Archive for September, 2012

5 Ways to Save on Your Office Energy Bill

If there’s one thing that all businesses have in common, it’s that the folks who are running them would like to save money. It doesn’t matter whether you sell cars or computers, raise money for non-profits or run a website: you need to save every penny you can. One of the best ways to do this — besides, you know, buying excellent, high-quality used office furniture, ahem — is to trim your office energy bill. If you do it the right way, you can save a ton of money without even inconveniencing your workers. Here are a few ways to get started.

1. Review Your HVAC System

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Heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are charged with keeping our office environments livable. They’re also a great source of potential waste. If these systems are running inefficiently, it can have a big effect on your bottom line.

“The HVAC system tends to be one energy use that can always be readdressed and re-engineered to be made more efficient,” said Annette Bubak, vice president of Better Building Performance in Las Vegas.

2. Look for Leaks

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Cheaper and easier than replacing your whole heating system, stopping up gaps in window sealants and around doors and other entry points can make a big difference in how much money you spend heating and cooling the office. It will also make it more comfy to come to work.

3. Update Your Lighting

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Switch to energy-efficient LED and fluorescent lighting, and turn off lights in areas when they’re not needed. There’s no point in keeping the lights burning in empty offices and conference rooms, for example.

4. Get a Better Thermostat

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If your office space has had the same old-fashioned thermostats since the Reagan administration, it’s time to consider an upgrade. The newer thermostats are digital, programmable, and often come with remote control access. There’s no better way to make sure that you’re not heating and cooling an empty space.

5. Last Person Out Turns Everything Off

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That goes for the computer monitors, which people should turn off when they leave for the evening, as well as the lights. If you have cleaning people in after hours, consider asking them to make it the last thing they do when they’re done tidying up the office. Otherwise, get your folks in the habit of checking to see that everything’s turned off when they go home for the evening.

Images: dankueck/Flickr, Muffet/Flickr, Snayl/Flickr, CERTs/Flickr, krossbow/Flickr

Should Your Office Go BYOD (Bring Your Own Devices?)

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Mac people refuse to use anything without an Apple logo on it. PC people insist that they could never feel comfortable using a computer they couldn’t open up themselves, if necessary. And everyone agrees that the mobile devices they prefer are the only mobile devices worth using. What’s an IT manager to do?

Many companies are solving this problem by instituting Bring Your Own Device policies, in which workers can choose their own mobile devices. Some organizations even offer a BYOD stipend to cover the expenses of purchasing a device for work purposes. The hope is that doing so will make workers more productive, happier — and maybe save the company a buck or two.

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Pros of BYOD:

1. Cost Savings

Perhaps the biggest benefit to the organization is the cost savings. Gartner estimates that companies with BYOD policies save as much as 40 percent. Other analysts have shown that BYOD policies save as much as $80 per user. They also estimate that 50 percent of companies with BYOD policies require employees to bear the total cost of purchasing devices — and that employees seem happy to comply in order to have the privilege of using their favorite technology.

2. Happier Employees are More Productive Employees

It stands to reason that letting a Mac person use a Mac, instead of forcing them to acclimate to a totally different and less-than-beloved operating system would make them happier employees. Allowing folks to use familiar technology also saves on the time they’d spend learning how to do everything “backwards.”

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Cons of BYOD:

1. Support

If you have employees working on a variety of different operating systems, devices, and technologies, you need to offer support for all those different permutations — something easier said than done. After all, even your tech support people have their pet devices and operating systems. You’re less likely to find a support specialist who can solve problems on every available device.

2. Compatibility

We’ve heard tales of Mac people who were unable to lead meetings because the conferencing software wasn’t compatible with their machines. That’s a lovely win for the Mac people, who can go back to their desks and continue ruling the world with their single-button mice, but a little trying for the hapless manager who hoped to get everyone’s input. It’s rare to find software that truly functions across every possible platform and on every conceivable device, and the problem is likely to get worse as we develop more specialized devices.

Images: 1 and 3: Dell/Flickr, 2: jurvetson/Flickr

5 Disturbing Side Effects of Open Plan Offices

If you’re considering an open plan office, you’re probably already well aware of the benefits of switching to a less boxed-in office design. But before you count the money saved on office equipment and floor space, consider these ways that open office plans can hinder productivity (and what to do to offset the problems.)

