Cubicles: The Story of an Office Icon


Image Courtesy of Herman Miller

Cubicles: The Story of an Office Icon

In 1967, designer Robert Propst for Herman Miller had a new vision for the office space. Calling it the Action Office II, the partially enclosed environment offered greater privacy and productivity for the modern office worker. These days, we call this revolutionary furniture piece … The Cubicle.

In the early 1960s, with 120 patents on designs and systems under his belt, Propst became fascinated with improving the modern workplace.

“Today’s office is a wasteland. It saps vitality, blocks talent, frustrates accomplishment. It is the daily scene of unfulfilled intentions and failed effort.” Robert Propst, 1960

Inspired by European designs and concepts of office privacy screens, Propst wanted to create a productive yet comfortable environment that would nurture creativity through personalization.

When the Action Office II was released, the cubicle’s mobile walls allowed businesses to modify their space based on the needs of its employees. Additionally, as a business grew in size, the cubicle walls could be modified to accommodate the additional workers.

In Propst’s new system, plenty of work space and shelves were given to employees. The system had the ability to change the height of the attached desks, allowing employees to work while standing up (echoing the current trend of standing desks).

By the 1970s the cubicle had become a mainstay of the office landscape. In 1978, the Action Office II was rechristened to just Action Office. Today, the Action Office system is still carried by the Herman Miller brand. Still durable and still flexible, today’s Action Office system combines the best of Propst’s original ideas and designs, with the demands and trends of today’s workplace.

 

Trend Watch: Biophilic Design


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Trend Watch: Biophilic Design

Over the last few years, more and more companies are turning towards an innovative concept for their office spaces – Biophilic Design.

To understand Biophilic Design, we must first understand Biophilia. Biophilia refers to the theory that by nature, humans have an instinctual bond with other living things like plants and animals. Biophilic Design seeks to bridge that relationship in environments like offices.

3 Main Benefits of a Biophilic Office:

- Studies have shown that Biophilic work environments yield higher productivity rates and long-term profit increases.

- Employees in a Biophilic work environment report a greater sense of health and overall well-being. Plants naturally purify air, as well as collect dust and other allergens. Green environments have also shown to regulate the temperature in closed rooms.

- By building around nature, offices decrease their environmental impact and carbon footprint.

Many regard Biophilic Design as a luxury. The truth of the matter is that incorporating Biophilic Design into your office requires very few upfront costs. 

Key Features of Biophilic Design You Can Incorporate Into Your Workplace:

- Add plants, shrubs and trees around the office or in individual cubicles.

- Plant trees and other reminders of nature outside the building.

- Install windows, as well as skylights, with views overlooking the natural landscape.

- Opt for natural lighting or a combination of natural and conventional lighting during the day.

- Rearrange the office so employees are closer to the windows.

- Have a presence of water, such as a fountain or aquarium in reception areas or where convenient.

Integrating nature into your workplace doesn’t have to be a huge ordeal. With a few changes, such as adding plants or rearranging cubicles, any office can be a Biophilic paradise.

Top 5 Office Trends for 2014

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Top 5 Office Trends for 2014

The New Year has arrived and so have the latest trends in office design. For 2014, they are bold colors and streamlined, functional spaces. Check out our top 5 office trends for 2014:

1. Bright Colors: This year the experts at Pantone named Radiant Orchid the color of the year. Confident, bold and warm, the light purple and fuchsia fusion will add a pop of life to any room you add it to.

2. Efficient Spaces: Gone are the days of giant isolated offices. In 2014, the trend is to install space-efficient work stations where multiple employees from the same team can work on the same project at the same time.

3. Technology with Design: Integrated technology means building office spaces and incorporating high quality furniture around the technological needs of a company. From Skype-powered conference rooms with video chat capabilities, to computer work stations in break rooms, easily accessible technology for all your employees is the future of all office environments.

4. Team-Centered Spaces: Team-centered spaces refer to rooms built to the specific needs of each department. In the last few years, thanks to office innovations seen in the likes Google and Facebook, the collaborative office space has taken off. Besides project-specific individual work stations, these team-centered spaces are areas where a department in the same space can openly meet and brainstorm without needing to go to an isolated conference room. Additionally, these collaborative office spaces have in many cases resulted in stronger teams and departments, and the increase of productivity and ideas.

5. Sustainability: As industry and society moves towards the green movement, more and more offices are looking for sustainable ways to maintain their office and save money in the long run. Sustainability can be as simple as a recycling program, purchasing refurbished used furniture, to investing in LED lights over fluorescent ones. These little changes will ultimately lead to a better and more productive work environment for your employees.

