Archive for September, 2011
When newly-sworn-in New York congressman Bob Turner moved into his new digs in the Rayburn building, his wife, Peggy, requested that the office bathroom be scrubbed clean. There was also talk of replacing the carpeting and trashing at least one notorious chair, according to an article in the New York Post.
No, the office hadn’t been attacked by a mob of angry taxpayers. And the office’s previous resident wasn’t a leper or someone with a raging case of measles. (Although some might say that would have been preferred.)
Turner is now sitting at the desk of disgraced New York City congressman Anthony Weiner – you know, the guy with the delightfully unfortunate name who Tweeted naked photos of himself to women (including a crotch shot from an aforementioned office chair).
The cause of the sanitation request would have been fairly benign in any other circumstance: a toothbrush. More specifically, a toothbrush with the name “Anthony” on it.
Now, there weren’t too many other details about the state of Weiner’s old office. We don’t know exactly how dirty it was (It’s kind of understandable how he might have forgotten his toothbrush given that he did kind of leave in a hurry, right?)
But we thought we’d use this little incident to chat about grimy offices and cubicles. Specifically, what to do when you inherit someone else’s mess.
We’d hope that in most companies, an employee would be required to clean out his or her desk upon departure. No one wants to inherit 10 years’ worth of coffee stains and donut crumbs on top of piles of expense reports dating back to 1994. At the minimum, the previous office/cubicle resident should clean out all of their personal affects and hopefully, any nonessential documents.
Now, if the person doesn’t do this – maybe they, too, left office in a bit of a hurry – then a supervisor or HR representative should make sure to clear out the excess junk before you arrive. It’d be nice if they wiped everything down, too, so you’re not starting off a new gig in accumulated grime.
In fact, OSHA laws require a minimum level of cleanliness to protect workers’ health in the office. If the conditions at your new desk or office are completely unacceptable – and potentially hazardous to your health – you should definitely talk to your supervisor.
Even with laws in place, it’s probably not a bad idea for you do your own disinfecting for some peace of mind.
Arrive with spray in hand and pay special attention to door knobs, arm rests, phones, keyboards, computer mice, and drawer handles – anything someone would have been touching frequently with their hands.
If furniture looks … errr … well-used … talk to your supervisor about replacing it.
Dirty offices and the desire for better security and image have prompted some companies to create clean desk policies that forbid employees from leaving any personal items on their desks.
Apparently, Congress doesn’t doesn’t have a clean-desk policy – or a No Toothbrush Left Behind Act for that matter.
Photo courtesy of kadrip55 on Stock.xchngVisit Susan Jennings on Google+
Home prices might still be swirling around the drain, but some real estate costs show no signs of budging. For companies renting in the most expensive locations in the US, they’re paying as much as ever.
1. Sand Hill Road, Menlo Park, Calif.
Average rent: $113.64 per square foot
Most expensive rent: $198.00 per square foot
Market rent for the metro area: $54.00 per square foot
Companies: Sand Hill Road is home to venture capital and private equity firms such as Lightspeed Venture Partners, Benchmark Capital, and The Blackstone Group. It’s also the site of the Stanford Linear Accelerator Center.
2. Fifth Avenue, Midtown Manhattan, NYC
Average rent: $97.14 per square foot
Most expensive rent: $141.00 per square foot
Market rent for the metro area: $53.49 per square foot
Companies: Many hedge funds have their headquarters in midtown on Fifth Avenue, but the street is probably better known for its luxury boutiques and department stores. Louis Vuitton, Tiffany & Co., Harry Winston, and Bergdorf Goodman all make their homes there.
3. Greenwich Avenue, Greenwich, Conn.
Average rent: $89.86 per square foot
Most expensive rent: $98.00 per square foot
Market rent for the metro area: $32.19 per square foot
Companies: Hedge funds and financial firms occupy much of Greenwich Avenue, which is located in Fairfield County, one of the richest counties in the US. Greenwich Avenue tenants include ESL Investments.
4. University Avenue, Silicon Valley, Calif.
Average rent: $83.16 per square foot
Most expensive rent: $89.40 per square foot
Market rent for the metro area: $67.44 per square foot
Companies: University Ave’s most famous tenant is Facebook, Inc., but it’s also a popular location for startups, which are often easily identified by their whimsical names: WePay, SayNow, and Bling Nation, to name just a few.
