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).

How a Professional Designer can Help Implement Productivity-Boosting Office Interior Design.

Office interior design that maximizes productivity doesn’t come together at random – it takes a professional to implement productivity-boosting changes in a workplace.

And yet not all facility managers are eager to bring in a professional interior designer. Maybe outdated thinking has something to do with their reluctance – after all, most people still believe that office interior design is primarily about aesthetics, not productivity.

But DIY design can lead to disaster, especially if you’re not trained to make the decisions that a professional interior designer makes as part of their job. A professional interior designer shouldn’t be optional, they should be required.

Here are a number of very good reasons why no productivity-boosting initiative at work should go without hiring an interior designer to assist, or even head, the process.

First, a professional can explain the costs and benefits of office interior design to top management. “Top management will still require a cost/benefit analysis to justify any investment in office design,” explains MIT’s Limor Gutnick. So if you’re looking to implement productivity-boosting changes to your workplace, a professional interior designer can be your best salesperson to the top brass.

“The designers’ role would be twofold,” says Gutnick. “To base the office interior design on sound principles and established research and to present quantitative returns on the investment.”

Secondly, professionals use training and resources that clients generally do not have access to. Remaking office interior design involves a number of decisions that laypeople are generally not equipped to handle. Hiring a professional forestalls such problems.

A good interior designer combines an intimate knowledge of your business objectives and an awareness of the designs and products that can help you meet them. To solve your problems, he or she will call upon an encyclopedic knowledge of materials, finishes, and products, as well as a long list of vendors, contractors, and other service providers. It’s his job to coordinate the team and make the final call on the products to be used in the job.

In short, as the American Society of Interior Designers puts it, only a professional interior designer has “the training and expertise to plan, schedule, execute and manage your project from start to finish.”

Third, professional interior designers can help both managers and rank-and-file participate in the design process. “Interior designers […] are in a unique position to propose a strategic, design-based approach towards increasing productivity,” concurs Cubicles.com’s CEO Aron Groner.

By soliciting feedback from affected employees, planning workshops, and creating focus groups to study proposed office interior design plans, interior designers can facilitate a participatory design process that empowers rank-and-file employees to participate in design decision making, while making managers more aware of the interaction between space and human behavior.

“In some cases, interior designers or facility managers may serve only as a resource or consultant,” an ASID paper comments, “empowering employees to decide for themselves what type of environment will make them more productive.”

Finally, hiring a professional actually saves money. An interior designer can help manage costs by selecting the right suppliers at the best possible value. They can leverage their relationships with suppliers and contractors to get better discounts that you could never have scored on your own.

In some instances, a product supplier with knowledge of office interior design can present even greater opportunity for savings. Look for a vendor who can provide design services to reduce your expenses even more. One example of such a vendor is Cubicles.com, which offers free space planning and office interior design services to their clients.

Find out more about hiring an effective office interior designer (with an eye to greater productivity) in our white paper:  “Designing for Productivity: Key Factors in Building the Ideal Office Environment” (PDF, 210KB).

Two Office Interior Design Models that Multiply Innovation

Two of the world’s most renowned brands are revolutionizing office interior design – and you can take the lessons they learned in their offices and put them to use in yours, no matter how small your enterprise.

Let’s start with Leo Burnett, a global force in advertising. Their Sydney headquarters reflects the collaborative nature of agency work – by filling large spaces with natural light, Australian interior designers Hassell intended to create “thought provoking spaces [that] encourage the ‘generation of big ideas.’”

Hassell’s office interior design for Leo Burnett is filled with collaborative spaces; “kitchen tables” that become hubs for brainstorming, presentation rehearsals, or just chit-chat among trusted colleagues.

Speaking as a former advertising copywriter, it’s in these common, collaborative spaces where 90% of advertising agency work gets done – and I’m willing to bet dollars to doughnuts that a correlation exists between an advertising agency’s annual awards hauls and the presence of such collaborative spaces in the office interior design!

Moral of the story: Office interior design can help business performance – particularly in companies like ad agencies or software companies that put a premium on creativity and collaboration. A 2010 study by Gensler found “a strong correlation between good workplace design and business performance” – employees of more successful firms spend plenty of time collaborating and socializing compared to their less successful counterparts.

Such open office designs provide two key benefits. One – teams with more open workspaces are able to make decisions faster, as the ability to make crucial decisions are devolved to the ranks. Two – open-access workspaces support team building efforts, accelerating group cohesion and improving team effectiveness.

Gensler concludes, “providing opportunities and spaces for people to interact is important to creating the trust necessary for a collaborative working environment.”

