Archive for August, 2013

What is a Power Whip?

Here’s what a standard power whip looks like, kind of like a hose filled with wires.

Google “Power Whip” and you’ll come up with some interesting hits.

In Pokemon speak, a Power Whip is a fighting move in which a user “whirls its vines or tentacles to harshly lash the foe,” according to Bulbapedia. While that may be a move you wish to deploy against that annoying gum-smacking cubicle neighbor of yours, that’s not the type of power whip we’re referring to today.

In electricians’ speak, a power whip (AKA a base power infeed or base feed module) is type of cable that converts a fixed-in-place device to a modular asset, according to SpiderAgileTechnology.com.

Huh?

Here’s what a power whip looks like connected to the power source and a workstation.

In office furniture speak, a power whip is a 4- to 6-foot-long cable that connects the building’s main power supply to the electrical system contained within the panels of cubicles or workstations. The power whip is what delivers the juice to the computers, phones and other devices your employees use to help make your business great.

The first step to installing a power whip is to properly install your furniture, making sure it’s adjacent to a wall, column or floor-based power source (sometimes called floor monument or floor access, it’s an electrical outlet on or under the floors surface that is connected to a conduit-carrying power beneath the floor, according to Haworth) as well as telecommunication cables and computer cable supply points.

For advice on optimal workstation layout, it’s best to hire a reputable licensed electrician who is familiar with National Electrical Code (NEC) and local electrical codes; they’re the only ones who can legally make hardwire connections to your building’s power supply and they can offer insight on the best place to locate your workstations so that they’re effectively and safely powered.

Follow the manufacturer’s instructions for assembling the furniture, including how to properly connect the built-in wiring and cabling. Most manufacturers offer illustrated guides for how to assemble their cubicles, including detailed instructions for powering them.

Once they’re assembled, the electrician can connect the power whip to the main power (this step can actually happen anytime during the process, but it is helpful to have the electrician on-hand early on to use as an installation consultant).

As long as the workstation wiring has been assembled correctly, once the power whip’s connected, you should be able to start plugging in your computers and other devices.

For more information about power whip installation and electrical code, visit:

 

5 Reasons You Need Fireproof Filing Cabinets

While filing cabinets probably won’t be the most glamorous thing you’ve ever shopped for, they can be the most important for protecting valuable company records, especially if you decide to invest in fireproof filing cabinets.

While the digital age and its promises of paperless offices might make buying a filing cabinet seem old-fashioned and unnecessary, ensuring your business can keep running in spite of everything from fires and natural disasters to server crashes and hackers will never go out of style.

Not convinced you should file old style? Here are five reasons you need fireproof filing cabinets:

Cloud servers are still untested when it comes to security and reliability.

Cloud servers are still untested when it comes to security and reliability.

1. The cloud is vulnerable. For all its buzz helping enterprises both store vital information and making it easier for approved users to access that information, a cloud server’s ability to protect your most important documents is, well, a little misty. “There is no Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval that says this vendor does good, secure cloud computing. A company or an individual looking to move to the cloud is going to have to make a huge leap of faith that their data is being protected,” Thomas Parenty, managing director of Parenty Consulting, a Hong Kong-based information security consulting firm, told CNN.com. Records are vulnerable to server crashes and if you don’t have hard copies of those documents, they could be lost forever. What’s more, hackers have been able to gain access to sensitive documents companies store online; anything from financial records to personnel information to company secrets. You can protect your records from computer crashes and thieves by storing them in a locked fireproof filing cabinet.

Plan to digitize all of your records? You'll need one of these and a whole lotta time.

Plan to digitize all of your records? You’ll need one of these and a whole lotta time.

2. Going digital is expensive. If you’re a long-running enterprise, chances are you have years, maybe even decades, worth of paper records in storage. Creating digital copies of all of those files is not only time consuming, it’s also expensive (consider the prospecting of either scanning paperwork or having someone spend hours and hours on data entry. Not to mention the cost of paying a cloud storage enterprise to store them). Instead of investing time and money into a digitizing endless paperwork, improve the storage itself. Even if you do go digital for parts of your enterprise, you’ll want to keep hard copies of your most important documents for backup in the event of a server crash.

Losing your company's most critical files in a fire could prove to be the end of your business.

