Archive for June, 2011

The 5 Most Germ-Filled Places in Your Office

Which is dirtier, your cubicle or the bathroom? It might surprise you to learn that your desk alone contains over 400 times more germs than the toilet seat. And while we’re not suggesting that you move your base of operations into the ladies and gents, we will say that applying a little cleaner and elbow grease to the old cube now and then could have a positive effect on your health.

Here are five spots to tackle first. We’ve rated them on a scale of 1 to 10, 10 being the germiest and 1 being pretty darn clean.

5. Fax Machine Buttons.
smiling fax
Fax machine buttons are pretty gross, germwise, but we think they’re probably better than they used to be. After all, when’s the last time you had to send a fax? Someday, someone will do a comparison of fax machine buttons in 1985 vs. fax machine buttons in 2011. Then we’ll really learn something.

How germy? 3 out of 10.

4. The Elevator Buttons.
If you’re like most of us, you probably hit the elevator button without thinking. That automatic gesture + plus a good early-morning eye rub = pink eye. If you must hit the elevator button, do so with your knuckle or elbow. Then, don’t touch anything with whatever you used to press the button. At least you won’t need to worry about anyone else touching you — you will quickly earn the reputation as the office germ weirdo once everyone sees you helplessly flailing at buttons with your elbow.

How germy? 6 out of 10.

3. Your Whole Darn Desktop.
Never mind the keyboard or mouse — one of the germiest places in your cubicle is the top of your desk itself. Also, fun fact: Women’s desks are three times germier. We’re number one! We’re number one!

How germy? 8 out of 10.

2. The Phone.
This is the one everyone knows about, but the phone is famously germy for a reason: studies have found as many as 25,127 germs per square inch on the receiver of office phones. Compare that to the toilet seat, which has only 49 germs per square inch.

How germy? 9 out of 10.

1. The Water Cooler.
water cooler germs
After reading this article, we are going to skip hydrating and just mainline Mountain Dew. Here is a quote, which will make you actually (and not at all figuratively) sick to your stomach: “Public health organization NSF International counted 2.7 million germs per square inch on some water spigots.” You guys, we are all gonna die.

How germy? 10 out of 10. Ugh! Just awful.

Images: 5., 4., 3., 2., 1.

I Hate My Cubicle!

Ah, cubicles — the work space we love to hate. Unlike offices, or even open work areas, cubicles are so reviled that they’ve actually spawned comic strips and movies dedicated to their awfulness. But what is it, exactly, that we find so terrible about cubes? Read on for our favorite complaints, and a few ways to address them.

1. They’re too loud.
Possibly the most annoying thing about cubicles is that they’re shaped like offices, but they are not offices — especially when it comes to noise. In some cubes we’ve worked in, we could hear every single thing that went on in the building, including the cafeteria staff banging on pots and the toilets flushing in the bathroom.

Solution: Noise-cancelling headphones. You could pretty much work directly under a jet engine while wearing these puppies and not even know it.

2. No privacy.
Speaking of things you can hear when you’re working in a cube: the helpless shrieks of co-workers who have been snuck up on by other co-workers rings loud and clear. We once had a co-worker who made a roof and a door for his cube. It lasted about a day before facilities made him take it down.

Solution: A better solution? Change your seating around so that you can see people before they’re reading your TPS reports right over your shoulder. Much less jarring (if not less annoying.)

3. No sunlight.
We’ve worked in offices where the cubicle walls were so high that the people who were right next to the window could not tell you if it was hailing outside.

Solution: Get a sunlamp. We have no idea whether these really help with SAD or Vitamin D absorption. However, they’re so annoying that your coworkers might vote for you to get the window seat, just to keep you from lighting up the office like a disco ball.

4. Lack of personality.
You remember that scene in The Matrix when Neo sees reality for the first time, and finds all the people in their little pods? Those pods had more individuality than many cubicles. Mass-produced anything does not for creativity make.

This is an easy one: examples of creative cubicle decorating abound on the internet. If nothing else, you can always go the ironic route and opt for cheesy posters.

5. No space.
Cubes are getting smaller. The average cubicle is now 75 square feet, which is just big enough to store one person, one computer, and a pile of broken dreams. We have banged one of our shins on our other shin in some cubicles.

Solution: Mirrors. Watch any decorating show for more than five minutes, and you’ll see someone put a mirror over a mantel or by a door to give a tiny room the illusion of depth. Also, you can use the mirror to practice your interested face for the afternoon meeting.

Images: 1., 2., 3., 4., 5.

