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).

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 Desks of the Rich and Famous: the Resolute Desk.

[Image is a work of the US Government - public domain.]









[Image is a work of the US Government – public domain.]

Do you find office desks boring? Try looking at them from a different perspective – you could be famous someday, and your most humdrum of office desks could be enshrined in a museum, with gawkers wondering how such a humble piece of furniture allowed you to come up with such glorious ideas.

Or you could find yourself in a powerful office where the desk is almost as famous and popular as its user. Office desks like the White House Resolute Desk fit in this category: few office desks have powerful stories behind them, or have served as a turning point in international diplomacy.

The Resolute office desk is one of the most famous symbols of the American Presidency, a desk gifted by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford B. Hayes in 1880 and used almost continuously to the present day.

The name ought to tell you that this most famous of office desks was built from the timbers of the HMS Resolute, a British ship that had become ice-bound, abandoned, and re-discovered by American whalers. Returned by the U.S. to Britain, the Resolute served in the Royal Navy for over twenty years. At its decommissioning, Queen Victoria requested that some of the ship’s timbers be recycled into a desk, which she then sent as a gift to the United States.

While all the Presidents since Hayes have used the Resolute desk at one time or another, it played second fiddle to other office desks. The recipient of the Resolute desk, Rutherford Hayes, had other Oval Office desks at his disposal, and kept the generous gift in other parts of the White House. Hayes’ successors did much the same. (read more)

Materials For Office Seating – The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly.

Executives can choose from a variety of materials for their office seating requirements. Traditional fabric chairs are quickly being supplanted by classier materials like leather, or more exotic materials, from simple vinyl upholstery to space-age mesh office seating.

But why choose one material over the other? What advantages and disadvantages do mesh, leather, and vinyl have over each other? If you’re graduating from fabric office chairs, what material should you choose?

Mesh Office Chairs – Breathability and Comfort Go Together

Mesh Office Seating – Good. Mesh office chairs are designed with one purpose in mind – to allow air to circulate between areas “covered” by the user, the seat and the back. This provides a high level of comfort, and prevents sweat and odor build-up (as moisture is allowed to evaporate through the office seating).

Mesh office chairs are known to stay fresh, even after years of heavy use. If you work in a humid environment, or even a normal one, mesh office seating can be your most comfortable alternative.

Mesh Office Seating – Bad. The relative novelty of mesh office seating and the limitations of the material constrict the types of design available for mesh office chairs. Unfortunately, all other material types boast of more designs and colors than do mesh office chairs.

Mesh Office Seating – Ugly. Finding the perfect balance between comfort and durability is an even bigger challenge where mesh chairs are concerned. As we’ve explained in an earlier article, mesh chair users are stuck between the compromise that designers have to strike: soft mesh is more comfortable, but sags quicker; stiff mesh is less comfortable, but lasts longer.

More after the jump. (read more)

Office Desks On Steroids.

[Image © MotoArt.]









[Image © MotoArt.]

Executives in the top echelons of business love to spend on office desks – the type of office desks that telegraph accomplishment, prestige, and money to burn.

They’ve reached the pinnacle of accomplishment, or so the thinking goes – therefore these top-flight executives need office desks that show off their newfound rank and privileges to whomever might drop by their office.

Office Desks That Make a Strong Impression. Take the C-119 Flap Desk by MotoArt pictured above – one of a series of office desks crafted from wing flaps salvaged from the Fairchild C-119 “Flying Boxcar” airplane that saw action in the Korean  and the Vietnam Wars. Now what does that kind of office desk tell you about the guy who sits behind it for a living?

MotoArt goes to extreme lengths to give the Flap Desk an intimidating impression, spending thousands of man-hours of labor cutting, polishing, and burnishing these impressive office desks, and topping them off with a 3/8″ glass top that conforms to the flap’s shape–

Customized to match the contours of the flap, it exposes the rivet detail and handsome intricacies of its construction. The legs are made of 4” x 8” architectural aluminum I beams. The legs are lightened by cutting radial holes at the top and bottom and are then powder coated for a rugged black wrinkle finish.

The Flap Desk is a limited edition office desk – after all, how many C-119s are around to provide their wing flaps, anyway? – which makes these office desks a rare but attractive proposition for executives on the rise.

More office desks on steroids after the jump. (Read more)

Exercises You Can Perform from Your Office Chair.

Just because you’re stuck in your office chair doesn’t mean you can’t exercise there. And it doesn’t mean you shouldn’t, either. As we’ve mentioned before, staying put at your office chair can be hazardous to your health. The office can do real damage to your body if you’re not careful – repetitive strain injuries, lumbar pains, muscle tension, and other very real problems can strike if you don’t do something to ward them off.

