Fresh New Twists on Office Space Planning.

Office space planning is an evolving art – just ask Marc Kushner, creator of architects’ social networking site Architizer. In an interview with Inc. Magazine, Kushner takes note of how space planning for offices has changed to correspond to changing technology, and our changing perceptions of collaboration and productivity.

Change has been a long time coming: office space planning has historically been programmed around corner offices and cubicles ever since the invention of the latter, and only recent developments (the recession, the Internet) have made office managers consider alternatives like never before.

Reformulating the Working Space

Take office cubicles. The death of cubicles has often been predicted, and sometimes actively sought (without much success). Kushner still thinks those predictions aren’t wide off the mark.

“I think what people are experimenting with is getting that privacy without sequestering people into that defined space,” explains Kushner. “Specifically, you see a clear trend towards casual gathering spaces being a place to not just congregate, but also to actually do work.”

Dutch facility YourMeet offers an example of workplace space planning that takes Kushner’s insight to heart: They’ve ditched office cubicles for an open floorplan that can be commandeered for meetings or brainstorming sessions. As Fast Company Co.Design reports:

Loosely divvied up into zones (for brainstorming, speaking formally, and so on), it’s conceptualized to give workers a free-flowing atmosphere for hatching their cleverest ideas.

Changing Attitudes Influence Office Space Planning

Changing mindsets about working space have enabled office space planning to take another innovative turn – as millennial workers now have less qualms about sharing workspaces, former fringe ideas like “hot desking” are now gaining wide acceptance.

Hot desking refers to the practice of having no assigned desks per worker – instead, desks are available to the first worker who uses or reserves it for use. This space planning concept allows offices to reduce property costs without a corresponding decrease in labor.

British computer services company ICL has seen the light – one-fourth of their 20,000-strong workforce now hot-desk. “We opened a building in Staines which has 320 desks but supports 600 people,” ICL’S Richard Reed told the Daily Telegraph. “We see this building as a model for the future.”

Offices like Dutch consulting firm YNNO have redesigned their office around this concept. YNNO can rock this type of office space planning, as most of their employees are highly mobile with their work.

“Workers should have a place to check in and plug in, but don’t need designated desks, especially since they travel so much as consultants,” explains Suzanne LaBarre. “Think of it as less of an office than a homebase.”

LaBarre figures that YNNO can go a lot further than previous attempts at abolishing the cubicle, largely since the technology and the mindset has now dovetailed with acceptance of this space planning concept.

“We’re more comfortable as mobile employees now than we were then, in large part because we depend on mobile technology,” speculates LaBarre. “The technology will only continue loosening the corsetry of traditional office work…. expect YNNO’s office to become the norm, rather than the exception.”

Whether office space planning experts keep office cubicles or move on to open creative spaces or hot desking, it’s all one to Marc Kushner as long as they keep one thing in mind: the workplace should enable fun.

Good offices consider the joy of work. As an employer, you want to create an experience that is positive and proactive in the workplace. And we’ve seen much experimentation over the years—open offices, closed offices, eco design, and so on. But what it all comes down to is that a workplace is part of the human experience, and a nicer office can help you to have happier, more productive workers.

The Unique Challenge of Call Center Office Seating.

Given the intensive, 24-hour nature of the profession, call center professionals demand office seating that can stand up well through multiple shifts, these shifts adding up to continuous use day in and day out without rest. In short, call center office seating must endure intensive use, far more intensive than you’d get from a nine-to-five job.

Not only should call center office seating survive these multiple shifts, they ought to stay comfortable through long hours of usage. That’s a tall order for an intensive-use chair.

Finally, the call center office seating must be economical enough so that buying them in bulk remains an attractive proposition.

Let’s look at each of these properties in turn – durability, comfort, cost, and a few other items – and examine how these should affect your choice of call center office seating.

Durability is essential in call center office seating, for good reason: few other office chairs undergo the kind of punishment that call center seats endure.