5. Pennsylvania Avenue, Washington, DC
Average rent: $80.25 per square foot
Most expensive rent: $83.00 per square foot
Market rent for the metro area: $53.48 per square foot
Companies: Pennsylvania Avenue is probably most famous for being the street that joins the White House and the Capitol building, but it’s also home to (not surprisingly) numerous law firms and lobbyists.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Cubicles are dying. Or they’re more popular than ever. Or we’re all going to work at home/by the beach/in a coworking space/on the Moon. The only thing experts seem to agree on is that the office is changing, and that it should: Cheaper, more productive work space is a good goal for both employees and employers.
Enter Cisco’s Connected Workspace, perhaps the (actual) wave of the future when it comes to the office.
What the Connected Workspace Looks Like
On the surface, Connected Workspace is a lot like an open office. Employees sit at wheeled desks that can be easily moved to form collaborative pods, or separated for more privacy. Each desk contains ports for mobile devices. No surprise, the mobile technology of choice is Cisco’s Cius tablet.
The tablet can be hooked into a monitor to act as a desktop replacement, or used on the go as needed for video, voice calls, or simple note taking.
“You can walk around with your entire world with you in this device,” says Cisco vice president Rick Hutley. “My laptop would often stay on my desk, but the tablet never does.” Hutley chooses his desk each day, just like his employees. If he (or they) need privacy, there are plenty of conference rooms at the edges of the open office area.
When used well, an environment like this should have all the benefits of open-plan workspace — flexibility, collaboration — with the privacy and autonomy of cubicle or office environments. In addition, Cisco hopes that its Connected Workspace will:
- Save money in real estate costs. Prior to adopting Connected Workspace, cubicles at Cisco were empty two-thirds of the time, as workers traveled or took meetings off campus.
- Reduce healthcare costs. Workers who move around more are workers who are less likely to develop diseases related to a sedentary lifestyle.
- Improve productivity — and plain old joie de vive. Prith Banerjee, leader of Hewlett-Packard’s research arm, seems positively delighted to point out that office technology has finally caught up with the cool stuff most workers have at home.
“We used to have boring stuff at work and more interesting technology at home,” he says. “Now office technology will make use of the same cool experiences and interfaces.”
Images: CiscoVisit Susan Jennings on Google+
The Washington Post recently produced a slideshow of fabulous office supplies that would make even the dreariest cubicle look homey.
We borrowed a few of their ideas and rounded up some more delightfully-funky office supplies to perk up your workspace.
1. Prairie Flora Fabric Thumbtacks
Show off your attention to detail and your sense of style with these pretty tacks. They’re subtle and sweet, just like you! $7.75 at Franklin Covey.
2. Chalkboard Office Storage
Skip the Post-Its and leave helpful reminders to yourself … or just doodle on them during the boring conference calls. Either way, these write-on containers are cool and functional. $4.50 to $39.95 on unplggd.com.
3. Spi roll-up keyboard
Unroll a colorful, full-sized keyboard wherever you need it. This is a great alternative for laptop users and it’s spill-, dust-, mildew-, and water-proof. We say that’s pretty fool-proof. $19.99 on Kohls.com.
4. ANYTHING Stapler
Just like a good pair of heels or that perfect pair of jeans, this stapler will go with anything on your desk. The sleek lines and bright color options are way hipper than that Swingling Milton was always coveting. $40 on seejanework.com.
5. Jonathan Adler Task Clips
Organize your inbox in a pinch with these multicolored clips coded with pictures. They’re great at helping you figure out where that stack needs to be, with designs on them including a mustache (stache it or trash it), an elephant (junk in the trunk), a pear (pearfect papers) and a whale (stay afloat, deadline on the horizon). $10.50 at seejanework.com.
6. Animal Tape Dispenser
So you might not be able to take your dog to work – which is a huge bummer – but now you can keep a multitasking frog or chicken nearby with no fear of repercussions. $12.50 seejanework.com
7. Grassy Organizer
If gazing at a field of grass blowing delicately in the breeze sends you into a state of euphoric relaxation, then the Grassy Organizer is the perfect desk caddy for you. Store pens, pencils, markers and other instruments in your little desk lawn. $9 at Umbra.com
8. USB Man
Multiply the number of USB ports you can use by four with this very handy man. $18 at Chiasso.com.
9. Chirping Paperclip Birds
Tired of always losing paperclips? Miss hearing birds in the morning while you’re tucked away in your cubicle? Cue these sweet little magnetic birds, which will cling on to your paperclips and tweet each time you move them. $18 at Chiasso.com
10. The Seven Year Pen
Reduce waste and look good doing it with this pen, which claims to have 7 years’ worth of ink in it. Our fingers hurt just thinking about all that writing, but our eyes like those uber-cute style options. $8 at seejanework.com.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
In this era of empty cubicles and long-term unemployment, the workplace perk most of us are looking for is a paycheck. Bonus points if we can get a side order of health insurance and 401k with that. But for some lucky souls, a steady income is just the beginning. Here are some of the craziest (and most awesome) fringe benefits ever.
