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Archives for April 2011

Top 20 Ways to Know Your Break Room Needs Upgrading

1. The refrigerator is so small that by 10 o'clock, there's no room to squeeze in one grape, much less another bagged lunch.

2. At noon, the smell of Italian dressing and bananas filters through the office as more and more people eat lunch at their desk because there are not enough tables.

3. Employees roll the chairs from their desks into the break room rather than sit in the uncomfortable plastic chairs provided.

4. The expiration date on the ham sandwich in the vending machine dates back to the first Bush administration.

5. The soda machine still offers Crystal Pepsi.

6. It's standing-room only in front of the 13-inch TV during "Oprah." For the sake of your employee's eyesight, it might be a nice gesture to invest in a nice flat-screen that everyone can watch.

7. Everyone goes out to eat rather than spend their lunch hour in a fluorescent-lit, white-walled room that vaguely resembles a mental ward.

8. The toaster oven zaps anyone who attempts to change the setting from light to dark.

9. You turn on the microwave using a dial.

10. The refrigerator and dishwasher are both avocado green.

11. The fridge is so dirty that someone has covered it with "friendly reminders" (read: passive aggressive notes) that next Tuesday everything will be thrown out because everyone (except for the note writer, of course) is too slovenly to properly dispose of their expired food.

12. The knotty-pine cabinets remind you of your grandmother's house.

13. There's wood paneling on the walls.

14. With no way to let off steam in the break room, employees have taken to playing dodgeball in the parking lot, which has led to a surge in sick days as people nurse broken noses and ribs. (We're guessing you'll have fewer injuries if you invest in a ping-pong table.)

15. Everyone wears headphones and there's a petition circulating to ban Kenny G and Michael McDonald from the break room playlist.

16. Employees take naps in the reception area because there are no couches.

17. Employees would rather pay $4 for a cup of coffee than drink the free stuff, which tastes vaguely like battery acid mixed with tar.

18. The goldfish in the aquarium added to cheer employees up look depressed.

19. There are no windows.

20. At lunchtime, the line for the microwave wraps around the office. It might be time to invest in a couple more.

First photo courtesy of

Second photo courtesy of

Third photo courtesy of on TracyJuang on Flickr

3 Questions You Must Answer When Buying Executive Desks

If you've finally been promoted and are leaving your cubicle behind for a corner office with a view of the city, it's time to upgrade to an executive desk. Now that you're running with the scotch and cigar set, no more faux-wood and cloth panels for you.

Before running out and buying the most expensive desk in town, take a minute to think about how you want your new office to look, and what you'll be using the desk for.

Here are a few questions to ask:

1. How much room do I have?

Measure the office first to figure out how much space you have to work with, then think about what size desk you need. Will you need a large area to spread out paperwork or review files with clients? Or, do you just need enough space for a laptop and a cup of coffee?

You'll also want to consider whether the you'll need other types of furniture (a small table for quick meetings or bookshelves and filing cabinets). While a huge executive desk might project authority, if it's placed in a room that's too small and cluttered with other furniture, the office and by extension the person in the office, might not look as professional.


2. What kind of image am I trying to project?

Desks say a lot about the person sitting behind it, so before you purchase one, figure out what you want to project to your employees and clients.

If you're the type of boss who makes unilateral decisions and want to look confident and competent with a more traditional executive desk, then go with a large cherry or mahogany suite. Not only will this classic style tell people that you are an authority, it will also give the company as a whole a sense of history and permanence.

On the other hand, if you and your company want to show that you're innovative and forward-thinking, seek out more contemporary designs. Ditch the high-gloss wood and leather, and go with a sleeker, minimalist desk. Look for unusual shapes, glass tops, chrome legs or fixtures, and matte finishes.

3. How much storage do I need?

You can find desks with a variety of large and small drawers that can accommodate years of files and your collection of fountain pens or desks that are really no more than a surface to set your laptop on.