Call center office seating must be specially reinforced, or otherwise constructed to stronger specifications, to comfortably seat a succession of users who will use them for longer than the usual 40 hours a week.

The U.S. government is a major buyer of intensive use chairs, and the Fed’s General Services Administration has set standards for selecting such office seating. Buyers refer to Federal Standard 834A to decide how to test chairs that are acceptable for government-issue intensive use environments (DOCX file) which, like call center office seating, requires constant use over 24 hours a day.

Any chair that survives Federal Standard 834A (or its old name, FNEW 83-269E) ought to be all right by any call center’s book.

Comfort is a key requirement for call center office seating. After all, call center workers are expected to rest their posteriors in them, for hours on end, dealing with numerous demands like generating sales and consulting with customers.

These chairs must also be easy to adjust for multiple users on different shifts, and may need to be specially reinforced to accommodate users weighing more than 250 pounds.

Therefore, ergonomics are a big issue for call center office seating experts. Because call center telemarketers must sit for long hours at their chairs, they need to be comfortable with their seating positions, to avoid productivity-draining comfort breaks and long-term possibility of injury, and reduce attrition in the medium term.

As Dr. Leonard B. Kruk of Office Visions Consulting puts it, “Call centers are often characterized as ‘high stress.’ This type of environment often leads to high employee turnover when ergonomics are ignored.” Workplace stress and its expensive ramifications, concludes Kruk, can be addressed by attending “to those conditions that have a negative impact on a worker’s well-being.”

Cost is a matter of some debate -for some supply managers, no price is too small for happy telemarketers, while others may balk at high prices for call center office seating.

Luckily, the market has that concern well in hand – supply managers may choose from a wide variety of intensive-use chairs rated for continuous use, with prices that suit most reasonable budgets (the Concorde Executive chair, for example, falls in the lower middle of the cost range).

In conclusion, the “challenge” of finding good call center office seating is not much of a challenge after all – if you know the right things to look for, plenty of office seating suppliers out there will have what your supply manager needs.

Fact and Fiction: Unconventional Office Chairs and Your Health.

Anybody who gives a damn about their own health needs to take a long, hard look at how office chairs affect their well-being. In fact, many do – growing concern about the health implications of office chairs has spurred growing sales in ergonomic chairs, exercise balls, office exercise videos, and more.

But this swelling growth industry has also created plenty of noise: bad advice about health and office chairs has mixed in with the few good nuggets, and many conscientious consumers are endangering their own health in the process.

Much of the hype has to do with unconventionally-designed office chairs – using kneeling chairs in the office, for instance, or repurposing exercise balls for use as desk chairs. This site, among others, claims that exercise balls improve spine alignment, provide room for stretching, and “burns 350 calories a day”.

Exercise Ball Reality Check

Here’s your reality check: exercise balls do not offer a significant improvement in posture when used as office chairs. As the New York Times’ Anahad O’Connor reports, “As far as posture is concerned, there is not exactly a compelling body of evidence.”

O’Connor cites a 2009 British study that found prolonged sitting on an exercise ball caused the same level of slouching and “poor sitting position” compared to regular office chairs. The study concludes: “No benefits were found through sitting on [an exercise] ball over that of [office chairs] in prolonged sitting as both seating types.”

A second study conducted by the Research Institute Move in the Netherlands “concluded that the advantages with respect to physical loading of sitting on an exercise ball may not outweigh the disadvantages.”

Kneeling Chairs: No Better?

The same thing might be said of kneeling chairs, the substitute-for-office-chairs-du-jour for a growing number of lumbar-conscious office workers.

In a study conducted for the International Journal of Industrial Ergonomics, Mats Ericson and Ian Goldie found that spinal shrinkage levels were greatest for workers using kneeling office chairs. A study for Applied Ergonomics journal concluded that as far as posture was concerned, kneeling chairs were “no better than conventional chairs and could be worse than well-designed conventional office chairs.”

