Archive for April, 2012
Does it ever feel like your office has a language all its own? We’re not just talking about TPS reports and whatever bizarre acronym they’ve come up with for the corporate intranet. (Although if anyone is naming an intranet right now, can we be the first to suggest HAL?) No, we’re looking at other terms that pervade the office cubicle on an unofficial basis: Office slang, if you will. According to the Urban Dictionary, here are a few of the recent additions.
1. Cubicle Coma
According to Urban Dictionary, this is the phenomenon of coming into work feeling totally energized, only to fall into a malaise as soon as you enter your cubicle. To be a true cubicle coma, the depression needs to dissipate as soon as you leave the office.
2. Office Bingo
The next time you’re stuck in a meeting run by someone who speaks entirely in corporate cliches, make the time fly by with Office Bingo. Make a table with five columns and five rows, and fill each box with industry buzzwords. Every time the speaker drops a term, mark off a box. First one to get five in a row wins.
This refers to that traffic jam that happens when everyone in your immediate seating area must head toward the same meeting space at the same time. Tip for workers who find themselves in this situation: Do not moo. Your boss will not find it as hilarious as we do.
Hopefully, the digital age will eventually save us from the workalanche, which is what happens when your to-do stack becomes so large that it collapses and falls all over your desk.
This is defined as a coworker’s personality while they’re at work. It may differ sharply from their personality while they’re at home, as you’ll discover if you spend any time at all talking to their spouse at the Christmas party. (“George is a real stickler for punctuality! He once threw out a batch of batch of breakfast omelets because they didn’t set in five minutes.” This about the coworker who owes you reports from last quarter.)
This disorder causes workers to fall asleep during particularly boring work meetings. It’s highly contagious.
Woerkalurkers tend to alternate between actual work and social media. Basically what 95 percent of all office workers are doing on any given work day.
This condition occurs when you have so many meetings, you can’t get your work done.
This disorder makes it impossible to concentrate during meetings. Symptoms include hallucinations, sleepiness, and daydreams.
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The workforce is changing. More people are going freelance than ever before, and even those that stay hitched to the corporate lifestyle are being allowed unprecedented flexibility in terms of hours and work environments. The fact is, we don’t need to be in an office cubicle anymore to get our work done. Mobile technology enables us to work anywhere.
Some places, however, are better ad hoc offices that others. Here are a few of our favorites.
1. Co-Working Space
Need a conference room, but only one day out of the month? Want to be independent, but not totally isolated from humanity? A co-working space might be perfect for you. Many such places have flexible packages for people who only want a few days or hours at a time, and all offer the chance to strike a balance between the office and the coffee shop.
And speaking of coffee shops, there’s always Starbucks. Thanks to a fairly recent shift to free Wi-Fi, and their famously ubiquitous locations, Starbucks is the office away from office for many mobile workers. You no longer need to be a customer of a specific mobile provider or pay a fee to use the internet at Starbucks. You might, however, want to pack some earplugs, as noise levels are unpredictable. (Especially when school gets out, or office workers are dropping by for their morning java.)
3. Independent Coffee Shops
Despite Starbucks’ world takeover, most cities and many small towns still have non-chain coffee shops. The upside to these is that they offer a more creative, indie vibe than the big corporate chains. The downside is that their Wi-Fi is often also creative and indie — which is to say, unreliable. This obviously varies from store to store, but it’s always worth asking about before you settle in for a long morning of flickering internet. While you’re at it, make sure to check up on Wi-Fi fees and time limits.
4. The Library
Libraries have entered the age of the Kindle and the iPad, offering free internet and a quiet place to work for everyone from students to business people. The only caveat is that you probably will not be allowed to drink coffee or eat muffins at your “desk.” But on the other hand, you will have a professional shush-er to keep the noise levels down to a minimum.
5. Restaurants and Bars
Many establishments now offer free internet to their customers, and it’s nice to be able to wrap up your work for the day with a beer and some nachos. The potential downsides here have probably already occurred to you: alcohol and/or greasy food is not always such a great combination with either productivity or your laptop. Plus, a lot of places won’t be thrilled if you settle in for three hours during the dinner rush. But for an hour or so, just for a change of scene, your local bar and grill might be just the ticket.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Office design is an ever-evolving field. In the last 10 years especially, our ideas about what the office is supposed to provide have changed dramatically. It’s possible now to work in a private office, a semi-private cubicle, a totally open office environment, or from home. The question of which model to embrace has a lot to do with the needs of your organization and staff.
