Archive for January, 2011
The receptionist is the face and voice of the company. He or she is the first person guests (and clients!) see when they walk into the office, and the last person they see when they leave. No surprise, then, that companies tend to choose their receptionists for their social skills and presentation, as well as their work ethic.
But what about the reception furniture? Do companies spend as much time planning the equipment behind the receptionist as they do hiring for the job? If it’s a smart company we’re talking about, they do. Picking reception furniture is one of the most important aspects of office design. Here’s what you need to figure out before you buy.
1. What’s your style?
When figuring out which kind of reception furniture is right for you, you want to determine what sort of vibe your company intends to put out to clients. Are you a classic firm with solid, old school values? Maybe subdued wood is the material for you. Are you a cutting-edge design firm, up on all the current trends and forging the style of tomorrow? Something sleek and contemporary is probably more your speed.
Whichever style you choose, you’ll want to make sure that the reception furniture you select is functional as well as attractive. And in order to do that, you need to ask yourself our next question.
2. What does your receptionist do every day?
Let’s face it, the days of the single-function receptionist are largely behind us. Most companies can’t afford to hire a cheery and ornamental person whose sole function is to greet guests.
In addition to being the first person visitors see when they enter your office, your receptionist might be the chief admin for the company. Or he might be the office party planner, in charge of organizing refreshments for guests and workers alike. Whatever your receptionist’s job description, you’ll want to make sure they’re able to access the tools they need.
What does this mean? Smart planning. If your receptionist needs to access files, make sure she’s near the filing cabinet. If he needs to prepare refreshments, make sure he can get to the kitchen.
Whatever your receptionist’s other duties, make sure he or she can get out from behind the desk with relative ease. Nothing says awkward like guests waiting five minutes for the receptionist to climb down off their perch.
3. What’s your budget?
Last, but definitely not least, you need to ask yourself how much money you want to spend. Anyone who’s ever participated in an office redesign knows how quickly costs can mount up. Reception should set a tone for the rest of the company, but obviously you don’t want your budget for reception furniture to be bigger than that of the CEO’s office. (He gets so cranky when the receptionist has nicer things.)
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No, we’re not talking about research on which fabric for the conference room chairs best complements the CEO’s favorite tie or what what type of decorative fern can survive the longest without being watered.
We’re talking about your basic workstation. And when it comes to purchasing cubicles, size does matter.
Wall size, that is.
Here’s the low-down (or the high-up) on the three types of cube heights and what they say about your organization.
Low (42″-high walls)
Cubicles with low walls allow employees to see and talk to each other while seated. While this doesn’t afford much privacy, it does allow for a lot of collaboration and free flow of ideas. A company that goes the low-walled route likely fosters team work and creativity. The benefits include spontaneous brainstorming sessions and informal meetings about upcoming projects. Of course, not all employees sing Kumbaya to these wide open spaces. No walls means more noise – from Ken mindlessly humming “Desperado” to Shirley’s 3 o’clock Doritos break — complete with loud crunching and finger-licking. And while the low walls allow for more conversation, that conversation isn’t always work-related. On the one hand, this may allow employees some much-needed respite from long hours staring at spreadsheets; on the other, you might be subjected to endless debates about whether Steven Tyler and Jennifer Lopez were worthy replacements to Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul on “American Idol.”
Medium (53″-high walls)
Picking medium height cubicle walls is the Great Compromise of office layout. Employees have more privacy — and by extension will have an easier time blocking out the office din to focus on work. On the flipside, all they have to do is stand to share a victory high five for landing a big client, or chat with their neighbor about that upcoming presentation or how annoying Steven Tyler is when he sings along with the people auditioning for the show (I mean really, it’s not called “Aerosmith Idol”!) And (bonus!) medium-high walls have the added benefit of forcing employees to get up and stretch their legs periodically — which your ergonomically obsessed HR lady will love. Companies furnished with medium-height cubicles might come across as being more formal and productivity oriented, compared with their free-wheeling, low-walled brethren.