Most offices force their employees to do their boozing outside the office, on their own dime. Not employees at Yelp, who are welcome to take advantage of either the mini-bar or an amazing-sounding drink dispenser called the KegMate. Yelp made sure to point out that employees aren’t allowed to imbibe during office hours, but with a perk like this, who’s to say when office hours actually end?
2. Rock Band Tournaments
Lots of companies have an old foosball table moldering away somewhere. But how many workplaces can boast not only a Playstation, but full-on Rock Band tournaments? SilverTech, a website design company in Manchester, NH, can. They also gave each of their 24 employees an iPad as a thank-you for their hard work.
3. On-Site Massage
This is a perk we’ve experienced firsthand. Back in the halcyon days of the first internet boom (2000ish, in other words) this was a pretty common benefit. Now it seems like something Marie Antoinette would have had at her fake farm.
4. Free Airfare, for Your Whole Family, for Life
If you’re a director at Continental Airlines, or a relative of one of those fortunate souls, you never ever have to spend money to get felt up by TSA agents ever again. Instead, you get to do it for free, for as long as you or your family member lives. (Yay?)
5. Aromatherpy at Your Fingertips
…or at least, on your thumb drive. This USB device makes smells come out of your computer, proving once again that Elmer Fudd cartoons were actually predicting the future. The main purpose of the device is to create soothing smells that chill employees out and make them more productive. But we could see some office clown making really horrible-smelling versions of this and permeating the office with burned popcorn and stinky lunch smells.
In possibly the most horrifying workplace story ever, an employee at a New Jersey pharmaceutical company was told that she must take down pictures and mementos of her dead daughter. Apparently, the cubicle shrine was making her coworkers uncomfortable, so her boss informed her that she was to remove photos and other personal items, including her daughter’s toe shoes, and also to stop talking about her daughter altogether. Why? “Because she is dead.”
This boss is clearly the winner of the Least Sensitive Manager Ever award, beating out such luminaries as Donald Trump and that guy at the diner who’s always screaming at the other waitstaff. However, it’s worth noting that there are some things that really should never, ever be kept in cubicles. (Please note that this list does not include pictures of your child. You should be able to keep those … and we’re not even going to start explaining why.)
The following items, however, should be immediately removed from your cubicle; or better yet, never introduced in the first place:
1. Drugs and drug paraphernalia.
“Duh,” we here you saying. “Would I be so stupid as to keep drugs and drug-related items in my actual cubicle?” Well, you might. Especially if you extend “drug-related” to include movie posters featuring giant pot leaves or pictures of your favorite band holding a bong. We have seen both these things in cubicles over the years. Don’t do it.
2. Pictures of nekkid people.
We don’t care how attractive your friends are: We don’t want to see them in any stage of undress. Yes, that includes bathing suits. One of the nicest things about working in an office is that you have the reasonable expectation that you’ll never have to look at anyone’s uncovered butt. Don’t ruin that for everyone.
3. Political posters.
This is confusing for people who feel that their views are the majority opinion for their area. But even if every single person in your office claims to be voting for Joe Schmoe, it’s not appropriate to wallpaper your cube with campaign materials. Don’t start fights where there’s nothing to gain.
4. Anything smelly.
The way things are going, everyone on earth will someday have a fatal allergy to an element they run into every day. (We’re thinking about developing one to oxygen. Why be boring?) We’re all very proud of you for your ability to grow rare Bolivian orchids in a cubicle, but we don’t want to smell them all day. Ditto your aromatherapy situation and your potpourri. Keep it on the coffee table at home.
5. Weapons of any kind.
This item has a place of honor at the end of the list, because after all the previous items, it should be obvious why it’s included. After a day of dealing with your smelly, overly political, nekkid, drug-abusing coworkers, you probably can’t be trusted with a weapon.
The cubicle was invented at Herman Miller, and now the office furniture manufacturer is presiding over the next phase of its evolution.
As companies increasingly move away from closed offices and cubicles and into open work spaces, furniture companies like Herman Miller are adapting to suit evolving needs. The first priority: create spaces that support collaborative, team-based work.