Because of this, we can learn a lot from Montessori schools, which thrive on independence and creativity. Here are three of the most valuable lessons Montessori has for the modern office.
1. Be Flexible
Montessori students don’t have assigned work spaces. Instead, they move about the room as needed to work on various projects and lessons. It’s important to think beyond the traditional office mold when making your floor plan. It’s possible that set office cubicles are the best choice for your employees, but there’s no sense wasting real estate if people would be happier and more productive in a more open environment.
2. Rethink Departmental Organization
At Montessori schools, kids are grouped by planes instead of grades. The idea is to create groups that function together on a developmental level, not an arbitrary age separation. So you might have a 12-year-old and a 14-year-old in the same class, and a 3-year-old and a 6-year-old together in another class.
Companies can use this model to help them create work groups that make sense in terms of the projects they’re participating in. If design and marketing work together a lot, put them closer together instead of building walls — real and metaphorical — between people who need to communicate in order to get the job done.
3. Let Workers Work
Montessori organizes time into longer, uninterrupted blocks, instead of creating smaller, more frequently-changing classrooms. In theory, this enables kids to concentrate and learn from their work, instead of being called away to other activities.
This is an even more useful idea for adults, who often seem to need at least 20 minutes to get their head in the game after being interrupted. When planning your office design, create places for workers to go and concentrate fully on the task at hand.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Anyone who’s ever worked in an office cubicle that faces a pillar (or the wall, or a bathroom) can attest to the fact that workspaces are better when they’re carefully planned out ahead of time. But nowadays, many companies don’t exactly have a huge budget for architects and other design pros to come in and do the job. Enter the internet, which provides multiple totally free resources for folks who are trying to design an office. This pretty much proves, once and for all, that anything you can’t do online isn’t worth doing at all.
Yet another reason to heart IKEA: their free office planner lets you try out design ideas in 3D. Drag and drop objects, experiment with decor, and view different angles. It will even tell you how much your new office would cost, if you opt for all IKEA furniture. Sadly, does not come with free Swedish meatballs.
This is one of those “free to try” dealies, so if you like what you see, you’ll have a chance to upgrade for a fee. SmartDraw boasts a variety of different templates, allowing you to design floor plans for anything from a family restaurant to a standard business office. It also has a five-star rating from CNET’s editors.
Once you’ve designed your office, you can use the software for a bunch of other functions both practical and fun: the screenshot we’ve shown above is an evacuation plan, but you can also build org charts, family trees, flowcharts, and a bunch of other fun visuals to spice up your next PowerPoint (or personal Tumblr.)
3. My Deco 3D
Upload your own floor plans or use one of this free online tool’s preloaded templates. This planner allows you to change layouts, decorating schemes, even camera angles, as well as create both 2D and 3D models of your dream office. There’s even a free iPhone app, for people who want to tweak their designs on the go.
Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that Arnolds offers space planning and design services, along with the best used and new office furniture money can buy. If these free resources don’t float your boat, drop us a line and we’ll talk about how to design the perfect workspace for your company.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
It’s no shock to hear that mobile technology has dramatically changed the way we operate in our personal and professional lives. As smartphones and tablets grow in popularity and more companies migrate toward virtual desks, the workstation of 2020 might not have much in common with the cubicles of 2012.
A recent article on TODAYonline highlighted some of the drastic changes occurring in the workplace – especially in Asia. These trends will no doubt head west in the coming years, transforming the way we all do business.
Here’s an overview of some of the major shifts:
1. Mobile Devices
The proliferation of smartphones and tablets means that more and more employees are bringing their own mobile devices to work and expecting to be able to connect to a corporate network. This trend further blurs the line between the professional and personal lives of employees and could change how much technology a company needs to make available to employees. And, as discussed below, these mobile devices have decreased the need for traditional workspaces.
2. Live Video
No longer just a tool for conferencing and training, live video is being implemented everywhere from remote health care and banking to interviewing and troubleshooting in manufacturing. This could spell less travel for both employees and clients alike and could spark the demise of traditional offices down the road.
