make time in your schedule, book a trainer, or find a secluded place in your office to do the exercises we’ve listed below. The office chair, as it turns out, makes a great gym if you know what exercises to do.

The exercises below are brought to you by video producer MAKE | MEDIA and yoga instructor Cassie Naumann, a veteran fitness instructor and an expert in the styles of Lyenger, Ashtanga, Viny, and Hatha Yoga. (read more)

Out-of-this-World Office Cubicle Christmas Decorations.

It’s that time of the year again – and your office cubicle should be pimped up to reflect the festive Christmas season. (We’re assuming your office cubicle has covered the basic building blocks we’ve talked about before.) From L.A. to Toronto, the office cubicle world has been set ablaze in twinkly lights, tinsel, and Christmas balls.

When permitted by H.R., Christmas decorations are a wonderful way to share the spirit of the season with the people whose company you share for the bulk of your day. Office cubicle denizens, given enough latitude, may go as far as this Toronto company does every year, with decorations that include an actual wood-burning stove. I assume the local fire department had to sign off on this, er, “unique” office cubicle Christmas decoration.

In Texas, companies like Mouser Electronics are encouraged to go all-out with their office cubicle holiday flair. Mouser, in particular, is tough to beat this year – their cubicles are brought together by one toy railroad track with a working train.

The train “actually makes sound and blows smoke,” says Sheryl Gaines, credit manager at Mouser. The railroad track runs across desks, connecting cubicles and curving around computer keyboards. The snow is made from cotton; small ponds are formed from blue Saran Wrap, and the little houses and figurines are part of someone’s personal holiday collection. Tunnels for the train — well, sheets of black paper made to look like tunnel entrances — were added at the last minute, Gaines says.

Image courtesy of the Star Telegram
Image courtesy of the Star Telegram.

Before undertaking any major Christmas decorating, check with your H.R. department if any such office cubicle bedazzling is acceptable. Christmas originated as a religious holiday – so garish holiday décor may unwittingly cause offense to others who do not share that faith. Danyelle Little of the Cubicle Chick recommends toning down.

“You will always have the one employee who goes a little too far with their decorations. You will also have the one employee who is offended by such a show of “religiousness,” says Danyelle. “When in doubt, I say don’t decorate at all.”

If office regulations are too stringent for any serious office cubicle redecorating, you might try just changing your desktop. Luckily, Microsoft came out with a Holiday Lights Windows 7 theme for just that instance.

If the rules permit, and everybody gets to deck out their own office cubicle spaces for the holidays, whoopee for you, and have fun. But remember, unless the office imposes a Christmas theme from above, the results will probably be a mixed bag.

You won’t always get the results you want – after all, it’s rare you get everybody to sign off on a single office cubicle Christmas theme. Leave it to big bosses, and VIPs so important they can do whatever the hell they please to their office cubicle, to dream big. Take late night host Conan O’Brien, who launched his improbably-decorated set last week:

From all of us at Cubicles.com, Happy Holidays, everyone, and a Happy New Year!

Interior Design and Space Planning Q&A’s

Dear Cubicles.com,

 

Our health insurance business bucked the downward trend and managed to grow a bit during the recession years. Now that the recession is “officially” over, we’re actually projecting some major growth in the next year, and we’ll be hiring to take care of the extra load.

 

But I feel totally unprepared to plan our office for the growth spurt ahead; we have some long-time employees who will leave their offices only when they’re dead, and we only have spare cubicle space for about three or four new hires. How do I navigate the interior design and space planning landmine ahead?

 

Signed,

 

A Good Problem to Have?

Congratulations – your work in healthcare puts you in an industry that reported continued growth during the recession years. But growth comes with its own problems: while you add people to the workforce, you want to retain an environment that keeps both long-timers and newcomers motivated. And that’s tough when you have to juggle questions like keeping team-mates together, or rustling up cubicle space for new hires.

About.com’s Human Resources guide Susan Heathfield believes it’s absolutely critical to have multiple levels sign off on any interior design and space planning decisions. Done properly, Heathfield says, proper accounting for future growth “will enable you to have employee workstations when you need them. Yet, smart planning will keep you from spending large amounts of money at an unnecessary time.”

