Archive for January, 2012

5 Tips for Improving Your Office Feng Shui

Feel like your office cubicle has bad vibes? It might be more than bad lighting and poor morale. Feng shui, the art of balancing the energy of a space, can give your office and your spirits a lift. Here’s how to improve your office’s feng shui.

1. Don’t Sit in the Doorway.
cubicledoor
Sitting in the doorway of your cubicle or office puts you in the path of negative energy, according to feng shui principles. From a practical perspective, it puts you in the pathway of bosses or coworkers who might ask you for assignments or waste your time talking about reality TV shows in which you have no interest. So one way or the other — negative energy in the doorway. Avoid it.

2. Instead, Sit Farther From the Door.
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Supposedly, this gives you a “command” position. We’ve also noticed that it correlates strongly with not being surprised by people sneaking up behind you and tapping you on the shoulder while you’re perusing the internet instead of getting ready for that meeting. Definitely a good choice for promoting good vibes.

3. Working out of Your Home? Don’t Keep Your Back to the Door.
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Feng shui devotees feel that keeping your back to the door will symbolically turn you away from new business, which is definitely not something you want if you have your own business.

4. Place Your Computer Carefully.
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Put your computer in the north or the west part of your office in order to inspire creativity, or in the southeast if you’re focused on earning more money. Don’t face a corridor, stairway, elevator or toilet, as it may “flush” away good energy. (No, we are not kidding.)

5. Don’t Have Any Mirrors in Your Work Space.
mirrorcubicle
Mirrors can reflect bad energy from clients, coworkers, and guests. Also, and we speak from experience here, it’s really hard not to stare at a mirror if it’s hanging right near your desk. This leads to lost productivity and also your coworkers thinking you’re crazy.

See that? Feng shui is real!

Images: 1. Workified.com, 2. TypingMadly.BlogSpot.com, 3. Office2designs.com, 4. Sodahead.com, 5. Blog.mlive.com

The Best Type of Office for Your Zodiac Sign

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If you’re the type of person who consults your psychic before picking your breakfast cereal, then you know how important it is to make sure the stars are aligned for you at work.

Read on to find out which seat in the office is best for you.

Aries (March 21 – April 19)
Personality traits: Independent, courageous, generous, enthusiastic, moody, impulsive, impatient.
At work: You’re a self-motivated go-getter who inspires those around you with your enthusiasm; you’re often found in leadership positions.
Best office: With your natural leadership abilities, you’ll probably find yourself in a traditional office – just make sure it’s one with glass walls to keep you accountable (sometimes you don’t have the patience to finish what you’ve started).

Taurus (April 20 – May 20)
Personality traits: Dependable, persistent, loyal, patient, stubborn, materialistic, possessive, self-indulgent.
At work: You aren’t known as a leader, but you’re not necessarily a follower either, preferring to work independently and doing things your own way.
Best office: You’ll probably prefer your own separate workspace to an open office, If you’re working in a cubicle, a door is a must to protect your privacy.

Gemini (May 21 – June 20)
Personality traits: Energetic, clever, imaginative, adaptable, superficial, impulsive, restless, indecisive, devious.
At work: You’re known for being fiercely independent and prone to jumping from one task to another. But your ability to motivate and energize staff would make you a great manager and your witty responses and explanations also would make you a great salesperson.
Best office: Since you don’t like being tied down, a mobile office is the best bet. You’d be just as happy to work from a laptop in the coffee shop down the street as whatever cubicle is open in the office.

Cancer (June 21 – July 22)
Personality traits: Loyal, dependable, adaptable, caring, moody, clingy, over-sensitive, self-absorbed
At work: You need the support and nurturing of other people – especially small, tight-knit groups. You are a great listener and excellent at helping boost others’ confidence.
Best office: Since you work well with others, you’d fare well in a more open office setting – preferably one featuring small clusters of desks where you can develop more meaningful relationships with your co-workers.