The Ergonomics Report’s Jeanie Croasmun has the final word:

Just like a hammer might be a valuable tool for some tasks (hanging a picture), in others (washing dishes) it’s useless or may do more harm than good. The exercise ball might be great for strengthening and toning in the gym or at home, but it can’t compete with a truly ergonomic chair for long-term sitting in an office environment.

Workers using kneeling chairs and exercise balls as office chairs have one thing in common, says John Triano: “both of these alternatives require more active use of one’s muscles (e.g. for balance and to sit upright) than a traditional office chair.” While Triano does not discount these alternative office chairs outright, he recommends that you get a doctor’s approval before use.

Customizable ergonomic office chairs, the type recommended by the National Institutes of Health, remain your best healthy-back bet. The NIH offers six properties to look for in an ergonomic chair – while these may be pricier than exercise balls or regular office chairs, the savings you’ll get from not seeing your back doctor on an ongoing basis definitely offsets the cost.

Where do Office Chair Designers Get Their Inspiration?

Now THIS is an original office chair – office furniture concern Herman Miller recently unveiled their new SAYL chair. Designer Yves Behar found his inspiration from the cables and towers of San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge; the office chair that resulted from Behar’s brainstorm looks original in every sense, despite being derived from an architectural icon known to millions.

The SAYL’s design is far from arbitrary – the wires and structure together comprise a revolutionary intelligent frameless back support that adapts more readily to a user’s motions and body shape, without stinting on the body support. In other words: this office chair boasts of both beauty and brains.

Finally – to soothe environmentalists – the SAYL office chair is created using 21% recycled content.

The SAYL office chair’s revolutionary design is no fluke – Herman Miller has long demonstrated how to transform the humble office chair into an outlet for design breakthroughs. In fact, where groundbreaking design is concerned, the company has long been a leader in the furniture industry.     (read more)

Questions to Ask Before Buying Refurbished Office Cubicles

Are refurbished office cubicles an option on your radar? If you’re furnishing your office, they should be. Under these economic conditions, you want your furnishing budget to go as far as you can, and refurbished office cubicles might be your ticket.

New office furniture is ideal – but these cost money, and with the wide selection of refurbished, remanufactured, and otherwise like-new used cubicles on the market, entirely unnecessary.

Still, you need to do your homework before buying refurbished office cubicles. Experienced facilities managers ask certain questions when looking for refurbished office furniture – you can ask them yourself and save the frustration and wasted time. The following questions, we hope, will make buying refurbished office cubicles less an exercise in frustration and more a walk in the park.

How big is my budget? Determining your working budget can give you an idea of how much office furniture you can purchase – but you can be sure you can purchase more refurbished office cubicles than brand new on any given budget. You can spend a great deal less by buying refurbished office cubicles instead of brand-new. The money you save from buying refurbished office cubicles can either be invested in a larger order than usual, or be reinvested for other office purposes.

A caveat: purchasing refurbished office cubicles will require that you are flexible on size, color and accessories.  (read more)

New Guy, New Cubicles, New Challenges

Introducing the “fresh meat” into his new cubicles can be a big challenge, depending on the new guy you’ve hired. No sooner has that high-paid hire moved into his new Herman Miller digs when he shows his true colors: no easy-to-get-along, hard-working office bee, but a gossipy, lazy waste of space and resources. Yeah, integrating the new guy into his new cubicles can be a bit hit-and-miss.

Lay out a decent welcome. Before his new cubicles get broken in, make sure your new colleague feels welcome in your office.

“It doesn’t take a consultant or a think tank to understand the value of effectively integrating new employees into the workplace,” explains BureauPat at OhMyGov.com. “This integration should boost employee performance and possibly even minimize staff turnover, as employees are less likely to leave a welcoming environment.” Question is – are his new cubicles going to be perceived as a welcoming environment?

The New-Cubicles Look for Less

New cubicles are easy to get for any size workforce, but a middling office supply budget is hard to reconcile with a large requirement for new cubicles. If you have a large-ish office you’d like to stock with new office cubicles, that presents a problem.

