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’s desk page where you can look at Zira and many other modern executive desk options.

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.

Cubicle Decorating Building Blocks.

Going cubicle decorating? Good start. By flashing up the ol’ workspace, you’ll make your cubicle your own, create some conversation starters for colleagues, and improve overall office morale and productivity.

Cubicle decorating begins with some pretty simple building blocks. These items are easy to find and easy to personalize: Start with these items and you can put that personal stamp on your cubicle in no time!

Plants, real plants. While plastic plants are easy to place and easy to take care of, real plants have significant advantage over their artificial analogues. Real plants exude oxygen, which is good news for your productivity (your brain needs more of the stuff, and offices are notoriously low in this life-giving gas).

Plants are also guaranteed mood boosters, and the right ones add an invigorating dash of color to a drab workplace. Just don’t get a plant that exudes pollen or a too-strong smell.

Just remember this when using plants for cubicle decorating: choose plants that won’t grow too much. You want a plant that will help you interact with your colleagues – impossible when it blocks the hallway or your view of the rest of the office.

Family pictures. Adding a framed image of your loved ones tells your workmates that you have a life outside your office. Having images of family creates a positive impression of yourself in the workplace, too.

Postcards. A real, written-in postcard from a family member abroad is cubicle decorating gold – a personal touch that shows your sense of adventure and (depending on where it’s from) a sense of belonging to a larger world.

Candy bowl. A dish of treats is more than just a cubicle decorating whim – it’s a great conversation starter and a cool way to make new friends, especially when you’re new and you need an excuse to socialize with your new cubicle neighbors.

Calendar. A personalized calendar that shows off your personality or interests can “brand” your cubicle as yours like nothing else can. Hey, you might also get to meet other colleagues who share your interests!

How to Choose the Best Ergonomic Keyboard for Your Office.

The best ergonomic keyboard for you will ease your carpal tunnel… but won’t look like your regular keyboard.

The flat, clumped-together keyboards that come standard with most PCs don’t offer any sort of ergonomic relief whatsoever – you’ll have to turn to those odd, split and tented keyboards if the carpal tunnel is starting to get in the way of work.

Doing the Split

The split keyboard design, when it hit offices in the 1990s, looked odd to traditionalists – a gap was introduced down the center of the key array, and both key sets arranged around the gap in a V.

While this takes up more space and attracts odd looks from officemates, the arrangement is actually more natural – arms aren’t placed in an awkward position while typing, and wrists are less stressed in the process.

If you’re choosing an ergonomic keyboard, choose one whose “V” angle feels most natural to you. Or if you can’t decide, spend the extra dosh and choose an adjustable ergonomic keyboard to get the flexibility you need from your input device.

If the price bothers you, tell yourself that an expensive keyboard now saves you the expense of surgery to heal stress injuries further down the road.

Test It Before You Buy It

Finding the best ergonomic keyboard for your office takes time, and continuous testing.

Throughout the testing process, make sure the environment is as close as possible to the one in your own workplace. Use the keyboard at a chair and desk with similar angles and height to your own. Use the keyboard with wrists straight and in line with your arms, elbows close to your body, and relaxed shoulders.

Ask yourself the following questions when you test your new keyboard:

Can I adjust the keyboard easily? An easily-adjustable keyboard helps users find their optimum settings in the smallest possible time. Inferior keyboards are harder to adjust, and as a result will not provide the optimum settings needed for the user’s ergonomic comfort.

Does the keyboard “tent” to an angle I prefer? You don’t have to set the tenting angle to the highest possible setting – just to one that your wrists can live with. The ideal tenting range seems to fit within ten to twenty degrees for a majority of users.

Does it come with palm supports? The best ergonomic keyboard models come with padded and removable palm support add-ons.

Can I live with the key rearrangements? Some ergonomic keyboards move some keys around to optimize ergonomic comfort. Users have to be aware of these switches beforehand, or else they risk reducing productivity while they’re getting used to their new keyboard.

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.

Green a Go Go: Secrets to Buying Green Office Furniture.