When desk hunting think about what you will be using the desk for. If your position generates a lot of paperwork, you're probably in the market for furniture with storage space. If, however, everything you need can fit on a jump drive, you probably don't need much more than a table.

In addition to a desk, executive suites often come with matching bookshelves and tables on which you can display awards, photos, artwork, and, of course, books. If you need more shelf space, these sets are ideal.

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The 10 Most Cheesy Cubicle Posters

Cheesy cubicle posters come in two kinds: the overtly inspirational, or the over-the-top wacky. Both are annoying in their own special way. Neither will make you look terribly original. All will irritate your coworkers almost as much as a smiley face t-shirt at a corporate retreat.

10. Hang in There, Baby!


This is arguably the original motivational poster. Dating back to the 1970s, when many of today's workers were but inspirational gleams in their father's eye, the Hang in There has been duplicated many times, but never matched. You could even say that it crosses the line between cheesy poster and awesomely ironic artifact.

9. You Want It When?


Like talking about the weather and asking if this elevator is the local, mocking deadlines is a go-to water cooler conversation. This poster is maybe the greatest example of that corporate staple: the joke that isn't really a joke.

But what's not funny are the great reviews of these top quality wood planers by Contractor Culture.  Check them out today!

8. Cubicle, Sweet Cubicle


This poster is probably intended to elicit first laughter, then tears, then laughter again. Instead, it gets blank stares. Especially if, instead of a poster, it's rendered in actual cross-stitch on an actual sampler.

7. Any Kind of Affirmation Poster


The power of positive affirmation may indeed be strong, but if you hang one of those in your cubicle, the only thing you're affirming to your colleagues is that you're Stuart Smalley.

6. Complaint Department: Please Take a Number

complaint department

This is a hilarious joke involving inflicting bodily injury on your coworkers. Get it? Get it? Wait, where are you going? There's no need to call the police. We're all friends here, ha ha.

5. I Owe, I Owe, So Off to Work I Go

I owe so off to work I go

Nothing cheers up a grim burlap cube like a poster reminding you of how deep in the hole you are. We're certain that productivity soars under this poster.

4. I Hate Mondays


As a friend of ours would say, "Easy, Garfield." Bonus points because this poster manages to not-impress your boss while it doesn't make you laugh.

3. No Whining

no whining

Just looking at this sign makes us want to whine. Also, as anyone who's ever been a manager can tell you, it's when people stop whining that you need to worry.

2. You Don't Have to Be Crazy to Work Here...


...But it helps! This poster is found almost exclusively on the cubicle walls of workers who describe themselves as "kind of weird" or "really unique." Avoid this person in the lunch room. They will try to talk to you about how drunk they got last weekend.

1. Attitude, Now With Rainbow

rainbowThere are so many Successories to choose from, but we had to go with this poster. It pretty much has everything: cheesy slogan, weirdly Photoshopped nature scene, an actual rainbow. All it's missing is a unicorn and the entire cast of Office Space.

Got an Empty Cubicle? LooseCubes Wants to Fill It With a Living, Breathing Human Being


If you need a job, you might go to LinkedIn. If you need a room, you might go to Craigslist. But where do you go if you need a spare cubicle for your job? The new startup LooseCubes offers an answer, providing workers who need a place to work with open cubicles at companies who want to fill them.

Which only makes sense, given the fact that 62 percent of businesses now have employees who work remotely at least some of the time. Combine an increasingly flexible work force with the somewhat barren recession-era cubicle farm, and you have a natural match.

It was the recession that inspired founder Campbell McKellar. While on vacation to Maine, she realized that she had absolutely no desire to return to her depressing office.

"I told my boss, 'I'm not going to quit,'" she says. "But can you give me three months to work remotely? So my boyfriend and I went up to northern Maine and worked from a cottage."

