Archive for February, 2013

The 5 Office Supplies You Just Can’t Function Without

When is the last time you thought about office supplies? Unless you’re the office manager, or someone who works for an office supply chain, we’re guessing you’d have a hard time pinpointing it. After all, in this era of tablets and digital everything, who needs paperclips and pens, right? Wrong! Online retailer OfficeZilla compiles an annual list of favorite office supplies to dispel just such illusions. Here, they say, are a few of the supplies even the most modern offices can’t do without.

1. Binders

supply1

Years ago, pundits eagerly predicted the eventual dawn of the paperless office. Here in the digital age, we can say with reasonable certainty that it’s never going to happen. While the amount of paper we use has been sharply reduced by email and scanning technology, we’re never going to escape paper entirely. Better get some binders to organize those sheets before they become stacks … and drift over your tablet, hiding it entirely.

2. Sharpies

supply2

There’s something so satisfying about writing with a Sharpie. Maybe it’s because of the bright clean colors, or the art-room smell. Or maybe it’s because they’re permanent. Which reminds us: Do not write on the whiteboard with your Sharpies.

3. Chairs

supply3

The official list says “Lorell Executive High Back Chair,” but in our experience, almost any classic executive chair will do. You can save a bundle, for example, if you skip the high-end retailers and buy your chairs from us.

4. Copy Paper

supply4

See previous re: we’re never getting to that paperless office. Although companies can manage with far less paper now than in days of yore — and should, for the sake of the planet — copy paper is one of those office supplies that will truly never go out of style. Even when people have completely digitized their TPS reports and ceased printing out emails and sneaky letters of recommendation for other jobs, they’ll still need to make signs identifying their lunches and exhorting their colleagues to wash out their mugs. Yes, copy paper is here to stay.

5. Caffeine

supply5

It doesn’t matter whether you prefer coffee, tea, soda, or energy drinks — if you work in an office, you almost certainly guzzle caffeine. And if you don’t, believe us when we tell you that you still want to make sure that your coffee-addicted colleagues get their fixes in before the morning meeting.

Images: jkfid/Flickr, ankakay/Flickr, ergonomic_office/Flickr, Florian/Flickr, epSos.de/Flickr

Office Furniture for Plus-Size Employees

Americans are bigger than ever before, and getting even bigger. The CDC predicts that 44 percent of Americans will be obese by 2030. And while we can debate the health implications of this statistic and ponder what we need to do to be as fit as possible, one thing is for sure: In order to accommodate the new, larger American, we’re going to need to rethink how we design just about everything, from seats on public transit to office furniture.

In fact, a few companies are already making office furniture with plus-size employees in mind. For instance, last week, discount home furnishings company BrylaneHome announced that it had expanded its line of plus-size office chairs and accessories.

1. Extra Wide Deluxe Padded Office Chair

plussize1

All the chairs in the collection are built with reinforced spring-seat bottoms and heavy-duty casters, and designed to hold between 300 and 500 pounds. The extra-wide office chair, pictured above, has a padded head rest and good lumbar support, and it comes it either black or brown.

2. Extra Large Computer Desk

plussize2

At $62.99, this desk is just as cheap as something you’d pick up at a DIY furniture place, but its slightly-larger size makes it a perfect fit for the slightly-larger dimensions of extra-wide office chairs.

3. Extra Wide Swivel Office Barstool

plussize3

Heavy-duty rolling casters and an adjustable base make this office staple extra comfy. In fact, given how precarious most backless office chairs feel, we’d support a move toward making all stool-type chairs sturdier and more stable.

4. ergoCentric Bariatric Task Chair

plussize4

Of course, BrylaneHome isn’t the only company that’s selling plus-size office furniture. Canadian furniture company e3 Office Furniture offers a variety of larger-sized office equipment, including this upholstered ergonomic chair that’s weight-tested up to 600 pounds.