High-walled cubicles are the Rolls Royce of office privacy. Even standing, employees cannot peer into each other’s office space, which allows for quiet, focused work without outside distractions. This layout is ideal for counselors or others who might need to have sensitive conversations on a regular basis and for people who have difficulty focusing in noisier office environments. The drawback to high-walled cubicles is that they could make an employee feel isolated and out of touch with their co-workers, managers and the organization as a whole. And while an employee has the cocoon of silence necessary to finish an assignment, they also might try to sneak in a little extra Farmville between memos. The most formal of the three options, high-walled cubicles seem suited to a more serious or conservative company that values productivity and discretion more than collaboration.
Now that you’ve done the really important work of building an office space, you’re free to riffle through carpet samples and pick a company refrigerator large enough to hold months worth of frozen dinners and yogurt.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Chances are, if you’ve ever worked in an office or school, you’ve come across a motivational poster or two. Maybe it featured a serene-looking cabana located on some distant South Pacific island with the word “Destiny” under it — as if to suggest that your future didn’t hold another 20 years fixing paper jams and stuck in traffic during your morning commute.
Or, maybe it showed a kitten dangling from a tree under the words “hang in there” — like maybe if you waited just a few more desperate minutes, a firefighter would come rescue you from another endless budget meeting and whisk you off to the aforementioned cabana in the South Pacific.
Believe it or not, studies have found that these inspirational wall hangings, when hung in the right spot, can actually change a person’s behavior. Researchers from the University of Glasgow and the Greater Glasgow Health Board found that stair use doubled when a motivational poster was placed near an escalator and a flight of stairs.
Not everyone is sold on the usefulness of this inspirational art.
Meet the the motivational poster’s oft-talked about evil twin: The Demotivational Poster.
The Demotivational Poster can be found hanging in the cubicles and on the computer desktops of your more cynical co-workers.
Here are 10 posters that are sure to make you laugh while bringing you down.
1. For as many little kittens “hanging in there,” there are twice as many cats in much less optimistic situations. Case in point:
2. Nobody is safe from being the subject of a Demotivational Poster, including characters from one of the top films of all time:
3. Oftentimes, the demotivational poster serves as a reminder that while we always thought we’d be soaring to our success — in reality, we’re more often trudging:
4. And sometimes it’s better to trudge — because as this poster reminds us, taking risks can often result in disaster:
5. There are plenty of demotivational posters commemorating the over-confident skiiers of the world, including this one in defense of Darwin:
6. And this one, which serves as a reminder that not just anyone should be working in the warehouse:
7. Cleverness is key when it comes to creating the perfect poster — even if the subject isn’t the brightest crayon in the box:
8. Animals — especially sad-looking animals — are frequent subjects of your standard demotivator (10 points to the kid for ingenuity in choice of canvas — at least he’s not coloring on walls, right mom and dad?):
9. Remember your college graduation, when the person giving the commencement address told you the world was your oyster? Remember when you believed him?
10. But don’t worry, after 40 or so odd years of gulping down battery acid your company calls free coffee, you get to retire:
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Over one third of the American workforce is now obese and the numbers are rising steadily. The long work days, fast food habits, and lethargic lifestyles of many Americans are taking a toll on their waistlines and overall well being. Chronic conditions like diabetes, heart disease and high cholesterol are just some of the issues we have to show for our sedentary lives.
But all hope is not lost. Increasingly, many workers are waking up and realizing that their desk job need not be a death sentence to their health after all. So, what are they doing to get a mini-workout in while they toil away at their computer? Having a ball!
Meet the ball chair
The ball chair is the new and innovative way that many people are losing inches and pounds with little to no exercise. This simple-to-use chair is changing people’s lives simply by changing the way they sit.
Essentially just an exercise ball on wheels, the ball chair forces the user to balance while sitting upright and working on tasks. To keep from toppling over, the user engages their core muscles, which include the back, abdominals, hips and pelvic floor. Are you going to cut a six pack while typing at your computer all day? No, but you will definitely strengthen your core muscles and improve your posture in the process.
Testimonials from users include benefits like sitting straighter, standing taller, increased lung capacity (from not slouching), better core strength, overall core toning and more. If adjusted to the correct ergonomic height, the balls are both relatively comfortable and user-friendly.
Ball chairs range in price from $75 to over $100, and most come with a pump, an exercise guide and even a limited warranty. While it may be tempting to cut costs by using a regular exercise ball, most users recommend purchasing a chair on casters so the ball doesn’t roll away when you rise.