After a few months of working and living in the cottage, McKellar realized that while working remotely was ideal, she missed some aspects of the office. "My boyfriend and I would be fighting for the one place with mobile service in the house, things like that. I ended up really wanting an office I could work out of that would allow me to come back home to the cottage and have a glass of wine at the end of the day. I thought, 'Oh my God, if I can pull this off I'll never have to go back to New York!' I had this dream of being able to do this all over the world -- doing my job in places that inspire me."

The company currently has $1.23 million in funding, and doesn't yet charge for listings, although McKellar says that pay features will eventually become part of the plan. For now, the process for companies is as simple as posting a listing, filling the cube, and collecting cash. For workers, it allows the freedom to work in any of 186 cities worldwide, including Loosecube's DUMBO-based offices in New York, for one day or several months.

Also, you have to like a company that apologizes for getting hit by the Amazon EC2 failure by posting a pair of corgi puppies on their website. Which makes sense for a company whose tagline is "Work should be fun."

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Cubicle Strategy 101: How To Land the Best Workspace In Your Office

milton office space
Milton hangs out in the basement in "Office Space."

Your office is moving to a beautiful, brand new building, which means it's the perfect time for you to get out of the cave in no-man's land Montana that you call a cubicle.

When thinking about the ideal location for your used desk in the new building, there are plenty of things to consider: the amount of privacy, the size of your cubicle (even better if it's in a corner), and proximity to windows and distractions (like loud coworkers and busy office thoroughfares).

It's never too early to strategize how to get the best digs your new office has to offer.

Here's how to land the best spot:

Get friendly with the moving coordinator

Anytime an office moves, there's a point person charged with coordinating all the details, from the timing of moving each department to where everyone will sit in the new office. Your job is to find that person in your company and kiss up. After winning them over with steaming-hot lattes and fresh bagels, ask about the layout plans for the new office (hopefully, you'll get even more bartering points by showing interest in their job).

Drop hints to your new BFF that you think your department would thrive with a little natural light, or that you could really use a cubicle with enough room to chat with another person now that you're leading (insert name of big money-making project here). Before you know it, the moving coordinator will be writing your name on the blueprints for the new office next to that giant corner cubicle that overlooks the duck pond.

Ask your boss

Your boss should want you to do the best work of your career. If you're doing the best work of your career, not only does that mean that you're a valuable employee, it means your boss must be doing something right (at least in the eyes of upper management). Make a case for your boss about why having a workstation that's positioned away from the unending din of the break room will enable you to do your job more effectively because you'll be able to focus better.

If your company has been hit hard by the economy and has had to freeze salaries or stop contributing to employee 401Ks, you could suggest to your boss that a better situated desk might be a good perk. The key here is not to sound bitter. Be optimistic about the future and talk about how you're a team player, then drop in a line about how you totally understand that times are tough and that you're not asking for a raise, but a nicer desk would be great.

If you're hoping to get a seat in a prime location, don't be annoying like Ryan and Kelly who work in an annex on "The Office."

Don't be annoying

Loud, sloppy and/or obnoxious employees can find themselves banished to the least-desired sectors of the office (think, right outside the bathroom or next to the copier) simply because nobody else wants to put up with their annoying behavior. If you suspect you might be the obnoxious co-worker, it's time to give yourself a little image makeover.

Stop eating stinky leftover fish at your desk. Recycle the toppling collection of Mountain Dew bottles that has spilled out in the aisle. Don't yell at everyone you talk to on the phone. Chew with your mouth closed. Stop arguing with your desk mates about whether Brad and Angelina are over. You get the idea. Just stop grating on everyone's nerves so much. Cleaning up your act will improve your chances of being welcomed back into the prime locales.

Work harder

There's nothing like a promotion to improve your desk prospects. If you don't want the tiny cubicle parked next to the utility closet, prove to your supervisors that you're corner office material. Put in extra hours, volunteer to lead new initiatives, provide unsolicited feedback and ideas for projects that others are working o,n and be the first person people think to ask when they have a question about how to do something.