Losing your company’s most critical files in a fire could prove to be the end of your business.

3. Protecting business records is critical. Losing vital documents in a fire or other emergency can be a disaster within a disaster for company operations. Eighty percent of companies that suffer a catastrophic fire go out of business within two years of the blaze in part because of the loss of irreplaceable records, according to FireKing. Safeguarding them with a fireproof file cabinet will make it easier to rebuild your business in the event of a disaster. BusinessInsider.com recently created a list of documents that should be saved forever.
These include:
Permits
Tax records
Bylaws
Leases
Board minutes
Formation documents
Stock certificates
Mortgages
Other important records include:
Contracts and agreements that prove ownership
Personnel and payroll records
Client files
Standard operating procedures
Account histories and shipping records
Tax records

Inexpensive metal file cabinets might be cost effective, but they won't do much to protect paper in the event of a fire.

Inexpensive metal file cabinets might be cost effective, but they won’t do much to protect paper in the event of a fire.

4. Standard file cabinets won’t cut it. Think your paper is safe in a standard metal file cabinet? Think again. Paper burns at 400 degrees and most structure fires are much hotter than that; a standard metal file cabinet is not equipped to protect paper at high temperatures. (Want proof? Check out this video from FireKing). High-quality fireproof filing cabinets come with a rating from the Underwriter’s Laboratory, a nonprofit, independent testing organization, which specifies what temperatures the cabinet can withstand and for how long. For instance, the internal temperature of a Class 350, one hour-rated cabinet will not reach over 350 degrees when exposed to external temperatures of 1700 degrees for one hour.

Everything from a neglected coffee pot to old wiring can spark a fire in an office building.

Everything from a neglected coffee pot to old wiring can spark a fire in an office building.

5. Fires are more common than you think. According to the Society of Fire Protection Engineers, each year in the U.S. fires kill more than 3,000 people die, injure more than 18,000 and cause $18 billion in property damage. For businesses, the causes might surprise you. “You hear a lot about electrical fires and while wires do short on occasion, most of the time people at the end of a work day or week forget to shut off a microwave, a coffee pot or a computer,” George Capko, vice president and engineering hazards manager with FM Global told FacilitiesNet.com. Everything from faulty wiring to arson to employee oversight can cause a fire, but you can help lessen the impact by using fireproof file cabinets to protect documents. Not only will they ensure your records aren’t destroyed by fire, many are at least somewhat waterproof (for when those sprinklers go off) and impact-tested in the event a building collapses. Because of these factors, in addition to fires, these cabinets can also be useful in the event of flooding, tornadoes, earthquakes and other weather-related threats.

Start shopping for your fireproof filing cabinet on Arnolds.com.

Photos courtesy of FutUndBeidl/Flickr Kai Hendry/Flickr, Matthew Cornell/Flickr, David Carroll/Flickr and Kiran Foster/Flickr

Building Furniture with Maple, Oak, or … Fungus?

When it comes to the material used to make office furniture, there are a few staples: Wood, metal, glass, laminate or some combination of these are the most common. In recent years, the move toward more sustainably produced furniture has made bamboo and recycled items popular go-to materials.

But these environmentally friendly materials are just the tip of a quickly melting iceberg.

Meet one of the latest innovations: Fungus furniture.

How Does It Work?

Here’s what it would look like if you “grew” a chair out of mushrooms.

Chairs and stools made out of mushrooms are the natural (if not unusual) offspring of a former chef and wild mushroom hunter turned artist, architect and furniture design, right?

Philip Ross started out by shaping a cellulose, usually sawdust, into a form that live fungal cells would then feed and grow on, creating unique sculptures. But once he realized how lightweight and strong the material was once it dried out, he turned to more practical applications, building chairs and stools, according to Arstechnica.com.

“The cellulose serves as both food and framework for the organism to grow on, and within a week this aggregate solidifies as a result of the fungi’s natural tendency to join together smaller pieces of its tissue into a larger constituent whole,” he explains on ThisisAlive.com, the website for a biomimicry exhibition in Paris. “Fungal tissue will bind, solidify and harden into any chosen form, and, once dried out and processed, becomes a lightweight, strong material.”

Is Fungus Furniture Practical?