Ben Watson, the executive creative director of Herman Miller, says, “Ten years ago, 80 to 90 percent of an organization’s budget would be spent on individual workspaces. Now, it’s 65 to 70 percent and is scaling down to 50 percent real fast.”
Today, Watson continues, up to 70 percent of work happens between two or more people. The solution is to develop microenvironments — “so that you want to be at your office more than Starbucks.” (Another thought: maybe better coffee would help.)
Watson and his colleagues have developed a smartphone app that lets companies track usage of office space in real time. No more empty offices and overbooked conference rooms. Organizations that use Herman Miller’s program can figure out exactly how often that giant, sixteen-person boardroom gets used.
All of this happens at the Design Yard, a colorful name for a colorful work space. Herman Miller’s design studio sits in a 40-acre cornfield in Holland, Mich., and evokes a Midwestern farm yard. Cheap to build at $52 a yard (in 1985 prices, but still) the complex has won numerous awards and received LEED certification in 2005 — some twenty years after it was built.
The farm has kept its roots as well, thanks to employees who maintain a vegetable garden on the property. Workers can take home extra produce, and flowers from the perennial beds decorate the office.
The Design Yard offers customer tours, where envious outsiders can get a peek at the company’s inner workings. Most tours start out in the Parlour, where visitors are greeted by a concierge and the smell of coffee wafting over from the coffee bar.
The furniture is, of course, Herman Miller.
Images: http://opinionator.blogs.nytimes.com, http://www.hermanmiller.com/discover/down-on-the-farm/, http://www.hermanmiller.com/discover/how-gardens-are-like-healthy-companies/, http://www.hermanmiller.com/discover/sit-a-spell-and-chat-in-the-parlor/
Work is changing. The water cooler has been replaced by instant messaging. Many of us spend less time in a boardroom than we do on Skype. Can it be that the office, the actual physical office with its cubicles and paperwork and human-to-human meetings, will soon be a thing of the past?
Telecommuting jobs have increased 400 percent in the past three years. This is partly because companies want to save money on office space, and partly because employees like to work at home. It’s a cheap, popular perk to offer in a time when raises are thin on the ground and 75 percent of departing employees say they wouldn’t recommend their former employers to job seekers. So will working at home be the office of the future?
Why It Could Happen:
1) Ask anyone who’s had to beg for office supplies from a reluctant office manager with the key to the supply closet: Money is pretty much the only thing that matters to many companies. That’s probably true all the time, but it’s especially true in a recession. If allowing employees to work at home will save money, that’s what companies will do.
2) And speaking of things that cost money, few things cost more than replacing workers. Happy workers = no labor replacement costs = happy companies. More and more employees are asking to work at home, and as we said earlier, letting someone work from their couch is cheaper than coughing up a raise.
3) Many folks who work at home are more productive than people in the office. Some of it is simple psychology: Sitting in an office makes workers more inclined to clock watch, while employees who work at home feel pressure to produce results in order to justify the perk.
Why It Might Not Happen:
1) Sure, some people who work at home are more productive, but we’ve all also worked with that person who is “working” at home, but is totally unavailable by IM, phone, or passenger pigeon. There will probably always be some workers who do better with actual supervision.
2) Not every job is suitable for a work-at-home arrangement. Sure, this article mentions a neurosurgeon who is able to review digital imagery from home, but we can’t figure out how a nurse or a dentist would manage to Skype in their work.
3) Some workers just plain old don’t like working at home. You probably know these folks, too: They’re the ones who blow up your IM all day long when they’re at home, asking about sports scores and weather reports and, if worse comes to worse, work. Extreme extroverts, for example, are probably more comfy in the social environment of the office.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
The days might be numbered for the leaning towers of files and wallpaper-esque coating of Post-its in your cubicle. Yes, sadly, more companies are issuing clean desk policies to force messy employees into tidying up.
BHP Billiton, an Australian-based mining company, recently issued a memo to employees on “office environment standards” that includes rules like:
- Employees must remove all Post-it notes from monitors and keyboards at the end of the day
- Work partitions can’t be decorated or customized in any way – the only signage that can be displayed is workstation identification and first aid or fire warden signage.
- Clothing may not be slung over chairs or furniture.
While the rules might seem a little draconian, many companies are adopting similar policies as their office environments change. Companies don’t want employees to become too settled into one workstation, leaving their personal stamp on it, according to an article on Instead, in order to save on overhead and encourage more interactivity among employees, offices are creating collective or “club” space, where individuals who don’t have assigned desks move around the office working at shared spaces.
