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.
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:
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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.
Photo courtesy of Rey Bango/Flickr
Photo courtesy of Marcin Wichary/Flickr
Photo courtesy of Victoria Peckham/Flickr
Photo courtesy of UKCountryHouseHotelsandSpas/Flickr
Photo courtesy of workyourspace/Flickr
Photo courtesy of Alvy/Flickr
Photo courtesy of BI Watercooler/FlickrVisit Susan Jennings on Google+
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?
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
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?
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
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.
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.”
Photo courtesy of Kyle and Kelly Adams/Flickr
Photo courtesy of TerryJohnston/Flickr
Photo courtesy of puuikibeach/Flickr
Photo courtesy of TheCreativePenn/Flickr
Photo courtesy of tauntingpanda/Flickr
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:
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.
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:
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.
Find all the office furniture you need to encourage random encounters at Arnolds Office Furniture.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
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.
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.
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: iStockphotoVisit Susan Jennings on Google+
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
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.
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
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
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.
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.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
Photo courtesy of youngthousands/Flickr
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Vandel/Flickr
Photo courtesy of Rikkis_Refuge/Flickr
Photo courtesy of StevenDepolo/Flickr
Photo courtesy of patkisha/Stock.Xchng
Photo courtesy of Blary54/Stock.Xchng
Photo courtesy of imagerymajestic/freedigitalphotos
Photo courtesy of _rockinfree/Flickr
Photo courtesy of cdharrison/Flickr
Photo courtesy of sourire/stock.xchng
With the number of home offices exploding (an article in Forbes estimates that more than 3 million workers can make the claim), the IRS created a simplified filing process for taxpayers looking for a home office deduction this year.
To figure out the deduction under the the “Safe Harbor” method, the qualifying homeowner simply needs to multiply the square footage of the area of the home devoted to the home office by the prescribed rate of $5 per square foot.
Of course, to qualify, there are several criterion homeowners need to meet. As you can imagine, there are a lot of rules surrounding deducting expenses related to a home office and not following them to the letter can result in tax penalties down the road should you ever be the subject of an audit. We’ll give you an overview of what you need to know starting with a quick quiz, and but be sure to read over IRS Publication 587 for all the details.
Can I Deduct Business Use of the Home Expenses?
Determine if you qualify for deductions related to using your home for business-related functions. This quiz does not include use of the home for storage of inventory or product samples or the use of your home as a daycare facility.
1. Is part of your home used in connection with a trade or business? If your answer is yes, go to the next question. If your answer is no, there is no deduction.
2. Are you an employee?
If your answer is yes, go to the next question. If your answer is no, go to No. 5.
3. Do you work at home for the convenience of your employer?
If your answer is yes, go to the next question. If your answer is no, there is no deduction.
4. Do you rent part of your home used for business to your employer? If your answer is yes, there is no deduction. If your answer is no, go to the next question.
5. Is the use regular and exclusive?
If your answer is yes, go to the next question. If your answer is no, there is no deduction.
6. Is it your principal place of business?
If your answer is yes, a deduction is allowed. If your answer is no, go to the next question.
7. Do you meet patients, clients or customers in your home?
If your answer is yes, a deduction is allowed. If your answer is no, go to the next question.
8. Is it a separate structure?
If your answer is no, there is no deduction. If your answer is yes, a deduction is allowed.
Of course, this is the IRS we’re dealing with here, so there is a veritable encyclopedia on the definitions for specific terms like “regular and exclusive” and “principal place of business” to read over to make sure you’re applying the correct rules to your tax filing.
For a home office to qualify under the “Exclusive Use” test, a specific area of your home (whether it’s a room, outbuilding or some other identifiable space) must be used solely for your business. If your spare bedroom doubles as the place you prepare client’s tax returns and a playroom, it doesn’t count under “exclusive use.”
- Regularly using a portion of your home for storing inventory or product samples.
- Using your home as a daycare facility.
Principal Place of Business:
Many companies have multiple locations at which business is conducted. For your home to qualify as a deduction under the Principal Place of Business test, it must meet the following criterion:
- It is used exclusively and regularly for management and administrative activities related to your business.
- There is no other fixed location where you conduct management or administrative activities.
Management and administrative activities include:
- Billing customers, clients or patients
- Keeping books and records
- Ordering supplies
- Setting up appointments
- Forwarding orders or writing reports
There is plenty of nuance to IRS definitions, so you’ll find exceptions and gray areas when trying to figure out whether your home office qualifies. Here are some common ones:
- Your home office can be used for more than one business, but it just can’t be used for mixed business and personal use.