Naturally, a ball chair alone will not turn a user into a swimwear model overnight, but using one in conjunction with other healthy lifestyle changes is a great step in the right direction. Having strong core muscles makes for a strong body…and a strong employee.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
In today’s offices, people are working closer and closer together. Even if you are “lucky” enough to work in a cubicle (versus at an open desk), a coworker in the cubicle next to you can still easily annoy you. Like it or not, there are some people who think that the thin cubicle wall somehow magically blocks all the noise that they are making.
Since the loud music your cube neighbor jams may be just the distraction you do not need as you put the finishing touches on a big project, addressing the issue may be a necessary evil. And since standing up and screaming at them to turn down the music is not an option (ah, if only it was), there are a few techniques you can try to squash the noise without creating an awkward working environment.
Do a quick self-check – First of all, take a moment to assess all of the events at hand. Is the music really that loud, or are you stressed, irritable or having a bad day? Make sure a volume adjustment is really warranted before addressing your coworker.
Hint around – In casual conversation with the offending coworker, subtly mention that the project you’re working on takes utmost concentration and that even though you’d love to be rocking out in your own cube, you simply can’t focus with music blaring. In the next breath, mention how dastardly the thin cubicle walls are and how you can hear Bob from Sales talking to his wife on the phone even though he’s three cubes away.
Grab the ‘phones – Get a set of cheap headphones, put them in your desk drawer and the next time your coworkers starts blaring music, you’re armed.
Have “The Talk” – If none of the other options work and you’re feeling adventurous, you can initiate a delicate conversation with your coworker about how their penchant for loud tunes is a bit distracting. Let them know that you respect their decision to listen to music and that you are not asking them to turn it off altogether, you’re just hoping for a compromise. Then, pull the aforementioned headphones out of your desk drawer and tell them that when you listen to music you usually use the headphones and that if they would like, they are more than welcome to borrow yours (just don’t forget to swipe them down with an antibacterial wipe afterwards!).
While pointing out any fault of a coworker could easily elicit a firestorm of office politics, another person’s habits should not interfere with the productivity of others. When it does, be it loud music, gum snapping, cell phones ringing, etc., it’s time to address the problem. Remaining objective, empathetic and even-keeled are the keys to compromise – and success!Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Laughter is a great way to not only bond with coworkers but also lighten the mood in even the most serious of working environments. After all, being bored while at work can make a good day turn bad, on the quick. Thankfully, there are a plethora of great geek toys available at very affordable prices to turn even the dullest day into a fun and exciting time. Our favorites:
Mario R/C Car
With this fun Mario R/C car set, you can relieve a little stress by challenging your coworkers to a quick race. The itty bitty Mario and Luigi cars fit easily into your desk drawer when the boss walks by and can be purchased for only $25.99 from ThinkGeek.com.
Fingers cramping up from all that typing? Set them free on a mini drum set and turn your cube into a stage. At first glance, this mini drum set looks like an innocent homage to your rocker ways, but flip a switch and they spring to life, allowing you to play until your coworkers can’t stand your riffs another minute. You can also record your best set and play it back to your heart’s content. Rock on! $24.99 from ThinkGeek.com.
Dr. Fart Keychain
You know that cubicle neighbor who insists on blaring his music loudly? Time to give him a taste of his own medicine by floating fake air biscuits all day long. Controlled by a handy remote keychain, melodious sounds of flatulence are but a button-press away. Ideal for revenge pranks, long and boring presentations and the ever-fun new employee welcome, this keychain will be the hit of the office. $4.99 at ZUG.com.
With a myriad of hilarious options, disappearing ink provides loads of laughs on any given day. Invite a coworker into your cube and “accidentally” ruin his shirt with ink. He’ll have steam coming out of his ears, you’ll be rolling on the floor with laughter and within minutes the ink will disappear and you’ll be reveling in the delights of pranking. Your coworker, not so much. Only $1.99 from ZUG.com.
Is your office so boring that it would take a jolt of electricity to liven the place up? The answer is here! Just leave this innocent looking stapler in any communal space (or if you prefer to target a particular coworker, that’s cool too), and watch the sparks fly. With a push of this stapler, a zap will shoot through your coworker’s hand and you and any witnesses will get a good hardy laugh. Just remember Prank Karma and keep your eyes peeled for any suspicious looking office supplies going forward! $7.99 from ZUG.com.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
There are some people who feel that working at a desk all day should leave the body feeling relaxed and stress free. Anyone who works at a desk on a daily basis knows this could not be further from the truth. All that sitting results in tight and stressed necks, shoulders and backs, since working at a desk requires of the muscles in the upper half of your body to remain in use.