 

Relieving Stress at Your Desk


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Relieving Stress at Your Desk

Work-related stress is a very real and serious thing. According to a study by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention), 40% of workers reported their job “very or extremely stressful.” In a study conducted by Yale University, 29% of workers feel that they are “quite a bit or extremely stressed at work.”

Stress can lead to high blood pressure, depression, heart palpitations and other serious conditions. Below, we’ve documented some quick and easy ways to get you relaxing at the office, right at your desk.

Reorganize Your Setup: A messy desk leads to a messy life. If your desk is cluttered, get rid of it by adding in more filing cabinets and other organizational tools. Take a look at your workspace set up and see if there’s anything in its arrangement causing you unnecessary stress. Is your chair comfortable? Do your eyes strain due to the proximity of your computer screen? Do your wrists hurt from your keyboard? Is your phone too far away for you to easily reach it? If any of these things ring a bell, talk to your supervisor about rearranging or upgrading your workspace.

- Stress Ball: It’s an oldie, but it works. A stress ball or stress toy can give you the opportunity to release tension in your body through hands-on physical exertion. Keep it handy and nearby.

- Change the Light: Amazingly, light can dramatically affect our day-to-day moods. If you have your own office, consider turning off the fluorescent lights and bringing in table and floor lamps that will project softer and more relaxing illumination. If you are in a shared space, place a few flameless flickering candles to set a mood, or invest in a small light box that mimics our natural sunlight.

- Yoga at Your Desk: There’s no need to “downward dog” in front of your coworkers, but when you’re feeling overwhelmed, take some time to sit in your chair and practice some yoga breathing exercises. Restorative yoga breathing emphasizes pulling in your breath through your nose, from the diaphragm up, while exhaling through your mouth. Avoid moving your upper body or breathing in through your chest. With each breath try to lengthen your inhalation and exhalation.

- Keep a Journal: Keep a small journal at your desk or on your computer. Whenever you’re feeling stressed, write down your immediate feelings. Make sure you are open and honest in your writings, but do keep the journal or computer file in a safe and protected place.

- Talk to Someone: Don’t be afraid to reach out to your manager or fellow coworkers when you’re feeling stressed. Sometimes just a quick email or phone call to a trusted confidant is enough to relieve some of the tension.

Creating Your Own Cubicle Paradise


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Creating Your Own Cubicle Paradise

Okay, so maybe the above image is a little … too much; but it’s safe to say, if you work in an office with cubicles, your cubicle is where you’re going to spend most of day, so why not make it your own?

[With your supervisor’s approval] Creating your own work space can be as simple as putting up a few mementos, to designing a more productive environment. Whichever route you choose to go down, we’ve compiled a few tips to help you get started.

1. Walls and Floors: Add wallpaper or fabric to the walls of your cubicle. With most cubicles, you can easily tack or tape these items on without damaging the material. Place an area rug or a mat on the floor of your cubicle for a cozier, homier feel.

2. Upgrade Your Office Furniture: If you don’t like your chair, desk or cabinets, bring in your own. As we mentioned earlier, if you’re going to spend the majority of your day in your cubicle, it’s worth it to be comfortable. Invest in a new or used ergonomic chair, desk and mouse or keyboard, if you can. Or, see what comfortable furniture you have at home that you’re not using and bring that in.

3. Let There Be Light [and Temperature Control]: Light and temperature can greatly affect your productivity and mood. If your office is too dark for your tastes, bring in your own desk lamp. If you prefer mood lighting, relax with some flameless flicker candles or string lights. Temperature-wise, if your office is too cold, bring in a small, portable space heater. If it’s too hot, many camping stores and other outlets sell small fans you can place on your desk.

4. Living Things: Fight the drudgery of an office space by bringing some life into it. By that we mean air-purifying plants, flowers, fish tanks, small water ponds and other “live” mementos. If you don’t have a green thumb, consider getting realistic-looking plants and flowers to spruce up your space.

5. Accessorize, Don’t Clutter: Adding a few fun items like toys, pictures, books and trinkets can help liven up your cubicle and add to your productivity. However, going overboard with toys or any other knick-knacks can seem unprofessional and inappropriate for your office.

Before engaging in any “redecorating,” make sure you check with your supervisor and co-workers about office policies on such actions. People may have allergies to certain plants and flowers, while others may find certain pictures or wall hangings offensive. Creating your own cubicle paradise can be a wonderful thing that’ll enhance your time at work, just make sure you don’t break any rules.