When Sports Fans Go Too Far at the Office

If you work in Boston or Vancouver, you probably saw plenty of hockey-themed cubicle decorations recently. But even when the Stanley Cup isn’t at stake, lots of offices take sports-inspired decorating pretty seriously. Occasionally, too seriously. Here are some of our favorite over-the-top sports themed cubes.

1. The Guy Who Has an Excuse
Does this seem like too many bobbleheads for one office? What if we tell you the bobblehead collector is MLB Advanced Media CEO Bob Bowman? No, you’re right.

It’s still a lot of bobble.

2. Serious Fans Aren’t Afraid to Cry
Honesty compels us to admit that this picture of a Washington Redskins tissue box is not from an actual office. It is, however, a real product that you can purchase and put in your real office. We would be shocked by this, but we once knew a Red Sox fan who stocked his bathroom solely with Yankees toilet paper, so anything is possible.

3. If It’s on ESPN2, It’s a Sport, Right?
We’re not saying we would worry about someone with this cubicle, but … OK, look, we’d worry, all right? Also, we would not want to take a business trip to Vegas with this person. Either they would whup our butts at craps, or we’d wind up having to bail them out of hoosegow. One way or the other, we’re losing money.

4. Cheeseheads Make Other Fans Look Like Amateurs
You know you’re serious about your sports fandom when you eschew giant foam rubber hats shaped like a wedge of cheese, and then leave that faux piece of cheese on your cubicle wall for your coworkers to enjoy.

5. The Ultimate Bruins Office
Our favorite thing about this office is that it belongs to a Montreal Canadiens fan. The whole scheme was a prank perpetuated by Kelly Park on his CFO. Post-prank, Mr. Park and his coworkers voluntarily stayed after work to redecorate, and the boss took it pretty well. (Witness the smile as he holds up his Mr. Bill doll, now proudly wearing Bruins tee.)

Is It an Office Building or a Donut?

If you’re like most of us, your cubicle is located in an office building shaped like a shoebox, or, if your company is fancy, perhaps a collection of mirrors. If you work at Apple, however, you might soon be working in donut.

A donut? Yes, a donut. To be specific, a “massive glass donut,” large enough for 12,000 people. Located in Cupertino, Calif., the office would contain an on-site energy center, a cafe big enough to seat 3,000 people, and an interior courtyard. What it wouldn’t contain, according to Steve Jobs, is a single “straight piece of glass.”

If this sounds weird to you, consider a few other food-shaped office buildings already in existence:

1. An Office That Looks Like Bacon
Albion House in Liverpool, UK, doesn’t look like a strip of bacon, it’s true. But there’s no denying the bacon-y appearance of its striped facade. It’s also the oldest food-inspired building on our list, having been built in 1890 by the White Star Line.

2. An Office Building Shaped Like Beer, and Another Shaped Like Coffee
The architect who designed the Asahi Brewery headquarters in Tokyo will be in charge of creating our mansion when we become millionaires. Seriously, beer and coffee together? This is like the Fireworks, Candy and Puppy Dog Store of office buildings.

3. The Office Building Shaped Like a Picnic Basket
OK, this one isn’t technically a piece of food. But it is food-related, and reminds us of Yogi Bear, so it gets a spot in the list. No word on whether employees at the Longaberger Office Network in Newark, Ohio run around yelling, “Hey, Boo-Boo! Let’s go get some picanick baskets!” But we totally would if we were them.

4. The Museum Building Shaped Like an Easter Egg
The Pysanka Museum in the Ukraine houses a collection of 10,000 Ukrainian Easter Eggs. It’s also shaped like an Easter Egg, which was wonderfully bizarre enough to warrant its inclusion. (Hey, someone has to work at the museum, right?)

5. The Office Building Shaped Like a Pickle
The skyscraper at 30 St. Mary Axe in London was built during 2001-2003 on the site of the former Baltic Exchange. Its 40 floors house the Swiss Re Insurance company, and it’s famous for being London’s first environmentally sustainable office building … and for being shaped like a pickle. In fact, the building is often referred to by a pickle-inspired nickname, the Gherkin, which is slightly more family-friendly that its other nicknames: the Towering Innuendo or the Crystal Phallus.

Which brings us to our final point. If you still find the idea of buildings shaped like non-buildings sort of odd, look at it this way: At least Apple’s new office won’t be shaped like this.

Image sources: 1. Seattle Weekly, 2., 3., 4. 5.

Outdoor Offices? It Could Happen

workinginparkIf you’re like us, you do the bulk of your interweb reading at the office. Which means that you could be reading this from within your cramped cubicle, windowless office, or shared table in an open work space. We’re pretty much betting, though, that you’re indoors right now. But that might not always be the case.