Even if you don't get a promotion right away, hopefully your strong work ethic will prompt your supervisors to reward you for a job well done with a better seat.

5 Great Cubicle Time Killers


Of course we would never suggest that you have fun on the company dime. But sometimes you're between projects, or just at lunch, and need something to pass the time. In those cases, we recommend these great cubicle time killers. Some are actual games. Some are funny apps. And still others feature baby animals, which as everyone knows, is now the only reason that the internet exists.

1. Bejeweled 3

You can keep your first-person shooters and crash 'em up driving games. For some of us, it doesn't get any better than games where you line up jewels and make them explode. No, we are not kidding, and if you try Bejeweled 3, you'll see why. A word of warning: This game is weirdly hypnotic, so don't play if your boss is liable to drop by unannounced. You won't notice until it rains pink slips all around your head.

2. Classic Games Arcade

On the other hand, maybe you miss the games of your childhood. This is where the internet resembles a live action version of that time capsule you buried in your backyard when you were in elementary school. Turns out, those arcade masterpieces never really went away. They just hid in your browser. This site includes classics like Pac-Man and Donkey Kong.

3. Zooborns

Fans of baby animals, rejoice. (Everyone else, you're probably not capable of rejoicing anymore, due to being dead inside.) Zooborns features pictures and video of the world's most adorable animals at their cutest possible stage. There are animals here from over a hundred zoos worldwide. We are purists and enjoy a good baby panda, but all of these animals are cute. Don't believe us? Check out the baby python.


Want to make funny photos, but don't want to take the time to learn Photoshop? This is the site for you. Make your headshot into a tattoo or the picture on Johnny Depp's nightstand. (It gets weirder from there. You really have to see it to believe it.)

5. Create Your Own Dog Breed

Pets are great, but they eat too much and they refuse to learn how to use the bathroom. Sometimes it's just easier to make up pretend animals on the internet. This mutt maker will help you invent a truly hilarious dog. We made something that looked like a cross between a cow and a bull dog. It is apparently called a Bullbasserrador, and we predict it will be the next Labradoodle.

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3 Cubicle Surprises to Celebrate Administrative Professionals Day

Administrative professionals literally make the office work. They make the appointments, organize the schedules, make sure there are pens in the pen holders and light bulbs in the light sockets, but how often do they get a thank you? At least once a year, at any rate, on April 27, they get their own holiday. Administrative Professionals Day, formerly Secretary's Day, is the day to let your admins know how much they mean to you. Here are three great cubicle surprises that will show them you care.

Leave a Classic Gift Basket


Everyone loves free stuff. Spring for one of the fancy baskets that's as tall as a cubicle wall, and make sure it's stuffed with the best stuff possible. Bonus points if your choice reflects your colleagues' personal tastes: chocolate for chocoholics, wine for oenophiles, and so on.

This goes both ways. It's as important to take your admin's dislikes into account as it is to remember their preferences. No fair leaving a basket full of cheese for your lactose intolerant assistant.

Turn Their Cube Into the Corner Office


The fine art of cube decorating has really taken off in recent years. But as much as we love CSI-inspired and Dungeons and Dragon-themed cubicles, our favorite decorations are the ones inspired by personal celebrations. Give us a birthday cube, or a bride-to-be cube any day. So why not decorate a fancy cube for Administrative Professionals Day?

If you really want to be generous, of course, you could always trade for the day. Let the admins have the office space, while you slave away in a cube. This has the added bonus of being hilarious. Let them take pictures. No gesture is real anymore unless it can be photographed and shared via social networking.

The Empty Cubicle


The best surprise of all? A day off. Save your fruit and decorations for another day, and let your hardworking admins stay home. Time off: It's the gift that always fits.


Next Time Things Get Bad, Just Be Glad You Don’t Work in These Cubicles

boss-cat-office-cubicleMost offices have rules: Arrive by a certain time, file your paperwork in this way, wear pants at meetings, and so. Most of the time, this is a good thing: without official policies, it's hard to get a bunch of people facing the same direction at the same time. Sometimes, though, companies get a little out of control, and start making rules seemingly just for the fun of it. One such organization is the NYC Health Department.