Leo (July 23 – Aug. 22)
Personality traits: Confident, ambitious, generous, loyal, encouraging, pretentious, domineering, melodramatic, vain.
At work: You are independent, but also like being in control and having others look up to you. You work best in groups and are excellent at delegating but don’t like being told what to do.
Best office: You love your ideas to be heard, so don’t block them off with a pesky wall. Look for an open office layout where you can easily share with those around you, and show off your leadership abilities.

Virgo (Aug. 23 – Sept. 22)
Personality traits: Analytical, observant, helpful, reliable, skeptical, fussy, inflexible, cold
At work: You’re intelligent and meticulous. You work well independently, but others look up to you because you are known for being thoughtful and logical. You’d make an excellent researcher or investigator and are great at settling disputes.
Best office: You’d probably do best having your own workspace with some privacy to block off the noise of your co-workers. Just don’t retreat too much in your cubicle; your colleagues will probably want to use your excellent reasoning skills to help them troubleshoot.

Libra (Sept. 23 – Oct. 22)
Personality traits: Diplomatic, graceful, peaceful, idealistic, hospitable, superficial, vain, indecisive, unreliable
At work: Libras love to be around other people, so you thrive in group settings. But you can also be lazy and over-reliant on other people doing the work for you. You’re great at coming up with ideas, but not very successful in seeing them through. You’d thrive best in creative environments.
Best office: Hiding away in a cubicle all day won’t do for a social butterfly like you. Seek an office with an open floor plan that allows you to connect with your co-workers all day (be careful, though: given your propensity for distraction, you might need access to an office or conference room from time to time to finish projects). If you’re a freelancer or self-employed, try co-working, where you can meet other creative types and find motivation to get your job done.

Scorpio (Oct. 23 – Nov. 21)
Personality traits: Loyal, passionate, resourceful, observant, dynamic, jealous, obsessive, manipulative, unyielding
At work: You’re fiercely independent, self-motivated, goal-oriented, and are most successful in fields where you can take a leadership role. You’re extremely competitive and also very adaptable.
Best office: You’ll settle for nothing less than a corner office with a great view – and given your drive, you’ll probably get it.

Sagittarius (Nov. 22 – Dec. 21)
Personality traits: Independent and unemotional
At work: You crave adventure and the opportunity to explore. You’re known to be brutally honest, but you are also great conversationalists and in general, very likable. You work best under pressure.
Best office: Since you don’t like being tied down, a mobile office would be best for you. One day you could work at a desk in the middle of the office, the next in the coffee shop down the street. If your boss won’t let you roam – consider asking for a desk near a window so you can at least look at the wide world while you work.

Capricorn (Dec. 22 – Jan. 19)
Personality traits: Responsible, patient, ambitious, resourceful, loyal, dictatorial, inhibited, distrusting, unimaginative
At work: You’re independent and prefer to take care of the details themselves, not trusting others to do it the right way. You are organized, great at time-management and like routine.
Best office: A traditional cubicle will suit you well, because you can organize the space without having to worry about others encroaching on it or rearranging anything.

Aquarius (Jan. 20 – Feb. 18)
Personality traits: Witty, humanitarian, inventive, original, stubborn, unemotional, sarcastic, rebellious, aloof
At work: You love encouraging others and making them laugh. You’re forward-thinking, creative and enjoy working with others. You’d make a great leader, but you’re not one to focus on details.
Best office: Because you’re both a people-person and a creative thinker, you’d do well in a cubicle-free office where you can collaborate with others.

Pisces (Feb. 19 – March 20)
Personality traits: Compassionate, adaptable, accepting, devoted, imaginative, oversensitive, indecisive, lazy, escapist
At work: Pisces don’t make the best leaders because they sometimes lack confidence and discipline. But they are extremely loyal, sensitive and creative, which means they can inspire others.
Best office: You can be deeply affected by your work environment, so it’s important that you have a bright and cheery workspace. A small zen fountain or a hearty plant will probably help offer a little bit of much-needed spirituality in the office.