1. Introverts Might Freak Out

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“Most of us now work in teams, in offices without walls, for managers who prize people skills above all. Lone geniuses are out. Collaboration is in,” says Susan Cain, author of “Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking,” in an interview with the New York Times.

The problem, according to productivity strategists, is that introverts generally aren’t comfortable working out in the open. Which means that you might lose out on some great ideas from your quietest and most reflective thinkers.

Answer: Provide some private spaces for those who need them, whether it’s for a small meeting or some heads-down time on a project.

2. The Noise Might Drive You Crazy

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Even if everyone in the office is concentrating quietly on their work, open offices are just plain louder than cubicle layouts. The simple fact is that there aren’t any walls to buffer the sound. (And you thought those burlap cube walls at your first gig out of college were totally useless.)

Answer: Sound-masking equipment. Believe it or not, the answer to too much noise might be more noise — white noise, that is; the kind that blocks out the chair squeaks and idle chatter of big open offices.

3. Higher Stress Levels for Everyone

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Even if you’re a fairly extroverted person, having your co-workers right in your face all day long can be a pretty aggravating situation. In the long-term, this can lead to higher stress levels.

Answer: Earphones + courtesy = happy campers. Workers can build a little faux privacy by listening to their own soundtrack, and you can encourage people to be respectful of each other’s space and privacy.

4. More Conflict

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Remember that episode of “The Brady Bunch” where Marcia and Peter shared a room? Yeah, open offices can get that ugly, even without the ’70s print.

Answer: Make sure everyone has at least a little bit of space all his or her own, even if it’s just a locker. And we can’t stress enough how valuable those conference rooms will be. Give folks a space to escape to when they need to, and you’ll have a lot less squabbling.

5. You Might See Higher Turnover

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If you don’t plan ahead to offset some of these downsides to the open office plan, you might find yourself having to hire new folks a lot more often than you’d like. A 2008 Asia-Pacific Journal of Health Management report cited in Scientific American (and quoted here) found that open work environments increased employee turnover, as well as promoting high blood pressure.

Answer: Do the work ahead of time, and you’ll reap all of the benefits of an open plan office, without having to suffer.

Images: zadeus/Flickr, Phillie Casablanca/Flickr, Ha-Wee/Flickr, trawin/Flickr, Karen Eliot/Flickr

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Is It a Car Interior or Office Furniture?

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Mercedes owners love to brag about how comfortable their cars are. “It’s like driving around in a couch,” said one friend of ours, who refuses to give us his car so that we can experience it for ourselves, on a full-time basis. (Jerk.)

The fact of the matter is that many luxury cars are actually more comfortable than most couches. Certainly, they have the average piece of office furniture beat — which is why we were so delighted to discover that one artist is making office furniture out of old Mercedes parts. South African designer Katie Thompson, known for repurposing junk into art, is collaborating with Mercedes to create furniture so comfortable, you’ll never want to leave the office.

“A car seat as an office chair, a dashboard as a desk, a rear mirror as a table lamp: The interior fittings of an SL are granted a second life as elegant office furnishings,” says a representative from Mercedes.

Thompson worked with local artisans to transform parts of a Mercedes-Benz SL into office furniture. Her innovations included:

  • A desk made out of a dashboard, in which the speedometer becomes a magnetized pad, the air vents become a slot for business cards, the rev counter becomes a world clock, and the ignition lock is replaced with a USB charger. Possibly the coolest desk we’ve seen since this one.
  • The rear-view mirror becomes a desk lamp. Comes in handy when you’re trying to avoid coworkers who sneak up on you while you’re working.
  • The gas and brake pedals become a pen holder.
  • The driver’s seat becomes the most comfortable and best-looking office chair we have ever seen. Seriously, look at this thing:
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    You would feel like king of the office sitting in that chair. In fact, if we had that chair, we would insist on rolling ourselves into every meeting, making vroom vroom sounds and gripping an imaginary steering wheel. (Which reminds us: We couldn’t find out what happened to the steering wheel. Perhaps Thompson and Mercedes-Benz should consider an add-on feature for the chair? We could see it becoming an excellent laptop table, or perhaps eating tray, since once you sat in this chair, you’d never want to get out of it.)