You know the green office furniture trend has hit its stride when even Chinese manufacturers are getting in on the act. For example, the Aurora Group (headquartered in Guangzhou) has conceptualized an “eco office” concept that it’s promoting in major Chinese cities.

The showcase for the “eco office” idea is Aurora’s X-series chairs, which are made of cloth dyed with EU-certified environment-friendly pigment, and are 80% recyclable.

Which only goes to show that green office furniture is getting much easier to procure. Part of it is due to increased demand: more government agencies are asking for it, more corporations are figuring green office furniture to be a useful PR angle.

So manufacturers have stepped in to fill the need: more furniture on the market is crafted from recycled material, constructed from sustainably harvested resources, and use eco-friendly materials.

Consider remanufactured office furniture, which today comes in practically the same quality as brand new. When old furniture undergoes the remanufacturing process, its metal surfaces are cleaned and repainted (often with low-VOC coatings that limit toxic emissions into the atmosphere), its fabrics are replaced and recycled, and even packaged with recycled material.

Also, recycled materials are making a strong showing in new furniture as well. Recycled fabrics, recycled steel, even recycled soda bottles – these are all weapons in the furniture manufacturer’s struggle to lower costs and gain a higher green profile.

Finally, there’s sourcing renewable materials, which companies like Herman Miller and the Knoll Group do their best to lead in. The former announced that they were using cherry and walnut wood for their high-end furniture, instead of harder-to-replace woods like mahogany and rosewood. The latter is checking up on its suppliers’ sustainable practices and sourcing reclaimed lumber for its product line.

With more customers prioritizing eco-friendliness over lower cost, the furniture industry is responding to a demand for green office furniture that doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. (We’re surely no slouches in this department – our remanufactured office equipment category is one of’s top sellers.)

5 Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel You Shouldn’t Ignore.

5 Symptoms of Carpal Tunnel You Shouldn't Ignore
Image © Petr Kurecka.

Office work is hard on the eyes, brain… and especially the hands, as symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome emerge after years of abuse. Carpal tunnel syndrome should never be ignored, nor should treatment be postponed. As soon as these symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome emerge, you should see your doctor immediately.

Numbness in fingers and hand. You find that your hand “falls asleep” often when working. Or you have less sensation in the fingers and thumb. If this is how you feel after a few hours of work, congratulations – you now have the very first symptoms of carpal tunnel right in your hands.

Carpal tunnel syndrome begins very slowly – sufferers report feeling tingling or numbness in the fingers and palm. This usually happens when the sufferer grips something between thumb and forefinger – holding a cellphone, for example, or steering a car.

Decreased Grip Strength. Whoops! becomes a constant refrain in your life, as you begin to drop pens, coffee mugs, and utensils. As pain makes work impossible, your hand muscles may atrophy, decreasing your ability to hang on to small objects.

You’ll find it difficult to grasp small objects, clench your fists, or perform manual tasks around the office. You’ll have difficulty supporting yourself on stairs or climbing into a truck.

Pain Radiating up the Forearm. Carpal tunnel sufferers report feeling a shooting or burning pain moving up from the center of their forearm to their shoulder and neck. This occurs after repetitive or stressful use of one’s hands. Sometimes the pain is constant – an ache felt around the upper shoulder and neck.

Cold Hands with warm forearms. As the nerve in your carpal tunnel gets pinched, blood circulation around the area gets constricted as well, contributing to the odd sensation of having two different temperature gradients on the forearm and hand.

Loss of fine motor skills. This progresses from the swollen and numb feeling in your fingers and hand, as motor skills begin to give way to the numbness. Everyday fine motor skills like writing, moving a mouse around, buttoning a shirt, or tying a shoe become almost impossible to do.

If any of these symptoms of carpal tunnel syndrome appear, you must consult your doctor immediately. Carpal tunnel syndrome, if left untreated, interferes with work, interrupts sleep, and leads to more severe nerve and muscle damage.

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 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’s green office furniture page for more information about remanufactured office furniture.)

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