Our second success study comes from Facebook, the social media powerhouse. Not surprisingly for a company that made their bones providing “ownership” of online spaces to distinct personalities, Facebook has allowed their employees the same free rein.

“Just as people make the space on the website their own, we’ve opted to do the same with our physical space,” writes Everett Katigbak. “We’ve left a lot of the walls white and the spaces unfinished to encourage employees to add the finishing touches.”

Facebook’s office interior design takes this to an extreme, with modular boxes of varying sizes and shapes that can be rearranged into new working spaces.

Moral of the story: In their paper Personalization in non-territorial Offices, Dutch researchers Sandra Brunia and Anca Hartjes-Gosselink find an innate human need to take control over their environment which drives the need to personalize one’s space. In fact, “when objects are prohibited to personalize your work environment, people seek several additional ways to make the environment familiar and comfortable for them and to mark their identity in the organization” (source)

On the other hand, companies like Facebook that implement office interior design options that favor flexibility – like offices with reconfigurable spaces for both individuals and teams – report upswings in productivity. As researchers like Brunia and Hartjes-Gosselink have found out, allowing customization in their environment can provide employees with a feeling of being valued, giving them more leeway to be more productive.

This need not be taken to an extreme – an ordinary company would not be able to personalize to the the level of Facebook, or create collaborative spaces like Burnett’s – but take these examples as something to strive toward, not something to actually accomplish.

For more on the link between productivity and office interior design, download our white paper:  “Designing for Productivity: Key Factors in Building the Ideal Office Environment” (PDF, 210KB).

Spotlight on Collaboration: Does Your Office Interior Design Encourage It?

“The nature of work has changed,” writes design consultant Dorothy Deasy in a 2007 paper on office interior design. “The balance has been tipped so that work is no longer primarily an alone function but rather a collaborative one.”

Such a shift means that office interior design plays a greater role in encouraging collaboration between colleagues. And where collaboration goes, productivity often follows. Design firm Gensler reports that companies report productivity increases when they create environments that invite collaboration, by providing space for people to interact, for instance.

The research points to a new ideal: a workplace that balances collaboration and privacy. This involves an office interior design paradigm that permits both the ability to do distraction-free solo work for workers and teams, and the ability to support impromptu interactions. A study conducted by BOSTI Associates, a workplace planning and design consultancy, found that when an office interior design addressed these abilities, “individual performance jumped 4 percent to 5 percent, team performance 23 percent. Job satisfaction rose 23 percent.”

What happens in a workplace that encourages collaboration? First, teams tend to make decisions faster, as the ability to make crucial decisions are devolved to the rank-and-file. Second, open-access workspaces support team building efforts, accelerating group cohesion and improving team effectiveness.

Workplaces that succeed in inviting collaboration seem to balance three factors, according to the Harvard Business Review.

Proximity: Colleagues working on common projects should be located as close to each other as possible, minimizing distance traveled and potential for interruption inherent in each meeting. The office interior design should naturally direct traffic to shared spaces, and allow them to stay there.

Privacy: If workers want to focus on their jobs without distraction, the spaces should allow them to do so. If they want to collaborate without being overheard, the space should let them do that, too. “This gives workers the freedom to speak freely, creating an atmosphere of expression and trust,” opines consultant Lisa Gardner. “Sometimes an open floor space plan can actually inhibit collaboration, as employees may feel vulnerable about being overheard and overexposed.”

Permission: Policies that encourage collaboration should be encouraged by the leadership. They can send positive signals by providing comfortable furniture and modeling desired behaviors.

An office interior design that invites collaboration provides for all 3 P’s, no less. “Having only one or two usually isn’t enough, and over- or under-emphasizing any of the three can backfire,” the Harvard Business Review authors warn. “Build flexibility into your design so that you can test permutations, and measure the designʼs effects.”

The success of the 3 P’s revolves around the use of informal spaces in the office – a coffee corner, or impromptu meeting rooms. These spaces encourage informal meetings, which in turn build trust and encourage the free flow of ideas between colleagues, completing the collaboration circuit.

“Informal spaces may exude a “personality” that helps members connect and relate,” writes Dorothy Deasy, noting that her research finds an association between informal spaces and a perception of “better” meetings. “Meetings that were more high energy, involved freer exchange of ideas, more enjoyable, felt more relaxed and continued for longer than anticipated because of the productivity of the content tended to take place in informal spaces.”

For more on the link between productivity and office interior design, download our white paper:  “Designing for Productivity: Key Factors in Building the Ideal Office Environment” (PDF, 210KB).