While intrigued at the prospect of mushrooms-turned building material, Craig Vierra, Professor and Assistant Chair for Biological Sciences at the University of the Pacific, shared some initial concerns about it with wired.co.uk. He wondered what type of fungus was used to produce the different pieces and whether it might cause allergic reactions to users. He also questioned whether a resin would be required to seal the product and if that resin might be toxic to the environment.

But Ross told the San Francisco Chronicle that his mushroom furniture was perfectly safe to be around. In fact, mycelium,  the networks of fungus on top of which mushrooms grow, is a versatile material that’s fire-retardant, compostable, plastic, a good insulator and as structurally strong as concrete.

“I’ve shot a handgun at one of these and the network was strong enough to block the bullet; it only went in about five inches,” he told the Chronicle.

Okay, so it can take a bullet and support the weight of a weary office worker for eight-plus hours a day?

“Sitting on his chairs is much like sitting on leather upholstered furniture, and there’s a welcome bit of give to them,” according to Chronicle reporter Alec Scott.

More fungal furniture by Phillip Ross.

Most of the furniture is made with wooden legs attached to the mycelium structure with glue and bolts. Citrus oil and other essential oils sanitize the surface and shellac preserves and protects it while also eliminating most of the smell (we know you were wondering). As for how they look, predictably mushroom chairs aren’t quite as streamlined as your average Aeron chair. They’re earthy in shape and color and appropriately toadstoolish; perhaps not the first choice for a company that favors bright colors and sleek furniture.

However, with it’s many positive qualities, Ross doesn’t seemed worried about the bulkier aesthetics.

“The future is fungal,” he told the Chronicle.

The trend to build more earth-friendly furniture has made for some interesting partnerships; now furniture designers are working with not only material scientists and architects, but also biologists and engineers.

“Mother Nature has provided us with some of the most outstanding biomaterials that can be used for a plethora of applications in the textile industry. In addition to these, modern technological advances will also allow us to create new biocomposite materials that rely on the fundamentals of natural processes, elevating the numbers and types of materials that are available. But, more importantly, we can generate eco-friendly materials.” Vierra told Wired.co.uk.

Stay tuned for more office furniture innovations on Arnolds.

5 Times You Might Need Fireproof File Cabinets

Neatly bundled files sit atop filing cabinets at a North Carolina VA center. A fireproof safe can protect important documents from damage resulting from fire, flood and building collapse.

Neatly bundled files sit atop filing cabinets at a North Carolina VA center. A fireproof safe can protect important documents from damage resulting from fire, flood and building collapse.

As an office manager, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by day-to-day troubleshooting and overlook long-term needs like keeping company files safe.

You’ve read about all the pros of protecting critical office documents in a fireproof file cabinet and just from watching the news you’re well aware of the risk of natural and manmade catastrophes and that they can strike anywhere and anytime. Why don’t you have any in your office?

For the variety of protection they offer, fireproof file cabinets should really be renamed disaster-proof file cabinets. Sure, their first job is to protect valuable documents, from paperwork to microfilm to digital fires, from being destroyed in a fire. But they can help ensure the safety of irreplaceable personal and business information in a variety of worst-case scenarios.

Here’s a roundup of events in which you wish you’d purchased a fireproof file cabinet for your office:

1. Fire: This is the obvious one; the first job of a fireproof file cabinet is to protect your documents from being destroyed for the time and temperatures indicated by its UL rating. Between 2009-2011, 86,500 nonresidential building fires were reported to U.S. fire departments each year and caused $2.6 billion in property losses each year, according to FEMA. Stores and offices accounted for 18 percent of these fires and the biggest causes for these fires was cooking (28 percent), electrical malfunction (14.2 percent) and heating (10.5 percent). While you might not think your business is at risk for fire damage, these numbers tell a different story, and the causes can come from everything from a Pop Tart burning in your breakroom to overloaded outlets.

2. Floods: Last year’s Superstorm Sandy, which caused an estimated $65 billion in damage in the U.S., shed light on the increasing risk of devastating floods to homes and businesses in coastal areas. In fact, a report released by the Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force advised communities start start preparing now to protect themselves from more storms like Sandy. At least 25 percent of businesses that close after a flood never re-open according to the National Flood Insurance Program. What does this have to do with fireproof cabinets? Well, in addition to protecting your documents from burning during the fires, most fireproof cabinets are also water resistant during a fire because of the positive pressure on the inside of the file and the expansion created by the heat that can keep water out, according to eBAy. In the absence of a fire, certain brands are more water resistant than others, and some even advertise being waterproof. Keep in mind that even if you don’t live near the beach, that doesn’t mean your business isn’t vulnerable to flooding or water damage;  from burst pipes to overflowing creeks to office sprinklers, there are plenty of opportunities for water to damage your office.