Source: zodiac-signs-astrology.com

The 3 Best Colors for Office Productivity

Want to keep your employees chugging away in their office cubicles? (By which we mean, chugging like productive little choo-choo trains, not drinking beer like it’s their job.) The answer might be to redecorate the place. As strange as it sounds, studies have shown that the color of the walls can affect the productivity of the people who work within them. Here are three great colors to pick for your office space — and three you might want to avoid.

The Best Colors for Office Productivity:

1. Blue
blueoffice
We may be “blue” when we’re feeling down, but a blue room probably isn’t the cause. That’s because blue is one of the more emotionally comfortable colors you can choose for a work environment.

2. Green
greenoffice
Ditto green, which is another soothing, natural color ideally suited for creative environments. More energetic and less conservative than blue, green will probably become an increasingly popular color for offices, thanks to the growing green movement. You can’t really have any kind of ecologically-based business and avoid the green-themed office.

3. Purple
purpleoffice
This is the dark horse of the color race. Most people just don’t think of purple as a corporate color. It seems a bit too showy and dramatic for the average office — which might make it a good choice for a certain type of creative industry. Purple can encourage creativity and teamwork, which makes it a good choice for design firms.

On the Fence:

1. Red
redoffice
Norbert Schwartz, a psychologist at the University of Michigan, says that red environments make people more excited and more energetic, which in turn makes people better at paying attention to the small stuff. For some reason, agitated people seem to be better at detail-oriented work. Which is great, if you’re an accounting firm and also don’t care about raising your workers’ stress levels, and not so great if you need creative work from people or want them to be, you know, happy.

2. White
whiteoffice
Have you ever stared at a white wall until your eyes started doing that strobe effect thing? You’ve just proved a point, which is that white is not exactly a relaxing color for a work environment. Basically, as this article points out, you wouldn’t want your therapist’s office to be painted bright white, but it might be reassuring in a hospital setting.

Always a Bad Idea: Yellow
yellowoffice
Most of the colors on this list are if/then propositions. If you’re an ad agency, you might want to think about purple. If you’re a hospital, white might be OK. The exception to this rule is yellow, which seems to always be a bad idea for work environments. Unless your goal is to make your workers angry, agitated, and unable to concentrate, then yellow is not the color for you. Come to think of it, we did see a lot of yellow the last time we were at the DMV.

Images: Niriti.com, Housingtouri.com, Siamhousedesign.com, Dave Arthur@Flickr.com, Sunnysblog.typepad.com, Housingtouri.com

Employee Gets Arrested for Trying to End Annoying Cubicle Music

miltonPerhaps your neighbor at work was told that he could listen to his radio at a reasonable volume while collating. Or maybe the guy in the next office cubicle got a Sirius subscription for Christmas. Whatever the reason, most of us have had to deal with people who need to listen to their music in the office and seem to have an allergy to headphones. But very few of us wind up in jail over it.

Philip A. Brigido, a former employee of Regency Technologies in Solon, Ohio, is among the few, the not-so-proud, the (perhaps) about to be jailed. When his office neighbor insisted on listening to her wireless radio during office hours, the 32-year-old manager used his technical savvy to jam the company’s wireless equipment.

This put an end to the incessant music problem, but it created a whole host of new issues, both for Philip A. Brigido, and for his company.

Regency Technologies, the company Brigido worked for, did not appreciate having their wireless internet blocked. They found it somewhat difficult to carry on their day-to-day operations without internet, due to it being the 21st century.

Brigido, for his part, may soon found it difficult to do much of anything at all outside a jail cell, since he was promptly arrested: not only for jamming the signal, but for possessing over $11,000 worth of stolen computer parts, and for possessing burglary tools.

There are several lessons to be learned here.