Workers at the Department of Health (fittingly abbreviated "DOH!") recently received a memo called "Guidelines for Life in the Cubicle Village." Ostensibly, this was to smooth working relationships between employees at the department's new offices in Long Island City. To us, though, it looks a lot like a manual for removing any traces of fun from the office.

Highlights from the memo, which isn't available online in its entirety, include:

- Cell phones must be kept on vibrate at all times. This would probably improve most offices. But on the other hand, employees at the DOH will miss out on the bonding experience of complaining with their neighbors about that one person's Ke$ha ringtone.

- No eating in your cube. As the memo notes, "What smells great to one person may not seem so delicious to another." This is definitely true, as is the reminder that "crumbs and spills attract uninvited guests." But on the other hand, not everyone enjoys the false camaraderie of the lunchroom. What if you just want to grab a quick bite without talking about everyone's weekend? Do you have to eat in the bathroom, like in middle school?

- Don't wear perfumes. This is the first code of employee conduct we've read that includes prohibiting all products with "noticeable odors." We're envisioning a sniff test that could get very personal.

- Get rid of photos. "To ensure that the workplace conveys our professionalism, avoid any displays, photos, cartoons, or other personal items that may be offensive to others." This is just their way of saying that they think your kid is ugly, right? They're totally judging your baby, and you shouldn't stand for it. That's workplace harassment.

- Eavesdropping on conversations in neighboring cubicles is discouraged. And if you can't control yourself, the memo urges, "at least resist the urge to add your comments." Honestly, why even go to work then? If we can't editorialize on our neighbors' convos, we'd rather stay home.

- Eat only what the DOH tells you to. Last but not least, the DOH announced an official menu for all company functions. Their creepy menu is heavy on the whole grains and veggies, light on soda and fried foods. (Way light. As in "not allowed at all.")

Our favorite quote from the menu brochure has to be this one: "Keep portions small; cut breads and sandwiches into halves or quarters." Thanks for the portion control advice, DOH. It's like partying with your doctor.

The good news is, some non-water beverages are still allowed. But hey, if "flavored seltzer" or herbal tea doesn't cut it, you can always wash down that hummus with your tears.

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Top 3 Cubicle Coworker Complaints


Why do coworkers drive us so crazy? Maybe it's because, generally, we don't get to pick them. Oh sure, in theory, colleagues have a lot in common, because they do similar things, or at least work toward a common goal. In practice, however ... well, let's just saying working in an office can combine all the worst aspects of a family vacation with the dullest parts of a trip to the DMV.

No wonder, then, that coworkers get on each others' nerves. Here, for your distraction and perhaps edification, we present the three most common cubicle coworker complaints, plus some solutions that won't get you a one-way trip to HR.

Failure to Use Indoor Voices

Perhaps your neighbor was told he could listen to his radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven while he's collating. Or maybe your cubicle mate has a lot of urgent personal phone calls she needs to make while you're on deadline. Or maybe all your coworkers have gotten together and decided that the corridor outside your cube is the living room of the office, and will be the site of all future conversations about reality TV, televised sporting events, or politics.

Whatever the issue is, failure to respect reasonable noise levels in one of the most annoying things one of your coworkers can do. This is one of those issues that goes beyond being plain old irritating, and threatens to derail your productivity.

What You're Tempted to Do: In your fantasy world, you might imagine gesturing to your coworker's cell phone, radio, etc., and politely saying, "Excuse me. Can I see that for a minute?" Before opening a window and throwing the offending noisemaker out of it.

What You Should Do: In the real world, where there's no Do Over Day - and more's the pity, because we've been waiting for that for years - the best thing to do is to politely ask your coworker to lower the volume.