    For more on this cool line of office furniture, and on Katie Thomson’s other “junk” reclamation art projects, watch the video below.

    Images: Bornrich.com

    Is Your Office Furniture Born in the U.S.A.?

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    When you think of the new manufacturing boom, think of office furniture. Thanks to patriotism, higher costs for producing furniture overseas, and a little bit of sentimental feeling, some companies are choosing to open (or even re-open) their factories right here in the good old U.S. of A.

    One such company is Cochrane Furniture. The Cochrane family sold their company in 1996. The new owners quickly moved production overseas, closing down the last factory in 2008 and putting 1300 people out of work. In 2011, Bruce Cochran re-opened that factory, in Lincolnton, N.C., and started a new company: Lincolnton Furniture.

    So far, Lincolnton has only 72 employees, but a lot of community goodwill. In addition to hiring back some of the workers who lost their jobs when the factory shut down, Cochrane has given his community hope that jobs that went to China can also return from there. He keeps his fan mail on a bulletin board in his office.

    One example reads: “You’re building furniture in the USA, and I wanted to commend you for it. I believe the only way our country will survive is if manufacturing returns to our shores. I’ve been actively seeking made-in-America products.”

    Stories like Cochran’s are inspiring for everyone who’s weathered the recession, but it’s also a bit of good news for folks who want to buy American-made products. The best news of all, of course, is that Cochran’s company isn’t the only one committed to making or refurbishing furniture in the U.S. These are just a few other companies that make office furniture right here at home:

    Champion Seating Co.

    Based in Texas, this office furniture company sells ergonomic chairs directly to consumers via the internet. Their slogan is: “We manufacture chairs that are built to withstand the American Workplace. Chairs designed to work as hard as you do!”

    Workbench 2.0

    Want to do something good for the planet as well as the country? Check out Workbench 2.0′s eco-friendly office furniture. Manufactured in Wisconsin, their furniture is made from sustainably managed forests.

    Arnolds Office Furniture

    And speaking of the planet, you can’t do much better for the earth than choosing to buy refurbished furniture instead of brand-new equipment. Arnolds Office Furniture (that’s us!) has been refurbishing office furniture in Pennsylvania since 1929. Stop by our 100,000 square foot show room in beautiful Bridgeport, PA or contact us for more info here.

    Images: markusram/Flickr

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    How Technology Is Changing Office Furniture

    Someday, we’ll look back at the office furniture we used at the turn of the century and it will seem, well, like furniture we used at the turn of the century — old, obsolete, sepia-toned, and kind of funny.

    “Can you believe it?” we’ll tell our grandchildren. “We sat at desks! We used phones that plugged into the wall!” And our grandchildren will look at us like we used to look at our elders when they explained what an ink well was, or how to change the ribbon on a typewriter. Ah, progress.

    For the time being, we’re still with the program enough to be able to see how technology is changing our offices — and the furniture in it — into something entirely new. Here are the trends that are affecting where and how we work.

    Smartphones

    Misguidance Through Serious Talk Cutout

    The desk phone isn’t obsolete yet, but it might be getting there. Many of us no longer have landlines in our home. How much longer will it be before companies dispose of non-mobile phones altogether? If they do, expect to see fewer and fewer desks with those little cut-outs in the back to allow wires to run from the desk to the outlets and phone jacks below.

    Mobile Devices

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    Of course, part of the reason desks no longer necessarily need a place for permanent wires is that we’re using desktops less and less. Even companies that still assign desks to employees are more likely than ever before to skip the desktop and just issue laptops to workers. And that’s if they’re not embracing the hotdesking trend, and allowing workers to sit at any open desk, or getting by with an entirely remote workforce.

    Hotdesking

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    And speaking of hotdesking, let’s talk about electrical outlets for a minute: they are absolutely everywhere. Because workers might need to plug in at a moment’s notice, more and more desks have outlets built right in. We wouldn’t be surprised if they started making lunch tables and lounge chairs with outlets included. (Get on this, furniture manufacturers. It’s a growth market.)

    Pictured: 20-foot cherry conference table, with power connections. Available here.