Yoga poses can be just the thing the doctor ordered. Certain yoga techniques can be performed even without getting up from your office chair; such office chair yoga techniques can relax sore muscles, release spine tension, and provide an overall restorative effect to your poor overworked body for the short term.

In the long run, your body will gain relaxed muscles, added flexibility and tone, added strength, and a greater sense of calm. All that with regular exercises done from your office chair – how cool is that? You don’t have to make time in your schedule, book a trainer, or find a secluded place in your office to do the exercises we’ve listed below. The office chair, as it turns out, makes a great gym if you know what exercises to do.

The exercises below are brought to you by video producer MAKE | MEDIA and yoga instructor Cassie Naumann, a veteran fitness instructor and an expert in the styles of Lyenger, Ashtanga, Viny, and Hatha Yoga. (read more)

Interior Design and Space Planning Q&A’s

Dear Cubicles.com,


Our health insurance business bucked the downward trend and managed to grow a bit during the recession years. Now that the recession is “officially” over, we’re actually projecting some major growth in the next year, and we’ll be hiring to take care of the extra load.


But I feel totally unprepared to plan our office for the growth spurt ahead; we have some long-time employees who will leave their offices only when they’re dead, and we only have spare cubicle space for about three or four new hires. How do I navigate the interior design and space planning landmine ahead?




A Good Problem to Have?

Congratulations – your work in healthcare puts you in an industry that reported continued growth during the recession years. But growth comes with its own problems: while you add people to the workforce, you want to retain an environment that keeps both long-timers and newcomers motivated. And that’s tough when you have to juggle questions like keeping team-mates together, or rustling up cubicle space for new hires.

About.com’s Human Resources guide Susan Heathfield believes it’s absolutely critical to have multiple levels sign off on any interior design and space planning decisions. Done properly, Heathfield says, proper accounting for future growth “will enable you to have employee workstations when you need them. Yet, smart planning will keep you from spending large amounts of money at an unnecessary time.”

Smart interior design and space planning takes doing. Here are the steps Heathfield advises office planners should take when in your shoes:

Make a reasonable projected headcount for this year and next. Focus on “reasonable” – don’t project growth higher than the last verifiable rate unless optimism in this regard is warranted.

Ask the following hard questions – and ask around to back the answers up. How many new employees will need offices and/or cubicles? How much appropriate housing do you have for current and future employees? (By appropriate, we mean work areas appropriate to each job function, i.e. clerical cubicles, customer service call center cubicles or offices for managers.) Will you need to change current access to conference rooms, storage or lunch areas, and restrooms as your office grows?

Dear Cubicles.com,


Settle this question for me, please: what’s better for IT professionals, cubicles, or private offices? We’re taking on a valuable new hire and I’d like to put him in a space where he can perform to his utmost – but I’m not sure if he’ll do better in a private office (where he can have some space to think) or a cubicle (where he can better collaborate with his team). Any thoughts?




Space Cadet

Don’t count on this debate to be resolved anytime soon – both offices and open space have their proponents within the interior design and space planning community. It boils down to privacy vs. collaboration, explains Robert J. Grossman in his article Offices vs Open Space.

Offices are becoming less common as companies squeeze funds from their facilities budgets. But Brill believes that private offices– even small ones–pay dividends for all workers by creating a more productive work environment.

The IT field in particular has plenty of private-office proponents – Computerworld hears from John Miano, founder of The Programmers Guild in Summit, N.J., who advocates prioritizing the productivity of IT professionals involved in software development operations. This could happen by “getting rid of cubicles and replacing them with enclosed offices” which can boost productivity by eliminating distractions, Miano says.

The downside to private offices, of course, is reduced communications between team-mates.

According to Cornell University’s William Sims, his research in workplace environments and software development proves that open environments are better for collaborative projects.

“Developers in private offices may be more productive individually but may not be in sync with a team,” the article paraphrases Sims.

In the end, the private office vs. open spaces issue is something that can be resolved by individual companies , in accordance with their corporate culture and the demands of their workforce.

Got questions? We have answers! Send an email to askcubicles@cubicles.com.

Desks for Office Workers Go Green.

From the way designers are churning out greener desks for office use, you can discern a definite trend towards more environment-friendly office furniture. “Eco-friendly” computer desks, office chairs, and cabinets as a whole reflect the growing awareness that even furniture affects the environment, particularly during their manufacturing process.

So desks for office workers are getting a closer look by greenies – their materials and manufacturing processes are being revamped to reflect our emerging awareness of the environment.

A few promising areas of study stand out from the rest:

Low-VOC Manufacturing Processes. In the course of manufacture, desks for office use may be put together using volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which are mostly present in solvents like glues, paints, and stains. VOCs are bad news for the human organism: they can irritate eyes and throats, cause headaches, and damage the nervous system.