5. Big Man’s Office Chair

plussize5

The best name of the bunch goes to this chair from Walmart, which sounds like something that you’d buy from the same company that makes Hungry Man Dinners, but is actually just a sturdier version of the standard black executive chair. Weight-tested up to 350 pounds, this ergonomic chair is height adjustable and has a padded seat and headrest for maximum comfort. At a little under 24 inches wide, the seat isn’t the largest in our list, but this would be a good chair for someone whose larger size owes more to height and density than width. Hence, we suppose, the name.

Office Furniture: Fully Assembled or Assembly Required?

When it comes to buying office furniture, you have tons of choices. Which style appeals to you? What’s the perfect price point? How long do you need your furniture to last, and what must it be able to withstand in terms of wear and tear?

And then there’s our favorite question: Should you buy your office furniture already fully assembled, or “some assembly required?” Here are the pros and cons of each type of office furniture assembly.

Assembly Required:

Office furniture assembly: Definitely not so simple, a baby could do it.

Office furniture assembly: Definitely not so simple, a baby could do it.

Pros:

- Office furniture that comes in pieces is often easier to transport. It’s the difference between carrying one of those flat-packs from IKEA up four flights of stairs and carrying a giant, three-dimensional behemoth of a desk. If you’re looking for home office furniture, and have to move it yourself, sometimes assembly required is best. (Unless you work with a nice place like, ahem, Arnolds, and then you can have your furniture delivered.)

- It’s often cheaper.

Cons:

- Sometimes, you get what you pay for. Cheaper furniture that you assemble yourself is often less sturdy — which might not turn out to be so cheap in the long run, if you have to keep replacing it.

- You have to, you know, assemble it. Anyone who’s ever put together their new desk chair only to find a handful of leftover bolts and nuts knows what we’re talking about.

Fully Assembled:

We rarely deliver via donkey.

We rarely deliver via donkey.

Cons:

- Small doorway? Narrow stairs? Tall building, with no professional movers on hand to leap it in a single bound? You might wish you had opted for assembly required.

- Occasionally, more expensive.

Pros:

- Durablility. Fully-assembled office furniture generally stands up to the test of time.

- Often more pleasing to the eye

- If you go with a company like Arnolds Office Furniture, you might pay less for fully-assembled office furniture than you would have for that cardboard, assembly-required stuff — but no one who looks at your shiny new office gear will ever know the difference. Arnolds will even deliver your furniture right to your door and install it in your office. Plus, we have experts who can help you plan and design your space to avoid that old problem of the giant furniture and the tiny doorway. Contact us today to see what we can do for your office.

Images: viralbus/Flickr, byrdiegyrl/Flickr

5 Tips for Setting Up a Cheap Office Space

If small business owners have learned one thing from operating in a rough economy, it’s that it’s always a good idea to keep a low overhead. Witness the rapid increase in work-at-home policies over the past couple of years.

Sometimes, however, you have to provide a physical space for your business. When that’s the case, the goal is to minimize expenses while still getting the office you need and deserve. Here a few tips for cutting costs.

1. Share a Space

Also, many coworking spaces look like coffee shops on spaceships.

Also, many coworking spaces look like coffee shops on spaceships.

Coworking spaces are hot right now, and for good reason: for companies that don’t have the ability or desire to sign on for a long-term lease, they offer a way to get all the necessities of “home” without the commitment, and often at considerably less expense. Most coworking spaces offer a variety of different levels of membership, from full-time, multi-desk packages to part-time space to just a conference room when you need one.

2. Develop a Work-at-Home Policy

Candles optional.

Candles optional.

When it comes to setting up a work-at-home policy, it’s not all or nothing. Employees with projects that don’t require a lot of face-to-face meetings might work at home most of the time, while workers who are engaged in more socially-oriented tasks can spend more time at the office.

3. Try Hot Desking

You'll need a lot of plugs.

You’ll need a lot of plugs.

If you decide to allow workers to WAH as needed, consider setting up a schedule that will allow you to use one desk for multiple employees — or skip assigning desks altogether and embrace an open plan office that allows workers to sit wherever is convenient for the day’s tasks.