An office in the Pacific Northwest is in shambles following an earthquake.

3. Earthquake: Thousands of earthquakes occur each year in the U.S., according to FEMA, and while most of them have no significant impact on businesses and communities, certain parts of the country have a history of large damaging quakes and are at risk of “the big one” at any time without warning. Earthquakes can cause buildings to collapse and induce fires and flooding, all of which poses a serious threat to your business operations. As previously mentioned, fireproof cabinets can protect documents from fire and mitigate water damage, but many models also have a UL impact rating, which means they’ve been tested to withstand a fall from multiple stories (an important quality when a building is at risk of collapsing).

4. Tornadoes: The May 2011 tornado that devastated Joplin, Mo. caused an estimated $2.9 billion in damage; a month earlier a tornado in Tuscaloosa, Ala. caused an estimated $2.45 billion in damage according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association. Each year there are about 1,000 tornadoes in the U.S. causing about $1.1 billion in damage, according to the Insurance Institute for Business and Home Safety. An EF-2 or EF-3 tornado with winds between 111-165 m.p.h. can destroy a building in just seconds — flying debris can rip holes in windows and exterior walls through which air rushes in, inflating it like a balloon. The internal pressure in combination with external winds can weaken walls and the roof, causing the building to collapse. As with earthquakes, a fireproof safe with a UL impact rating can be vital in safeguarding documents in the event a storm rips through your business.

5. Theft: Sure, theft isn’t a fire or natural disaster, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be worried about it when it comes to important documents, files and media. Corporate data theft is a growing problem worldwide. A 2012 survey by EnterpriseFeatures.com found that 32 percent of those surveyed admitted to stealing confidential corporate information on at least one occasion; 31 percent said they would retaliate to a dismissal by deliberately stealing and/or sharing corporate information. Limiting employees access to sensitive documents (think personnel files, customer information (that could contain names, addresses, social security numbers and other information that could be used for identity theft) and trade secrets) using a lockable fireproof filing cabinet can not only protect your documents, but also protect your business from the lawsuits that could result if personal information is shared.

Shop for your fireproof file cabinet at Arnolds Office Furniture.

Photo courtesy of MedillNSZ/Flickr

9 Ways Office Furniture Can Make or Break Teamwork

Office furniture is useful for more than just providing employees with a place to work and making your office look good. With the right pieces, it can also promote communication and collaboration, which will help your business thrive.

When shopping for furniture, keep these nine tips in mind for pieces that can make (or break!) teamwork:

Make it:

1. It’s easy-to-move: As office design evolves away from closed-off offices and conference rooms into open space floor plans, the concept of traditional meeting space has changed as well. In order to accommodate the new trend of ad-hoc, as-needed gathering spaces, office furniture needs to be lighter and more mobile. That means tables, seating and whiteboards on wheels (or at least light enough to carry) to whatever space is open and inspirational.

Rise from Allsteel’s Gather collection can be used in many different ways.

2. It’s multifunctional: As conference rooms disappear and offices become smaller and more space-efficient, furniture designers have re-imagined pieces used for teamwork and have found creative ways to maximize how a single piece of furniture is used. Take Rise from Allsteel’s Gather collection: The piece resemble stadium seating and can be used for sitting, lounging and leaning; the steps provide both seating and work surfaces.

The Motiv sofa by Bretford can be ordered with built-in power sources.

3. It’s plugged in: You’d be hard-pressed to find a gathering these days that doesn’t include a laptop, tablet or smartphone being used to share information and collect ideas, so it’s essential that meeting spaces have access to power. Luckily there are plenty of new pieces that are designed with built-in outlets, like the Manny ottoman from Sparkeology and Bretford’s Motiv sofa.