Smelly Lunch Syndrome

Smelly Lunch Syndrome affects 85 percent of all offices operating today. (Note: Statistics are entirely made up.) Offenders include: That Guy Who Always Eats Soup at His Desk, the Experimental Chef, and Coworker Who Makes Popcorn at Every Hour of the Day.

What You're Tempted to Do: We have heard of people filling up their coworkers' desks with popcorn, which is hilarious in car full of cement kind of way. (I.e., funny if it doesn't happen to you.) This isn't a good idea for several reasons, not the least of which is, that's how you get ants. Also, it's just not a very adaptable form of revenge. You can't, for instance, fill Soup Guy's drawers full of soup.

What You Should Do: The prevalence of Smelly Lunch Syndrome has increased in indirect proportion to the American worker's lunch hour. Want to stop your coworkers from eating their gross food two feet from your desk? Organize a group lunch outing, and eat together. It's funny how any kind of food smells less gross when it's being eaten in its proper setting. (In other words, not near your desk.)

The Coworker Who Has Nothing to Do

Everyone has worked with this person. Somehow, his job is getting easier while yours is only getting more demanding. You're up to your eyeballs in paperwork; he's got his feet up on the desk and is ready to chat. It's not his leisure that you resent, really - although it doesn't help that he's so at ease while you're toiling away. No, it's that his light schedule allows him plenty of time to talk to you while you're trying to get things done.

There are a few variations on this coworker. The most common is the person who never seems to do anything, and is blessed with the ability never to get caught. The other is the coworker who does all his work at home, and uses the office as social time. Neither is helping your career or your sanity.

What You're Tempted to Do: It wasn't intentional, at least consciously, but we had a coworker once who accidentally IMed her talkative coworker when she meant to message a friend about said coworker. The transmission: "Why, dear God, why won't he leave me alone? No one cares about his cats." Guess who wound up buying a bunch of cat toys and an apology card?

What You Should Do: To avoid building up the kind of resentment that creates Freudian slips, utilize the best piece of technology to ever enter the modern office: headphones. If worse comes to worse, you can always smile at your chatty coworker, gesture to your headphones, and make a shrug of disappointment. It's almost as good as not speaking the language, and you get to listen to your favorite music while you ignore him.

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The Office of the Future: Will It Be Shared With Other Companies?


(Coworkers at Office Nomads in Seattle)
The internet has given the world many invaulable things: The ability to communicate with people anywhere instantly; a virtual encyclopedia for every question you've ever asked with answers that are either based in fact or hilariously misguided; and tools for procrastination like Facebook, Twitter and

Perhaps the biggest gift the internet has given the working man is the ability to work in his pajamas from the comfort on his couch.

For years, work-from-home professionals have taken advantage of freelancing gigs or their offices telecommuting policies to avoid the morning commute and do their jobs from home or the nearest coffee shop.

But lately, more free agents are looking for the camaraderie and distraction-free environment of a traditional office.

Easily sidetracked freelancer/telecommuter, meet coworking.

Coworking is a growing trend in which individuals in need of office space come together in a communal office setting.

These shared workspaces generally offer wi-fi, desks, tables, chairs, basic office amenities (think copiers and mailboxes), and plenty of free coffee to folks who pay rent by the day, week, month or anytime in between.

Beyond basic office setup, they offer a valuable commodity that the average person working from home doesn't have: Other people.

"Like it or not, humans are inherently pack or herd animals -- with even the most self-sufficient among us needing the assistance or nearness of others to occasionally keep us on course," Christine Durst, author of "Work at Home Now," told CNN.

People who use coworking space can tap into a like-minded community when they need to someone to bounce ideas off of or to network.

And these days, more and more cities are hosting such spaces.

In a 2009 article articlek, Cindy Auten, the general manager of Telework Exchange, a telecommuting research organization in Alexandria, Va., told the Wall Street Journal that as technology has improved, more companies are allowing full-time employees to telecommute in order to lower overhead real estate costs.