Huffington Post blogger Tucker Reed recently wrote a post about the first wireless neighborhood in New York City, known as DUMBO. Reed’s take: Public Wi-Fi might just make traditional offices obsolete.

“DUMBO is home to nearly 100 digital and technology companies,” Reed points out. “Some are well established like HUGE and Etsy, others are small entrepreneurial start-ups or recent graduates of incubators. All of them employ a non-traditional workforce that abhors the constraints of 9-5 workdays, suits in the office place and being tied to a desk.”

It’s easy to imagine these digital pioneers giving up on the office entirely and taking their business outdoors, on a part-time basis, at least.

The main obstacles to converting the future workforce to outdoor living? Weather, accountability, and security.

A company in New York City, for example, might find themselves able to work outside for about six weeks in the spring and fall. During the winter, the employees would freeze. During the summer, well, let’s just say that New York is a fine and beautiful city, but its tendency to suffer from City Stink in the warmer months might give workers that not-so-fresh feeling.

Organizations in Southern California would fare better on a year-round basis, but all companies could probably adopt some temporary outdoor work space. The idea would be to take the roof decks and patios of today’s coolest companies — currently used as perks or occasional party venues — and make them into meeting rooms, offices, and so on.

Accountability is easier. These days, many employees work from home, or on the road. We’ve adapted to being on Instant Messenger or Skype for our boss’s convenience and reassurance. In addition, as an old manager of ours once pointed out, “It’s pretty easy to tell if someone isn’t doing what they need to do.” For project-based businesses, the end result might be all that matters.

In terms of security, companies will want to educate their workers on how to stay safe on public Wi-Fi by adjusting their settings. Lifehacker suggests turning off sharing, enabling your firewall, and using SSL whenever possible.

Will we work outside someday? For now, it might seem like a pipe dream. But if outdoor offices take off, you could find yourself working in a world where no one is ever “stuck at work” again.


When Casual Friday Goes a Little Too Far: 5 Totally Inappropriate Office Outfits

Can dressing down save energy? That’s what some executives in Japan are hoping. By setting office thermostats at 82 degrees and encouraging employees to eschew the standard suit-and-tie, Japan hopes to off-set some of the energy shortages in the wake of the tsunami.

The program is called “Super Cool Biz,” and so far, it seems to be working. Reports of formerly formal Japanese business people crowding onto trains in shorts and sandals abound. Cubicles resemble changing rooms at the beach. Time will tell if all of this dressing down saves cash, of course. But for those of us in the US, the real question is, should we follow suit(less)?

We’re all for saving energy, but the problem with moving this plan to workplaces in the US is that we’re already pretty casual. Thanks to Casual Fridays and the ubiquity of jeans, most offices are now only slightly more formal than the average high school. It’s easy for us to go too far.

For example, here are five outfits that we could expect to see, if Americans adopted Super Cool Biz.

1. Blair Waldorf’s Lament.
Tights, as our favorite Gossip Girl style guru would remind us, are not pants. And yet, given the love that leggings and jeggings and all associated -eggings have gotten from stylists and citizens alike during the past couple of years, you can expect to see plenty of tights as pants any time you relax a dress code. The solution, obviously, is to forbid any bottoms without either a zipper or pockets.

2. I See London, I See France…
…We see everyone’s underpants. We don’t want to turn into the hemline-obsessed principal of your Catholic girls’ high school, but we will bust out the ruler if necessary. If you can’t bend over without showing the world your unders, your dress isn’t long enough. For reference, please see the following helpful chart: Am I Wearing a Dress?

3. This Was Cool in High School, So It’s Cool Now.
Listen, as your friends, we have to tell you something: You are old. It’s cool: We’re old, too. But none of us look the way we did when you got that Nirvana t-shirt, so do us all a favor and just put it away. Or wear it on the weekends, when your friends can appreciate it and make fun of you. Also, yes, it’s probably now too small.

4. Shorts on the Indoor Kid.

There are some things that no one needs to see, and your wintery legs in summer apparel is probably one of them. It seems Victorian to say, but generally speaking, your coworkers will be happiest if they can’t see any of your limbs.

5. Everybody Out of the Pool.

Surely, you’re thinking, it’s not necessary to point out that swimwear is never appropriate for the office. And yet, we assure you that we have been in meetings where people were definitely wearing tube tops intended for the beach. Meetings, as in more than one. Proving once again that if you can think of it, someone will do it.