4. It’s everywhere: Meeting spaces aren’t only confined to conference rooms anymore. More and more employers are recognizing that impromptu meetings are occurring in surprising locales, like in front of the refrigerator in the break room, in the stairwell and in hallways. Rather than force people to meet in one spot, make it easy to meet where ever they are but adding seating or worksurfaces. Remember, it doesn’t have to be anything fancy; put a bench in a hallway or high tables in lounge areas that invite team members to chat a little longer.

5. It’s round: The Knights of the Round Table were onto something, according to new research from University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business. Their study found that people sitting at round tables were more group oriented and less antagonistic than those sitting at tables with angles.

6. It’s fun: Nothing kills creativity quite like a drab, colorless and poorly lit office. Inspire your employees by incorporating bright colors, unique artwork, plants and natural lighting into your design. Depending how far you’re willing to go to make things fun, you could even consider adding a little table tennis or air hockey to the mix (who knows what new ideas might bubble up during some friendly competition?).

Break it:

7. It’s unavailable: In traditional offices, the space used for collaborative work is often a conference room. Which is okay, except when you have several teams who need meeting space and have nowhere to gather when all the conference rooms are in use. Truthfully, any office furniture that can comfortably accommodate a meeting of two or more minds helps promote teamwork; it just can’t be locked behind a closed door.

8. It’s closed off: While walls and partitions protect employees from noisy brainstorming sessions and prying eyes, it also stymies the flow of information within a workspace. High-walled cubicles do little to promote casual conversations and chance encounters, more often they put individual employees in silos that are useful for work that requires high levels of concentration, but not so much for idea sharing.

A place to lean on and set down a laptop, like Allsteel’s Hedge, is all you need to make a quick standup meeting more comfortable.

9. It’s uncomfortable: Employees aren’t going to be too interested in sticking around for a long meeting if they’re posterior falls asleep 20 minutes in. When trying to create a collaborative office space, it’s good to have a mix of softer, cushier seating options for lengthier brainstorming sessions and easy-to-access pieces that might be as simple as a bar to lean up against while chatting, like The Hedge from Allsteel’s Gather collection.

Shopping for furniture to promote teamwork in your office? Look no further than Arnolds Office Furniture.

Feng Shui 101 for Offices

When it comes to feng shui, the ideal office is a square or a rectangle with solid walls, a window for natural light and a door that can be closed.

Of course, we know that’s not the reality for most offices these days. We’re guessing most employees don’t have their own offices, and nowadays, with the advent of open workspaces, many don’t even have their own cubicle. Still, there are ways you can implement feng shui in your workspace via organization, positioning, colors and artwork.

What You Need to Know First:

According to Feng Shui Basics and Beyond, there are three fundamentals you need to understand about the practice to get started: Everything is alive and made of energy or chi, everything is connected and everything is changing. This means the universe, you and your office are all connected. By incorporating it into where you live and work, you can increase positive energy, focuses intentions, helps convey subliminal messages to your subconscious and creates a sacred space.

Here are some areas to focus on:

Glass walls: If you happen to have an office with walls, solid walls are preferable to glass. solid walls give you a feeling of security and protection. Glass walls contribute to a feeling of vulnerability. If you have glass walls, consider installing mini-blinds to help give you privacy a sense of safety.

De-clutter: One of the first steps to practicing feng shui at work is clearing out clutter to help gain clarity, focus and peace of mind, according to Feng Shui Basics. Whatever you use daily should be neatly stacked and organized and within arms reach, everything else should be sorted, filed and stored.

Seating position : The best seat in the house when it comes to an office or cubicle is one that faces the entrance (as opposed to a wall or window) so that you can see who’s coming. In an office, the ideal place for your desk is the farthest corner from the door, according to Inc.com. Of course, with most cubicle design, your back often faces the entrance. To remedy this, place an 8-by-10-inch mirror facing the entrance so you can not only keep track of who’s approaching you, but also feel like you’re moving forward and not getting stuck.

One element of feng shui is water, which can be incorporated via anything from an office goldfish, to a portable fountain to a picture of a waterfall.

One element of feng shui is water, which can be incorporated via anything from an office goldfish, to a portable fountain to a picture of a waterfall.

