Archive for May, 2011
If the armrest on your desk chair (circa 1987) wobbles, or the conference tables are scratched and stained with 30 years worth of coffee, you might not want to read the rest of this post, because it will probably send you into a fit of rage rivaled only by the Incredible Hulk or an overtired 2-year-old who’s just been told it’s time for a nap.
The offices of the Australian parliament are receiving a makeover. And they’re not just getting a few new ferns or some reupholstered conference room chairs.
They’re spending $11 million on brand-new furniture.
Every piece of furniture in the parliament’s 226 offices will be replaced – regardless of its condition, according to an article from the Daily Telegraph.
That’s $48,672.56 for per office (or an estimated $3,700 per person*) to replace chairs, desks, shelves and other office equipment.
Commence fit of rage.
To put this in perspective, building parliament itself cost the Australian people $1.1 billion.
Parliamentary managers defended the purchase, saying it was important to maintain “a common and consistent” theme in the building. They’re also concerned that they’re running out of parts to replace broken tables and chairs – some of which date back to the building’s opening in 1988.
Elected lawmakers, who already have higher-end furniture than the people who work for them, will not be included in the upgrade.
It seems to us that if parliament were concerned about taxpayers, they might have found a more thrifty solution for their furniture woes.
Had they been shopping around at a place like Arnolds, which stocks plenty of high-quality used furniture, they would’ve found some great bargains.
For fun, we thought we’d round up a few things you could buy with $11 million:
- Rihanna’s 10,000-square-foot L.A. mansion (featuring a sauna, pool and private cinema).
- Compensation for the average S&P chief executive officer, which includes salary, bonuses and stocks.
- Eleven 50-foot yachts
- A year’s worth of food for more than 120,000 children.
- 48 new Ferrari 458 Italias
- 1.5 percent of Stadium Australia, a stadium used for rugby and football (that’s soccer for us Americans) in Sydney, Australia
- One quarter of the $40 million screen Jerry Jones installed in the new cowboy’s stadium (the stadium itself cost as much as Parliament to build).
- 440 giraffes
- 20,109 iPad 2s
- 4,400 new copy machines
- 916,666 World’s Best Boss mugs
- A four-year private student loan for 157 people
* According to the Parliamentary Education Office, more than 3,000 people work in Parliament when it is in session).
Parliament photo courtesy of LeftFocus.blogspot.com. Rhianna’s mansion photo courtesy of 604now.com. Ferrari photo courtesy of ParisWorkingForArt.wordpress.com. Giraffe photo courtesy of the Berlin Zoo. “The Office” photo courtesy of NBC.com.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
In the movie “The Devil Wears Prada,” Meryl Streep plays a knock-off Anna Wintour (the icy editor of Vogue for the fashion unconscious among you) who manages Runway magazine from a pristine, spacious and, most importantly, window-filled office.
As it turns out, art imitates life.
In the real offices of Vogue‘s parent company, Conde Nast, many senior editors and publishers have offices complete with their own bathrooms and showers, and even lower-level editors have walls and a door. In fact, the only people who work in the trenches are assistants and junior staffers, according to a post on Gothamist.com.
But not for long. According to the article, when Conde Nast moves into One World Trade Center in 2014, more employees will be working in – gasp – cubicles.
For Conde Nast employees, the word itself is sends shivers up their spines.
“I think it will be horribly received in many parts of the building,” one source told the New York Post.
But before the status-oriented denizens of Conde Nast get their designer undies in a twist, they should learn about the pros and cons of life in a cubicle.
(Cafeterias at Conde Nast)
More collaboration: Creativity thrives in places where ideas can be shared openly. Working in a more open office will allow the writers and editors to come up with unique story ideas and creative design without holding formal meetings.
More sun: If there are fewer offices, there’s a greater chance that natural light makes its way to the peons working in the pit. Research has shown that exposure to natural light helps people be more creative. Who doesn’t love a little sunshine?
More learning: When employees are exposed to other people’s jobs, they get a better understanding of the different roles people play in the office. This can make them more valuable, and might even lead them down new career paths.