"Organizations are starting to see the benefits of telecommuting for the bottom line," Auten said. "The ability to work offsite is even a recruitment tool."

Depending on the space and how much you're willing to pay, many co-working spaces offer a variety of workspaces, including offices, cubicles and large communal tables.

The cost of coworking varies by the facility, but at most you can pay per day (anywhere from $20-$30), month ($275-$500), or a specified amount in between (ie. two days a week).

Coworking sites are more than just a place to put a laptop down though. Telecommuters who are weary of the solitude their home office offers often find a community of like-minded people.

(Coworkers at Independents Hall in Philadelphia.)
Some hold monthly meetings and invite guest speakers. Independents Halll in Philadelphia holds movies nights and workshops, and Cubes & Crayons in San Fransisco offers on-site childcare.

"The same way that [during] the last century work shifted from blue collar to white collar," Tony Bacigalupo, who works at New Work City, told NPR in January. "I think we'll be seeing in this century, we're going to be moving away from the idea of a centralized Monday-to-Friday, 9-to-5 workplace, and we'll be moving much more in this direction. People will work when they want where they want."

Learn more about coworking.

Where to Cowork
Here's a list of some major cities with coworking groups.
Baltimore: Beehive Baltimore
Boston: BetaHouse
Chicago: The Coop
Dallas: CoHabitat
Denver: The Hive Cooperative
Houston: Caroline Collective
Miami: MiamiShared
New York: New Work City and CooBric
Philadelphia: Independents Hall
Portland, Ore.: Souk
San Fransisco: Sandbox Suites and Cubes & Crayons
Seattle: Office Nomads
Vancouver: The Network Hub
Washington, D.C.: Affinity Lab

First photo courtesy of; Second photo courtesy of

4 Beautifully Designed Employee Lunchrooms

It used to be during your orientation tour at a new job, the HR rep would point out useful spots like the bathrooms, vending machines and where to pick up your mail. And they'd also drop by the company kitchen, which probably featured hospital-style white walls and floors, blinking fluorescent lights that emitted an annoying buzzing noise and a too-small fridge covered in notes that berated "whoever stole my lunch" or passive aggressively reminded everyone to throw out their months-expired-and-now-fermented yogurt.

For some forward-thinking companies, the days of the bleak lunchrooms that drove employees to the nearest fast-food chain are a thing of the past. In an effort to entice and retain the top talent, companies are now investing more in their cafeterias, offering thoughtful design, comfortable seating, game tables and even gourmet food options.

Sayonara last night's cold pizza. Hello fancier feasts.

Here are a few trend-setting cafeterias:

Homey and modern
Corp.Kitchen Full 4

This company hired a professional home stager to redesign their bland corporate lunchroom into a cozy but modern kitchen and dining room.

Gone are the bare walls and plastic chairs, replaced by graphic artwork and homey wooden dining room chairs and a couple of plush chairs, perfect for catching up with a co-worker over a cup of coffee.

In fact, this may give you kitchen envy. Those cherry cabinets with and sleek gold countertops may make your own knotty-pine cabinets and bile-colored formica counters look like sad holdovers from the 70s (which, sadly, they are). The kitchen's designer writes that she used the company's monogram on the island and its slogan on the wall in order to distinguish it as a corporate kitchen.

Other features include under-cabinet lighting, dining tables covered with table cloths and topped with easy-to-clean glass, and bowls filled with fresh fruit.

Photo courtesy of

Right up our alley
When employees at the Seattle company RealNetworks need a break, they head to the cafeteria to play a little ping pong or foosball, or bowl a frame or two. That's right, during renovations a few years ago, RealNetworks installed a bowling alley in their lunchroom, which is housed in a bright, airy atrium topped with a sunroof.

According to the Seattle Times, the company also offers employees gourmet dishes (think herb-crusted rib-eye roast with Madeira sauce, Thai chicken pizza with smoked mozzarella). Suddenly your Ham and Cheese Hot Pocket isn't looking so hot anymore, right?

