Archive for April, 2013

Transform Your Office Into a Lounge

When trying to make your office a little more comfortable to inspire some creative brainstorming, you have plenty of options.

If you are really committed to creating a more casual work environment, you could go all out like the offices of Threadless in Chicago and buy an Airstream trailer to use for conferences, convert the back ends of some 50s-era coupes into couches and throw in a pool table for mid-meeting entertainment.

How does any work get done here?

How does any work get done here?

Then again, rather than turning your office into a playground, maybe you just want to add some more laid-back touches.

We rounded up some office furniture that put the “fun” in function, without going overboard.

Check it out:

Google

 

Here's yet another reason you wished you worked at Google.

Here’s yet another reason you wished you worked at Google.

Of course any discussion of cool office spaces has to include at least one mention of Google, right? We can’t help it that they have such a unique aesthetic. What works to make this conference room especially comfortable are the oversized, cushy club chairs with pillows that can be readjusted for maximum comfort and the uber-futuristic coffee table. Also, the running trend in cool-looking offices seems to be keeping the palette neutral with bright pop of color. And, like Google, most offices spaces are seeing red.

Unilever

 

Cocktails on the terrace at 5, anyone?

Cocktails on the terrace at 5, anyone?

While the chairs in Unilever’s glass-enclosed conference room don’t look like you’d want to sit in them for hours upon hours, we love the whole Knights-of-the-Round-table meets Mid-Century Modern vibe of this room. We especially love the very club-like lighting: the neon blue lighting wrapping around the room and the antler-inspired chandelier (which pairs nicely with the tree-inspired table legs and the wall of bamboo outside, by the way). While it might not be built for comfort (and who knows, we might be wrong about those stiff-backed chairs), the beautiful design combined with all the natural light and Zen-like plant life should make for some very innovative ideas.

Baker Donelson

 

The morning meetings are for black coffee, but after hours the lawyers switch to martinis.

The morning meetings are for black coffee, but after hours the lawyers switch to martinis.

There’s that pop of red again, this time in a conference room at the law offices of Baker Donelson. These sleek, white chairs look like they could belong in the coolest urban club (well if someone took off the wheels and lowered the backs a little) but are also ready to get down to business, especially when paired with this ultra-modern conference room table. Of course, we’d be remiss to point out that they kind of give off a strong Dr. Evil vibe, too (he’s head of a multi-million dollar corporation, so that’s not such a bad thing…even if it is evil).

UK Country House Hotel

 

Worried that you have something stuck in your teeth? Just look up!

Worried that you have something stuck in your teeth? Just look up!

If you want to make your office more comfortable, but still keep it traditional, then take a page from this conference room at the UK Country House Hotel. The chairs are more formal, but are still inviting with their wide, plush seats, helping employees withstand long brainstorming sessions. The room earns more fun points with it’s mirrored ceiling and gold and yellow wallpaper.

Cone of Silence

 

Cone-Of-Silence

We’re not sure where the office that houses this amazing little conference room is; all we know is we want one. Sure, you might feel like a fish stuck in an aquarium while meeting with co-workers, but then no one can complain about transparency, right? Admittedly, the furniture in this room doesn’t scream comfort, but the simple style is casual and the room itself looks like VIP seating.

NeoCon 2012

 

The dish of mints is critical for fighting that morning coffee breath.

The dish of mints is critical for fighting that morning coffee breath.

This photo snapped at NeoCon 2012 is kind of the piece de resistance of inviting a more lounge-like atmosphere into your office. There’s the pop of red and the soft seating, plus a booth-like setup, which makes it seem like you’re pow-wowing over drinks after rather than toiling in an office.

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Photo courtesy of Victoria Peckham/Flickr

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The 5 Craziest Office Cubicles

Most of us out here in office cubicle land try to make some mark on our workspace (however small).

Maybe you have a photo of your kids from your last beach vacation or a pencil holder shaped like a zombie head. Maybe you have a miniature water fountain that relaxes you while also making you have to visit the restroom twice as often. Or, maybe you bought a little beta fish to swim around beside your computer just so you don’t have to suffer alone.

You like to have a little reminder that there is life beyond the office, but you don’t want to go overboard, lest you look unprofessional.

Then there are the people who refuse to toil away in a boring workspace punctuated by one or two decorations. These folks go the extra mile or five to make sure their cubicles reflect their interests for better or worse.