    1. First and foremost, if you’re going to steal $11,000 worth of computer parts from your company, perhaps don’t draw attention to that fact by disrupting your company’s wireless signal.

 

  • Almost as importantly, if you don’t like your neighbor’s taste in music, maybe discuss it with them before you do anything that might get you fined or imprisoned.

 

 

  • Lastly, if you have internet radio and work in a cubicle … buy a set of headphones.

 

Image: Dump.benevolentrobot.com

The Pros and Cons of Glass Offices

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You’ve been to the zoo, right? You know that feeling that you have when walking past the chimpanzees? The one where they’re looking at you as if to say, “What are you staring at? Mind your own business.”

And you kind of feel guilty for a minute, because you’re invading their privacy; maybe they just want to munch on that apple, dangle from a tree or pick bugs off of their kid’s head without being watched.

Well, as it turns out, the chimps get to have the last laugh as more and more offices employing open space plans opt for cubicles with lower walls and glass offices.

A survey by the International Facilities Management Association found that 68 percent of U.S. offices have “open plan” or “open seating” layouts, according to an article in the Wall Street Journal.

This means all those managers and executives — or anyone using a conference room — are on display for all to see. Much like all those zoo critters.

Reporter Sue Shellenbarger wrote about some of the pros and cons of these modern offices in that Wall Street Journal article:

Pros
Less secrecy – Now everyone can see who’s coming in and who’s leaving the boss’s office, how long they’re in there, and what their body language looks like during the meeting. And with long stretches of transparent glass, the company itself projects an image of openness – that they have nothing to hide. This, of course, probably doesn’t stop all that internal speculation and gossip, but at least employees are less likely to feel in the dark when it comes to major shakeups. Plus, now your boss is a little more conspicuous when sneaking in that afternoon nap or glass of scotch.

More open communication – One of the main reasons companies have switched to open floor plans is to encourage more collaboration and discussion between employees and facilitate the free flow of ideas. Instead of having to knock on doors or duck into someone’s cubicle, it’s now easier for people to have quick conversations and brainstorming or troubleshooting sessions.

More natural light and views of the outdoors – Researchers have long touted the benefits of natural light to enhance the mood, productivity and creativity within an office. The introduction of glass walls has made it so that it’s not just the folks with the window offices on the perimeter of the building who get to take advantage of all that nature has to offer.

Lower energy costs – With all the natural light flooding in, the company won’t need to depend on artificial lighting as much, which equals lower electric bills.

Cons

Distractions from passersby: You never really get a break from all the action in the office. Especially if you’re on the street level, you might find random pedestrians peeking in at you or even banging on your windows for their own entertainment. Not to mention, all your co-workers walking back and forth all day might make it tough for you to focus on your work.

Feeling like you’re on display – Your little fishbowl might offer plenty of openness and natural light, but it also can make you feel a bit like you’re in some sort of performance-art installation project on the life of the modern middle manager. What if you’re having a rough day and need a good cry? Or, if you have a cold and are sneezing all day? Now everyone gets to watch the show.

No place to have private conversations – When everyone can see who’s stopping in your office and read facial expressions, it can be tough to have those tough conversations. Whether someone is angry and yelling or upset and crying, with glass walls, there’s no escape from the inner-office gossip machine. And pulling the blinds will only add to speculation. Shellenbarger talked to more sensitive supervisors who would hold “private” meetings in public spaces — like the office cafeteria or the local Starbucks — to avoid drawing extra attention.

People walking into walls – Birds aren’t the only things that slam into glass partitions – people do, too. Some companies are adding etching or bubbling to their glass walls at eye level to prevent employees from walking into them unknowingly.

Noise levels – According to the article, 50 to 100 percent more noise can travel through a glass wall than traditional soundproofed drywall. So, not only can everyone see you waving your arms wildly in frustration, chances are they can hear some of what you’re ranting about, too.