3. Virtual Offices
More companies are migrating functions that would normally be found an employee’s desktop to the Cloud. The availability of company-specific software on a remote central server means that employees are no longer tied to a PC to do their job — any Web-connected device can be used for business. The demand for virtual hosted desktops will top 49 million units in 2013, according to Gartner, a market research company (compared with more than 500,000 units in 2009). TODAYonline predicts that desktops will be less cluttered as companies become less reliant on PCs to handle daily tasks and that IT departments will be called on to support an increased variety of devices and applications.
4. Smaller Offices
An article from the Real Estate Investment Trust (REIT) said that technology is changing the demand for workspace. Now that more employees are able to telecommute all or at least part of the time, there’s less demand for office space. As a result, owners of commercial real estate are now focused more on offering extra amenities to companies, rather than extra space. Of course, for certain industries, telecommuting isn’t practical. Research-based jobs generally require a collaborative environment and firms that deal with classified or sensitive information (like the government) would also not be eager to jump on the telecommuting trend.
5. Fewer Assistants
REIT also noted that technology has made it more efficient for employees to handle more tasks. As a result, fewer employees are hiring assistants, especially among the younger generation.
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6. Shared Workspace
As mobile technology and the desire to create more collaborative work environments has diminished the need for bulky cubicles (who needs a home for that giant PC anymore?), more companies are resorting to open floor plans. This means less privacy and personal space for employees, but more informal gathering spots for impromptu meetings.
Most companies, when preparing to leave their office space for newer and better things, just pack up all their stuff and turn in the keys to the management company. It’s grown up and responsible of them and all, but pretty boring.
We much prefer tales of companies that trash their office cubicles and rip up the carpet, plan huge parties or sublet the space to guinea pig farmers. (We were unable to find a story about that last idea, and so we offer it free of charge to any organizations who are looking for a really excellent way to say goodbye to their digs.) Basically, we think it’s much more interesting when people leave their office with a bang, instead of a whimper. Here are a few such companies, who came up with some seriously creative ways to leave their leases.
Mobile gaming company and enemy of vowels Scvngr spent two years in an office space in Cambridge, Mass., only to lose the location to demolition. Their 28,000 square-foot location will be razed to make room for a park, but not before employees get a chance to stage an epic paintball war in their old workspace. At $500 a team, you’d think the price tag would deter folks, but not at all: At least seven teams signed up to play.
CEO (and “chief ninja”) Seth Priebatsch got the full approval of landlord before planning his paint-fueled goodbye party, although he admitted to being unclear as to whether or not he and his employees would be required to clean up afterward.
“In my many strengths of working at this company, cleaning up has never been one of them,” he said. “If we do have to clean up, I’m going to seriously disappear.”
There are lots of different types of demolition parties. If Scvngr’s bash is more suited to 20-something gamers, Circle Bank in Novato, Calif.’s goodbye party was perfectly appropriate for the whole family. Seriously: there were drinks, and food, and even a clown. It was practically a kids’ birthday party.
First, Occupy groups got evicted from parks and public spaces. Then, they moved into offices — and started getting evicted from their indoor bases of operation as well. The good news is that they seem to be getting used to it: eviction announcements are now followed by invitations to attend parties. Like this one, from Occupy Duluth, which hilariously invites participants to “Occupy the Paul Robeson Ballroom and Courtyard.”Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
What makes a good book … good? For most of us, it’s a combination of an absorbing story, amusing writing, and that third thing that’s more difficult to describe: Call it accessibility, for lack of a better term.
Basically, we want to be able to relate to the characters in the story. It comes as no surprise, therefore, that many books published in recent years chronicle the adventures of wage slaves like us. When it comes right down to it, the office is familiar ground for most of us. And in terms of entertainment value, there’s very little that’s more hilarious than reading about some other poor sap negotiating life in an office cubicle.
Here are some of the funniest books about office life.
For the low price of $.99, you can get this book, which promises to teach you how to cope with your corporate masters without getting canned or losing your soul. We will also give this book points for introducing the use of “cubicle” as a verb, as in: “How many hours a day do you cubicle?”