We tracked down some of the wildest desks on the web for your viewing amusement. Check them out:

1. What’s black and white and read all over?
Cubicle-Newspaper
We’re guessing the owners of this cubicle weren’t behind this rather thorough makeover. With everything from the walls, to the chair to the computer monitor covered in newspaper, it’s safe to say this person will have plenty to read should he get bored of filing expense reports (plus a crossword puzzle or two to do during long conference calls). He’s also all set for bring your puppy to work day (you know, in case of accidents…).

2. Nerd Alert
cubicle-superhero
One way to get the attention of that cute girl over in accounting is to show off your awesome collection of Wonder Women dolls…err…action figures. Who can resist those bracelets and the awe-inspiring Lasso of Truth? Is that a “Wizard of Oz” coaster thrown in the mix as well? Let’s be honest, while slogging away at work, we’re all thinking “there’s not place like home.” This is one of the neatest tchotchke-filled desks we’ve come across, and we’re guessing he goes through a lot of canned air to keep those little bunnies dust-bunny free.

3. Has Anyone Seen My Desk?
cubicle-mess
Everyone has a co-worker who’s idea of cleanliness leaves a lot to be desired. Their piles of unfiled invoices tumble onto your desk from time to time and you’ve noticed ants marching back and forth from their keyboards, carrying Cheeto crumbs and french fry salt. One time you dangled a Hawaiian Breeze car air freshener on their desk lamp as a subtle hint to freshen up, but the suggestion was lost faster than the Hawaiian Breeze. Well, meet the granddaddy of all messy desks. We’re not even sure the owner of this desk has logged on to his computer in the past year (what with having to push aside her collection of panama hats and miniature biplanes) and we’re pretty sure she’s not getting much paperwork done either. Heck, there’s not even really a place to hide an air freshener.

4. Cube in the Club
Desk-Club
Spinning records and playing music at a nightclub is a job, which makes the DJ booth kind of like a cubicle, right? If you think about it, it’s probably one of the coolest cubicles you can fine. First off, the loud music drowns out all the sounds of your annoying co-workers (aka drunken club goers), there’s usually a pretty cool light show (way better than flickering fluorescents), graffiti is considered acceptable workplace decor, and it’s perfectly okay to drink beer instead off coffee. Granted, this particular booth looks a little rough around the edges (maybe the dilapidated blinds and milk crate shelving make for some grunge appeal), but overall, this looks like nice work if you can get it.

Freud’s Desk
Desk-Freud
Say you were the founding father of psychoanalysis with a flair for history; you might skip decorating your desk with action figures and opt for a rotating display of sculptures from ancient Egypt, China, Greece and Rome like our friend Sigmund Freud did. Pictured is his desk in London, England, where he died after fleeing the Nazis in 1939. Of course, if you have co-workers with sticky fingers who can’t even be trusted not to steal your lunch, then loading up your desk with precious valuables might not be the wisest decision. However, if you play the role of office shrink, you might be able to channel the good doctor himself. According to a recording made by one of his patients, Freud’s “little statues and images helped stabilize the evanescent idea, or keep it from escaping altogether.”

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How Office Furniture Can Encourage Random Encounters

Ever have a random encounter with a co-worker in your office (no, not that kind…we’re pretty sure there’s a company policy against those sorts of shenanigans) that resulted in a great idea?

Maybe a conversation about a funny TV commercial in the breakroom led to a fun new marketing campaign or during some ranting about the time-intensive process for handling inventory, you came up with an improved method.

Increasingly, offices are catching on to the fact that cubicles aren’t necessarily where new ideas and collaboration are born and are trying to capitalize on these casual interactions between employees. To spur more workplace interaction and exchanges beyond the water cooler, designers are incorporating makeshift meeting areas throughout the office where employees can gather spontaneously.

The way your office is designed and furnished is critical to encouraging more idea-sharing among your employees and inspiring creative thinking. Here are some ways to spark such random encounters in your business:

Lower (or get rid of) walls:
On a metaphorical level, tall cubicle walls and closed office doors tend to block the free-flow of ideas. On a practical level, it’s just not easy to have a conversation with someone working in a cubby. Using workspaces with low walls or no walls at all allows employees to overhear each other’s conversations, making everyone more aware about what each other is working on and opening up opportunities for sharing information and troubleshooting problems.