    Open Plan Offices

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    Traditional desks and cubicles might soon be a thing of the past, if the trend toward open plan offices continues. If so, expect to see a boom in the production of open workstations and long tables. (With lots of outlets, naturally.)

    Pictured: Haworth Race high-tech pods. Available here.

    Cloud Computing

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    You can go ahead and turn the server room into a foosball lounge, because cloud computing might soon make the need for physical servers obsolete. Although most large companies still have dedicated servers, we might soon see that change. What does this have to do with office furniture, you might ask? Well, you’re going to need to put something in that space. We recommend against yet another boring conference room.

    Images: 1, 2, and 5: iStockphoto. 3 and 4: Arnolds Office Furniture.

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    The 3 Cheapest Pieces of Office Furniture Ever

    What’s the number one complaint about office furniture? No, it’s not that people expect you to do work with it, although that’s probably a close second. The biggest issue is that office furniture, by and large, is super expensive. But a few companies have come up with solutions to that issue — provided that you don’t mind working with something made out of, uh, less-than-permanent materials. Here are a few of our favorites.

    1. A Full Office Set

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    SmartDeco gets points for design. All their stuff is beautiful, and just as contemporary and stylish as anything you’d find at IKEA. But it’s cardboard! We’re also inclined to give them a little something for moxie, because although these pieces of furniture are way cheaper than anything you’d buy at a traditional furniture store, they’re pretty pricey for cardboard: $119 for the desk and storage units pictured above. Still, it’s a pretty good deal when you think about how much you’d pay if these items were made out of wood, or even fiberboard.

    2. Just the Desk, Please

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    Of course, if you’re really short on cash, you’re probably looking to keep your bill well under $100. In that case, the bare bones cardboard desk from Our Paper Life might be just the thing for you. At $22.99, it’s definitely the cheapest single item of office furniture we’ve ever seen. And if you want a full suite of furniture, you can buy some shelves for the same price.

    3. DIY

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    If even $22.99 seems like too much to pay for cardboard furniture, you can always make your own. Treehugger has a great roundup of various patterns and instructions for making your own cardboard furniture, including this awesome looking desk thing, which is one of the cooler single pieces of furniture you’re likely to see that doesn’t contain either live goldfish or a television set.

    If none of these options works for you, there’s always our favorite suggestion: Throw out the cardboard idea entirely, and opt for used furniture from us. It’s sturdier than cardboard, cheaper than brand-new furniture, and no one will ever be able to tell you didn’t pay full price.

    Plus, buying used furniture is at least as good for the environment as buying cardboard furniture, if not more so. After all, it takes up way more space in a landfill than that old pizza box, which could easily be recycled anyway.

    Herman Miller My Studio Cubicles: Incredibly Beautiful, Incredibly Cheap

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    Every so often, we get furniture at Arnolds that’s so gorgeous and rare, we can hardly believe it ourselves. These Herman Miller My Studio cubicles are one of the best examples of this we can remember.

    Herman Miller, of course, is pretty much the biggest office furniture brand name in the world. Famous for their Aeron and Eames chairs, this hundred-year-old furniture giant also designed the very first office cubicle, the Action Office II, in 1968. But they definitely perfected it with the My Studio line, which is the ultimate meld of form and function.

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    These cubicles are just plain beautiful to behold: with curved glass walls, genuine cherry wood panels and work surfaces, and a sleek, modern look and feel, the My Studio cubicles resemble sculpture more than standard office equipment. They’re practical, too, as well as attractive, with wardrobe towers in each unit, and lots of storage throughout. They’re also only three years old, and in perfect condition.

    Although we’re very proud of our furniture restoration facilities here at Arnolds, this is a time when their services were not needed. These came to us in absolutely perfect condition, like they just rolled off an assembly line. We have literally never seen a cleaner product come into the showroom. Not only would no one guess you bought them used, they might not actually believe you when you tell them.

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    Best of all, we’re selling them for an absurdly low price. Although Herman Miller My Studio cubicles retail for over $8000 apiece new, you can buy these right now for only $3500 each. That’s more than 50 percent off for a product that doesn’t even look like it’s ever had a previous owner. It’s truly a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to make your office look like something out of a movie. Productivity and employee satisfaction will skyrocket in these cubicles. Don’t be surprised if people who have private offices get jealous of the folks in cubicles when they see these.

