White Paper: Choosing Between Brand New, Cloned, Newly Remanufactured, Refurbished/Used, or New Office Cubicles.

When the first “Action Office” began sprouting in offices at the end of the Sixties, it arrived just in the nick of time: an upswing in the number of white collar workers and a corresponding rise in the price of office real estate made the office cubicle an ideal solution for office planners. Using the newfangled cubicles, they could accommodate their growing workforces easily using less floor space. The days of private offices for everyone were numbered; the cubicles were here to stay.

Today, office cubicles make up about $2.27 billion of office furniture sales in 2010, or about 27.4% of that year’s $8.3 billion total in office furniture sales, as per historical data compiled by the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturer’s Association. Office planners are spoiled for choice: they can choose to buy brand-new cubicles from established brand names in the field, or they might take a chance on cloned cubicles manufactured in China. Alternatively, they might explore buying remanufactured systems furniture, or even go for used cubicles if that’s all their budget can afford.

Do you know what office cubicles are right for you? In the following paper, we’ll explore the different types of office cubicles, and what each type of office cubicle can deliver, in terms of features, advantages, and other perks. Download our white paper: Something Old, Something New, Something Green: How to Choose Between Brand New, Cloned, Newly Remanufactured, Refurbished/Used, or New Alternatives (PDF, 559KB).

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…

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

Pimp My Cubicle: Five Awesome Cubicle Do-Overs.

To break the monotony of the typical office cubicle, more workers are spending a lot of money on “pimp my cubicle” one-upmanship. Blame the uniformity of the cubicle farm; office cubicles are a damned efficient way of corralling a large workforce into a single workspace, but the mind craves variety.

I don’t know about you, but when the first time I tried to pimp my cubicle, I worked with a really low budget – and cheap clods like me began with action figures. Dollies for men. Surely you can’t be a sissy if your office cubicle action figures come from the hit show Futurama could you?

ThinkGeek sells three sets of Futurama action figures, including the star-crossed duo of Leela and Zapp Brannigan (pictured above – with the awesome addition of Richard Nixon’s head in a jar!).

Moving up the budget scale, indulge your Formula One fantasies by buying a RaceChair – an actual seat from a real-live sports car, lovingly transformed into a static office chair. How’s that for a comedown? One moment, you’re a critical collaborator on Lewis Hamilton’s Formula One team, the next, you’re warming a midlevel manager’s expanding backside.

RaceChairs cost as low as $2,000, but may go for over $11,000, in the case of a seat stripped from a Lamborghini LP640 Murcielago.

More pimped-out cubicles after the jump.         (read more)

Office Cubicle Installation in a Little Over an Hour.

Cubicle installation isn’t a long, tiresome process anymore, at least not since the Sixties. When Herman Miller introduced their Action Office 2 (AO2) cubicle system, they introduced the open plan office into the business lexicon. They also made tedious office cubicle installation a thing of the past.

Take this example from Cubesolutions - this video shows a timed cubicle installation session, transforming a bare space into a 500-cubicle set in just over an hour. You’ve got to see it to believe it – office cubicle installation in a flash, giving you a complete office in the time it takes to finish your lunch!

Of course, the video leaves out the hard work done before the partitions are locked in place. The cubicle provider needs to know the dimensions of the work area, the type of cubicles that need to be installed, the type of electronics that will be used (AO2 cubicles accommodate cabling, but these need to be determined beforehand).

Our guys got this down pat, too – cubicle installation services and more. Ring us up if you want this kind of speedy magic pulled off in your workspace.

Click here to see Cubicle Installation video

Space Crisis for Office Cubicles.

As employers attempt to lower costs and maintain productivity with a shrinking workforce inhabiting their office cubicles, some offices are taking the game one level up by shaving the cubicle space each employee gets.

The Wall Street Journal reports that office cubicles have now become prime real estate in the recession. Companies are taking different tacks. Some are creating open floor plans and removing cubicles from their office spaces. Employees are now given rotating or random workspaces, instead of being assigned an office cubicle of their own. Other employees are given more opportunity to telecommute.