4. Bring Your Own Devices

Historically, the Mac people are most excited about this.

Historically, the Mac people are most excited about this.

Many companies have found that it’s cheaper to have their workers use their own laptops, tablets, and smartphones, even if the company provides an allowance to cover the purchase of these mobile devices. It’s also good for morale: Employees tend to be happier when the Mac folks get to use their iPads and the PC people get to tap out those TPS reports on their Dells. Just make sure the tech support person is well-versed in the most common devices, and you’ll be all set.

5. Buy Used Office Furniture

Better than new! Also, way cheaper.

Better than new! Also, way cheaper.

Finally, we’d be remiss if we didn’t remind you that gently-used, expertly-refurbished office furniture like we sell at Arnolds looks just as good as new equipment, at a fraction of the price. Contact us today to find the perfect furniture for your office.

Images:

visualpunch/Flickr, gibsonsgolfer/Flickr, olishaw/Flickr, ivyfield/Flickr, Arnolds Office Furniture

When Office Furniture Turns Deadly

This is one of the sadder stories we’ve covered in this space.

Earlier this year, a man shot three people in an office park in Phoenix, Arizona. One victim, Steven Singer, president and CEO of call center company Fusion Contact Centers, was killed immediately. Another, Mark Hummels, a partner with the law firm Osborn Maledon, was severely injured and later died as a result of his wounds. A third victim, named Nichole Hampton, was not badly hurt and will recover.

The alleged gunman, Arthur Douglas Harmon, targeted Singer and Hummels over a dispute involving office furniture. Yes, you read that right: this tragedy arose from a lawsuit over several thousand dollars’ worth of cubicles and office furniture.

Harmon, who runs a business called Redback Design, had signed a contract with Fusion Contact Centers to refurbish and move the cubicles and office furniture at one of its facilities in Santa Clara, Calif. The contract was worth $47,000, but partway through, Harmon discovered that he was unable to restore some of the stock. The problem? Some of the furniture he was supposed to restore “wasn’t a brand that could be rehabbed,” according to AZCentral.

After several conversations and a chain of involved emails, Fusion paid Harmon $30,000 of the contract. Harmon then sued Fusion for the remainder of the money, plus $20,000 in damages. In the end, he wound up paying Fusion slightly more than $20,000 to settle the suit.

The dispute gets more complicated from there, involving a series of legal twists and turns and shady real estate deals, but the end result was that Singer, his attorney Hummels, and Harmon met at a mediation office to try to sort out the case once and for all.

Shortly thereafter, Harmon allegedly shot both men, Hampton, and finally, himself. His body was recovered from the parking lot of a nearby shopping center.

Who knew office furniture could do so much harm?

Office Furniture Around the Globe

If you’ve ever gone on a trip far away from home, you know how strange it can be to realize that the things we consider “normal” are actually very particular to our place and time. Take, for example, breakfast foods, cars, even business casual — all are different, depending on your country and culture. Even office furniture varies greatly from place to place. Here’s what you might find on each of the world’s seven continents.

1. North America

Our office furniture is rarely outside, however.

Our office furniture is rarely outside, however.

It’s an exciting time to be picking out office furniture in North America. That’s because we have more choices in terms of office layout and equipment than ever before. Need flexibility and cost savings? An open plan office might be right for you. Want more privacy, but still need the ability to change things if needed? Cubicles might be the perfect choice.

2. South America

It took us forever to translate this from Spanish and/or Portuguese.

It took us forever to translate this from Spanish and/or Portuguese.

Office furniture doesn’t vary much south of the equator, but what does vary is corporate culture, which is very different business to business and country to country. Most experts agree that work environments in South America are simultaneously more hierarchical and more relaxed — which means that the boss is the boss, but that assignment that’s due on the 15th might come in on the 20th with much less fallout than it would up north.

3. Europe

Pictured: An office in London. We assume the TARDIS is right around the corner.

Pictured: An office in London. We assume the TARDIS is right around the corner.