Smart interior design and space planning takes doing. Here are the steps Heathfield advises office planners should take when in your shoes:

Make a reasonable projected headcount for this year and next. Focus on “reasonable” – don’t project growth higher than the last verifiable rate unless optimism in this regard is warranted.

Ask the following hard questions – and ask around to back the answers up. How many new employees will need offices and/or cubicles? How much appropriate housing do you have for current and future employees? (By appropriate, we mean work areas appropriate to each job function, i.e. clerical cubicles, customer service call center cubicles or offices for managers.) Will you need to change current access to conference rooms, storage or lunch areas, and restrooms as your office grows?

Dear Cubicles.com,

 

Settle this question for me, please: what’s better for IT professionals, cubicles, or private offices? We’re taking on a valuable new hire and I’d like to put him in a space where he can perform to his utmost – but I’m not sure if he’ll do better in a private office (where he can have some space to think) or a cubicle (where he can better collaborate with his team). Any thoughts?

 

Signed,

 

Space Cadet

Don’t count on this debate to be resolved anytime soon – both offices and open space have their proponents within the interior design and space planning community. It boils down to privacy vs. collaboration, explains Robert J. Grossman in his article Offices vs Open Space.

Offices are becoming less common as companies squeeze funds from their facilities budgets. But Brill believes that private offices– even small ones–pay dividends for all workers by creating a more productive work environment.

The IT field in particular has plenty of private-office proponents – Computerworld hears from John Miano, founder of The Programmers Guild in Summit, N.J., who advocates prioritizing the productivity of IT professionals involved in software development operations. This could happen by “getting rid of cubicles and replacing them with enclosed offices” which can boost productivity by eliminating distractions, Miano says.

The downside to private offices, of course, is reduced communications between team-mates.

According to Cornell University’s William Sims, his research in workplace environments and software development proves that open environments are better for collaborative projects.

“Developers in private offices may be more productive individually but may not be in sync with a team,” the article paraphrases Sims.

In the end, the private office vs. open spaces issue is something that can be resolved by individual companies , in accordance with their corporate culture and the demands of their workforce.

Got questions? We have answers! Send an email to askcubicles@cubicles.com.

Desks for Office Workers Go Green.

From the way designers are churning out greener desks for office use, you can discern a definite trend towards more environment-friendly office furniture. “Eco-friendly” computer desks, office chairs, and cabinets as a whole reflect the growing awareness that even furniture affects the environment, particularly during their manufacturing process.

So desks for office workers are getting a closer look by greenies – their materials and manufacturing processes are being revamped to reflect our emerging awareness of the environment.

A few promising areas of study stand out from the rest:

Low-VOC Manufacturing Processes. In the course of manufacture, desks for office use may be put together using volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are mostly present in solvents like glues, paints, and stains. VOCs are bad news for the human organism: they can irritate eyes and throats, cause headaches, and damage the nervous system.

VOCs have harmful effects that persist long after the end of the manufacturing process: offices with VOC-positive furniture have indoor concentrations of VOCs that are up to five times higher than outdoor levels. When VOCs make their way into the wild, their cumulative effect can be devastating: they contribute to air pollution and leach into the water supply.

So it’s of extreme importance that facility managers purchase low-VOC emissions products, to reduce health risks to its employees in the short term, and mitigate the impact of their furniture on the environment in the long term.

Buyers of desks for office use should look for products with the Green Seal (pictured at left); their manufacturers have stringent standards that control the levels of VOCs in their furniture, achieved primarily by using water- or powder-based finishes on their office furniture.

FSC-Certified Wood. Ensure that the wood in your new office furniture comes from sustainable sources. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) oversees forests that are managed in accordance to FSC’s stringent standards, and certifies companies that source their raw materials from such forests. So furniture that bears the FSC logo do not come from forests that have been logged irresponsibly – just the opposite!

The FSC certification is not lightly granted – independent certification organizations perform the assessments that result in FSC accreditation, which include tracing a furniture manufacturer’s supplies back to FSC-certified sources themselves.

For an example of companies that are fully compliant with FSC certification, a group of charities – the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation – have redone their office with green building principles in mind, using FSC-certified wood for their offices’ construction and interior design.

Remanufactured Desks for Office Use. Supply managers turn to remanufactured office furniture as a source of desks for office workers – furniture that has already made its impact on the environment in the distant past.