- Separate structures (like a detached garage you’ve converted into an office) don’t need to be the principal place of business to qualify for deductions, unlike an office inside your house.
- Not all of your work must be completed within your home office necessarily. If you’re a salesperson, for instance, you probably spend most of your time out of the office, but if you perform functions like billing and returning client phone calls from your home office, it should still qualify.
- Even if some administrative and management functions are performed elsewhere, you might still qualify for deductions. Examples include hiring others to perform administrative and management duties outside of your home (like hiring a company to handle billing), you conduct administrative and management duties at non-fixed locations like a hotel room or car, or you sometimes conduct administrative or management duties at a fixed location outside your home.
Do the math
After you’ve figured out if your home office does, in fact, qualify for a deduction, then you’ll need to crunch numbers.
You can use the Safe Harbor formula described above, or opt for the more complicated, conventional method (which allows you to make a deduction for the depreciation of allocated office space. To learn more about that process, either work with a tax professional or take the DIY approach with the help of IRS Publication 946.
Using the traditional method, your deduction will be based on the percentage of your home the home office occupies. To determine this, just divide the square footage of your home office by the square footage. Then you can apply that percentage to different expenses.
Qualifying expenses include:
- Home repairs or maintenance
- Mortgage interest
- Real estate taxes
- Homeowners insurance premiums
Office supplies, furniture and equipment can also qualify for deductions. Make sure to save bills and canceled checks in the chance that you’re audited and you need to prove what you spent to the IRS. For the safest approach work with a CPA. Anyone can get audited and it’s always wise to have a pro in your corner.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
There’s a lot to be said for office cubicles. In a world where offices with doors seem destined for the museum, they’re pretty much the only guaranteed way to get a little bit of privacy while you work other than locking yourself in the restroom with your laptop and refusing to come out. And bosses tend to frown on that sort of behavior.
Unfortunately, a cubicle is not the most exciting piece of office furniture. Cubicles tend to be upholstered in monotone fabrics. They also don’t offer much in the way of self-expression. Your cubicle is likely exactly the same as your neighbor’s.
The good news is that it doesn’t have to stay this way. The geniuses at Lifehacker suggested a couple of different ways to make your boring old cube more exciting. Here are a few of our favorites and our take on them.
1. Cover Up Every Large Surface
Walls, floor, that imaginary ceiling that maintenance refuses to install…if you cover the major surfaces of your cube, you can effectively transform it into a whole different workspace altogether. Lifehacker suggests rugs for the floor and fabric for the walls, among other ideas. We still like the idea of wrapping our cubicles entirely in bubble wrap.
2. Adjust the Lighting
We can’t say this enough: if you want to avoid eye strain and also the dull, soul-sucking feeling that comes with working under florescent lighting, add task lights. There’s a reason that interior designers spend so much time on lighting. A few well-placed lamps will change the whole feel of your office.
3. Adjust the Temperature
You probably won’t be able to convince your stingy building manager to crank up the heat (or, oddly, crank down the air conditioner). However, you can make the office warmer all on your own with the addition of a space heater. Also, we once had a coworker who wore a Snuggie every day at the office, which both kept her warm and provided an elegant form of protest against our parsimonious overlords. You can use your best judgment about whether that would fly at your office. (Hint: it’s better if you work for a website than for the stock exchange.)
4. Bring in Stuff from Home
You don’t need to rip out every fixture and replace it with your own stuff. In fact, most offices won’t approve of that behavior. However, bringing in the odd lamp or plant from home will make your cubicle seem, well, more homey.
Plants, fish, Magic 8-balls, posters, pictures, toys, and games…anything that brightens up the place is a good idea. Just make sure it isn’t something that needs feeding or watering every single day of the week. The modern office worker toils away ’round the clock, but maybe not that ’round that particularly ugly wall clock.Visit Susan Jennings on Google+
Whether you just need a landing spot for managing household paperwork like bills, calendars, insurance information, etc. or a room designated to running a small business, planning the ultimate home office requires a little more work than plopping a laptop on your kitchen table or shoving a desk and a chair into an available corner of your home.
You’ll probably spend at least an hour a day working on tasks, so a crumb-covered table won’t inspire much organization or motivation (neither will the kids screaming over who gets the last Oreo, for that matter).