Ah, Europe: If the only thing this continent ever gave the world of office furniture was IKEA, it’d be enough. But Europe has also been at the forefront of the office plan revolution. Cubicle sizes had been shrinking in Europe for years before they started getting smaller over here, and many European companies have enthusiastically adopted open plan offices.

4. Africa

Also, we're pretty sure it's called football in Africa.

Also, we’re pretty sure it’s called football in Africa.

Again, it’s hard to say just what African offices look like, since Africa is comprised of 54 countries and is the second largest continent on the planet. It’s also a fast-growing area of the world in terms of business. So depending on the business, offices and office furniture might look pretty much the same as they do in North America — only with about 100 percent more soccer-themed decorations.

5. Asia

We still see some ceiling tiles up there. Nice try, previous tenants.

We still see some ceiling tiles up there. Nice try, previous tenants.

Did you know that in China, companies which leave an office space take everything with them when they go? The good news is that this means that you get a clean slate. The bad news is that you’ll have to fill it.

6. Australia

Personally, we'd just work at the beach all the time.

Personally, we’d just work at the beach all the time.

Work culture in Australia is pretty much the opposite of South American corporate culture: here, it’s important to be on time, but hierarchy is spectacularly unimportant. Australians enjoy a good work-life balance, as well, so you’ll probably see plenty of pictures of weekend trips and social outings adorning people’s desks.

7. Antarctica

Seriously. Very, very cold.

Seriously. Very, very cold.

In Antarctica, it’s so cold we doubt anyone cares what type of office furniture they use, as long as it comes with a heater.

Of course, if you are moving to a faraway land, but want to keep the office furniture you’re used to, Arnolds Office Furniture can make that happen for you. We ship internationally and would be pleased to help you recreate a little slice of home in your new location. Contact us for more information.

Images: Office Now/Flickr, Valerie Everett/Flickr, arenagroove/Flickr, andrepierre/Flickr, markhillary/Flickr, limaoscarjuliet/Flickr, us_embassy_newzealand/Flickr

Do Your Cubicles Need Cleaning? Here’s How to Find Out

Most of us never think about cleaning our office cubicles, beyond giving the desk area an occasional swipe with a damp cloth. But when you think about the fact that we’re sitting at our desks for 40-plus hours a week, dropping food particles and kicking up dust, it’s pretty gross that we never give our poor cubicles more than a cursory wipe-down. The cloth panels alone are a magnet for dust, dirt, grime, and worst of all, flu germs.

By now, you’re probably convinced of the necessity for cleaning your cubicle. But how do you know when the various parts of your workspace need cleaning? We’ve put together a handy guide for figuring out when and how to clean your cubicle.

1. Things Are Actually Growing Out of Your Keyboard

You should never have to mow your keyboard.

You should never have to mow your keyboard.

OK, so it’s unlikely that your peripherals will actually start sprouting plant life. But if you notice a lot of crumbs or dust between your keys, borrow the vacuum cleaner from the cleaning crew or give your keyboard a going-over with a can of compressed air.

2. Your Desk Is So Sticky, Your Phone and Computer Are Actually Stuck in Place

Delicious, but deadly.

Delicious, but deadly.

If you moved your stapler right now, would there be a sticky chalk outline where it used to rest? If it looks like a bunch of toddlers have been camping out in your cube, guzzling juice and spilling everywhere, wipe down all surfaces with glass cleaner or wipes.

3. The Dust Bunnies Under Your Desk Are More Like Dust Elephants

Not pictured: tusks.

Not pictured: tusks.

This is a good one, because in most offices, it’s just a matter of alerting the cleaning crew to the missed areas. Meaning that you, yourself, probably don’t need to do much — except practice being diplomatic and polite to the nice people who pick up after you.

4. Your Dry-Erase Walls Are Dry, But They Won’t Erase

Sad whiteboard is sad.

Sad whiteboard is sad.

