How to Choose the Right Office Dividers for Your Workplace.

Office dividers are a necessary evil in today’s workplace – unnoticed and even uncomplimented when they’re working as promised, and utterly confining at their worst. Nobody calls office dividers their “favorite bit of office furniture”. And that won’t change anytime soon!

So when you’re looking for office dividers for your company, don’t imagine a process similar to picking out a rug or a lamp; nobody’s going to want partitions that set off their blue eyes, they’ll just want something that doesn’t get in the way!

Choosing the right office divider is still important, though – employee morale can still be affected by bad dividers, even if good dividers don’t seem to have any effect.

Know your dividers. The dividers used for cubicles are called half-height office dividers, smaller compared to the full-height office dividers that stretch from floor to ceiling. The difference between the two is crucial – half-height dividers offer a greater sense of openness, while full-height dividers have a feeling of permanence and solidity.

For a divider that falls half-way in between the two, you might want accordion wall dividers, which reach from floor to wall but are easily set aside when you want to remove a barrier between two office spaces.

Mobile partition walls are the lightest type of divider – they can be moved from area to area, and are light enough to be assembled or disassembled when needed.

Choose the right supplier. Once you’ve decided what kind of divider you want to use in your office, it’s time to look at the supplier who can get you what you want. Your facilities manager should be able to tell you what suppliers in the area can provide the kind of office dividers you’ve set your mind on. Google can also help turn up the right suppliers. (Or if you want good value and quality too, might we recommend you check out Cubicles.com’s line of cubicles?)

Choosing the right office dividers is easier than it looks. With the advice listed above, choosing and using can be a breeze, with your colleagues enjoying their office and you smiling at the thought of money well spent.

How to Choose a Modern Executive Desk

zira modern executive desk
Image © Global Upholstery Co.

No corner office is complete without a modern executive desk taking pride of place. The ideal executive desk does more than keep an executive’s papers from falling to the floor: it provides much needed storage and defines an executive’s workspace as well.

Once personalized properly, the modern executive desk also defines the personality and outlook of the executive who’s using it.

If you’re newly arrived to your corner office, and assuming you can choose the kind of desk you’ll be spending the rest of your executive career on, how will you go about choosing your new command center?

The right one will come to you, once you ask yourself a few questions:

How flexible do you intend to be? Modern executive desks come in modular versions, which can be set up easily, then reconfigured once your needs change down the road. High quality modular desks are easy to assemble and configure, with European connectors that make disassembly and reconfiguration a breeze.

What kind of electronics will you be using? Likely the answer won’t be “none” – you’ll need at least one grommet hole to tame those pesky computer and telephone wires. Look for a hutch with a sweep that keeps those wires in place. And look for height/angle adjustable keyboard trays that can help you work while maintaining a comfortable, ergonomically-friendly position.

How many people will you be working with? The best desks allow for collaboration with colleagues, coming with island worksurfaces that allow teammates to “meet at your place” and still have enough leg room below.

A good example of modern executive desk that fits all the above: the Zira line of desks, a modular desk system that can be infinitely rearranged to ensure maximum work efficiency and organization.

Zira offers a multitude of storage components, allowing you to find a way to store everything in your corner office the way you like – putting them away (your boring old files) or putting them up for display (that glowing letter from the Chairman).

This video shows you how easy it is to get that corner office started with Zira – and this link takes you to Cubicles.com’s desk page where you can look at Zira and many other modern executive desk options.

Ten Tips for Buying Used Office Cubicles.

Used office cubicles are, for the smart facility manager, reaching the ideal confluence of wide availability, wide variety, and low price. If you’re in the market for office furniture, buying used is a great option – you get to save substantially on your budget and still get as wide a choice as if you decided to buy brand-new!

Of course, buying used office cubicles comes with a few rules of the road. Read on to see what they are.

