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Archives for February 2012

The 5 Hottest New Toys for the Office

Everyone loves a good office toy. Think of how boring our office cubicles would be if we didn't have our army of bobble head dolls or our arsenal of Nerf guns (our third war-related metaphor of grownup people toys).

Which is why it's so nice that the good folks at the American International Toy Fair have developed toys with office workers in mind. And it makes sense: After all, unlike those freeloading kids, we work for a living, and can therefore afford to drop a little cash on toys. (Just kidding. Most kids have a higher disposable income than adults. But still: Toys! We're always pleased to have more of them.)

Here are a few of our favorite cubicle toys from this year's Toy Fair.

1. Talking Star Wars Dolls


Their Chewie might look more like a Brussels Griffon than the fearsome walking carpet from the movies, but we're still going to give Underground Toys' stuffed Star Wars dolls the top spot. If for no other reason than that everyone we know will want one.

2. Wi-Spi Helicopter


Want to know what your cubicle neighbors are up to? Prairie-dogging your head over the wall is so last century. With this Apple- and Android-enabled spy cam/helicopter, you'll never need to worry again. Your coworkers, on the other hand, will clearly have a lot to worry about. Mostly working with you.

3. Nerf Dart Blaster


New year, new Nerf. This dart blaster costs $20 and shoots 10 darts up to distances of 55 feet. Which means that you don't even need to attend the meeting in order to disrupt the meeting.

4. Berg Ferrari Pedal Go-Kart


At this level of cubicle toy, you sort of have to expect HR to get involved. Most offices are not going to let you ride this go-kart around all day long -- which, rest assured, is exactly what we would do, if we could get our hands on this baby. The upside is that we would make every coffee run for every coworker, ever. Also, if they were nice to us, maybe they could hitch a ride on the back. But no promises.

5. Mattel WWE Brawlin Buddies


Forget those stress-relieving squishy toys: What you need is a toy you can punch. Take out all your frustrations on these stuffed wrestling dolls, which even come with recorded sayings from all your favorite wrestlers. (Or ones you've never heard of at all, depending on your level of devotion to WWE.)

HP Execs Move From Offices to Office Cubicles

meg-whitman-2009-coverThe rank and file at Hewlett-Packard are getting new office cubicle neighbors thanks to a decision by President and CEO Meg Whitman.

Now when they wax poetic about Zooey Deschanel's eyes in last night's episode of "New Girl" or complain about that guy in accounting who took the last cup of coffee without making a new pot, their musings can be heard by HP executives.

Before you jump to conclusions, no, HP didn't install hidden cameras to monitor the day-to-day activities of its employees. Instead, taking a page from Facebook's office setup, Whitman has directed that all HP Executives (herself included) trade their sweet, cushy offices for humble cubicles, according to CRN.

Yup. Right now, there are VPs sitting next to Jan in sales who talks so loud her phone conversations can be heard by everyone in Palo Alto, and Damian, who cracks his knuckles every 30 seconds much to the annoyance of all those seated in his vicinity.

In addition to ditching the formal offices, Whitman also directed that the barbed-wire fence separating the executive parking lot from the regular employee parking lot be taken down (seriously, they had a barbed-wire fence?!)

These changes were made in part to return the embattled tech company to the vision of its founders, in which openness and equality reigned.

"You can see the teamwork already. The conversations over the cubicle are the ones that really matter," Whitman told CRN.

The HP execs aren't alone in the realm of cufflinks meeting cubes. Plenty of leaders in major corporations have given up offices in order to promote communication and be more accessible to everyone in the company.

According to Forbes, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg sits in a bullpen with his staff. In the Zappos Las Vegas headquarters, chief executive Tony Hsieh has a cubicle. And nobody at Facebook's new campus in Menlo Park, Calif. has an office - including co-founder Mark Zuckerberg.

While growing eBay into an internet powerhouse, Whitman herself worked in a cozy 8-by-8 cube.

In an article for CBS News, former tech executive Steve Tobak summarizes some of the obstacles companies that adopt a more open model encounter:

  • Lack of confidentiality and privacy - There are some conversations - from personnel to legal issues - that shouldn't be privy to the rest of the office. Likewise, employees might need to have a private conversation from time to time and shouldn't have to duck into the nearest bathroom stall to have it. To compensate for open floor plans, most companies include plenty of conference rooms for everyone to use.