Use versatile, easy-to-move pieces:

Office-Furniture

It’s easy enough for two employees to have a quick meeting at a desk. One just rolls his chair over to the other. However, if more than two people need to meet, well, a little more space might be needed. To facilitate flash meetings, offer employees light-weight chairs, tables and whiteboards that can be moved around without breaking a sweat (bonus points if they have wheels!). In addition to creating pieces with power outlets, Knoll’s Activity Space line includes a signature desk-chair hybrid. It’s sort of like a re-imagined school desk called the Toboggan. This piece is lightweight, easy to move around, allows users to sit in a variety of positions and offers a spot to rest notebooks or tablets.

Power up:
The great thing about smartphones, tablets and laptops are that they enable employees to do work just about anywhere (in the office, on the road and at home) without having to be tethered to a desk. Of course, there’s one thing they’ll need to be tethered to eventually: An electrical outlet. Help employees keep the ideas flowing by giving them places to power up throughout the office, including in informal meeting areas. Office designers have caught on to the importance of on-call power sources. Knoll recently released a line called Activity Space which includes pieces like a stainless steel poles, rolling white boards and small tables, all which have built-in outlets.

Offer writing surfaces:
Office-Furniture3
All those great ideas won’t go anywhere if nobody can remember them. According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, one way Silicon Valley-based tech company Citrix helps designers out is to leave whiteboards, stacks of paper and markers around the office for access whenever a lightbulb turns on. Even some of the tables are whiteboards, creating a quick canvas for thoughts, questions and ideas. Other companies make sure that entire walls in conference rooms are chalkboards or whiteboards. Facebook famously has a wall devoted to signatures ala the wall on Facebook user’s pages.

Make it comfortable:
While you don’t want to make the chairs and couches so comfortable that your employees take a nap on them, you also want to make sure they’re comfortable enough that employees are willing to stick around long enough to solve problems and come up with exciting new concepts.

Make it fun:
There’s no killer of creativity quite like some a dimly lit, dark office with a sad fern in the corner. Take a page from the likes of Google, Pixar and Facebook and make your office fun. Use pops of bright colors, modern furniture, natural light and surprising touches (think beanbag chairs or nods to pop culture) to inspire your employees.

Photo courtesy of Knoll
Photo courtesy of 
Pasukaru76/Flickr

Find all the office furniture you need to encourage random encounters at Arnolds Office Furniture.

Expert Advice on the Latest Office Workspace Trends

The old days.

The old days.

Things change fast in the working world. Where private offices and cubicles were once the order of the day, now open plan spaces rule and gone are the times when the only way you could communicate with your coworkers was by actually coming into the office. Now, you’re just as likely to work from a coffee shop or a co-working space as you are from your employer’s address.

To get the latest on what’s new in the world of workspace trends, we caught up with Joel Dullroy, journalist, cultural organizer and cofounder of Berlin-based coworking network Deskwanted.com.

What are you seeing right now for trends in office space?

The biggest trend in office space is wasted space, or how to mitigate it. Many companies are trying to figure out what to do when their workforce grows or shrinks rapidly. What they need to do is stop thinking of their offices as closed, private locations, and re-imagine them as open flexible shared locations that can generate revenue when not in full use. Any office can become a shared workspace. There is an ever-increasing number of freelancers and startups who are in need of flexible workspace for variable periods. Companies with underutilized office space can put those desks to use by renting them to outside individuals. It requires a change of mindset, and the help of Deskwanted, which is the portal they should use to rent out their empty desks.

M

What type of business should use a coworking space?

Our research shows us that half of all co-working space users are freelancers: individual self-employed individuals. The other half are entrepreneurs, employees of those entrepreneurs and employees of larger companies. The types of activities they undertake are mostly in the creative fields like graphic designers, web developers and PR agents. However, we’re also seeing industries previously considered too traditional for co-working signing up: lawyers, accountants and so on. There are plenty of startups in co-working spaces; they provide the flexibility to grow as your team expands.

Do larger companies, or more established companies, ever switch over to a co-working space? What should they keep in mind?

We know that 12 percent of co-workers are employees of companies with between 6 and 99 employees and an additional 7 percent are employees of companies with more than 100 workers. That means one in five co-working space users already belong to medium-to-large companies. Why are these people using co-working spaces? They want to enjoy the benefits of being in a collaborative environment with the potential to interact with other individuals and companies.