  • Be prepared to be flexible. Once you decide that used is for you, be sure that you’re comfortable with the two top limitations of the market. A) be prepared to be flexible on colors; and B) be prepared to be flexible on size configurations.
  • Make sure you understand the grade of used you are buying. Buying used office cubicles is like buying a used car – 10,000 miles in is hardly broken in, but 100,000 miles means it’s ready to break down!
  • Know your space dimensions before shopping. Shopping before you understanding the benefits and limitations of your space is like shopping for a plane without knowing how to fly!
  • Buy a popular cubicle model – this ensures a ready supply of spare parts. These are the models you should look out for: Steelcase, Avenir or 9000; Herman Miller, AO or Ethospace; Haworth Places; Knoll Morrison; or Reff.
  • Check if your seller has a detailed inventory of all the parts and pieces you need for the cubicle you want to buy. This includes panels, connectors, work surfaces, bins, and everything else in between. This is something you don’t think about until the delivery comes in and has one or more missing parts, leading to big delays and headaches if your supplier doesn’t have his act together.
  • Ensure seller’s reputation and track record in buying and selling used inventories. As for references from your prospective seller. Selling used cubicles requires a certain skill, as the business has plenty of complications in store if the seller doesn’t manager his business professionally.
  • Ask for product photos showing what it looked like when it was standing. If it hasn’t been disassembled and stored in the warehouse yet, ask the supplier to take snapshots of the product you want, so you get a good idea of how the finished product will look like in your office.
  • If you can, buy from an inventory that is still standing. Not a lot of inventory comes to you still waiting to be knocked down. So this will limit your options, but it may minimize your risk.
  • Inspect the inventory before handing over your cash. Again, this might limit your options to only inventory that’s a drive away, but this also limits the possibility of dissatisfaction with the final product.
  • Ensure that seller is selling inventory they own and control. It’s not necessarily a bad thing if the seller is actually just trying to “flip” someone else’s inventory, but there’s a bigger potential for trouble the further removed they are from the product source.
  • Don’t make yourself crazy trying to price shop previously owned inventories. If you find a reputable dealer who you have confidence in, and if they can deliver the quantity you need in the configuration and color you can live with, AND if they can offer you a substantial discount off new (50% or better), take the deal and don’t look back. You are sure to have a winning combination!

6 Home Office Design Ideas You can Steal

Here are a few home office design ideas you can put to good use in your own workspace: they’re simple to do and suitably cheap to execute. Home offices, as a rule, come with smaller supplies budgets than your typical cubicle farm, but even with a limited budget, you can implement home office design ideas that strike the ideal balance between good-looking and budget-friendly.

home office design ideas, image by Nathan Searles

Choose a productivity-friendly color. The colors you see in your workspace can make all the difference in your productivity. Choosing a bright color like yellow or bright green can ease the monotony of repetitive tasks. Pale blue or green can add a calming effect to the home office. And plain white tells everyone you mean to do serious work in your workspace.

Or you can toss the rules and settle on a color that has great personal significance to you alone. “Different hues resonate with people in a certain way,” says Suite101′s Victoria Foley. “A bright red might make you think of lipstick, or hearts/love, or even stop signs…However, take that shade a little bit darker, to a deep cherry-maroon, and it could make you feel empowered.”

Choose a chair with comfort in mind. When you’re shopping for a chair, do prioritize its comfort over the long run – don’t just get the cheapest butt-rest available. Many home office design ideas look good, but fail the comfort test. Make sure your home office doesn’t go the same way. If you’re not sure where to start, check out our ergonomics checklist to get a clue.

Lighting should be easy on the eyes. You’re not a coal miner – you get to choose just how much lighting you need to get the job done. Make sure you pick an area of the house that gets ample lighting. You can also get a lamp for your desk that ups the light quotient, and reduces eyestrain too.

Put a motivating artwork in plain sight. A reproduction of your favorite painting? A vase your mother gave you? Something your child drew in art class? Get something motivating in your office space, and keep it somewhere that’s easy to spot.

Image © Nathan Searles / Creative Commons.

The Ultimate Herman Miller Office Chair… and the Contender.

In the beginning, there was the Aeron, the ultimate Herman Miller office chair – and then there was everyone else.

Times have changed since the Aeron was introduced fifteen years ago. (Among other things, the office hockey league has since been disbanded.) In its heyday, the Aeron was the ultimate status symbol. If your behind rested on an Aeron, you commanded the best Herman Miller office chair in existence.

Fast forward to today. The recession overtook us. Enron and Lehman Brothers fell. And formerly deep-pocketed facility managers are now looking for more cost-effective alternatives to the former King of Office Seats.

These days, the number one contender for the throne is the Eurotech Ergohuman Chair. Its popularity among office workers is surging ever higher, threatening to unseat the high-flying Herman Miller office chair leader.

How has the Ergohuman accomplished this? Firstly, it’s been able to match – or come close – to the high-end upholstery and adjustability features designed into the Aeron.

Once upon a time, facility managers figured the high cost was a proper price to pay for getting the Aeron into their offices. (And the cost is still high – you can expect to pay up to $1,400 for a top notch posture-fit Aeron.) Today, the Ergohuman delivers what people look for in an Aeron – for up to $700.