Looking for a little relief? Yoga is a great option for stretching the muscles and helps to relieve the strain and stiffness. Here, 5 poses that are so easy you can do them in your cubicle:
Doing spinal twists help the body hydrate the discs in your spine, gives the discs more cushion between them, and makes the back and spine more aligned and comfortable.
To perform the Bharadvaja’s Twist, start by sitting in your chair as normal, making sure your feet are flat on the floor. Slightly rotate your body, bringing your left hand to the outside of your right knee. Continue to twist until you can glance over your right shoulder. Take deep breaths while in this position and make sure to remain still for a few seconds. Slowly rotate back to start and repeat on the other side of your body.
Seated Cat and Cow
The Cat and Cow pose will stretch out your spine and the abdominal and back muscles. Traditionally, the Cat and Cow are performed on the hands and knees but can easily be performed while sitting in a chair. To start, sit upright in your chair with your back straight. Round your back and place your hands in front of you on your desk, keeping them shoulder distance apart. Inhale and exhale in a slow and orderly fashion. Return to upright, then arch your back. Place your hands behind you on the seat of the chair and look straight up toward the ceiling. Be sure to inhale and exhale again.
Standing Forward Bend
Stretch your whole body with the Standing Forward Bend, which starts by standing up straight with your feet hip-distance apart. Exhale and then bend at the waist, stretching your hands toward your feet. Breathe throughout the exercise and hold the position for only a few seconds to avoid dizziness.
Begin the Half Eagle exercise by sitting upright in your chair. Bring your arms parallel in front of you over the top of your desk. Cross your left arm over your right arm, bend the elbows and point your fingers toward the ceiling (the backs of your hands should be facing toward one another). Hold the position for a few minutes to allow for a deep stretch in your shoulders and neck. Switch sides and repeat.
To do the side stretch, stand up straight with your feet together. Raise your hands above your head shoulder-distance apart. Bend directly to your side, making sure not to lean forward. Hold for a few seconds, then switch to the other side. This pose helps stretch the abdominal and shoulder muscles.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
It has become common knowledge in the working world that the healthier and happier a company’s employees are, the better it is for the company. Since many illnesses can be directly or indirectly attributed to a person’s overall fitness, the more overweight and out of shape an employee is, the more likely it is that they’ll miss work for being sick. And because we know that the immune systems of obese people are not as strong as those who eat well and exercise regularly, many companies are pulling out all the stops to get their employees fit and healthy. Weight loss incentives, gym discounts, and even visits from dieticians are become commonplace.
But perhaps the most innovative wight loss incentive of all? Treadmill desks.
What’s a treadmill desk?
A treadmill desk combines a workstation with a treadmill that is set to a constant speed of approximately one mile per hour (the same pace at which you would walk across a room or down a hall). The desk itself is stationed at a height that is perfect for the user, enabling them to continuously walk while they are working. Users are able to do all of the tasks that they did at traditional desks including using the computer, taking notes, and making phone calls. And with the easy 1-mile per hour pace, balance and dexterity are not jeopardized.
Do they work?
Treadmill desks do work! In fact, the desks’ creator, Dr. James Levine of the esteemed Mayo Clinic, found that his study subjects burned approximately 100 extra calories per hour more than those who sat at a traditional desk. Given this, Dr. Levine believes that after 8 hours a day at a treadmill desk, a weight loss of 57 pounds could be achieved in a year!
Testimonials all over the Internet confirm that this walk-while-you-work revolution is a home run. Lost pounds, increased energy, greater focus and renewed enthusiasm for their jobs have all been reported by treadmill desk users. Even the crew at Good Morning America found the desks to be amusing and easy to work with, as seen in this video:
The bottom line
If yours is a progressive company that has a marked interest in employee health, schedule a chat with HR to discuss investing in these desks. Even if your company’s budget is tight, consider purchasing a few of these as incentives (top salesperson, CSR with highest customer satisfaction rate, etc). Once the idea catches on, you may find employee productivity and morale trending up – a win-win for all.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+