Better relationships: It’s easy to lock yourself in an office and communicate only via e-mail or phone, but when you’re out in cubicle land, you’re forced to get to know your neighbors. Fostering good relationships in the office can lead to fewer turnovers and better morale.
Less privacy: One Conde Nast employee told the New York Post that while an open office might suit the needs of a regular newsroom, the type of writing they do is more about style and requires quiet. In an open office, employees will have to get used to listening to and seeing their co-workers all day long. Which means they’ll have to kiss their peace and quiet goodbye.
Less criticism: When everyone is out in the open, it might be harder for people to offer honest feedback on ideas. Being able to meet with a supervisor in a closed-door office offers a chance for employees to air out their feelings in a secure and safe setting.
More germs: During cold and flu season, offices can offer a little more protection from all that sneezing and coughing. In an open office airborne viruses can flourish.
Less productivity: While open office spaces might foster better communication and relationships, it also might lead to more idle chatter and distractions. Offices with doors allow people to shut out the din and focus on their work.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Let’s face it, cubicles leave a lot to be desired when it comes to style. Sure, they’re a great workspace solution for an office, but they’re not going to win any design awards.
Which is a shame, because most office workers spend at least eight hours of a day staring at those boring gray walls and faux wood desks.
Be a pioneer in your office by turning your cube from drab to fab with a few easy tips.
Kelley Moore, the author of “Cube Chic” offered plenty of suggestions in a recent Orlando Sentinel article, including:
1. Choose a theme
Your cubicle will look more refined if you approach decorating it with a central idea. Flip through decorating magazines or catalogs with furniture you like and see which styles catch you eye, then translate those concepts into your cubicle. Here are a few theme ideas:
- Black and white
2. Cover the walls
Obviously, you can’t bring in a gallon of paint and a roller to cover up the ho-hum cubicle walls, so you’re going to have to rely on a little creativity. Moore suggests using anything from wallpaper to fabric to craft paper to cover up the walls and hanging it with double-sided or velcro tape.
3. Make it personal
Adding personal touches to your workspace can give people an idea of who you are outside the office. Leave a framed picture or two of family members or friends who make you smile or design a cool mouse pad with your favorite movie quote or sports team logo.
Look for pieces that will add interest and tie in with your theme, while also making your cube more homey. Toss a throw rug on the floor to cover up the ugly industrial carpet, add a desk lamp for less harsh lighting, bring in a small plant or some fresh flowers.
5. Keep it clean
Organizing your workspace will note only make you more efficient, but it will also help make your desk look more inviting. Ditch the standard-issue plastic trays and cup holders and look for wall hangers, baskets and other unique storage that coordinate with your overall theme.
6. Check with human resources
Before making any big changes to your workspace, check in with your HR rep to make sure whatever you have planned is allowed. There might be office regulations on things like extra lighting, plants or what you can hang up.
1. Add clutter
Be careful not to add too many knickknacks – your desk is first and foremost a workspace, so you don’t want a lot of extra items that could potentially distract you from your job.
2. Be inappropriate
Keep in mind that customers, managers and co-workers will all see your cubicle every day, so make sure whatever theme you choose is work appropriate – this isn’t the time to re-create your favorite dive bar or design a shrine to Megan Fox complete with her latest Maxim photo shoot and candles.
3. Go overboard
If your dream cubicle renovations would require the use of power tools, you might need to scale it back. Creating a replica of the porch you watched sunsets from during your vacation to Bermuda might look take your cube to the next level, but your co-workers might not be too happy about it blocking the aisle not to mention having to listen to the squeak of the swing you installed.
Sometimes, it’s impossible to remember what we did before the internet existed. For example, how did we decorate our homes and offices? Sure, there were magazines, but the design inspiration they offered tended toward the highbrow. Now, thanks to the magic of the interwebs, we can all be DIY designers.
Here are 10 can’t-miss blogs for anyone who wants to redo a space.