How to Build the Ultimate Ergonomic Workstation!


How to Build the Ultimate Ergonomic Workstation! 

For those working at a desk job, sitting for long periods of time can cause irreparable health consequences. In short, ergonomics is the science of studying equipment designed to fit our bodies and improve our cognitive abilities. Below, we’ve highlighted the main components needed to build the ultimate ergonomic workstation.

Components:

1. Chair: The king of ergonomic design, your chair supports your back and your bottom and affects your posture. When choosing an ergonomic chair look for 3 key things: shape, length and height. The shape of your chair should support your natural posture. Not too soft and not too firm, it should offer lumbar support while curving to your natural shape and head support if available. The chair length should leave you with a small gap between the back of your knees and the edge of the chair.  Adjust the height of the chair so that your feet rest on the floor and in front of you. Avoid putting your feed behind you or in another unnatural position.

2. Desk and Computer Screen: Set up your desk to where your computer monitor is 18-38 inches away from your face. Adjust your monitor upwards so that it can remain 20 degrees under your eye line of sight. This will reduce eye strain, and neck and shoulder injuries. What often helps is investing in a desk that elevates the monitor onto a higher platform. Placing reams of paper or books underneath the monitor is a good substitute.

3. Mouse: Position your mouse in such a way that your arms can remain straight or at most at a 90 degree angle. Many mice are now also designed to wrap to the natural shape of your hands in order to reduce risk of carpal tunnel syndrome.

4. Keyboard: When you’re sitting, angle your keyboard to where your forearms are not bending more than 20 degrees, and your wrists can remain relaxed and neutral. Many experts believe that using the kickstand on the back of a keyboard puts too much strain on wrists due to the bend. If you need to use the keyboard’s kickstand for additional height, consider investing in a wrist rest that can help reduce any possibilities of strain. Another alternative is investing in an ergonomically designed keyboard.

Other Tips:

1. Posture and Position: Avoid slouching or leaning forward through the day. Keep your back relaxed and against the chair.

2. Stand: If you’re having issues with your posture, consider building or investing in a standing desk.

3. It’s Personal: Everyone’s body is different and will have different needs. If purchasing ergonomic furniture for the whole office, do understand that each item should be personalized to the individual.

Keys to a Successful Reception Area


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In the world of business, first impressions matter. As the face of your business, your reception area, lobby or waiting room will determine how well your company will be received by potential clients and customers. Make sure your image is up to par by following these keys to a successful reception area.

1. Understand Your Client Base: The most important thing to consider when designing a reception area or waiting room is your client base. While this may be your business, at the end of the day your business is a result of their hopes and expectations of you. Design this space based on what you think they would like rather than your own preferences. For example, if you were an attorney, your clients would want you to create a feeling of trust and professionalism. Stay away from flamboyant colors and avant-garde furniture, and opt more neutral hues and classic designs.

2. Visibility of the Reception Desk: Your receptionist is often the first person a client or customer sees when they walk in through the doors. Position the desk so that anyone can easily make eye contact with the receptionist as soon as they come in.

3.  Appropriate Not Mood Lighting: Generally speaking, an office isn’t a place for dark, atmospheric lighting. However, depending on your business you can choose to create a greater sense of accessibility and confidence in your services through appropriate lighting. For example, if you’re a doctor’s office, go for bright lights that cast a soft hue. This creates a nonabrasive, yet visible environment.

4. Comfort Not Clutter: A space of any kind is often most comfortable when it is clean and clutter free. If you leave stacks of old magazines and newspapers out for clients, replace them with just a few new ones. Avoid filling the walls with too many paintings or pictures, especially if they’re there purely for aesthetics and hold no meaning for your company itself. Keep the room looking fresh, by giving it a new coat of paint every year or so.

5. It’s in the Details: If you’re vying for business, make sure you visually stand out. Whether it’s a bowl of fresh fruit, instead of candy for your clients or a Keurig coffee maker instead of a water cooler, little details in your reception area are what leave a lasting impression.

 

5 Easy Steps on Cleaning Fabric Office Chairs


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5 Easy Steps on Cleaning Fabric Office Chairs

New or used, your fabric office chair may feel great on your behind, but keep it looking great with these tips on cleaning fabric office furniture.

1. Step 1 – Determine the Fabric: Look on the bottom of the chair for the manufacturer’s tag. The tag will tell you what kind of fabric and upholstery you’ll be dealing with. The tag will also tell you whether to use a water based or solvent cleaning solution. Often, the tags will read “W” for water based and “S” for solvent. If a tag reads “SW”, it means you can use both water and solvent solutions. If there’s not a tag available, go online to the manufacturer’s website and write down the information from there.