The Ergohuman’s ergonomics delivers: you get the same flexibility and adjustability you’ve come to expect from an Aeron, and you get the same tolerance for intensive use: the chair is designed to accommodate users who expect to use it for five hours a day or more, and deserve consistent comfort from beginning to end.

In the end, while the Ergohuman may fall a little short of the Aeron, the substantially lower price makes it a winner against the best Herman Miller office chair contenders. (Don’t take my word for it, check out the Cubicles.com seating page to compare how the Ergohuman does against the competition. You won’t be sorry.)

10 Steps toward an Environmentally Friendly Office.

Creating an environmentally friendly office takes baby steps. You don’t just change the lightbulbs, set up segregated trash bins, and expect the Green Office Council to give you a medal. No, it’s a long, hard slog, and may add an element of inconvenience in your office life.

Why do it? It’s worth it. Think of the positive impact you’ll make with an environmentally friendly office – and think of the improved morale in a workforce that knows they’re committed to something bigger than themselves.

1. Power down. Turn off equipment that isn’t being used. Don’t just turn them off – unplug them. Little did you know that equipment on “standby” mode still sucks up juice, to the tune of hundreds of dollars’ worth of energy a year! Unplug these appliances when not in use, or get a smart power strip that monitors electricity use, cutting off the power from outlets that have been idle for a while.

2. Turn down the thermostat. Reprogram your thermostat to be a few degrees warmer in the summer, and a few degrees cooler in the winter. Shaving off the degrees in this way can save you up to eight percent in energy costs per year.

3. Change the light source. Part the curtains, or open the blinds in daytime! The environmentally friendly office isn’t afraid to use natural light – it’s healthier than that sickly green artificial light that’s commonly used in offices.

4. Replace your gear. Newer PCs, for example, may be up to 70% more energy-efficient than PCs from four to five years back. Monitors might also help you cut down on your energy bill – if you switch LCD models for your CRT monitors, you can use a third less power. The lower energy usage will allow you to recover the costs of replacing your equipment within two to three years.

5. Email, but try not to print. Email messages don’t need to be printed out to be fully understood. Make sure getting a printout is absolutely necessary before you click “print”!

6. If you have to print, go with recycled and earth-friendly. Use recycled paper with at least 30% post-consumer waste, and print double-sided as much as possible. Go with soy-based ink, as it has lower levels of volatile organic compounds, and is easier to eliminate in the recycling process.

7. Check the bathrooms. Keep taps tightly shut – one dripping tap can waste up to 10,000 liters of water a year. A more committed environmentally friendly office would use a displacement dam – they place a small plastic container filled with stones in the toilet reservoir to displace some water in the flushing process – the water saved in this method adds up over the year.

8. Use real plants. Not only do they add a nice soothing touch to your office, but they also add oxygen to the surroundings, making the environmentally friendly office even more friendly to one’s health.

9. Ditch the paper or foam cups. Encourage the workforce to bring their own mugs to work. This reduces office waste and saves money.

10. Buy remanufactured office furniture. When you’re replacing your desks and chairs, look at remanufactured furniture as an option for your office. Buying remanufactured saves you money and lessens your impact on the environment, as you’re buying equipment that’s already made its footprint felt before.

This is more than just about being cheap – it’s about making a company-wide statement to your workers and your clients that you are willing to cut out unnecessary purchases for the sake of creating an environmentally friendly office. (Read Cubicles.com’s green office furniture page for more information about remanufactured office furniture.)

Selecting a Mesh Office Chair – Pros and Cons.

The mesh office chair is becoming more and more necessary in the modern breakneck-paced office. But just as even the most advanced office computer can become a liability if badly-selected, the process of choosing a mesh office chair becomes ever more important: you can’t just leap into it blind.

Here are a few dos and don’ts to help your selection process along.

DO test drive that mesh office chair. No mesh office chair is perfect; the flaws aren’t usually evident in the first ten or twenty minutes of testing, much less just looking, at the chair in question. So don’t just “eyeball” it, or rest your hindquarters and call it a day.

Put that mesh office chair through its paces: Ask yourself first how long you’ll be sitting in the chair. The length of time you’ll spend in that seat will determine whether you need additional padding. Mesh seats are cool and comfortable, but extended use can stress the tailbone, causing pain and numbness over time.

DON’T settle on the first one you like. Have several different models to choose from, when selecting a mesh office chair. You’ll get a good idea of the varying quality of mesh office chairs in the market, and in the process, you’ll also discover what qualities you prefer in a mesh office chair.