Images: 1), 2. The Daily Mail, 3., 4., 5.

Can Office Workers Survive Without Desks?


Canadian Treasury Board President Tony Clement is known as “Dr. No” around his Ottawa-based office, partly due to his government-mandated frugality. (Clement’s current goal is to cut $4 billion from the budget. That’s a lot of saying no.) One thing Dr. No has decided to nix: a desk.

In this case, Clement’s concern isn’t saving money: It’s his creativity, which he claims would be stifled if he used a desk. Instead, he uses a table, some chairs, and a couch. He feels this “sets a better tone” for his office, and is a more modern way of working. That may well be true, but we can think of a few functions of a desk that might be hard to replace with other furnishings in our cubicles.

1. Storing Your Work Stuff

This is the biggie: If you don’t have a desk, where do you keep all the stuff that generally goes on a desk? We’re talking about the computer, the phone, the printer, even the standing files and office supplies that a desk usually holds. Without this stuff within easy reach, how does a person even do their job?

2. Sitting up Straight

It’s easier to make your work environment ergonomically correct if you have a desk to sit at. Then you can add all the keyboard trays and wrist-rests that most modern workers seem to need in order to keep from shriveling up into a comma while typing.

3. Hiding Your Extra Shoes

Most people we know amass a collection of shoes at work. Sometimes this is because they wear comfy shoes for their commutes and fancy shoes at the office. Other times, it’s just a shoe collecting obsession that got out of hand. Whatever the reason, it’s difficult to hide five extra pairs of shoes without a desk to chuck them under.

4. Eating Lunch at Your Desk

This is a habit we’d all love to give up, and maybe the first item on this list that makes us want to get rid of our desks tomorrow. Eating lunch while hunched over your keyboard has got to be the most depressing thing ever.

5. Displaying Your Toy Collection

If you can’t display your vintage 1977 Star Wars jelly glasses, how will anyone know how hip and retro you are? Ditto the signs advising your colleagues to hang in there, or envision their success, or what have you. Without a desk, you really have nowhere to put this stuff.

Image: Visual Photos

Office Furniture Gone Wild

Some pieces of office furniture let you go a little crazier than others. Cubicles become the victims of wild pranks or the office fax machine falls under the wrath of a frustrated employees.

But few items take a beating like the humble office rolling chair, which is endlessly spun, rolled and often crashed by thrill seekers.

We rounded up 10 videos of wildly misused equipment.

Sling Shot

School’s out for the summer, and if you have a couple of bored teenagers, you can entertain them for hours is a broken office chair and a piece of string. Just make sure wherever they practice their tomfoolery has a soft landing spot. Otherwise, you’ll have a couple of bored teenagers with broken bones.


We imagine the original purpose of the office chair swivel function was not to make YouTube videos that give viewers vertigo. This guy didn’t get that memo though. He describes spinning in his office chair “like an amusement park ride, but different.” We’ll say. There’s a reason the Magic Kingdom doesn’t have an office-themed park.


In a move designed to give mothers worldwide a heart attack, this kid decides to see how his chair handles … on a street … behind a car. We’re going to go out on a limb and say this wasn’t the brightest move, but it could’ve ended up a lot worse.

Dancing Chair

According to YouTube, Natalie spent Thanksgiving morning choreographing and filming this little number with one of her grandparents’ office chairs. This begs the question: Wasn’t there a parade or a football game on? We’re impressed with her fun moves, use of props and flexibility. But we’re a little concerned about her bowing to the chair at the end of the video.


While we think it’s pretty classy of this dude to put on a nice suit for his little trip down a hill on a rickety office chair, he would’ve scored more points on the interview if he’d worn a helmet (and maybe if he wasn’t in the middle of the street). Safety first, kids!

On Your Marks … Get Set … Go!

They do things a little differently in Germany. For instance, instead of just holding an impromptu office chair race down the main hallway of an office, they close a street, dress up like bunnies and race specially-modified chairs into bales of hay and mattresses. Hey, at least these guys are wearing helmets.


Inspired by the likes of Brian Boitano or Kristi Yamaguchi, or maybe those guys from “Blades of Glory,” these two went for the gold office chair style. We would’ve preferred to see more synchronized spinning and less crashing, but overall great work. See you in Sochi in 2014.

Ramping it Up

We’re not sure that “Holding Out For a Hero” was the most appropriate song choice for this video (maybe if these “daredevils” were leaping over flames to save babies from burning buildings, we’d think differently). Still, their excellent engineering skills and ability to leap over brave co-workers is pretty impressive.

