Office Desk Organizing, Japanese Style.

Modern office desk philosophies vary from “creative chaos” to the antiseptically clean, and ordinarily, you’ll find little agreement between employees on the best system to use. And then the Japanese came along: Japanese businesses have crystallized an organizing philosophy for every office desk that bears a closer look.

It’s called the “5S” system – a deceptively simple name for a comprehensive workplace organization methodology that’s taken the office world by storm.  Implemented correctly, 5S fosters effective workplace organization, simplifies the workplace environment, reduces waste, and improves work quality all over the office.

The “S” refers to the Japanese words that name each system, which Western implementors have translated with an equivalent English word beginning with “S”: sorting (seiri), or putting things in order; straightening (seiton), or arranging items properly; systematic cleaning or shining (seiso); standardizing (seiketsu), or maintaining a mindset that promotes constant cleanliness; and sustaining (shitsuke), or commitment to the process.

Sorting (seiri) is the practice of eliminating unnecessary tools and systems from every office desk, keeping only materials deemed essential to work. What you do keep should be prioritized depending on the requirement, and kept within reach as needed. This saves time for the average employee – seiri cuts down on time spent searching for necessary tools by removing clutter.

The elimination process doesn’t have to be done outright; a 5S practitioner might “tag” items on her office desk, adding a red tag with a use-by date on items that may prove useful in the future. If the use-by date passes without the object being used, then into the waste bin it goes. (Read more)

Binge Computing: Get Off of That Office Chair!

Image © Tamer Tatlici








[Image © Tamer Tatlici.]

Hi, I’m Mike, and I’m a binge computer worker – my bottom is practically glued to my office chair. This blog entry, in fact, is the end  result  of a long binge on my PC, having come out of several hours’ work producing a couple of blog entries, several emails, and now ?  a few Twitter and Facebook updates.

Binge computing is no joke, really. Defined as intensive computing for long stretches without a break, binge computing is commonplace among college students and office workers alike.

In a survey of college students at two college campuses, a link was discovered between binge computing and musculo-skeletal disorder (MSD) symptoms; longer hours of bingeing led to greater MSD severity and concurrent hampering of lifestyle.

Binge computing for more than six hours seems to be connected to a greater than 100% increase in the risk of severe MSD, compared to computing hours of less than 4 hours per day.

Such health problems are a growing risk for coeds who can’t get off of their office chair – as the Herman Miller Well-Being Blog reports, “increasing numbers of university students [have] computer-related musculoskeletal disorders of the neck, shoulder, arm, and hand. Surveys at two American colleges found that 40-50 percent of undergraduates suffer from upper extremity pain due to computer use.” (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, Happy Holidays, everyone, and a Happy New Year!

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!)

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 “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?

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

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.

The Corner Office Cubicle as an Executive Perk.

The office cubicle is only a stepping stone to a bigger office, the thinking goes. Senior officers shouldn’t be put in an ordinary office cubicle, they should be put in an office of their own! One with real hardwood office furniture and not the usual particleboard crap of the hoi polloi!

The corner office, though, is more and more becoming a thing of the past. Real power can reside from a corner office cubicle, not an oak-panelled corner office.

Hizzoner Works from an Office Cubicle

Consider the mayor of New York City. Michael Bloomberg got rid of private offices and settled on an open office cubicle design that mimicked a Wall Street trading floor. “Walls are barriers,” Bloomberg told Time Magazine, “and my job is to remove them.”

A 2007 renovation upgraded the bullpen, adding a sweet flatscreen TV to the mix:

Workplace Tips to Help You Survive the Recession.

The recession isn’t going away anytime soon (jobs bill notwithstanding), so we’re offering a handful of workplace tips to tide you over till the economy improves/World War III arrives.

As an employee, you’re not that powerless: sure, you’ve probably seen one or more of your colleagues getting laid off, but if you’ve gotten to this point and still hung on to your job (in which case, congratulations!), you still have the power to minimize the effect of the slowdown in your company, and yourself by extension.

What are you doing to contribute to cost cutting in your office? The company’s already done most of the heavy lifting – cutting salaries and fringe benefits, reducing the budget for food and transportation, and slimming down the workforce.

Now the onus is on you – it’s now your responsibility to help the office find places to cut costs. When you do this, you reduce your company’s operating costs, and thus you ease your company’s way through to the end of the recession.

If there’s one thing you take away from this list of workplace tips, it’s this: you’re not a passenger anymore, you’re a stakeholder. Take an oar and row.

Take printing paper: don’t print stuff that can as easily be emailed. Reducing your printing quota not only saves your company a mint, it also helps the environment, too. Use as little paper as possible, for your company’s sake.

Reduce your travel expenses, by relying more on the phone and Skype. If travel can’t be avoided, try to exhaust all possible cheap deals on tickets, through Expedia and Hot tip: book early for the lowest prices on tickets.

Save electricity – shut down your PC when you’re done, and unplug all the appliances you use at work before you head off for home. Be careful with office resources – and remember that electricity and water are among the easiest office resources to waste.

Finally, avoid using the office phone to make personal calls. Use your personal cellphone, or use email or instant messaging. Try and get a texting package on your cellphone that allows unlimited texting.

Every little bit helps. With the recession still going strong, you now have a greater stake in your company’s success… and a greater responsibility to your company.

 Page 1 of 2  1  2 »