Remanufactured furniture has been intensively recycled from used stock: a process involving disassembly to component parts, cleaning, repair, refinishing, and replacement of parts are performed to bring used furniture back to “better than new” condition.

Many remanufacturers use low-VOC paints and finishes to lower their impact on the environment, with the same result: furniture whose quality is within a whisker of brand-new.

Are your office facilities – from the desks for office workers to executive chairs – compliant with the best environment-friendly practices? Look at your office furniture now, using the standards listed above – and get ready to make a green change for the better.

Productivity Boosters: Office Filing and Workspace Organizing.

Image © Tom Ventura / Creative Commons

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A sensible office filing system can do wonders for a business on the rise. For the efficient office, organizing the office / filing paperwork can create a good impression on clients. For marginally-performing offices, getting organized can multiply efficiency and productivity, getting it from the red into the black in no time.

For the former, a good impression is no joke – sure, you might have a mental handle on your cluttered office filing (or piling?) system, but visiting clients are not privy to your thoughts. Monica Ricci lays out the scenario:

Imagine meeting an attorney for the first time whose office is a cluttered mess – papers piled all over the desktop, mail and files scattered on the credenza, and an overloaded bookcase with stacks of books on top and on the floor. Regardless of the actual skill or reputation of that attorney, might your first impression be a negative one? Might your confidence in that attorney be lessened as well? In business, first impressions are important.

Motivated yet? We’ve rustled up the web’s best organizing tip sheets to find the best office filing and organizing advice you can use. Let’s start with managing paper buildup, that old office adversary.

Paper: Name ‘em to tame ‘em. Simple office filing conventions for naming documents, document versions – and keeping them consistent between paper and digital versions – can reduce clutter and increase focus in the workplace.

As Laura Leist of the National Association of Professional Organizers puts it, “versioning control and consistent naming conventions are really key to document management and being able to easily retrieve files.”

Get a proper office filing cabinet. As LifeHacker’s Gina Trapani puts it, “Give your paperwork a spacious place to live.” Your office ought to have a serious, high-quality receptacle for your paperwork, like an honest-to-goodness office filing cabinet. One with enough room for expected business expansion – buying overlarge is much better than buying one too small and having to purchase another.

Trapani quotes David Allen, author of the book Getting Things Done:

If you value your cuticles, and if you want to get rid of your unconscious resistance to filing, then you must keep the drawers loose enough that you can insert and retrieve files without effort.

Make time for office filing. “Clutter is so often the result of a time management problem rather than an actual organizing problem,” explains Julie Morgenstern, a productivity consultant and the author of Organizing from the Inside Out.

The problem begins when managers don’t make organizing a priority, which usually results from bad time management. If managers are conscious of how much time tasks take to complete and schedule accordingly, that’s half the problem solved.

Morgenstern recommends visualizing task durations, then scheduling accordingly. This takes work – estimating the actual time it takes to complete a task requires practice, and newbies should add 25 percent to the end of each initial esetimate.

In the end, says Morgenstern, office filing as a top priority shouldn’t take a big slice out of your working day. “If you can, build in 15 minutes at the end of the day to put everything back where it belongs,” she advises.

Staying Put at Your Office Desk Can be Dangerous to Your Health.

Your body was made to move, not sit immobile behind an office desk. Billions of years of evolution have predisposed your innards to constant motion, presuming that your life depends on hunting down game or ranging over acres of vegetation picking berries.

Only in the past hundred years or so did urban humanity largely settle down to sedentary lives – normal to our modern selves but absolutely abnormal to bodies designed for constant motion. Office desk bound workers open themselves up to the following modern illnesses:

Heart disease. According to a study reported in Men’s Health, employees who sit for long hours endanger their heart health – even if they’re “exercising couch potatoes”, as Marc Hamilton, Ph.D. puts it.

A study of the lifestyle habits of some 17,000 men and women revealed that those who sat for most of the day were 54% more likely to have heart problems as those who rarely sat. And it didn’t matter how much the sedentary individuals weighed or how much they worked out.

Musculoskeletal disorders. A wide range of structural problems are called “musculoskeletal disorders”, which often strike office desk-bound workers who have to make repetitive actions, progressively injuring their bodies over time. These are often not noticed until much later, because these disorders involve tiny effects that accumulate over time.