No regular doors – Many glass offices forego traditional doors for sliding ones (kind of like you’re going out on to your deck!). Some employees are annoyed by the loss of that back-of-the-door hook for their coat and purse.

Easy idioms – And finally, after you’re done offering constructive criticism to an employee, chances are they’ll remind you that people who live in glass cubicles shouldn’t throw stones.

Photo courtesy of Costi on Stock.Xchng

5 Ways to Make Your Office Space Feel Like It’s Outdoors

For most wage slaves, an office cubicle with a window is a pipe dream. With work space growing smaller and smaller, and employees ever more grateful simply to have a job, natural light has become a very low priority for most employers. Too bad that those blinking fluorescents do precisely nothing for most folks’ mood, especially in winter.

The solution for workers who can’t finagle their way to a seat closer to the real outdoors? Bring the outdoors into the office. Here are a few of our favorite ways to do just that.

1. Install an Animated Sky Ceiling
fakeskylight
Here’s proof that we’re living in the future: You can now install an LED sky simulation over your workspace, and pretend that your cubicle has its very own skylight. The coolest thing about these panels is that they provide the illusion of clouds moving across the sun. Also, they’re energy efficient and provide more light than that horrid flickering fluorescent you have right now. The only downside is that they’re expensive: 1000 euros per square meter. For folks in the U.S., that translates roughly into one bajillion dollars and a million cents per foot.

2. Add Artificial Sunlight
naturebright
Significantly cheaper than an LED skylight, light therapy lamps generally cost between $65 and $150 and promise to make your dark little cubicle feel like it’s in the middle of the great outdoors. Fans of light therapy claim that it can help users’ bad moods, sleep problems, and irritability — all of which are arguably side effects of working in an office, no matter how close your seat is to a window. So it’s probably worth a try.

3. Grow a Desktop Garden
carnivorous_creations
What says “outside” more than a garden? We looked at many desktop kits before selecting this one in particular. Why did this garden-in-a-bubble win? Because all of the plants inside it are carnivorous. That’s right: This is a meat-eating garden, full of plants that will be happy to eat your coworkers’ leftover ham sandwiches. Because if there’s one thing better than feeling like you’re outdoors, it’s terrifying your colleagues at the same time. $24.99 for 10 varieties of carnivorous flora, plus the bubble dealie, decals, rocks, and something called a “bog buddy.” Yeah, we don’t want to know, either.

4. Keep an Electronic Butterfly in a Jar
butterflyinajar
Now that we’ve given you nightmares … look! Butterflies! This electronic butterfly in a jar looks like the real thing, but without the cruelty of, you know, keeping actual butterflies in a jar on your desk. (Also, you have those meat-eating plants now, so maybe you want to watch it with the wildlife.) You have your choice of a few different types of butterflies, but our favorite thing about this is part of its product description: “Will not die (just might need new batteries from time to time).” $19.99.

5. Grow Your Own Coffee
coffeegarden
For a mere $9.99, you can have your very own coffee farm, right in the privacy of your own cubicle. The great thing about this desktop garden is that you can actually drink the coffee you grow. The bad news is that you’ll have to supply your own mug.

You’re Still Using What? The 3 Departments Behind the Curve on Office Trends

Ask the PR department how your company is doing on office trends, and you’re likely to hear that the CEO reinvented the internet, the department heads are forging new ways to work remotely using telepathy, and the receptionist is using his spare time to create the world’s first office cubicle/spaceship. The reality, of course, is significantly less impressive. Here are the departments most likely to be totally out of the loop when it comes to trends.

1. Human Resources
HR
HR makes (or at least administers) all the important policies regarding employee behavior. This includes everyone’s favorite policy: the one that allows employees to work remotely. We know people who won’t take jobs that don’t have work-at-home provisions, and HR is the department that makes all of that happen. Which is why it’s so particularly sad that the folks in HR are often forbidden from working at home themselves.