No list of design blogs would be complete without a mention of Apartment Therapy. The House Tours alone are worth the price of admission. (Which is, admittedly, free, but work with us here.) There is no other place we’d rather go to figure out what our house will look like when we’re rich. It also has some pretty great tips on making your present cruddy apartment worthy of your future self.
2. IKEA Hackers
Fans of IKEA furniture will enjoy this awesome DIY blog, which takes your favorite Swedish pre-fab furniture and re-assembles it in ways the IKEA dude wouldn’t recognize. The author, who took her pseudonym Jules from a chair in the catalogue, has been running the site since 2006. If we were redecorating an office, we would totally use this site as a model.
Maybe our favorite recent post on this design blog is Make an Office Space Without an Extra Room. The site is run by a furniture supply store (Nikkoshops) but offers a wide variety of design inspirations.
Design Sponge is an interior- and product-design blog started in 2004 by Brooklyn-based writer Grace Bonney. Four years later, The New York Times deemed it “Martha Stewart Living for the Millennials.” We particularly like the before and after furniture makeovers.
5. The Nest
Brought to you by the folks at the Knot, the Nest focuses on newly married (or at least co-habitating) readers. It encompasses food, money, and relationship advice, as well as home decor ideas.
Our favorite feature on the Decorating Diva is the how-to section. Check out their 10 Home Office Design Tips. Founder and editor Carmen Natschke started her career as a software engineer, and then went on to run design workshops, as well as serving as a home decor expert.
One of the prettiest design blogs on our list, decor8 is the brainchild of interior design consultant Holly Becker, who founded it in 2006 “long before design blogs were a popular source of information on the web.” We loved her tips and shopping advice, but were most intrigued by her blogging e-course, in which she teaches other would-be blog mavens to follow in her footsteps.
This blog lives up to its tagline – “Design Inspiration From Coast to Coast” – but even if it didn’t, we’d love it for its name. Also, the logo appears to be Marie Antoinette preparing to reupholster a sofa. As you might imagine, this blog has a focus on fabric.
9. Design Milk
Design Milk is run by Jaime Derringer, who aptly describes it as “online magazine dedicated to modern design.” The look and feel is indeed delightfully magazine-y, and there’s something for every lover of modern art and architecture here. Even if we can’t figure out how to work these awesome paper-y chairs into our office design.
Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Architects continually reshape our city skylines with towering glass-and-concrete structures. They re-imagine everything from the shape of the building to ways it can be more environmentally friendly.
But while architects have been inspired to modernize the exterior of office buildings over the years, the interiors have remained largely unchanged: cubicles surrounded by executive offices and conference rooms.
Unless you’re an executive or spend a lot of time in a conference room, chances are you won’t have much access to a window. Your days will be spent laboring under harsh fluorescent lighting while listening to the drone of the air conditioner.
Some architects are working to change that image, though.
Safdie is best known for Habitat 67, which brought a revolutionary vision for modern housing to the 1967 International and Universal Exposition in Montreal. While today’s apartment buildings don’t resemble the 354 stacked concrete cubes Safdie created, many of the principles he incorporated in the building: multi-view windows and gardens are still considered an ideal in cities.
According to Caldwell, when the famed architect was charged with designing the home for the U.S. Institute of Peace, his inspiration was (surprise, surprise) peace itself.
In fact, the whole five-story building was designed to be a symbol of peace, with an abstract white dove flying over the building. Two tall glass atriums, or great halls, further illustrate the theme of peace, said Richard Solomon, president of the institute.
“The design of the new building embodies the open, transparent and inclusionary nature of peacebuilding,” Solomon said in a press release. “It expresses the aspiration of creating a more peaceful world, and our work is designed to fulfill that goal.”
While Safdie acknowledges that most office buildings are glittering on the outside and gloomy on the inside, he only somewhat veered from the traditional design of the interior space.
He envisioned natural light and open spaces for everyone in the office — from CEOs to secretaries. Caldwell writes that the office is pleasant (she can see windows), but that the basic design is largely the same as many other modern offices: Cubicles surrounded by offices.