Carpal tunnel syndrome is a good example – placing hands in unnatural positions for extended periods of time create a ticking time bomb for an office desk worker’s wrists.

These are expensive problems for employers – work-related musculoskeletal disorders claims in Washington State, from 1997 to 2005, cost the government over $4 billion in benefits, and lost over 23.7 million work days.

Addressing Health Hazards From Your Office Desk

Luckily, the office desk is no impediment to addressing these problems. The problem lies in remaining sedentary behind one’s office desk for hours at a time – the good news is that you can be in motion even without leaving your place.

Yoga techniques can be performed by office desk-bound workers – these chair yoga techniques allow the body to go into restorative poses, relaxing sore muscles and releasing spine tension. (Cool bonus – you don’t have to sit behind your office desk to do these poses, you can also execute these from a train or in a bus.)

Ergonomic office furniture can also address these health hazards, taking care of the musculoskeletal disorder side of the equation. An ergonomic office desk, for example, needs to permit enough legroom for workers to adjust their leg posture. Above the desk, the working surface ought to be low enough to permit a 90-degree angle of the elbow. (The American Society of Safety Engineers offers a helpful ergonomics tips sheet that includes this tip plus many, many more.)

Health breaks aren’t just excuses to shirk, they may just save your life in the long run. Leave your office desk from time to time, taking breaks from repetitive tasks like typing. Stand up and stretch, straighten your fingers, and look at objects in the distance to give your eyes a refreshing pause from staring at nearby computer monitors.

With these precautions in place, you can keep your body healthy without having to return to the hunter-gatherer lifestyle your body was designed for. (Good thing too – mammoths are pretty hard to track down from the comfort of your office desk!)

The History of Office Desks, Past and Present.

Office desks have undergone plenty of changes over time, their evolution reflecting the growing status of white-collar workers and their ever-evolving tasks and tools.

“Office Desks” in the Medieval Era

In the beginning, desks were the sole province of scribes, writers and record-keepers in the days before the printing press. Scribes were essential worker ants in government, who copied texts and updated records for authorities. A medieval image of St. Jerome paints a picture of the scribe’s “office desk” in the old days -

The chair and writing desk might be overly architectural, but the desk is on a slope. He holds his quill pen in the right hand and his special knife in the left. Arranged along the top of his writing desk are his ink horn and an assortment of other tools, which could be scrapers, buffers or spare pens. He appears to be writing on unbound sheets.

Scribes were the forerunners of our present-day accountants, typists, and civil service officials. Most of the desks in those days were plain and rough-hewn, but higher-status officials had more ornately-carved desks created by master woodworkers.

Class Distinctions Between Desks

These desks evolved into the “bureau”, which was the name that was attached to writing furniture from 1700 onward.  Bureaux were sloping desks with space for drawers below – their association with civil servants and scribes made a different design necessary for the nobility and upper class who were increasingly doing figures and writing letters on their own.

For the nobility, their need for a more refined desk was answered by the secretary desk – a tall item of furniture with a hutch whose cover could be lowered into a writing desk when needed. The hutch stored books, inkpots, stationery, and other essential items.

Evolving professions needed their own desks, too. Architects called for larger, angled surfaces for their work, a need which generated the modern drafting table. Office desks also became more ornate, with pigeonholes and drawers for essential items like inkpots and blotting sand.

Office Desks Enter the Modern Age

The design of office desks began to move into its modern era by the 1800s. The pedestal desk, which was introduced in the 18th century but gained currency in the 19th, became de rigueur in the burgeoning British empire, and passed onto the U.S. as well.

These were the preferred office desks of worker drones and Presidents alike. The most famous example is the Resolute desk, which was carved from the timbers of the HMS Resolute and gifted by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford Hayes in 1880.

These desks were initially hand-crafted and hand-tooled by master craftsmen, but new production techniques by the early 20th Century allowed desks to be mass-produced for the first time, as demand for office desks climbed after the Industrial Age.

New technology also forced designers of office desks to innovate: typewriters, telephones, and the late advent of computers and the Internet have guided the design of office desks. The introduction of the office cubicle has changed office desks like nothing before, as desks have become solidly integrated into the office cubicle design.

Whither office desks? Unless a new technology or new profession comes over the horizon, it’s difficult to say – but it’s safe to assume that office desks will be with us for a long, long time yet.

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