Did someone thoughtfully leave you a note, but neglect to use a dry-erase marker? Don’t consign your write-on walls to the garbage. Depending on the type of ink used, you can sometimes remove stubborn marker by coloring over it with a dry-erase pen, and then wiping the whole mess clean.

5. You Saw a Picture of Your Cubicle From a Few Years Ago — and the Walls Were a Different Color

There's a cubicle under here somewhere.

There’s a cubicle under here somewhere.

If the fabric walls of your office cubicle are so dirty, they’re actually discolored, it might be time to call in the professionals. There are several cleaning companies that specialize in jobs like these. They’ll steam-clean your walls and remove all traces of ink, coffee, soot, grime, what-have-you. Your cubicle will be good as new in no time.

Images: zoovroo/Flickr, mikecpeck/Flickr, kim_carpenter_nj/Flickr, Zach Welty/Flickr, Jeffrey Beall/Flickr

The 3 Funniest Office Pranks That Won’t Get You Fired

Every so often, some website or magazine comes out with another one of those articles calculating how long we spend doing things. You know: “The average human spends five years waiting in line at the DMV!” “Most of us spend 35 years sleeping, except for insomniacs, who spend 12 years watching the clock!” By the time they get to the part about how we spend 80 percent of our waking lives working in an office, most of us are ready to spend about eight years hiding under our beds.

But there is something you can do to relieve the tedium of office life. These office pranks, for example, will pass the time pleasantly, and won’t earn you a pink slip for your trouble.

1. The Old Stapler in the Jello Routine

The first time we saw this prank, on the British version of “The Office,” we wondered why it had never occurred to us before. Jello, the favorite treat of invalids and people with dental issues, makes a great prank medium. Hide your coworker’s stapler or paper clip dispenser or label maker in Jello, and wait for the sugary laughs to roll in. Just make sure you don’t embed anything electronic in there — or anything so small that it might get swallowed. Very few people are ever laughing in the emergency room.

2. A Better Mousetrap

We will confess to being slightly nervous when we first saw this video pop up on YouTube. Any office prank with an actual mousetrap in it seems like it would definitely get you fired, right? Not if that mousetrap has been turned into a tiny little catapult for confetti, like this one. You could also do the more festive glitter variation, for special occasions.

3. Operation Outhouse

We’ve seen our share of cubicle pranks over the past couple of years, but perhaps none more elaborate than this one. The pranksters waited until their coworker went away on a two-week vacation and then transformed her cubicle into a bathroom. These folks were committed. They laid down tile and put in towel rods. They hung actual towels and a real shower curtain. They even took pictures of themselves pretending to use the facilities and, we assume, left those pictures for their lucky coworker upon her return.

The one thing they didn’t do was actually, um, use the new indoor-outhouse. Which is why this prank, while complicated and definitely very silly, gets a place of honor on our list of office pranks that won’t get you fired.

American Manufacturing Org Unable to Furnish Office With American-Made Products

When the Alliance for American Manufacturing moved to new offices, they set themselves a challenge: could they furnish the office entirely with American-made equipment, electronics, and office furniture? After all, we’re in the midst of a new manufacturing boom, with companies like Walmart announcing the purchase of $50 billion worth of made-in-the-U.S.A. goods over the next ten years, and Detroit cranking out Fords and Chryslers like it’s 1959. Surely the non-profit charged with encouraging folks to Buy American could fill up their offices with American-made stuff.

Well, they tried.

“There were certain things — electronics, mostly — that simply couldn’t be found from American producers,” writes Aaron Wiener for American City Paper. “But for the most part, AAM has succeeded in its mission, and its office is something of a showcase of American manufacturing.”

“The point of this office is to show it’s a lot easier than you think,” said AAM executive director Scott Paul, when giving Wiener the tour of their new offices.

Here’s what’s made in the U.S.A. in the AAM offices:

U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

U.S.A.! U.S.A.!

- In the kitchen, most of the appliances, from the Whirlpool fridge to the Uline trash bins. The dishwasher, made by German company Bosch, was manufactured in the U.S.