It looks like even a visionary and accomplished architect has been unable to truly challenge the conventions of a modern office.
According to a Wall Street Journal article, psychology is starting to play a larger role in how offices are designed. And as researchers confirm that factors like windows, natural light and high ceilings have a positive affect on worker satisfaction and productivity, maybe more companies will take note making Safdie’s vision a reality.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
There’s a reason people hate Mondays.
After two days of freedom, romping in the great outdoors, enjoying the sights from the windows in your house and not having to wear a parka to survive the sub-zero temperatures you endure at your 9-to-5, you have to return to the Arctic cave known as your office.
We’re not sure which is worse: The high cubicle walls that isolate you from any human contact, the flickering fluorescent lights that provide about as much light as a jar full of fireflies, the constant drone of the air conditioner, or the frigid temperatures.
If you ask us, working in a traditional, old-school office can be downright depressing.
Turns out, we’re not alone.
According to a recent Wall Street Journal article by Johan Lehrer, several scientists have conducted studies recently about how workspaces affect mood, thoughts and health.
Researchers at Ohio State University divided a group of office workers into two segments: those in an old office building with low ceilings and loud ACs, and those in a newer building with skylights and an open floor-plan. By tracking things like emotional well-being, heart rate and stress levels, researchers found that the employees in the old building were more stressed, putting them at a greater risk of heart disease.
But there’s hope. If you’re stuck in an office that hasn’t joined the 21st century, share the following list of ways to redesign the office for the benefit of everyone’s health (make sure to note that most of these suggestions are backed by scientific research):
- Let the sunshine in. In a study from the European Society of Cardiology, workers expressed positive feelings when they were exposed to natural light. Consider lower cubicle walls to allow more access to sunlight from exterior windows.
- Create wide-open spaces. In the same study, workers felt that air quality was better in offices with open floor plans vs. those with high dividing walls.
- Turn down the volume. The study also found that workers in the old office were exposed to more low-frequency mechanical noise, which added to the stress. To remedy this, offices can invest in better noise-dampening acoustics and consider moving loud machines farther from workspaces.
- Go blue. A study by the Institute of Research and Construction found that the color blue improved creativity because it reminded people of open skies (and endless possibilities?) Even if your boss doesn’t rush to add skylights to your building, you can help boost your mood and imagination by adding blue accents to your workspace. Conversely, steer clear of red, which makes people think of danger.
- Plant a plant. Feng Shui design principles suggest that including plant life in your workspace can help boost creativity and also filter toxins out of the air. If you have a brown thumb, make sure to take a break periodically and go outside for a stroll to enjoy nature.First photo courtesy of Jnyemb on Flickr
Second photo courtesy of SixtiesBritain on Flickr
Show us a home or office without IKEA office furniture and we’ll show you a bunch of people who are allergic to Allen wrenches. Still, it must be admitted that IKEA furniture has some pretty funny names, especially to American ears. Here are a few of our favorite names, with what we think they should mean and the real translation in IKEA’s native Swedish.
Sadly, Liz Lemon’s “Blerg” furniture turned out to be made up, and we discovered that IKEA does not, as the old saw would have it, mean “particle board,” but with knowledge comes a certain amount of disillusionment.
Expedit Desk and Bookcase
What it sounds like: A more expensive type of shipping.
What it means: “Shop assistant.” No, seriously.
Now we’re picturing this desk following us around a store.
What it sounds like: Someone trying to say “best buds” while drunk on akvavit.
What it means: “Besta” means “remain” or “consist of.” Burs is a village in Gotland. So this is either an argument for staying in a village in Gotland, or consists of that village. Up to you, really.
This desk is billed as a workspace for two, which is less fun than a bicycle built for two, but does conjure up cozy images of happy Swedish workers toiling away. Perhaps in between awesomely long vacations or while waiting to use their free health care.
What it sounds like: Sausage.