In your element: There are five elements in Feng shui: Wood, fire, earth, metal and water. According to Inc., you should incorporate each into your office in some form, making sure to use a balance of all as to not disrupt your chi. You can incorporate these elements via furniture choice, artwork or color so long as they represent what you want to accomplish and inspire you toward prosperity and success. Each element has a different purpose, according to Inc.:
Wood – promotes creativity and symbolizes loyalty, according to Inc.com. The colors that best represent wood are green and brown and incorporating them into your office should promote motivation, inspiration and good health. Your wood element should be placed in the east corner of you workspace.
Fire – The most aggressive of elements, it represents passion and excitement and should boost productivity and action when used at work. Naturally, it’s associated with the color red. Your fire element should be placed in the south corner of your workspace.
Earth – Promotes balance and stability and is useful for building and maintaining relationships. The colors to use are earth-tones: Sandy tones, light browns, yellows and oranges. This element should be featured in the center of your workspace and could also be made of clay, brick or ceramics or a art featuring a landscape.
Metal – This if your go-to element for financial success. Use silver, grey, gold or other metallic tones or incorporate stone, gold, copper, marble or silver pieces in the western corner of your workspace.
Water – Help start conversations and promote networking, travel and wisdom with this element. Use the colors blue or black or incorporate a mirror, fountain, fish bowl or something made of glass. Your water element belongs in the northern portion of your workspace.

Lighting: Fluorescent lighting is the enemy of feng shui. The antidote is natural light. If you don’t have access to a window then the next best thing is full-spectrum tube (sometimes called grow lights) that can be purchased at a hardware store. If you can’t (or aren’t permitted to) replace the ghastly fluorescent lighting, then supplement with incandescent floor lamps and desk lamps.

In feng shui, adding plants to your office can help bring you closer to nature and create energy.

In feng shui, adding plants to your office can help bring you closer to nature and create energy.

Plants are your friends: In feng shui, green things are good. They can be used to counteract back things. Have a weird pillar or ugly duct obstructing the energy flow in the room? Stick a plant in front of it. Just remember to keep an odd number of plants around and keep them healthy (no wilting plants need apply for your cubicle).

According to the experts, incorporating feng shui into your workspace can enhance creativity and success.

Photos courtesy of tiffany terry/Flickr and Plant Rental/Flickr

Office Furniture Manufacturers Gear Up for Innovations

Office manufacturers are starting to respond to the demand for collaborative workspaces by tearing down cubicle walls and offering innovative new visions for workspace, like Herman Miller’s Public Office Landscape. With the economy picking up slightly, furniture manufacturers are slowly getting back into gear.

Any office furniture retailer will you that an overflowing warehouse is a sign of an unhealthy economy. When companies are pinching pennies and/or downsizing, new office furniture is often one of the first items hacked off the budget. But just as a quiet showroom is an indicator of uncertainty, a pickup in sales hints that things might finally be starting to pick up again.

When companies are buying more furniture, manufacturing follows suit.

“The office furniture industry is very, very active and aggressive right now in recapitalizing their factories and challenging themselves technically and innovatively,” Steve Waltman, vice president of marketing and communications at Stiles Machinery Inc. in Grand Rapids told Crain’s Detroit Business.

As for some numbers, a survey of the office furniture industry trends found that the index for capital expenditures is expanding as is the index for tooling. But while these areas are growing modestly, the survey also found that outlook of furniture industry executives has dropped since 2012 from 59.2 to 54.73.

Herman Miller Inc. President and CEO Brian Walker told Crain’s that he expected growth to be reasonable in the coming years.

“It’s not like it’s a rocket ship or hockey-stick growth. It’s certainly way better than a few years ago when we were all feeling the down side,” he said.

In May, the Business and Institutional Furniture Manufacturers Association projected that shipments would grow by 2.1 percent in 2013 to $9.5 billion and by 7.2 percent in 2014.

This news doesn’t mean it’s time to pop the cork on the Cristal just yet, but it might mean we can all have a little sigh of relief. What’s more, changes in the style of workspaces companies need for their offices should also spur innovation, production and sales.

The advent of smartphones and tablets has created demand for more flexible workspaces in recent years. Furniture manufacturers have taken note and are now exploring new designs that step away from the cubicle walls they’ve been selling for decades.

Evidence of this evolving office design could be seen at the annual NeoCon Convention in Chicago in June.