Office Desks of the Rich and Famous: Churchill’s World War II Desks.

As Winston Churchill might have said, never was so much done by one man at two office desks. In the depths of World War II, the Prime Minister of Great Britain spent the long hard slog at an office desk set at the heart of the Cabinet War Rooms ten feet below the ground in Central London. After the war years, Churchill reflected on his long life in the service of the Empire, and wrote a number of books at his office desk in Chartwell, his principal home.

The Cabinet War Rooms are located under a government office building off Parliament Square in London. As war loomed, the building’s basement storage space was converted into Britain’s central war command, a bomb-proof and secure location from which the Allied effort could be fought and won.

Churchill’s office desk in the War Rooms can be found in Churchill’s Room, a suite made available for the Prime Minister and his family. Radio microphones remain standing on the desk, a reminder of the days when he would make wartime speeches from this location. Near the office desk is a closet-like space where the hotline to the White House was placed. (Read more…)

What Does Your Reception Office Furniture Say About You?

Your Reception AREA is the first thing your clients or visitors see in your office; it stands to reason that your reception area, and its reception office furniture too, may make or break your standing with these VIPs.

As it’s part of the first impression you make on your clients and visitors, your reception office furniture – if selected properly – can create a lasting positive impact of your enterprise, and can improve your business prospects too.

Flaunt Your Attitude. Choosing your reception office furniture – and the other elements that go with it – require that you make a decision about the character and attitude of your enterprise. Do you want to be seen as creative? Conservative? Energetic? Such attitudes spell the difference between Twitter’s reception office (think: birds in flight) and the Dental INN’s therapeutic reception lounge. Read more…

Office Interior Design and Increased Employee Comfort.

Is there a link between comfort in office interior design and increased productivity? Yes, and it’s stronger than you might think. According to Productive Solutions: The Impact of Interior Design on the Bottom Line, a paper released by the American Society of Interior Designers, a positive relationship exists between feeling comfy and being productive at work.

As the paper explains, 42 percent of ASID respondents say focusing on employee comfort pays dividends – a more aesthetically pleasing, comforting and inviting office interior design increases workplace efficiency and worker morale. The flipside to the office interior design argument is also apparent – decreased employee comfort results in losses to the enterprise, in person-hours lost and liability costs.

The ASID paper joins the growing volume of scientific literature demonstrating how designing for comfort is an imperative in office interior design, one you ignore at your peril. Look at the matter closely, and you’ll see that there are three general areas within the general concept of “comfort”: (Read more)

Office Interior Design and Improved Accessibility.

When office interior design encourages people to work together, productivity happens. A recent survey initiated by the American Society of Interior Designers (ASID) found this to be the case when office interior design focused on improving accessibility – to both people and resources.

When companies create environments that invite collaboration – by providing space for people to interact – companies benefit more, compared to environments that encourage mostly individual focused work. The workplace is increasingly seen as a place where people meet to interact, instead of a place where people hunker down to do isolated work.

Companies are now finding this out for themselves, leading to new office interior designs that bring workers closer to their colleagues and to the common resources they need to get their jobs done.

More on accessibility and interior design after the jump. Read more…

Office Interior Design: Key Factors in Building the Ideal Office Environment.

Office interior design should maximize productivity at every instance, but this is a maxim honored in the breach more often than not. That’s because most people think that office interior design deals primarily with aesthetics, instead of productivity.

Productivity results when four key benefits are delivered by effective office interior design: Improved accessibility, increased employee comfort, limiting noise and distractions, and flexibility & customization. In this white paper, we devote a little more time and effort going into each benefit. By the time you’re done, you should have the knowledge and insight you need to know how you can apply them to your office.

Download our white paper, and read more – download “Designing for Productivity: Key Factors in Building the Ideal Office Environment” (PDF, 210KB).

What IT Engineers Need in Their Office Interior Design.

Office interior design often does IT workers a disservice – while many managers extol the modern open floor plan, many IT workers actually prefer to work in more secluded quarters. IT workers are bucking a trend in open office layouts; unlike other creatives, IT workers need quiet environments that encourage concentration and creativity.

“Asking programmers or network administrators to do their jobs in an open space where noise, distractions and interruptions abound can be akin, for some of them at least, to departmental decimation,” writes Computerworld’s Cara Garretson.

This presents a conundrum for the facility manager, who must weigh team interdependence and the intensiveness of the work when creating an office layout for an IT department. To use Bell and Kozlowski’s model of task dependencies, IT engineers represent an excellent example of an intensive workflow.

More on what IT engineers look for in their office interior design, after the jump. Read more…

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