Creating a space that not only makes you more productive, but also keeps you organized calls for careful planning. Yes, this means homework and a little math, but the end result will make you feel like you could be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company rather than just the signer of your kid’s field trip forms.
Here’s how to create the perfect home office:
1. What do you need to do?
The home improvement guru himself Bob Vila offers an overview of how to plan your office space. First, divide up your space by the types of tasks you need to complete.
Consider every possible use for the room:
- Will you need space for a computer?
- Open table space for hands-on work?
- Space to meet with customers and/or clients?
- Space for your kids to play or do homework?
- Storage space?
Architect and designer Neal Zimmerman told Inc magazine to use the acronym CAMP to help determine your needs:
Computers: How many will you need and how big are they?
Administrative storage: A place where you can make phone calls, but also sort through mail, bills, invoices, etc.
Meeting space: An area to share information with visitors (if you think you’ll have any on a regular basis).
Project station: An area to complete not paper-related tasks (for instance, if you’re an artist or you make gift baskets or handmade soap, here’s where that work is completed).
2. How much room do you need?
After determining what types of work areas you might need, the next step is to get out your measuring tape, a pencil and paper and start measuring the length, width and height of all the components you already have for your office: desks, work tables, chairs, lamps, computers, printers, scanners, filing cabinets, etc.
Then do the math for each work area. For instance, how much room will your desk chair, desk and computer need? How much room will a sofa and table take up for meetings with clients? (BobVila.com recommends bringing a friend or two over to act as models for your clients so you can figure out comfortable distances for seating to build into your plan).
Consider whether any of these areas can be doubled up, Zimmerman said. For instance, your administrative area could also serve as your meeting area.
3. Where should the office be located?
Once you’ve determined how much space you might need, then you have the difficult task of figuring out what space you actually have to put it in. If you live in a small studio apartment in the city, you might have limited options versus a house in the suburbs where a spare bedroom, finished basement or attic can be transformed into a home office. No matter how much space you have, it’s still important to designate a work area that won’t be impinged upon by the other activities you do in your home said Zimmerman.
4. What’s your plan?
Next you need to do some arts and crafts. Draw a model of your office to scale, cutting out and labeling paper squares and rectangles to represent the different pieces of furniture. Move the labeled items around the different areas of your office to see how they might fit best, keeping factors like power sources and phone jacks in mind. It might be wise to visit an office furniture store for advice on furniture that will help maximize your space. They can advise you on things like safely stacking computer equipment or using tables that can be folded to increase or reduce workspace as needed. Zimmerman recommends enlisting the help of a professional designer at this point to ensure you are considering everything you need to about the space and that it fits within your budget.
5. What’s the best design?
Traditionally, setting up your office in an L-shaped or U-shaped layout that keeps you within arms reach of all of your work. “Think of this space as a cockpit that enables you to move from task to task with a minimal amount of effort,” small business consultant Terry Lonier told Inc. Figure out what type of work you do the most of. If you’re on the computer all day, that should be the focal space. If, however, your work involves making models or putting together flower bouquets, your layout should change accordingly.
6. How can you make the space healthy?
Ergonomics aren’t just something your human resources representative came up with to torture you about your posture. Using the proper office furniture and equipment can save you from eye strain, repetitive strain injuries, back injuries and other potential problems related to a poor work environment. Position your computer so that the screen is at eye level and you’re not hunched over the computer. Use multiple sources of light to prevent glare.
Don’t skimp on your desk chair; select one that swivels and adjusts for seat height, tilt, armrest height and lumbar support. You might spend more time in the chair then you do your bed, Lonier said.
Also, make sure to take advantage of the natural light in your home, which studies have shown improves mood and productivity and is easier on your eyes.
7. How can you personalize the space?
When you work in an office building, chances are someone else has selected the furniture, color scheme, generic inoffensive artwork and sickly fern you sit by all day every day. Since you’re building a home office, make this the place to reflect your personal aesthetic. Use colors that inspire and calm you and pictures and artwork that make you happy. Create a space that gives you energy, rather than sucking the life force out of you.
Photo courtesy of Jeremy Levine Design/FlickrVisit Susan Jennings on Google+
Want to know what will bring you down from the high of your gleaming new office furniture being delivered? The depressing pile of the reject furniture waiting for its fate to be decided.