2. Editorial
paperwork
Print isn’t dead, but it’s not feeling so well, and this could be why: Editorial departments at book publishing companies are famously, and proudly, behind the times. We’ve heard of places that still use those old carbon triplicate forms, despite having whole databases from which reports could easily be run. Maybe there’s something about working with paper that makes physical paperwork seem like a really good idea.

3. Sales
salesman
To be fair, sales departments go one of two ways: You either have the super cutting-edge sellers who use their PDAs more than most people use their toothbrushes, or you have old school salesmen who keep their entire contact database in their head, and think of sales force management software as a kind of boogeyman that lives in other people’s computers.

On the other end of the spectrum…

There are, however, some departments that are known for being ahead of the curve. These are the groups we look to when we need a model of how to modernize. (OK, first we make fun of them for being nerds. Then we use them as a model of progressiveness.)

1. IT
Revenge_of_the_nerds_2
Oh, IT. Without you, we would be typing this blog post on a slate, with a chisel. You were totally right when you said we would one day be using a smartphone, Twitter, and Facebook. We’re very sorry that we haven’t been listening to whatever you’re predicting we’ll be using next year. We know we’ll live to regret it.

2. Social Media Marketing
Justin+Bieber
The social media department is the youngest department at most companies, both in terms of how long the department has been in existence, and in terms of the average age of the people who work there. It would be a lot easier to follow what they were saying if we weren’t afraid that they were going to start talking about Justin Bieber. Anyway, they’re throwing a Twitter party, or something. Arm yourself with hashtags and just pretend you know what they’re talking about.

Images: 1. Gigaom.com, 2. Phillips.blogs.com, 3. Medicdiaries.com, 4. Revengeofthenerds.wikia.com, 5. Viuu.co.uk

5 Ways to Turn Your Cubicle into a Vacation

Here we are, a few scant weeks from the holiday break, and most of us are already eager for another vacation. To be fair, waiting in block-long lines and dodging extended family isn’t most people’s idea of a relaxing getaway. Given the choice, most of us would much prefer to go to the beach or the mountains. Somewhere, anywhere, we can relax and forget about our workday lives.

Of course, if work were about our preferences, it wouldn’t be called “work,” it’d be called “vacation.” Which might get confusing after a while. The good news is that there are plenty of ways to bring a bit more holiday into your office cubicle. Here are some of our favorites:

1. Relaxpls
relaxpls
It sounds like something a LOLcat would tell you to do right before you murdered it, but Relaxpls is actually a Chrome app that allows you to turn your monitor into a mini-vacation. It displays high-resolution nature scenes and plays soothing sounds like birds tweeting. And if that doesn’t relax you, you can have a good laugh at your coworkers’ faces when they catch you pretending to be in the Amazon.

2. Yoga Apps
yogaapps
Go on a yoga retreat without leaving your desk. These three yoga apps were created to make it easier to take the advice of every “reduce stress at work” story published in the last decade, and do yoga in your cubicle. The best bet for cubicle dwellers is probably the aptly named Office Yoga, which includes over 75 exercises and costs $.99. Again, the healing power of laughter it will provide to your office mate is totally free.

3. Turn Your Cubicle Into a Tiki Bar
tikibarcube
This is just good advice any time, even if you’re not stressed out. It is a scientific fact that tiki bar is the single best decorating motif for any cubicle or public space. No one is ever sad in a tiki bar. Bonus points if you start drinking your coffee out of one of those awesomely creepy mugs that look like the idol in that episode of the “Brady Bunch” where they go to Hawaii and meet Vincent Price.

4. ChatterBlocker
chatterblocker
See how happy and Zen that guy is up there? That’s because he can’t hear a single word of detail of his annoying coworkers’ phone conversations. Seriously, he has no idea what Bob thinks of the five-thousandth season of “Survivor,” or anything about the precise details of the food poisoning Janie got from eating week-old Pad Thai out of the communal fridge. He is listening to nature sounds. It’s like he’s in the rainforest in Belize, while everyone else is getting ready to go to the 10 o’clock meeting.