Manufacturers are following suit – new workstations designed by design group HOK now have an average area of 48 square feet, down 30% from five years back. Other companies “are reducing per-employee office space by as much as 50%, and their total footprint by as much as 25%,” the article reports.

One former office cubicle rat – now a telecommuting writer working from her own home – remembers the old days with mixed feelings. Says True/Slant’s Caitlin Kelly:

That’s one good thing about working alone at home. Right now, the only sound I hear — loud and clear — is my neighbor’s laughter and phone conversation. I’m not sure, short of a cabin in the woods, you can escape noise or other people and get your work done.

I can’t agree with you more, Miz Kelly. Although I’d add that some of these companies are plainly misled – why cut down on cubicle space and call that savings, when they can just buy remanufactured cubicles at a much lower price and keep their office cubicle inhabitants happy with a little more real estate? Just a suggestion.

Office Furniture: Re-used or Remanufactured?

Office furniture being the expensive, long-term investment that it is, it behooves you to figure out how you can get the biggest bang for your office buck.

Brand new office furniture might burn you in more ways than one – you might end up paying top dollar for chairs, desks and cubicles that just won’t get the kind of use that justifies the expense. (Especially during these parlous economic times.) When your big operation cuts its workforce, what are you going to do with all that extra office furniture?

Consider alternative number one: used office furniture. With office closures being far too common these days, it’s a buyers’ market for used office furniture: barely used, and much cheaper than their brand new counterparts.

How much should you expect to pay for used office furniture? It depends on what’s available, and how much of it you need. Of course, quality will be highly variable, and you can’t expect to get exactly the color or make you want.

Now consider alternative number two: remanufactured office furniture. What’s the difference? Remanufactured office furniture comes from previously-used office furniture, but put through a remanufacturing process that strips off the old surfaces, refurbishes the structure, and refinishes the surface so the whole thing looks practically brand new – despite prices that may be up to 80% cheaper than comparable brand new furniture!     (read more)

Cubicle Farms Making Way for Apartments?

We saw this happen in Soho – a run-down work area is transformed into a hip residential community. Of course, this happened after a long process involving penniless bohemians, urban gentrification, and soaring real estate prices. Could it happen again to recession-hit office cubicle blocks?

It just might – office vacancies are rising to 13 percent in Manhattan alone; pricey office towers are losing tenants fast, and older office buildings are facing a crunch they just might never pull out of.

In New York, ground zero for the recession is putting its toe in the residential water; the New York headquarters of the American International Group (AIG) at 70 Pine Street will undergo a transformation at the hands of developer Young Woo, who plans to split the building’s 66 stories between condos on the top floors and commercial establishments on the lower floors.           read more

Rethinking Office Cubicles?

Image of cubicles © Arjun Kartha.

Office cubicles just work for many companies. They’re compact, efficient working spaces. They rationalize the use of office space. Finally, office cubicles offer an egalitarian solution that many highly-stratified companies turn to when communication breaks down between layers in the corporate hierarchy.

But has the time come to reconsider cubicles?

Consider this: layoffs are decimating the workforce – gaps in the cubicle village are starting to show. The space-saving cubicle is becoming obsolete in offices with office space to spare.

At the same time, a growing chunk of the remaining workforce has a different view of cubicle hierarchy: the enclosed walls clash with a millennial generation that values face time.

“Office design is going from an ‘I’ to ‘we’ concept,” says designer Collin Burry of Gensler, the global architectural and design firm. “Millennials would be miserable sitting in a closed office all day long.”

Companies now face the challenge of integrating the differing workspace demands of multiple generations within the same office. Case in point, healthcare concern McKesson and their redesigned office space:

read more

This Week in Weird Cubicle Design…

Jurgen Bey believes that the cubicle concept shouldn’t be limited to the four walls of one’s office. Set the cubicle free!

Bey’s “Slow Car” concept takes an ordinary office cubicle and puts it on wheels. The concept gives a new twist to the phrase “cubicle jockeys”; one can sit down to work on the road, unfettered by the office, claiming the highway for your company! read more

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