Big companies sometimes send teams to coworking spaces for offsite meetings and workshops. This lets them experience the buzzing energy of a shared workspace and offers a bit of inspiration. Companies also send workers to attend events at co-working spaces to pass out business cards and grow their networks.

Teamwork.

Teamwork.

They should keep in mind the two-way rule of collaboration; you don’t get something unless you give something. Big companies need to be open to interactivity and this often requires a change in corporate culture.

Even companies who don’t use co-working spaces are increasingly moving to open plan offices. What advice do you have for organizations who are switching from cubicles to open offices?

If big companies really want to bring co-working philosophies inside their offices, they should replicate one of the most important ingredients: the community manager. The best co-working spaces are ones which have dynamic managers who create events, bring people together and inspire interaction. That’s the special sauce that makes a co-working space feel so engaging. It’s not enough to just knock down the walls and make every desk a flexible working location. You also need to find an individual who has the skills to mix things up, bring people together and make things happen. We call these individuals community managers, and they are becoming increasingly important both in real physical locations as well as in online social networks.

What are the drawbacks to an open office plan, and how can businesses cope with them?

Noise is often a problem. Co-working spaces overcome this by supplying phone boxes where individuals can make private calls. Others use clever tricks like having a white noise machine to create a background level of ambient sound which strangely helps keep things quiet. Sometimes, though, you just have to use headphones to get on with your work. However, a bit of noise is a small price to pay compared to the benefits of collaboration and interaction.

Images: iStockphoto

The 5 Craziest Things That Employees Do at Work

We spend the bulk of our waking hours at work, but most of us understand that this does not mean that the office is our home. Sensible employees know that they should not, under any circumstances, treat their office cubicle as if it were their living room. Too bad not every employee is sensible.

Here, in no particular order, are some of the nuttiest things we’ve heard of workers doing in the office.

1. Grooming Activities

 

nono1

This includes, but is not limited to, flossing, plucking, cutting your nails or hair, any bathing that cannot be accomplished with hand sanitizer or a Wet Wipe and all of your clothes still intact, and anything that will make us feel less clean for having witnessed it. You know what? Just don’t groom yourself at your desk. Seriously. If it’s more complicated that putting your hair in a ponytail, take it to the restroom.

2. Cooking

 

nono2

Yes, really. We have worked in offices where people had entire illegal apartments set up in their cubicles. We can see setting up a coffee pot so that you don’t have to drink the office swill, but beyond that, keep the cooking in the kitchen.

3. Taking Off Your Socks

 

nono3

The problem with this one is that everyone thinks that their feet are the only ones which don’t smell. Let us clue you in: Your feet probably smell, at least after a few hours of sitting in your shoes. And no, the answer to this isn’t to take off your shoes and socks more often.

4. Looking for Love

 

nono4

Online dating is mainstream now, but that doesn’t mean it needs to stream its way into your office. Save your journey through OKCupid for after hours where it belongs. For one thing, it’s a waste of the company’s time and money and for another…well, there’s always the chance that you’ll stumble upon some not-safe-for-work images that the site moderators haven’t caught yet. Don’t be the person who has to explain to her manager why she was looking at unclothed people on their company computer in the afternoon meeting.

5. Weeping

nono5

Everyone has bad days at work, and sometimes you just need to let it all out. However, the best place for that is either in the bathroom or in a conference room (any place with a door that locks). Don’t be that person who sniffles away at his desk, waiting for everyone to ask him what’s wrong. Nobody likes that guy, and worse yet, nobody promotes him.

Images: Chris_Short/Flickr, sethw/Flickr, alegriphotos/Flickr, apparena/Flickr, yoshimov/Flickr

10 Epic April Fool’s Day Cubicle Pranks Using Home Office Furniture

April Fool’s Day is upon us once more which means you need to spend the day watching your back and/or enacting revenge on your co-workers for last year’s cubicle filled with packing peanuts incident.

We’ve never passed up on the opportunity to participate in office shenanigans, so we thought we’d help you plan your biggest cubicle prank yet with 10 of our favorite office furniture-inspired gags:

1. Air Horn Office Chair
Home-Office-1
Use the pneumatic pistons (AKA the thingies that make your office chair go down when you sit on it) to trigger an ear-splitting air horn whenever your victim sits down. Check out instructions for how to pull it off here.