There are plenty of options for disposing of your unwanted office equipment, some of which (donating it or selling it to an office liquidator) are a little more environmentally friendly than others (like dumping it at the nearest landfill).
Of course, after you decide where it’s going to go, then you have to figure out how it’s going to get there. Before you call every pickup truck owner you know and enlist the brawniest folks of the office to spend the day cleaning house, consider an alternative: Hiring someone to get rid of it for you.
This way, you can enjoy lounging in your stylish, ergonomically correct task chair while it still has that new task chair smell without having to break a sweat (or a nail).
For advice on disposing of old office furniture, we checked in with Mike Thorne. He’s the founder and CEO of Just Junk, a professional junk removal service.
What options do business owners have for getting rid of old office furniture?
Generally, because of time constraints, businesses and business owners often aren’t able to remove junk on their own. Often city services won’t take office furniture and electronics equipment, and if the city is able to take them, it’s often not without complications. Donation is often ideal, but finding the manpower to lift, load and haul away furniture for donations is often just as difficult.
What seems to be the most common method you’ve come across?
Once office furniture is outdated or has been replaced, our services are called. With junk removal and office cleanout services, we’re able to recycle and donate. Given the vast amount of recyclable materials that are used in older office chairs, tables and electronics (from computers, monitors, servers, etc.) and other e-waste, so much of it can be recycled if not donated.
What do you think is the best thing a business can do with old furniture (Throw it out? Donate it? Hold a yard sale?)
Finding a way to reuse or recycle furniture is ideal, but with online classifieds at low costs it’s more possible to sell older furniture for those looking. To ensure you’re maintaining a low carbon footprint, maintaining the use of furniture is always the best thing that you can do.
What are the biggest hassles/challenges associated with getting rid of old furniture?
We’ve found that the donation of furniture becomes complicated with over-saturation. With so many businesses and residences updating furniture, donation centers are being approached with more furniture than they can handle. Finding donation centers is often the most difficult, but once that site is found, only a fraction of them will offer to pick up the furniture. Businesses often don’t have the resources to transfer old furniture themselves to these locations.
What are the advantages of using a junk removal service like yours?
We do it all! We work with local donation centers to ensure that we can donate those couches and dining sets for you. We have the man power and the resources for anything from smaller removals of a few office chairs to an entire office cleanout. Our trucks hold 15 cubic yards and can be loaded easily by our team of removal service professionals. Once you show us what you need removed we can begin the loading so you can get back to work.
What does your service do with the furniture after you haul it?
We travel to various donation centers and recycling locations in order to dispose of the items. Local spots like these benefit from these items and the resources they provide, as opposed to a local dump. It’s these connections we have that allow us to find the best place to reuse and recycle these items.
What are the costs associated with using a junk removal service?
Our rates are simply based on the volume of the load size. We provide all inclusive rates, so all labor and disposal fees are covered in our removal rates. Upon arrival, our team provides every customer with a free, no obligation estimate to confirm the rate. Some removal companies charge the dump fees back after the removal, but we aim to make removal easy. We come in, give the quote and remove without the headache of waiting for another bill in the mail.
When would it make sense for a small business to just handle the junk removal themselves? What are the disadvantages of that?
Single items or items of extremely high value for resell are often more advantageous for small business to remove or dispose of themselves, yet in many cases high-value items are often complicated in some ways: tax receipts for donations, or high-value items may be very large to move and may require the time and resources of your own employees which may affect your day-to-day in unforeseen ways.
What are some things business owners often overlook when it comes to disposing of old furniture and office equipment?
It’s important to dispose of electronics properly, and many electronics (processors, circuit boards) contain precious metals and can be disposed of separately to greater effect than together, and often to greater value over time. It’s important to do your research around your locality. Each city and region is different and has different laws about disposal and recycling. Your local junk removal company is aware of many of these laws, but some small independent removal services may not be. It’s important to know who you’re dealing with if you’re a business conscious of the environment.
How do junk removal services work? How far ahead do you need to call for services? Is there a limit to how much you can haul?
JUST JUNK services are easy. Call or book your removal online and save on your removal. Our Sales Associates can answer any questions you may have and can book you for a free estimate as soon as that day! With our same and next day service, that pile of junk for removal can be gone tomorrow. The truck as mentioned earlier is 15 cubic yards, but we’re always available for multiple loads.
Photo courtesy of Jmettraux/FlickrVisit Susan Jennings on Google+