You’ll probably choose a mesh chair that provides a balance between comfort and support. Some workers will prefer mesh seats that make your hindquarters feel like they’re floating on clouds; others will prefer stiffer padded fabric or leather seats with a mesh back.

DO think long-term. Mesh chairs don’t wear as well as leather or fabric chairs; mesh chair manufacturers have to choose between soft mesh that sags quicker, or stiff mesh with lower comfort. Herman Miller has managed to hit the right balance with its Aeron chair, as it uses a Pellicle mesh that combines softness with durability. (It helped that the Aeron’s ergonomic design won it raves in the workforce.)

DON’T neglect adjustability. Any ergonomics enthusiast will tell you that mesh seating alone won’t make your chair comfortable – adjustability counts. As we’ve noted before, you’ll need to adjust different elements of the mesh office chair to ensure they fit you and you alone – armrests, seat height, seat depth, backrest, and lumbar support.

Micro Management: Some Small Office Design Tips to Remember.

The rules are very different for stocking a small office: the best small office design ideas don’t use the same rules as big offices. Yes, you too need to create an orderly, productive environment – but no, you don’t have as much space to work with, and chances are you have a smaller margin for error.

Working with a small office design forces you to zero in on your needs, fast. Do you expect frequent client visits? Then you’ll need furniture that leaves a good impression. No patchy second-hand furniture, or worse, wildly inappropriate furnishing choices (one small travel agency I visited this week had, I kid you not, a bed).

Is the industry you’re working in a stable one? You might think about leasing furniture to stock your small office. On the other hand, choosing to buy your furniture outright may keep your budget low, and compel you to buy only the stuff you really need.

Tough questions like these can help you decide what furniture you need to be productive in your small office. Some things will always stay constant: a decent desk; a comfortable chair; a telephone; a PC.

If you’re working from home, your work and personal facilities should be separate, or as separate as possible. Have a separate phone line for work, so you don’t miss important calls from clients if your kid is on the line.

Think of your power consumption – can your small office location cope with the extra wattage you’ll need to consume for your enterprise? Do you have enough power outlets to cope with a PC, desk light, printer, scanner, and fax machine all sucking up juice at the same time?

Finally, you should add a light touch to your small office design – a painting in the right place, or a photo frame of your husband and kids can lighten the mood in your small office. Ransack your personal wants and needs to create an office that’s not just a pleasure to work in, but also a place you want to visit again and again. The alternative is just too horrible to contemplate!

This Week in Innovative Office Furniture Design.

office furniture, menorah by SOM, winner

Image © SOM / Colin Gorsuch.

The office furniture manufacturer Steelcase just concluded its 10th annual Wreath and Menorah Design Competition last December 3, with architecture firm Skidmore, Owing and Merrill bagging the top prize.

More info on the contest and the winner, after the jump.                 (read more)

Environmentally Friendly Bike Law in New York Coming Through!

Office workers now have one more reason to lower their commute’s carbon footprint: New York City has just passed a new environmentally friendly law allowing cyclists to park their bikes inside their office buildings.

The new Bicycle Access to Office Buildings Law is designed to increase bicycle commuting, by giving cyclists access to protected parking while at work. The Queens Courier reports that commuter cycling in New York has doubled from 2005 to 26 percent this year, a green office habit that the government is eager to encourage.

“Biking is a great way to get to work in New York City, and this new law makes it easier for workers to commute on two wheels instead of four,” said NYC Department of Buildings (DOB) Commissioner Robert LiMandri. “By creating a safe, secure place for cyclists to store their bikes, it will help to promote alternative modes of transportation and a healthy, active lifestyle for millions of New Yorkers.”

Councilmember David Yassky, who sponsored the bill, thinks the new law will solve many problems at once. “Allowing bicycles in buildings is an effective way to encourage cycling,” Yassky was heard to say. “This legislation is an extremely realistic effort to cut emissions, improve air quality, maximize public transportation and ease congestion, reaping tremendous environmental and quality of life benefits for New Yorkers.”

A few office managers and owners have put their full support behind the new law, restructuring their offices to permit bike parking. The New York Times hears from one such supporter:

“From my vantage point, it’s a huge positive,” said Larry A. Silverstein, president and chief executive of Silverstein Properties. [...] Although no bike was leaning against his desk that day, Mr. Silverstein said he supported the new law and thought most buildings with freight elevators could comply and that tenants could handle the parking once bikes rolled through their doors.

“If you really want to do this, you find the space,” he said. “There’s always space where you can put a bicycle.”

The new law goes into effect on December 11. More information at the official New York City Hall homepage.

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