Chair Kwon Do

If your chair routinely sends you home with backaches and neck cramps, then this video is for you. These martial artists bravely take down an offending office chair in style.

Row, Row, Row Your Chair

Even though we somehow knew this video wasn’t going to end well for Isabel, we still think this office looks pretty fun. Check out all the balloons! And the casual dress code! Even the guy with the office (who we have to assume is some sort of boss-type figure) is taking pictures.

The 5 Coolest Outdoor Office Spaces

One of the worst things about being a working adult is that you no longer get summers off, unless you’re a teacher. (In which case, you totally deserve the summer off.) For the rest of us, enjoying the nicer weather is restricted to looking out an office window — usually someone else’s office window, as our cubicles are far away from natural light — and being jealous of kids. Unless, that is, you work at one of these five companies, and have access to amazing outdoor office space.

1. Google’s Awesome Ann Arbor Roof Deck
How do you compete with a tough tech market to secure the very best employees? If you’re Google, you give them a ten percent raise and build a roof deck. Google’s Ann Arbor employees can now enjoy a 4800-square-foot deck complete with landscaping and umbrellas in red, blue, yellow, and green. As one commenter on this piece says, “another reason to be jealous of the Google employees.”

2. Grey Group Roof Deck in New York
Famed advertising agency Grey Group offers an “alternative work and entertainment space” for its employees on the roof of its New York City building. The company uses the space for everything from collaborative meetings to launch parties, and also allows employees to work privately up there. How much work would you really get done with a view of the Empire State Building?

3. ALFA Dental Office in Central Japan
How do you make going to the dentist more pleasant? Offer a courtyard and deck to soothe patients’ anxieties. It’s also a pretty nice benefit for employees.

4. Gawker Media in New York
Gawker Media Offices at Internet Week NY 2010 Startup Walkabout #iwny
Fooseball tables and beanbag chairs are so twentieth century. The really cool internet companies these days offer outdoor space. Gawker Media is no exception. The roof deck at its New York City headquarters looks it belongs in a swanky hotel rather than a corporate office.

5. Jorge Fontan’s Roof Deck for One
Work-at-home types needn’t despair: You can build an outdoor office space of your very own. This garden office was part of a Secrets of the Shed building competition. It’s probably a bit fancier than your current shed, but it’s a good source of inspiration.

Images: 1., 2., 3., 4. Johnbvasko on Flickr, 5.

5 Filthiest Office Cubes in the World

When it comes to organizing our cubicles, we all have a system. Some of us use index cards and file folders. Some of us are digital creatures, with carefully-updated smartphones and clean desktops. Some of our setups, though, are a little harder to figure out. In fact, to the uninitiated, it might look like our systems are merely piles of paper strewn about our desks.

But no matter how gross your cubicle is, there’s no way you can compete with these five worker bees. Their cubicles are possibly the filthiest in the world. Certainly, they’re the grossest the internet has to offer.

1. The Hoarder.
The person who works in this cubicle would have a tough time convincing us that he had any kind of system at all. There’s nary a folder or organizer in sight, and the pile of papers in the corner says, “I’ll just toss this here for now … or for the next five years.” Extra added bonus points for the hand lotion collection in the lower left-hand corner of the desk.

2. The Stacker.
The scariest thing about this desk is that it looks like there might be an organizational principle of some sort. The stacks of paper look like they’re intended to provide some sense of order. Either that, or they’re an art project we just don’t understand. In any case, it’s hard to picture anyone being able to lay their hands on that TPS report in a hurry.

3. The Mess That Ate the Cubicle.
This picture actually filled us with a sense of dread. There are messes and there are messes. When yours grows so large that it eats your cubicle wall and obscures the view of the rest of the office, you might have a serious problem.

4. The Robot Graveyard.
Oh, look, it’s Dad’s basement. Or the cubicle of a person who can’t get rid of a monitor for any reason, ever. We know it’s hard to throw things away, but trust us: You will never use that giant white monitor again. It’s perfectly safe to recycle it. Or use it as a planter. Whichever. Just don’t leave it on a shelf next to a wealth of other obsolete equipment. This is the tech equivalent of a row of severed heads.

5. Office Decor by CSI.
It starts out innocently enough. You pin a picture of your nephew to your cubicle wall, or tape your favorite bumper sticker over your monitor. Over time, the photos and memorabilia grow and grow, and eventually your cubicle looks like a serial killer’s lair on a detective program. Or the interior of a Ground Round circa 1985.

Images: 1. Jeffrey Beall’s Flickr, 2. Glendale College English Lab, 3., 4., 5.