Described by one Amazon reviewer as “back pains-funny,” Jennifer Kley’s account is so true and hilarious, we couldn’t possibly describe it better than she does herself: “Cubicle Rebel is the true story of a tragically right-brained office loathing, directionless malcontent former employee of everything from chicken joints to retail and finally office life. There are indignant tales of low pay, neurotic coworkers, bull’s eye bosses and deferred dreams. Join the author as she gets hired and fired, takes a failed sabbatical that resulted in a 40-pound weight gain, moves to an undesirable first home, becomes homeless — all while mocking her oppressive employers.”
Jump into a time machine and turn the dial all the way back to 2001, when the dotcom bubble burst and employees at this fictional advertising firm try to survive the downturn by taking ever more frequent coffee breaks, working on pro-bono campaigns no one understands, and eventually, hiding in abandoned office cubicles.
Admit it: You know at least one person in your office who desperately needs to be pranked. Give them what they deserve. Options include: Paper Clip Chain, Bottomless Box, the Sticky Note Office, Chair Chaos, and the Textless Keyboard.
Do you ever find yourself at work, thinking things like, “This is OK, but it’d really be fun if it were more like a third-grade slumber party?” Do we have the book for you. Mad Libs, beloved encourager of turning body parts into verbs, came out with this book for cubicle dwellers. Enjoy choosing off-color adjectives to describe your coworkers and prove to yourself once and for all that maturity has no place in the modern office.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
What is it about offices that inspires some managers to become dictators? Anyone who’s ever worked at a place with an arbitrary dress code or a completely rigid schedule can relate. But some offices are crazier than others. For example, we have a law firm in Deerfield Beach, Florida, which recently fired 14 workers for infractions that seem like something George Orwell would be embarrassed to dream up:
1. Wearing Orange
You are not reading that wrong. The major reason the workers were fired, allegedly, was that they showed up to work one day wearing orange shirts. The law firm took this as a sign that they were protesting working conditions. (Prisoners wear orange jumpsuits in Florida, so the idea was that they were wearing the color to draw parallels between their situation and that of prisoners. No word on whether they were forced to shower together or feared shivving in the lunchroom.)
“Orange happens to be my favorite color. My patio is orange,” Janice Doble told the Sun-Sentinel. Doble was one of the recently-terminated employees who is now suing her former employer. “My lipstick was orange today.”
2. Getting Coffee
During working hours, employees were not allowed to go to the break room to get coffee. Caffeine was not the major objection, here. Apparently, the firm feared that workers would use their break time to discuss their working conditions.
To which we can only say: If you want to see people discuss their working conditions, just forbid them from getting coffee. That’s a great way to make production grind to a screeching halt at almost every office we’ve ever heard of.
3. Talking Over Cubicle Walls
Attorney Donna Ballman, who represents six out of the 14 fired employees, says that workers were not allowed to talk to each other over office cubicle walls. Again, the intention was probably to keep them from fomenting rebellion, a goal that’s problematic no matter how you slice it.
As ABC news points out, the National Labor Relations Act protects workers’ rights to talk about their working conditions — even if those workers aren’t in a union. That includes complaining about those conditions, we assume even over cubicle walls.
As ridiculous as these rules sound, the law firm that created them isn’t a rogue, isolated company. Making up dumb rules for employees seems to be something of a pastime with organizations. Other strange rules we found other companies enforcing include:
The guy who made this complaint said he also gets yelled at for being too loud on the phone … a problem that is easily solved by letting him close his office door.
Somehow, this is even dumber than just having casual Fridays. How do you decide which day is the day to wear jeans? And if jeans are so evil, so destructive to order and reason and the company’s bottom line, why have that one day at all? It seems to us that either jeans are the first sign of the sartorial apocalypse, or they aren’t. Make up your minds, HR people.
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If you’re like most people, you don’t spend much time thinking about how your office came to be the way it is. You wake up, suffer through your daily commute, and take your place at your desk. The fact that your desk is probably made of some kind of plastic or laminate, and has a computer on it instead of a typewriter or a scroll of parchment most likely never occurs to you.
But a lot had to happen to bring us the conveniences (and inconveniences) of the modern office. Here’s what workspace used to look like.
The Office in 1912
If you were at work 100 years ago, your office would seem very different indeed. (Also, we would want to ask you what vitamins you take, because you would be about 120 years old right now.)
“Picture a typical office a century ago,” says Lindsay Smith of Michigan Radio. “White collar workers, chain smoking, mostly wooden furniture, lots of paper, quite the fire hazard.”