2. Office Foil

 

Home-Office-2
An office pranking classic, your job is to cover every last item in your victim’s office with aluminum foil. First you’re going to need some aluminum foil. A lot of aluminum foil. You’ll also need a bit of time, because to foil everything from your victim’s desk to her chair to her pencil cups and the pencils in it will take awhile. However, the look on her face when she walks into her new-and-improved fun-house cube will be well worth the investment. You can also do this with wrapping paper or newspaper, although with all the taping involved, it might be trickier.

3. Blind Folded Chair Race
A competitor races down a street on his
This one could get a little rowdy, so if you work in a more civilized office you should probably move on. First, you’ll need to recruit a few trusted co-workers in on the prank. Challenge your victim to a chair race…blindfolded. Roll your chairs up to the starting line (blindfolds on!) and then have another co-worker duct tape your victim’s chair to the floor. Hilarity (and potential injury) ensues when the race starts and your victim ends up on the floor. Here’s the full how-to.

4. Chair Wrap
Home-Office-4
If you like the office foil, but don’t have the time (or the foil), try only wrapping your victim’s chair. The catch is to put a blown-up Whoopie cushion on the seat before wrapping it up. Your colleague will have a good chuckle at the wrapped chair and think that’s the whole joke until they sit down and let it rip.

5. Host a Barbecubicle
Home-Office-5
Transform your victim’s cubicle into a backyard cookout complete with faux picket fence and mini-charcoal grill (just, you know, don’t actually fire up the grill. No need to have anyone passing out from carbon monoxide poisoning). First cover the floor and desk with faux turf. Make a picket fence using poster board and attach that to the cubicle walls. Replace their office chair with a lawn chair and their coffee mug with a fancy red plastic cup. Set up the grill on the desk or floor, maybe hang up some wind chimes or a bird feeder…the possibilities are endless. Get more ideas here.

6. Keyboard Planter
Home-Office-6
Celebrate spring and bring in some more plant life to the office (hey, it’s supposed to be good for your health) with this clever prank. You’ll need a broken keyboard (no use getting in trouble with your office manager by using a functional one), some cotton and some grass or cress seed. Remove the keys from the keyboard, place cotton on the keyboard and sprinkle on some seed and water, then replace the kids. Spray with water a few times a day for several weeks and eventually the keyboard will sprout. Swap your victim’s keyboard with the greenboard and wait for the confusion.

 

7. Sneaky Sounds
Home-Office-7
You know how sometimes you think you hear a sound, but you can’t quite put your finger on what it is or where it’s coming from and it’s driving you nuts? That feeling of lonely insanity is the goal with this simple, but effective, prank courtesy of SheKnows.com. Find an object that has an annoying and distinct sound like a smoke detector that’s low on batteries. You could also record a sound or download an app that makes sounds like white noise, sirens or heart beats. Make it so that the item is barely audible then hide it in your victim’s desk drawer or in a filing cabinet. The hard part will be acting like you have no idea what they’re talking about as they try to figure out where the noise is coming from.


8. Crime Scene
Home-Office-8
This prank is perfect for the “Law & Order” fans among your co-workers. Simply tape around a “victim” area on your co-workers desk chair and/or desk. Bonus points for wrapping yellow crime scene tape around their cube and for adding those little numbered evidence markers around their desk.

9. Office Ransacking
Home-Office-9
If you have the urge to channel your inner Viking (and who doesn’t get this feeling at work from time to time?), here’s the perfect prank. Simply wait for your victim to leave their cubicle for an extended period of time, then turn everything upside down or at least on its side: Chairs, computer, keyboard, mouse, desk lights, empty coffee mugs, books, binders, etc. Just don’t set anything on fire. Oh, and leave your sword at home.

 

10. The Disappearing-Reappearing Office
Home-Office-10
There are few variations of this trick. The simpler (but still tricky) version involves you removing your victim’s desk and chair leaving their computer equipment and other office supplies on the floor (if you feel sorry for your victim, you could bring in a beanbag chair for him to sit on). If you want to step it up a notch, you relocate your victim’s entire office (set up precisely as they had it before) somewhere else in the building. Popular choices include the bathroom or a supply closet. You could also try swapping desks with another victim or moving into a hallway, break room or conference room.

How will you be celebrating the funnest of holidays? From silly to hazardous, there’s a broad choice to fit any office atmosphere. Get creative, get revenge, but most of all be safe and have fun. Remember your colleagues can always retaliate next year.

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