- In the copy room, the actual copy paper was made in the U.S., as was the thermostat and the fire alarm.

And here’s what they couldn’t find in the U.S., no matter how hard they tried:

Not making coffee pots, apparently.

Not making coffee pots, apparently.

- Most of the electronics, including all the computers and the large copier in the copy room. Wiener’s article notes that Apple is planning to start manufacturing computers in the U.S. soon, which would at least give them some options — provided they’re not PC people.

- Most shockingly, the coffee maker. “Not one made in the United States,” said Paul. “Zero.”

Of course, another question is whether or not we’d want absolutely everything to made in America. It’s true that most of us would probably feel more comfortable knowing that our country still had the means to make stuff on its own, if it had to, and there’s a certain satisfaction in knowing that your country still cranks out tangible goods. But do we need to make everything? Is it a terrible thing if our country never makes another coffee maker again, for instance?

Matthew Yglesias at Slate says no.

“America is a great big place, so it’s not obviously unrealistic to try to imagine a world in which a person could get buy exclusively on made-in-America stuff,” Yglesias wrote. “But we’re still a relatively small slice of the world as a whole. And it’s not a bad thing — or even necessarily contrary to the idea of having a strong manufacturing sector — if we’re specialized in some stuff and not present in some other industries. The strength of Swedish manufacturing, or Michigan manufacturing, is based on whether or not the things it does do thrive in the global marketplace not on whether it can do everything.”

In other words, as long as we can get coffee and copiers, and still make some of our stuff ourselves, maybe that’s not so bad.

Images: HansDB/Flickr, pamlau/Flickr

5 Office Tax Deductions You Might Be Missing

It’s everyone’s least-favorite time of year again: tax time. For the less-tidy among us, this means a mad scramble to pull together receipts and documents and forms. But no matter how well-organized you are, there’s always a sense that you could be missing out on money you’re entitled to. And if you’re a small business owner, you just might be right. Here are a few of the office tax deductions you just might be overlooking.

1. Health Insurance

"I've isolated the problem. People keep stealing your quarters for laundry."

“I’ve isolated the problem. People keep stealing your quarters for laundry.”

Do you have fewer than 25 employees, and cover at least half the cost of their healthcare premiums? You might be entitled to use the Small Employer Health Care Credit. Check the IRS site to find out if you qualify.

2. Your Car

That would buy about a pint of gas.

That would buy about a pint of gas.

You have two choices when it comes to writing off the use of your car: you can use the standard deduction for mileage, or you can keep track. As Wealthpilgrim.com points out, choosing the later might also enable you to write off depreciation on your vehicle. You might as well get paid for all those potholes you hit while you were driving around for work.

3. Software

Tiny discs, huge boxes.

Tiny discs, huge boxes.

In the old days (i.e., last year) you had to depreciate the cost of business-related software over three years. Not so this year! In glorious tax year 2012, you can write off your software in the year that you buy it. This saves you, your accountant, or your tax software the trouble of trying to remember when you starting keeping track.

4. The Cost of Doing Your Taxes

Do not let the cat prepare your taxes. We don't care how cute he is.

Do not let the cat prepare your taxes. We don’t care how cute he is.

If you’re using an accountant, a qualified tax preparer, or any reputable tax preparation software, you’re probably covered here. But just in case, here’s a reminder: you are entitled to a deduction for the cost of preparing your taxes.

5. Child Labor

Pictured: A freeloader.

Pictured: A freeloader.

“Say what?” Yes, you heard us. Employing your kids is good for more than just teaching them not to come crying for handouts all the time. The tax experts at Bankrate.com write, “Depending upon how much you paid them, they might be able to avoid income taxes. Plus, there is no Social Security tax when you hire your child who is 17 or younger and you can deduct the salary as a business expense.” One caveat, however: this break only works if you’re a sole proprietor or a partnership — and the partner is your spouse.

Images: 401(k) 2013/Flickr, images of money/Flickr, Betchaboy/Flickr, deerwooduk/Flickr, audiinsperation/Flickr