Less dangerous, and only slightly less disturbing: The color scheme, which Smith reminds us was generally in hues of “battleship gray, olive green, and brown.”
The Office in the 1920s, 1930s, 1940s
The décor starting changing in the ’20s and ’30s, when plastics became widely available. Those Bakelite baubles you buy at the flea market are fun collector’s items, but they represent a huge revolution in terms of office furniture. Those battleship gray desks were made of solid metal, and weighed almost as much as a battleship. You can see why people embraced plastic and never looked back.
The number of women in the workplace also increased throughout World War II, changing the face of the staff as well.
The Office in the 1950s and 1960s
Perhaps the most fun part of watching “Mad Men” is seeing the evolution of style throughout the 1950s. The blond wood and clean lines that replaced those clunky gray desks were in evidence right away, in the show’s first episode. As we get closer to the 1970s, we see pop art and other mod styles take over the office.
It’s fun to watch, but just remember: That hideous corporate “art” that you and your lunch buddies make fun of had to start somewhere. We say it started in Roger’s office and dumbed down until it became a Successory.
The Office in the 1970s and 1980s
The ’70s and ’80s are when the cubicle, bane and joy of every office worker’s existence, finally took off. It’s worth noting that the Dilbert-esque cubicles that comedians love to mock were very far away from Robert Propst’s orginal “Action Office” design, which, like the open plan offices of today, was intended to make workers more flexible and productive, while offering some semblance of privacy and autonomy.
Another big shift in the ’80s, and one we’ll likely never get past: the introduction of computers into the workplace. Those of us who came up during the post-typewriter age can’t imagine what we’d do without a computer. We imagine that we would either get way less done … or way more.
The Office in the 1990s and 2000s
And speaking of getting way less done, the internet hit the 1990s-era office, and nothing was ever the same again. People now work right next to people and never speak face-to-face, preferring to email and IM instead of, you know, talking. Even the water cooler is virtual, with most folks gossiping over messaging services instead of chatting in the break room like they did in the old days.
The ’90s and aughts also saw the introduction of open offices and working at home. There’s probably a relationship between the decline of actual offices and the decline of dress codes. It’s hard to make people dress up when they’re increasingly used to working in their jammies.
The Office of the Future
So what does the future hold? The answer, as with all academic questions, is a little of everything. We can look forward to more flexible workspaces, better technology, and less senseless face time. What we can’t predict is the next big thing: the future equivalent of plastics or the internet that will change the way we work forever.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Photo courtesy of sexysocialmedia.com
When the CEO of your company uses Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory as his muse for designing the company headquarters, you know you’re going to be in for a unique work experience.
That is exactly what Zynga founder Mark Pincus wants. According to a recent article from USA Today, the new $228 million San Francisco headquarters for the company behind games like Words With Friends and FarmVille, was designed to be over-the-top and garish in the hopes of inspiring employees to have fun and be innovative.
Photo courtesy of ftchris on Flickr
And the fun starts at the building’s entrance where you walk through the mini lobby past an RV and into a psychadelic tunnel, blinking with multicolored Las Vegas casino-style lights designed to transport you from the outside world to the Zynga playhouse.
The tunnel ends in a cavernous lobby, which features a cafeteria and coffee bar and a six-story atrium.
Photo courtesy of JoopDorresteijn on Flickr
The first thing that might stick out to you is the number of dogs wandering about. One employee told 7Live (a local TV station) that she estimates that one of every nine employees takes a pooch to work with them, which makes sense for a company named after Pincus’s late American Bulldog Zinga (Zinga’s also the company logo). Headquarters is even nicknamed “The Dog House” and the company offers pet insurance.
Photo courtesy of kawanet on Flickr
Beyond the light display and the dogs, the company offers many of the same incredible perks folks in the tech industry have come to expect including:
Photo courtesy of steelcast.com
The offices themselves are open and cubicle free, encouraging employees to openly share ideas around the clock. Artwork and cutouts from various Zynga games adorn the walls and stand guard throughout the office.
But even a work environment without offices and cubicles isn’t weird enough for Pincus.
According to USA Today, he told employees in the marketing department that he’d like to see some spray paint on the walls and he told the engineers behind FarmVille that he thought it would be good to put straw on the floor and have live goats wandering around.
No word yet on when the Oompa Loompas arrive.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+