"When your talent is human capital and intellectual property, you want to treat those brains well," company spokeswoman Moe Farley told the Times.

Makes you wish your company thought more of your brain, right?

Photo courtesy of

QuiereTaco Bell?
Why go out to eat at a fast food restaurant when you can munch on a Double Down or Chalupa without leaving the building?

At the company headquarters for Yum! Brands in Louisville, Kentucky, employees have the option at dining in a cafeteria designed to look like your average KFC, Taco Bell, A&W, Pizza Hut or Long John Silvers (all of which Yum! owns).

That is, of course, if your local Taco Bell has a lakeside view, a jukebox and flat screen TVs.

According to a story in U.S. News and World Report, the goal of the revamped cafeterias was to remind employees that they were in the restaurant business and give them a taste for what their customers might experience. Corporate employees can even learn how to make personal pan pizzas or tacos so that they can better understand the jobs of restaurant workers.

We just hope they provide plenty of napkins to employees so there's not grease buildup on their keyboards.

Photo courtesy of Yum! Brands.

Gourmet eats for free

No roundup of cool company eateries would be complete without mentioning the Taj Mahal of company dining: Google.

Google doesn't offer your standard salad bar and burger fare. The company employs professional chefs to create healthy, organic meals that are (wait for it) totally free to employees.

Imagine downing bowls full of watermelon almond gazpacho and plates of miso-marinated steak for the low, low price of free.

OK, so we know that Peanut M&Ms and yogurt raisins aren't gourmet. But they are delicious and at Google, they're also (wait for it) totally free.

We'll give you a minute to recover from your jealous rage.

Photo courtesy of

If you want to suggest to your employer that it's time to re-think their cafeteria, make sure they check out Arnolds Office Furniture for lunch tables.

Walking While You’re Working

treadmill desk

Sick time accounts for as much 6 percent of payroll for companies, according to a recent study. So it's no wonder that companies look to combat employee illness in any way that they can. The most recent experiment in employee fitness: Treadmill desks.

It sounds like the setup for a funny YouTube video. (Worker gets on treadmill, picks up phone or keyboard, loses balance and goes sailing into Accounts Payable, dragging phone, keyboard and dignity behind. Remember us when you make Tosh.0.) But it's a real trend, and it might mean the difference between healthy, happy employees and sickly couch potatoes with bad attendance records.

At Blue Shield of California, thirty employees are participating in an innovative program that allows them to work at treadmills desks for an hour a day, twice a week. It's part of the company's larger "Wellvolution" program, which encourages workers to get fit by integrating healthy behaviors directly into the workplace.

"Instead of asking people to find time to go to the gym, to go out and exercise, what about thinking about a new way of doing physical activity?" asks Wellvolution director Bryce Williams. "Bring it to the desktop, literally, so you can work out and do your job at the same time."

The treadmills are set up so that they can't go faster than 2 miles per hour.

The easy-does-it pace is part of what makes the program work. Claims processor Linsey Webb says, "It's actually really fun. It's the highlight of my day when I actually get to walk."

We found no reports so far of anyone falling off, although some employees have mentioned that there was an adjustment period.

Tara Nicholson, from Blue Shield's customer service division says that the first week was harder. "You had to learn how to do the whole walk, talk and type thing. But after that it's a breeze. I like it."

Researchers from Harvard University and the University of California at Berkeley are following the program to see if it provides long-term benefits.

Programs like these have gained popularity in recent years, as companies realize the direct correlation between employee fitness and health care costs, as well as the aforementioned effect of sick days on the bottom line. Other frequently offered benefits include free flu shots, access to dieticians, and reduced-fee gym memberships.

So are treadmill desks a wave of the future for employers concerned about their employees' health? Only time will tell. One thing is for sure: when it comes to workplace perks, treadmill desks are definitely better for you than free bagels.

Image credit: Greg Barnette at

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