What it means: “Plank.” And yet, it is not a plank. In fact, it is barely wood. It’s made of plywood and something called melamine foil, which sounds radioactive, but isn’t. (We think.)
The Brada laptop support can hold up to a 17-inch laptop, or, we imagine, a Denny’s Grand Slam, provided that you consolidate the plates. Also, it has polka dots.
What it sounds like: A bone disorder caused by insufficient calcium in childhood.
What it means: A town in north Norway. Which is pretty far north. We imagine even Santa is all, “No way!” at that point.
This is actually 100 percent wood. That can’t be right, can it? But it says wood in the description. Actually, it says “solid wood, a durable natural material.” Which implies that the average IKEA customer is not sufficiently familiar with wood to know that it’s a durable natural material. Which is probably true.
What it sounds like: Something Laverne and Shirley would say.
What it is: Small Valley, a village in Sweden.
Wait, wait, one more thing it almost sounds likes: a sandal for men. Introducing the Smandal! This name is basically one N short of a Seinfeld joke.
What it sounds like: A dessert made in Aspen involving Jello molds, gelatin, and skis.
What it is: Aspen Bay in central Sweden.
The good news about this filing cabinet is that it blends into the background. The bad news is that it does it so well, you might never find your files again.
What it sounds like: Gallant.
What it means: Gallant.
This probably isn’t fair, but something about this conference table looks like the top would slowly start sinking toward the ground while you were using it. Perhaps in the middle of a call. Either that, or it would come to life and start lurching around the office.
What it sounds like: An element much pursued by a Bond villain.
What it means: “Signal,” in Latin. No, we have no idea why IKEA randomly named a piece of furniture after a Latin word.
This is a cable organizer. But you could also probably use it as part of your robot costume next Halloween.
What it sounds like: A variation of derp.
What it means: According to the IKEA dictionary, “an apparently uninhabited place in south Sweden.”
This is our favorite description ever, because in addition to listing the materials, parts, etc., it also says that the Linnarp desk is “suitable for use as a room divider.” Why the Linnarp is better suited for this purpose than any other desk in the IKEA catalogue or, indeed, the world, they don’t say.
What it sounds like: “In Soviet Russia, swivel chair has you!”
What it means: No one on the interwebs seems to have any idea. It doesn’t appear to be a Swedish name, nor is it a commonly used word.
The Skruvsta chair would be your standard swivel chair, were it not for the Marimekko-on-more-acid style print (called “Ankarsik multicolor” on the site.) Which isn’t to say you’re stuck with that. If this chair strikes your fancy, you can also get it in “Idhult black” or “Idhult white.” Which we think is Swedish for “you’re an idhult if you get this in anything other than Ankarskik.”
All images courtesy of IKEA. Many thanks to the amazing IKEA Dictionary for the translations.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
If you’ve worked in an office long enough, you’re bound to have witnessed an office prank or two.
You’ve seen the cubicle plastered in Post-it Notes or filled with packing peanuts, the desk covered in aluminum foil, and the stapler floating in Jell-O. Yawn!
Here at Arnolds Office Furniture, we were tired of seeing the same old office pranks recycled over and over again, so we decided to do something about it.
In celebration of April Fool’s Day, we partnered with ZUG.com to challenge innovative office pranksters worldwide to create the next generation of office gags in “The Next Great Cubicle Prank Contest.” We were thrilled (and a little disturbed) with the results.
To spice things up, we awarded $500 in cash prizes to the most creative cubicle-pranking masterminds. The top three funniest pranks (voted by users) each received $100 and the grand-prize winner (selected by ZUG.com) received $200.
Thousands of users checked out the hilarious entries and many rose to the challenge and posted their own over-the-top pranks.
Congratulations to grand-prize winner Comet>Tail who struck while the iron was hot with his idea for The Waffle Cubicle, which he called The Waffletorium.
Before you ask, no, a Waffletorium is not IHOP’s newest competitor, it’s an ingenious gag that involves covering a cubicle or office entirely in waffles.