Dimmensional Innovations noted some of the biggest trends spotted at the show in a recent article. Among them:

  • Sustainable materials: More than 60 exhibitors showcased green products, with everything from carpet composed of old fishing nets to wall coverings made from sugar cane. Since both consumers and companies are demanding more sustainable products, we’re probably just starting to see the innovations in this niche.
  • Collaborative workspaces: Offices have been moving away from the infamous Dilbert-style cubicles for years, but it’s only been recently that manufacturers have really started imagining what future office spaces might look like. The buzzword at NeoCon seemed to be “collaboration” as a variety of concepts for workspaces that encouraged conversation and the exchange of ideas took the form of open-seating lounges clustered around monitors or large tables with embedded monitors; anything that invited employees to share information in a more informal and holistic manner.

    The Gesture chair from Steelcase was designed with mobile technology in mind.

  • High-tech furniture: As mentioned earlier, new technology has been a tremendous driver for furniture design. Many NeoCon exhibitors found ways to incorporate technology into furniture design either by simply adding an outlet to plug in devices or by taking it a step further like the Slate Table by OFS and making the piece itself part of a video conferencing experience. Beyond looking at how to add technology to furniture, manufacturers have tried to adapt furniture to accommodate how users interact with their technology. For instance, Steelcase researched postures people sat in while using their mobile devices and incorporated that research into its new Gesture chair.
  • With all these new innovations on the horizon, once the economy shows even stronger recovery, expect to see major shifts in what’s hitting showroom floors. Say goodbye to clunky, boxy systems furniture and hello to open, airy and technology friendly workspaces.

 

3 Office Chairs Even Cooler Than the Herman Miller Aeron

The much-coveted Aeron chair is the gold standard of task chairs, but there are other options.

The much-coveted Aeron chair is the gold standard of task chairs, but there are other options.

We all know that the gold standard of office seating is Herman Miller’s Aeron chair. It has the prestige of an ivy league university, style that earned it a spot in the permanent collection at the Museum of Modern Art in New York and cache that would make even the likes of Jay-Z jealous. Oh yeah, and it’s pretty comfortable to sit in, too.

For all its glamour and status, Aeron’s reputation has sustained a some blows, since being linked to corporate excess during a recession that’s left millions of Americans out of work isn’t exactly the best PR, but the chair continues to top roundups of favorite office seating.

Of course when it comes to selecting the perfect office chair, style and status shouldn’t be the top priorities. Manny Halpern, a professor of ergonomics at New York University’s School of Occupational & Industrial Orthopedic Medicine told the Wall Street Journal that consumers should evaluate chairs on four main criterion: Chair adjustments, seat comfort, body support and ease of use. The best chairs have a seat that fits the user’s shape, can support their weight in different positions, and has comfortable lumbar and backrest support along with adjustable armrests and backrests.

There’s good news for those of you who are tired of hearing about how great Aeron is: We’ve rounded up three office chairs that are just as cool (or even cooler!) than the Golden Child (Chair?) itself. These picks are both stylish and comfortable, and can fit a variety of budgets.

Knoll Life Chair

The Knoll Life Chair is streamlined, but durable.

In the looks department the Life Chair has a slim but durable silhouette suited for someone who doesn’t want or need their chair to be a statement-making piece of furniture (although it did win the Best of NeoCon Gold Award for Office Seating). It’s sleek, but still packs a big ergonomic punch and is touted for being a snap to adjust and for quickly to accommodating different tasks and postures. If you wear out your seat or want to change the look of the chair, Knoll offers replacement seat and back toppers which can add extra comfort in just seconds. The chair’s Greenguard certified. The aluminum base model is made with 60 percent recycled content and 70 percent of parts are recyclable and the plastic base model is made with 55 percent recycled content and is 58 percent recyclable. It’s also affordable (by fancy office chair standards), starting at just $500.

Herman Miller Embody

Herman Miller’s Embody makes a big statement and offers maximum support.

Created by one of Aeron’s original designers, Embody is an ergonomic fanatics dream chair. Made with a product called “Pixelated Mesh,” The full-sized seat back conforms to your body and can be adjusted independent of the base and arms. While some complain about the lumbar support and more complicated controls and settings (there seven different knobs, buttons and levers used to create your optimal seating experience), others (including this reviewer on Gizmodo) say it’s the most comfortable chair they’ve ever sat in (and might we add, probably one of the most unique looking). Plus, for those of you who are environmentally conscious, the chair is made from non-toxic and sustainable materials and is 95 percent recyclable. Of course, all that comfort doesn’t come cheap. The list price is $1,799.