VOCs have harmful effects that persist long after the end of the manufacturing process: offices with VOC-positive furniture have indoor concentrations of VOCs that are up to five times higher than outdoor levels. When VOCs make their way into the wild, their cumulative effect can be devastating: they contribute to air pollution and leach into the water supply.

So it’s of extreme importance that facility managers purchase low-VOC emissions products, to reduce health risks to its employees in the short term, and mitigate the impact of their furniture on the environment in the long term.

Buyers of desks for office use should look for products with the Green Seal (pictured at left); their manufacturers have stringent standards that control the levels of VOCs in their furniture, achieved primarily by using water- or powder-based finishes on their office furniture.

FSC-Certified Wood. Ensure that the wood in your new office furniture comes from sustainable sources. The Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) oversees forests that are managed in accordance to FSC’s stringent standards, and certifies companies that source their raw materials from such forests. So furniture that bears the FSC logo do not come from forests that have been logged irresponsibly – just the opposite!

The FSC certification is not lightly granted – independent certification organizations perform the assessments that result in FSC accreditation, which include tracing a furniture manufacturer’s supplies back to FSC-certified sources themselves.

For an example of companies that are fully compliant with FSC certification, a group of charities – the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation, the David and Lucile Packard Foundation, and the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation – have redone their office with green building principles in mind, using FSC-certified wood for their offices’ construction and interior design.

Remanufactured Desks for Office Use. Supply managers turn to remanufactured office furniture as a source of desks for office workers – furniture that has already made its impact on the environment in the distant past.

Remanufactured furniture has been intensively recycled from used stock: a process involving disassembly to component parts, cleaning, repair, refinishing, and replacement of parts are performed to bring used furniture back to “better than new” condition.

Many remanufacturers use low-VOC paints and finishes to lower their impact on the environment, with the same result: furniture whose quality is within a whisker of brand-new.

Are your office facilities – from the desks for office workers to executive chairs – compliant with the best environment-friendly practices? Look at your office furniture now, using the standards listed above – and get ready to make a green change for the better.

The History of Office Desks, Past and Present.

Office desks have undergone plenty of changes over time, their evolution reflecting the growing status of white-collar workers and their ever-evolving tasks and tools.

“Office Desks” in the Medieval Era

In the beginning, desks were the sole province of scribes, writers and record-keepers in the days before the printing press. Scribes were essential worker ants in government, who copied texts and updated records for authorities. A medieval image of St. Jerome paints a picture of the scribe’s “office desk” in the old days –

The chair and writing desk might be overly architectural, but the desk is on a slope. He holds his quill pen in the right hand and his special knife in the left. Arranged along the top of his writing desk are his ink horn and an assortment of other tools, which could be scrapers, buffers or spare pens. He appears to be writing on unbound sheets.

Scribes were the forerunners of our present-day accountants, typists, and civil service officials. Most of the desks in those days were plain and rough-hewn, but higher-status officials had more ornately-carved desks created by master woodworkers.

Class Distinctions Between Desks

These desks evolved into the “bureau”, which was the name that was attached to writing furniture from 1700 onward.  Bureaux were sloping desks with space for drawers below – their association with civil servants and scribes made a different design necessary for the nobility and upper class who were increasingly doing figures and writing letters on their own.

For the nobility, their need for a more refined desk was answered by the secretary desk – a tall item of furniture with a hutch whose cover could be lowered into a writing desk when needed. The hutch stored books, inkpots, stationery, and other essential items.

Evolving professions needed their own desks, too. Architects called for larger, angled surfaces for their work, a need which generated the modern drafting table. Office desks also became more ornate, with pigeonholes and drawers for essential items like inkpots and blotting sand.

Office Desks Enter the Modern Age

The design of office desks began to move into its modern era by the 1800s. The pedestal desk, which was introduced in the 18th century but gained currency in the 19th, became de rigueur in the burgeoning British empire, and passed onto the U.S. as well.

These were the preferred office desks of worker drones and Presidents alike. The most famous example is the Resolute desk, which was carved from the timbers of the HMS Resolute and gifted by Queen Victoria to President Rutherford Hayes in 1880.

These desks were initially hand-crafted and hand-tooled by master craftsmen, but new production techniques by the early 20th Century allowed desks to be mass-produced for the first time, as demand for office desks climbed after the Industrial Age.

New technology also forced designers of office desks to innovate: typewriters, telephones, and the late advent of computers and the Internet have guided the design of office desks. The introduction of the office cubicle has changed office desks like nothing before, as desks have become solidly integrated into the office cubicle design.

Whither office desks? Unless a new technology or new profession comes over the horizon, it’s difficult to say – but it’s safe to assume that office desks will be with us for a long, long time yet.

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