2. Step 3 – Vacuum: Give your chair a good vacuum to remove any lingering dust, crumbs and grime. Vacuuming will also make it easier for your solution to penetrate the fabric.

3. Step 4 – Dampen then Spot: Lightly dampen the entire area with cleaning solution. Afterwards, apply more solution on the dirtiest areas of the chair. Remember to follow the directions on the cleaning solution, as different solutions will have different time requirements for spot cleaning.

4. Step 5 – Repeat: For tougher stains, repeat steps 1-4 until you get your desired look. Make sure you leave your chair in a well-ventilated area where it can dry thoroughly. This is especially important as a damp chair can develop mold if not dried properly. If needed, turn on a dehumidifier or fan to speed up the process.

5. Optional Step – If All Else Fails: If all else fails, consider contacting professional office furniture cleaner who can properly assess the issue. If more than 2-3 chairs and/or other office furniture need to be cleaned, this can be a more effective and timesaving solution.

After you’ve cleaned your chair, keep it looking fresh by vacuuming and wiping it down with a damp cloth on a weekly basis.

5 Best Office Solutions for Small Spaces

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5 Best Office Solutions for Small Spaces

When you’re part of a growing company, a small office space is never easy to plan for. Below, we’ve compiled some of the best ways to turn your small office space into a comfortable, practical and productive environment.

1. Consider Open Space: For small spaces, rethink what an “office space” is. Traditional single occupant offices take up precious square footage and multi-occupant cubicles may feel cramped. Opting for an open space office with shared desks, not only allows you to fit more people comfortably into one room, but encourage a communal, team building environment.

2. Multi-Use Furniture: Ready-made dual purpose furniture can be expensive if your company’s just starting out. Take some time to examine the furniture you already have and see if there’s a creative way to extend its original purpose. For example, a small filing cabinet can also serve as a table for files and papers. A shelf on a bookcase can be modified into a desk and a storage unit.

3. Look to the Walls for Space: The walls are not just for staring. When you have limited space, instead of purchasing large bulky cabinets, add simple shelves to the wall for additional storage space. Keep important files and documents within reach, while placing less vital items like extra office supplies up closer to the ceiling. Keep a small, but sturdy step ladder nearby.

4. Hideaway Furniture: If you do need to purchase new furniture, look for furniture that folds, rolls or can serve more than one purpose.

5. Buy Quality: As your company grows, make sure your furniture can grow with you. Buying quality doesn’t necessarily mean expensive nor does it mean new. Many used furniture dealers offer great pieces that are durable, as well as functional. To maintain organization in a tight space, you want to make sure every drawer, light bulb and shelf is doing its job.

With a little ingenuity even the smallest locations can be made into an office that’s one part functional, one part stylish and above else, well organized.

3 Pieces of Office Furniture that Will Help You Stay Fit


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More and more studies show that exercise and physical activity is an integral part of a healthy lifestyle. Not only does exercise prevent obesity and heart disease; it releases endorphins, which regulate stress and emotion.

However, for many Americans who have long commutes, a 9-5 work schedule, and family commitments, the time or energy for exercise simply isn’t part of the equation. Nevertheless, for those wanting to make a change for the better, we’ve documented 3 pieces of office furniture you can use to stay healthy and happy — right in your office.

1. Your Chair: An ergonomically designed chair will not only help alleviate stress on your back, but will help strengthen your core. By sitting in your chair, you can perform simple upper and lower body stretches, as well as hip and core calisthenics, through proper breathing techniques and repetitive motion.

2. Your Desk: Your desk is a great tool for strength training with your own body weight. Using your desk as leverage, you can perform pushups, squats and tricep dips. Many offices have converted their workstations into standing or treadmill desks. While pricier and less conventional, standing and treadmill desks have shown to reduce back strain and other ill health effects associated being sedentary for a long period of time.

3. The Wall: Using a single wall, you will be able to perform a total body workout in less time than you would think. From cardio drills, plyometric pushups and ab toning exercises, to lower body and hamstring moves, you can utilize your desk as a stable weight, to perform any exercise in a small space.

Other Healthy Tips:

- Skip the coffee and soda for water and tea.

- If you’re feeling stressed out, don’t be afraid to speak to a manager or a professional.

- Take healthy breaks, such as a quick walk around the office or building.

- Don’t be afraid to ask your coworkers to join your exercise routine.

- Even taking 60 seconds out of your day to perform any strengthening or toning exercises at your work station is a start for a healthier life.