Humanscale Freedom

No need to manually readjust your chair every time you change tasks. The Freedom chair by HumanScale moves with you.

This award-winning chair features weight-sensitive recline, synchronously adjustable armrests and a dynamically positioned headrest that allows you to sit comfortably for extended periods without risking long-term injury. The chairs most notable feature is it’s ability to automatically adjust to support whatever position you’re sitting in; the headrest is there when you need it (cradling your neck and head as you recline) and out of the way when you’re sitting up. Reviewers complain about the fact that armrests can’t be adjusted independently and say that reclining can feel awkward. Though it doesn’t earn as many environmental points as Embody, the chair is Greenguard certified and made with 28 percent post-consumer and 18 percent pre-consumer recycled content. While more affordable than other popular task chairs, Freedom is still a bit pricey (the chair retails starting at $895) but Arnold’s has the popular chair in stock for just $325.

Photo courtesy of CubicleSherpa/Flickr

How to Keep Your Workers From Getting the ‘Cubicle Cold’

The frigid temps in your office during the summer months might be to blame for the latest round of colds circulating your cubicles.

The frigid temps in your office during the summer months might be to blame for the latest round of colds circulating your cubicles.

If you’re among the many gainfully employed Americans who blame work for their poor health, it turns out you might be on to something. Some doctors say the culprit of all the sniffles, sneezes and coughs plaguing businesses during the hot, steamy summer months is the lowly office cubicle.

According to The Times of India, doctors in urban areas of the country are seeing an increase in the number of patients with “Cubicle Cold” a phenomena plaguing people who spend prolonged periods of time working in an air conditionined office. Unlike the colds and flus that make their rounds during fall and winter months, Cubicle Cold cases are most common in the summertime, when businesses turn their thermostats down to 64 to 68 degrees Fahrenheit to ward off hot, humid temps outdoors. In India, the monsoon season also plays a role, as office workers arrive to work wet from the pouring rain and then sit in damp clothing all day.

“People generally complain of symptoms like blocked and stuffy noses in their offices. Few people also get persistent sneezing and dry cough for a few weeks to a month. In 90 percent of cases, these people say that they work in a cold air conditioned environment for prolonged hours. Those who already have the allergenic tendency have more severe symptoms like watering of eyes and headaches,” ear, nose and throat consultant Dr. Ritu Sheth told the Times.

There are several ways to prevent Cubicle Colds, according to the Times. ENT surgeon Dr. Rajeev Nerurkar and Dr. Sheth offered the following tips:

  • Eat fruits and vegetables that are rich in Vitamins A, E and C (think dark, leafy greens; citrus fruits; broccoli; carrots; sweet potatoes…eat a variety of colors)
  • Avoid cold beverages and oily or spicy foods
  • Avoid wearing wet or damp clothing in the office
  • Avoid dust and pollution

Employers can reduce the risk of Cubicle Colds by creating a healthier office environment. Dr. Nerurkar and Dr. Sheth offered the following suggestions:

  • Set the air conditioner to about 75 degrees Fahrenheit, rather then at too cool temperatures.
  • Make sure air conditioning vents and filters are cleaned on a regular basis.
  • If possible, open windows periodically to allow fresh air to circulate in the office.

If your cubicle is surrounded by victims of Cubicle Colds, there’s still hope that you can ward it off so it doesn’t disrupt that beach trip you have planned. According to the CDC and the Mother Nature Network, there are some basic preventative measures you can take to stay healthy:

  • Practice good hygiene by washing your hands frequently with soap and water or hand sanitizer.
  • Avoid touching your face (especially your eyes, nose and mouth) frequently while at work.
  • Cover your mouth when coughing or sneezing to prevent spreading germs and make sure to wash your hands afterward.
  • Make sure to get an annual flu shot
  • Try to avoid any sick people in your office and make sure to wash your hands after coming into contact with through things like handshakes, pressing copier buttons or touching door handles.
  • Eat a balanced diet
  • Get at least seven to eight hours of sleep per night
  • Exercise at least 30 minutes a day to keep your body healthy and strong

Photo courtesy of Playbackansoff/Flickr