Other companies enforce clean desk policies as a security measure – to protect potentially sensitive information from leaving the office. And, of course, all companies want their offices to look clean and professional.
But does a perfectly organized desk really equal increased productivity?
Experts are at odds over the issue. The old argument that a messy desk is a sign of a creative person is promptly countered by the suggestion that a messy desk is a sign of a disorganized shlub who probably spends more time looking for lost files than doing actual work
One advocate of messy desks is former British prime minister Winston Churchill, who never tidied his desk. Not only did he not see the benefit of a clean desk (filing something away would have meant he’d spend more time looking for it when he needed it), but he also didn’t work a traditional work day. The long hours of one day spilled into the next: When would it have been appropriate to tidy up at the end of the day?
On the other end of the spectrum is ineedmotivation.com, who says: “A clean desk equals clean work.” The blogger says that anyone who makes excuses for a messy desk is fooling himself into accepting less than optimal conditions to increase his productivity and success.
One thing these desk analyzers do agree on is that regardless of whether a messy desk affects productivity, it definitely has an affect on someone’s image.
“When people have a clean desk it looks like they get things done and they are productive,” career coach Kelly Crescenti said in a blog post.
So, while some people might link your toppling piles of paper and three-day-old coffee with the sign of an artistic spirit, they will more likely assume you don’t get a lot done during the day.
No matter where you fall on the clean workspace spectrum – neat freak to total slob – the best plan is to find a system that works for you (and hope that the office overlords accept your system).
The truth is, some people can function perfectly well with a little extra clutter, according to an article on About.com on management. As long as you’re able to efficiently locate anything you (or your co-workers or boss) might need to do your job, messiness isn’t necessarily a problem – although it probably wouldn’t hurt to tidy up periodically.
Unless your company has a specific need to create such a policy – shared workspaces or security, for example – then it’s probably OK to let that cardigan stay on your chair and to keep a photo of your grandkids next to your computer.
Photo courtesy of teaksato on Stock.XchngVisit Susan Jennings on Google+
We have proof that there is a now a documentary about absolutely everything: Filmmaker Zaheed Mawani has made a film about cubicles. The project is called “Three Walls” and it is described as “a lighthearted but poignant look at an unhealthy office culture and its architectural symbol.”
The cubicle, of course, was intended to do just the opposite. What we now call the cubicle started at Herman Miller in the 1960s as a concept called Action Office. Its creator, Robert Propst, planned it to “give knowledge workers a more flexible, fluid environment than the rat-maze box of offices.” And for those of us who find the lack of privacy of open offices nervewracking, and the often windowless interior offices many companies provide as an alternative depressing, they have.
For others, like this lady, above, they’re reminiscent of something Lego would make. (We’re guessing she never replaced the top attachments of her neighbor’s cubicle walls with bouquets for Valentine’s Day, or the plastic windows with dozens and dozens of pictures of Barbra Streisand for April’s Fools. Cubicles! They’re fun!)
Then there are these guys, who are making cubicles for Herman Miller. The shots of them in the factory reminded us of nothing so much as Mr. Rogers at the crayon factory. It’s a weird reminder that everything in the world is made somewhere. Totally bizarre to think that our cubicles were born in a similar factory, somewhere in the world.
Most of all, as we said earlier, we were struck by the fact that there really is a documentary about everything now — or will be, soon. Here are a few documentaries that we’d like to see (if any filmmakers out there are reading this and need ideas, take note):
1. Smartphones: How do they get the smart in the phone? Yes, yes, we understand about the internet and all. But we are still continually impressed by the fact that our phones now know how to get to the nearest bank and what we will find when we get there, as well as whether or not the bank is up to some shady business that should make us think of taking our money somewhere else. (Note: They probably are. Additional note: Since they all are, should be bother with the paper work?)
2. Wrinkle creams: Are there really ones out there that work, and if so, how do they work? Also, that stuff that J.Lo sleeps in, in her bariatric chamber or whatever: Is it really worth $250 an ounce or however much it costs? It’s basically Pond’s Cold Cream, isn’t it? You can tell us.
3. Who decides what’s good for us at any given time? First the sun was good for us, because it gave us a healthy tan. Then it was bad for us, because of skin cancer. Now, you need a little of it, or you’ll get rickets. Same thing with stretching before exercise: No one can make up their mind. It’s all very confusing. We imagine a league of doctors, with a small off-shoot composed of personal trainers who don’t like people very much. But maybe you can find out more.
There you are, filmmakers. Don’t say we never gave you anything.
Video and images from Architizer Blog.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+