The high cost of new cubicles, for one thing, can put a damper on your dreams of new office furniture domination. To take an example, new Herman Miller Eames shelves may cost you upward of $3,000 a unit. Extrapolate that to other new Herman Miller products, and you might end up spending a pretty penny and not yet furnish the whole office! (Imagine that – you blow your whole budget on new cubicles and you only have enough just for the sales department.)

The trick is knowing where to save costs – buying new cubicles manufactured from virgin resources may not be a wise move. But dumping new cubicles doesn’t mean that you compromise on quality – not all cost-conscious options are quality downgrades. Used cubicles can be just as effective – looks- and function-wise – as new office cubicles. You just have to know where to look.   (read more)

Checklist for the New Guy: Moving Into Your New Cubicles

So you’re the new guy, moving into a new job and new cubicles. Unless you’re the CEO’s son moving into the family business straight out of grad school, moving into new cubicles can be a frightening, intimidating process. With plenty of new faces, an unfamiliar hierarchy, and a completely different environment, easing into your new cubicles won’t be easy.

New cubicles don’t have to be a new challenge, though, if you follow the tips we lay out in the next few paragraphs.

Pay attention. Before you enter your new cubicles, you’ll probably undergo an orientation session with the HR department. Keep your ears open at this point: you want to reach your new cubicles with your head full of useful information. Find out how they do things in the office; this can give you a taste of the office politics and work environment in the space surrounding your new cubicles.

Ask questions. Wrack your brain for important, or less-than-important, questions that you may need to ask – in these few shining moments as the fresh guy in the new cubicles, you’re free to ask embarrassing questions without looking stupid. (This supervisor’s checklist might give you some ideas as to the questions you can pose.) You might ask questions about:

-    decorating and personalization rules for your new cubicles
-    employee benefits
-    sexual harassment policy
-    attendance policy
-    dress policy – casual Fridays

Manager’s Chair Super Deal for Summer

If you’re looking for a sweet deal on manager’s chair furniture this summer, you don’t have to look far: Cubicles.com is working with office chair systems provider OpenPlan Systems to offer you an executive chair with the perfect combination of features and price.

The manager’s chair furniture included in this promotion come in two levels of customizability and comfort, from a darling of office chair reviews with a more-than-standard amount of adjustability, to a day-to-day manager’s chair with a modicum of features together with a good helping of comfort.

The Manager’s Chair (model 4008) by OpenPlan Systems provides a feature-rich executive chair configuration with a surprisingly low price tag. This manager’s chair is almost completely adjustable, providing ergonomic support that can go toe-to-toe with any manager’s chair contending on the web’s office chair reviews.      (read more)

Cubicle Etiquette Explained.


American Business Etiquette:
Office Cubicle Etiquette In American Business

The era of the cubicle worker puts you in close, sometimes uncomfortable contact with your fellow cubicle mates. Not all interactions with your fellows are bound to be pleasant; close cubicle contact is bound to bring out the worst in some people.

Phyllis Davis, the President of Executive Mentoring and Coaching, has heard all the cubicle horror stories – she lays them all out in the video above. “The most common complaints about cubicle-mates is if they use speaker phones instead of using headsets,” she explains. “And then if a cubicle mate in the office has music on while they are on hold – that’s really annoying.”

“Shouldn’t you be doing that at home” issues are also a big bugbear for cubicle dwellers, in Davis’ experience – “People clipping their nails in the office cubicle, or having deep coughs in the office cubicle instead of going in the washroom, or people having fights with their spouses on the phone are also big annoyances.”

Before you nod in smug recognition, you should be aware that you’re just as visible to your cubicle mates as they are to you – for all you know, your own impression isn’t so hot to your fellow cubicle mates!

Whatever impressions you make on your fellow cubicle mates are based on how you interact with them. Your professionalism is judged depending on how effectively you can work while remaining considerate of their feelings. The cubicle ideas that follow should help you navigate this difficult, though ultimately rewarding, task.

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