5. Cubicle With a View
fakewindow
If all else fails, slap up a fake window, and make sure it gives you a view of the ocean. Voila: Oceanfront property, with internet access and unlimited candy.

7 Health Hazards at Your Desk (and How to Avoid Them)

At first glance, spending your day slaving away in a cubicle might not seem too hazardous to your health.

You’re not apprehending perps like a police officer or balancing on scaffolding like a construction worker. You’re just sitting down at a desk, hoping not to get caught checking Facebook for the 10th time in the last 20 minutes.

Don’t get too comfy. There are plenty of ways a desk job can wreak havoc on your health. ComputerWorld.com even created a handy (or disturbing?) chart that shows how working at a desk job can wear your body down.

To prove it to you, we found seven very real dangers to your well-being hiding in your cubicle walls.

Doughnut
1. Distracted eating – Besides annoying your neighbors by constantly crunching on potato chips, eating at your desk can contribute to a host of health problems – especially if you’re eating high-fat fare from the vending machine. Poor eating habits and working a sedentary job can lead to weight gain and potential obesity, which puts you at risk for hypertension, diabetes, stroke, sleep apnea, respiratory problems, cancer and cardiovascular disease, according to an article on ComputerWorld.com. Do we have your attention yet? When you sit down for a meal rather than multitasking at your desk, you’re more likely to pay attention to your body’s cues telling you when you’re full – so there’s less of a chance you’ll overeat. If you plan ahead and pack a healthy lunch and snack, you’ll be less likely to hit that vending machine for an afternoon Snickers break.

cross-legged
2. Crossing your legs – Sitting with your legs crossed all day can lead to lower back pain and the development of spider veins, chiropractic physician Dr. Richard Arrandt told the Ladies Home Journal. However, we do have some good news for those who like habitual leg-crosses: research has shown that sitting this way will not cause varicose veins.

3. Headphone volume – Sure it might be tough to tune out the office din without putting on a pair of headphones and cranking up the volume, but research shows that 80 percent of people listen to music at dangerous levels when there’s background noise. According to an article on sciencedaily.com, listening to loud, sustained noise can permanantly damage a person’s hearing. Audiologists Brian Fligor and Terri Ives reccommend using noise-blocking headphones and listening to music at a safe level – around 75 decibels (about the sound of a telephone dial tone), when you’re using it for more than two hours a day. According to the article, 85 decibels is the minimum sound level for risk of hearing damage; people can sustain listening to 91 decibels (about the sound of a train whistle from 500 feet away) for two hours a day before suffering hearing loss.

stressed
4. Not taking a break – You don’t need us to tell you that work can be stressful and exhausting. And just like your body wouldn’t be able to sustain exercising for eight hours a day straight, your brain needs to rest periodically, too. There’s a physical toll on your body as well; sitting in one position and staring at a screen for hours on end can lead to chronic back pain and eye strain. Harvard Business Review blogger Whitney Johnson writes, “Rest is life and work support. It reinvigorates us so we can get things done. It allows us to subvert our inner workaholic, liberating our innovative self. It also allows us pause to gain perspective, to plumb the meaning of our life.” Now, we’re not saying you’ll find the meaning of life in the 10 minutes you take to refill your water – but you will stretch your legs, get your circulation going and give your brain a chance to recharge.