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    We currently have a total of 63 cubicles in stock, in a variety of different sizes and configurations — ranging from clusters of two to clusters of 10. There’s something here to fit every business type and office plan. You’ll want to contact us quickly, though, because deals like this come along very rarely — and they never last.

    Images: Arnolds Office Furniture

    When the Furniture Doesn’t Fit the Business

    Choosing office furniture is one of the most important parts of designing an office. After all, the way your space looks says a lot about your company. You wouldn’t go to a job interview wearing a track suit or on a first date with unbrushed hair and a stain on your shirt. First impressions mean a lot, which is why most companies carefully cultivate their office’s look, so that it represents their image accurately.

    But sometimes, delightfully, companies decide they just don’t give a hoot. Here are a few of our favorite pictures of offices that don’t look at all like they belong to the companies that own them.

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    Actual business: Pediatrician’s office

    Looks like it should be: A place to get your children’s joy removed.

    We’re cheating a little bit with this one. The picture above is actually a photo from a company that makes furniture for pediatrician’s offices, not an office itself. And we’re sure the furniture is very lovely and functional and does everything it’s supposed to do. (The site specifically points out that furniture in pediatrician’s offices needs to be an appropriate height for little kids, and this picture seems to fit the bill.)

    All we’re saying is, if you buy this furniture for your pediatrician’s office, please do not replicate the paint colors, lack of toys, and general joylessness of the model picture. You’ll never convince them to get their booster shots that way.

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    Actual business: Law office

    Looks like it should be: Our house.

    Sometimes, however, people make an unusual furniture choice and it works out for them. Take, for example, awesome lawyer Kristina G. Barsch of Sterling Heights, Michigan. Barsch apparently looked around her office one day and thought, “You know what this place needs? The Beatles.” And she was totally right. If we lived in Sterling Heights, this lady would get all of our business. All you need is love, and amazing furniture.

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    Actual business: Dentist’s office

    Looks like it should be: The model home for those overpriced condos they’re building across town.

    Here’s a time when not looking like what you are is really, really good thing. The past couple of years, we’ve noticed that more and more dentists’ offices are adopting this kind of sleek, sterile, contemporary look, and that’s probably for the best. Sure, it’s confusing when you walk in and have to locate the receptionist from behind that giant tooth sculpture that apparently also doubles as a desk, but consider the alternative. After all, dentist’s offices used to look like this:

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    4 Ways to Save Money on Your Office Redesign

    We’ll be the first to admit that redesigning your office is slightly less fun than redecorating your spare room. There’s a lot more planning involved, for one thing, and the stakes (and budget!) are much higher. But these days, we live in the future. There’s no reason to let your office redesign stress you out or eat a huge hole in your budget. Here are a few easy ways to save a buck while still getting the office of your dreams.

    1. Take the Time to Plan

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    Before you start hauling furniture out to the Dumpster or putting up ads on Craigslist, think about what you need — and want — in a new office. Think seriously about what works and what doesn’t in your current design. Make a list of everything that annoys you about how things are set up now, and everything you’d want in your dream office. You probably won’t be able to solve every problem or get everything single thing on your list, but you can maximize your chances of creating a really great space if you think ahead.

    2. Reuse Your Old Stuff

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    The temptation to just pitch out all your old equipment will be strong. Resist that urge. New furniture costs a mint, and chances are, some of your current furniture would be just fine for a new space. Remember that small changes can add up to a big difference. Once you paint, and move the seating arrangements, you might not even notice that you’re using the same desks and chairs.

    3. Buy Used Office Furniture

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    If you do need new furniture, consider buying things that are new to you. Here at Arnolds, for random example, we refurbish used office furniture back to like-new condition, and sell it for a fraction of the price of new equipment. We promise you, no one will be able to tell the difference between that brand-new Aeron chair (price tag: $1000) and the gently used one you got from Arnolds Office Furniture (almost 50 percent off at $549.)

    4. Use Free Apps

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    Remember those small changes that we discussed earlier? Thanks to the miracle of the internets, they’re practically free. You can find a huge variety of free and low-cost apps that will help you plan things like paint colors and furniture layouts.

    Images: iStockphoto

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