(Here’s the pre-waffled cubicle of Kate, one of our unsuspecting employees. Keep reading for the final result.)
The perfect prank for the breakfast-loving co-worker in your office, building the Ultimate Waffle Cave requires no more than some tape or tacks, a few kitchen-themed accessories and a whole lotta waffles.
“A large box of Bisquick costs about $3, and will make up to 100 waffles. Your job – make about 1,000 of them, and then cover the entire cubicle with them,” Comet>Tail suggested.
“To carry out the prank, first cover any cloth walls with plastic wrap to prevent oil stains, then use tape (double-sided or duct) or tack to hang up the waffles. For added effect, put a plate, knife, fork, napkin butter and syrup where your co-worker normally sits (Southerners can feel free to substitute chicken for syrup).”
We here at Arnolds loved the Waffletorium so much, we decided to try it out on one of our co-workers. Check out the video here.
(Yes, we even waffled the computer monitor. We figured it needed a byte to eat. Get it?)
Other notable pranks included the “Cubicle Trifecta” (appropriately the third place winner), which combines Post-its, foil and peanuts in one devilish act; second-place winner “Defensive Fighting Position,” which requires sandbags and camouflage netting; and the funniest “Poobicle,” which we’ll just leave up to your imagination.
Kudos to all of our devious participants. No office is safe with you out there.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
We’ve toured a lot of places in our time: historical monuments, tiny villages in faraway lands, and more parks than we can count. But until we read about Zappos’ corporate culture, we never heard of anyone touring cubicles.
But that’s just what 1200 visitors a month sign up to do, led by “culture guides” who bring both the idly curious and budding entrepreneurs through Zappos’ offices in Henderson, Nevada. Based outside of Las Vegas, Zappos sells shoes, accessories and apparel via its website. The company is organized around 10 Family Core Values, including, most awesomely, “Create fun and a little weirdness.”
These cubicles are ample evidence of both.
Zappos Blog Bus
Part Mystery Machine, part your-Dad’s-VW-bus, the Zappos Blog Bus is the coolest cubicle ever and home to the Zappos blog team. We would like to hitch a ride with them.
It’s a Jungle In There
Things we approve of: the plants that seem to be taking over this dude’s office, the general aura of creative clutter, the box of Wheaties with this guy’s face on it. Things we disapprove of: the Ugg. Although maybe cubicle trophy is the right use for the world’s ugliest shoe.
Oh, by the way, this guy? The man in the photo? Is Tony Hsieh, Zappos’ CEO. He has a cube, just like his employees.
Here’s what we love about this cube: It clearly started out as the standard gray burlap jobbie, and then someone erected a tent over it, stuffed a couch in the back, and put up a dart board. This is the kind of creative, fun coworker that every office needs.
Powered by Lunch
Zappos’ slogan is “Powered by Service.” Its employees are powered by free lunch and snacks.
Zappos, Where the Customer Is King
Best of all, if you visit, you can get a sweet picture of yourself dressed up as a king or queen and see it posted to the interwebs.
Want to see these awesome cubicles for yourself? Zappos offers four free tours a day, and a “Tour Plus” for $47. Want more? There’s also a two-day boot camp that offers “New age effective management techniques” for $3,997.
Or you could stay home, tool over to Amazon.com (Zappos’ parent company since 2009) and buy a copy of Zappos CEO Tony Hsieh’s bestseller “Delivering Happiness.” The back cover lists 10 reasons to buy the book. No. 1 is: “This book makes an excellent fire-starter.” With a sense of humor like that, it’s no wonder his off-beat company is a success.
Image sources: http://www.contentrulesbook.com/2010/10/zappos-is-full-of-content/, http://www.brysonmoore.com/3-reasons-for-zappos-coms-success/, http://beancounters.blogs.com/daydreams/2008/12/cubicle-decorations-zappo-style.html, http://www.people2peopleservice.com/2009/01/zappos-headquarters-experience.html, http://www.contentrulesbook.com/2010/10/zappos-is-full-of-content/Visit Susan Jennings on Google+