Keyboard
5. Never cleaning your keyboard/mouse/phone – Not to be gross, but a 2008 study by a computer advocacy group in the U.K. found at least one office keyboard that was dirtier than a toilet seat, according to ABCNews.com. Another study by the University of Arizona, reported on by CNN, found that desktops contained 21,000 germs per square inch and phones contained 25,000 germs per square inch. By comparison, a toilet seat has just 49 germs per square inch. Those buttons you click on all day could carry anything from staph to E. coli, and during cold and flu season can be a prime place for sharing sickness. Experts recommend wiping down your desk, keyboard, phone and mouse daily to prevent the buildup of germs. Note: yet another reason not to eat at your desk.

light
6. Improper lighting – According to Boston University’s College of Health and Rehabilitation Services, poor lighting in your office can lead to visual discomfort (including red-eye and light sensitivity); neck, shoulder and forearm discomfort; and headaches. The college also noted that proper lighting – especially from sources of natural light – promotes creativity, improves job performance, and limits eye strain. The college recommends computer users avoid working when there’s glare on their monitors.

improper-seating
7. Sitting improperly – When your HR person talks to you about the best way to sit while working, pay attention. He or she isn’t just trying to be motherly. The right furniture and proper seating can prevent a whole host of repetitive strain injuries including Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and back, neck, shoulder and leg problems. Visit thehelpinghand.com for a thorough list of sitting suggestions and a diagram that shows an ergonomically-friendly workspace.

Ex-Employee Fights for Twitter Custody

dailybeasttwitterMost of the time, it’s pretty clear what belongs to you, the employee, and what belongs to your employer, the evil corporation who laid you off/fired you/inspired you to hire a marching band to announce your resignation. The office cubicles, company-issued laptop, office chair, and so on belong to the company. You get your Dunder Mifflin mug and whatever paperclips you can smuggle out of the office in your pocket.

But here in the information age, nothing is simple: Who, for instance, owns that Twitter account you ran so successfully when you were still enfolded in the corporate bosom? This is the question facing mobile news site PhoneDog Media and their former employee, Noah Kravitz. Kravitz contends that the Twitter account he managed when he was an employee (or a contractor, depending on who you ask) is his; PhoneDog says it belongs to them, and is suing Kravitz for $340,000 — $2.50 per follower, 17,000 followers, for the eight months since he turned @PhoneDog_Noah into @NoahKravitz.
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Kravitz says he was told he could keep the account when he left, and tweet about the company from time to time, which he agreed to do, he says, as they “were parting on good terms.” PhoneDog says the Twitter list is a customer list, and that they “intend to aggressively protect our customer lists and confidential information, intellectual property, trademark and brands.”

This isn’t the first lawsuit involving Twitter, of course. Just about everyone who knows that the verb “tweet” doesn’t refer exclusively to birds is familiar with some Twitter-based legal fracas. Courtney Love was famously sued for allegedly libeling designer Dawn Simorangkir on Twitter, and Cardinals manager Tony La Russa sued Twitter itself for allowing an imposter to masquerade as him on the service. Interestingly, though, there aren’t a ton of stories of about non-famous folk duking it out with their former employers for control of a corporate Twitter feed, but that’s probably going to change, soon enough — especially if PhoneDog wins its suit.

If you run a business with a Twitter account (and really, what business doesn’t have a Twitter account?), the best way to avoid winding up in court, or losing valuable potential customers in custody agreement, is to think ahead:

1. Spell out who owns what right from the start, in contract form. Get the lawyers involved, and make it official.

2. If at all possible, divide the responsibilities of creating and maintaining the Twitter account between different departments or individuals. It might sound silly, but people tend to feel less proprietary toward feeds they didn’t sign up for themselves. Think of it this way: You wouldn’t hire a blogger to create a blog, name it, build the site it resides on, and then write it, would you? Twitter is really just a blog in miniature.

3. Keep track of Twitter passwords, and change them when employees leave the company.

4. Don’t ask your employees to use their personal social networking accounts to promote your brand. It muddies the waters, but also, it annoys the folks who use their profiles and feeds to tell the world that their coffee this morning was not up to snuff. And everyone deserves a little corner of the internet to call all their own.

Images: The Daily Beast, screenshot from @noahkravitz‘s Twitter account