  • No place to park big egos - What employee doesn't equate a big office with success and entitlement? Ditching the big office means that potentially big egos don't have a place to hang their hat - it's a clear demonstration that narcissists need not apply.



  • Highly visible management practices - Managers who make a habit of dressing down employees for their own amusement will quickly find that such practices aren't suited for open workspaces. Their bad habits will be on display for co-workers and bosses alike.



  • Noise factor - Working among the masses is a lot noisier than sitting behind a wall with a shut door. Sure, there's more of a din, but most employees try to be courteous of others by keeping their voices down. And for those who just can't concentrate - noise-canceling headphones should do the trick.


For those employees lucky enough to be sharing a cubicle wall with a CEO or vice president, we offer a few dos and don'ts:


  • Don't waste time. Unless you work for Facebook or using Facebook is part of your job description - avoid checking status updates every 5 minutes. It's an indication that you don't have enough work to do.



  • Don't overshare. Skip the daily half-hour phone conversations with your sister about your latest dating woes. Not only is it unprofessional, but nobody needs to know that last night's hookup smelled like seaweed. Likewise, be aware of how much you complain about your job. You want to be known as a team player, not the whiney guy.



  • Do eavesdrop strategically. It's hard not to overhear conversations when you work right next to someone - but be careful about dropping your two cents into every interaction the boss has. Speak up when you have information that is of potential use to the exec, but don't feel the need to offer parenting advice when you overhear that your bosses kid just got detention (unless she asks for advice, of course).



  • Do be courteous. Even if you're not a morning person, make sure to greet all your cubicle neighbors in the morning - including the boss. It will only improve relations. Just be careful to be friendly, not fawning. Nobody likes a kiss up.


The 5 Best Office Supplies for Fashionistas

When most of us think of fashion, we think little black dresses and sky-high heels. We definitely don't think of office supplies. But maybe that's about to change. A number of clothing and home goods designers have branched out into office supplies in the past few years. Most recently, Martha Stewart has brought her brand of awesome persnickety-ness to Staples, debuting a line of organizational products ranging from discreet white file boxes to bright turquoise binders. Your office cubicle has never looked so fancy.

Here are a few of our favorite fashionable office supplies.

1. Sticky Notes by Martha Stewart Home Office
It was hard to choose just one Martha Stewart office accessory. (So hard, in fact, that we choose two. See farther down the list for more.) These sticky notes, however, are probably our favorite thing in her line. They're super cheap at $2.99, and way classier than the standard yellow Post-It.

2. Kate Spade The Long List Notepad
Compulsive list-makers rejoice: There is now a snazzy notebook for you to jot down everything from "pick up dry cleaning" to "make more lists." (Yes, we have actually made a list that ended like that.) At $9, this is probably not the cheapest notepad you've bought in your life, but it's almost definitely the cheapest Kate Spade thing you've ever purchased. Hold it over your 10-dollar handbag from Target and feel like a fashionista for practically nothing.

3. Lilly Pulitizer Calendar (Without Easel)
Our favorite thing about this product is that the seller is very specific about the fact that it does not come with an easel. Which makes us think that somewhere, there is a buyer who would be very, very angry to purchase a calendar that did not come with a display device. Who is this person, we wonder, who needs not only to know what they're doing this week, but for others to know as well? Anyway, this calendar does not come with an easel, but it is decorated with the standard Lilly Pulitizer preppy pastel drawing, and it is $7.48.

4. Martha Stewart Home Office Stack + Fit Organizers
There's something about a desk-top organizer that makes you feel like everything is going to be OK. That probably goes double for organizers blessed by Martha, possibly the poster child for compulsive organization. You'd never lose paperwork again. $14.99 and up.

5. Jonathan Adler Binder Clips
If you can manage to have a bad day at work while using these sunny little binder clips, you're a much more determined curmudgeon than we'll ever be. A set of 12 clips is $9.95, and includes four different designs: an orange clip featuring an elephant and the motto "junk in the trunk"; a pink clip with a mustache and "stache it or trash it"; a blue clip with a whale and "stay afloat, deadline on the horizon"; and a green clip with a pear and "pearfect papers." Just, er, watch out whose papers you bind up with that orange clip. Could be an awkward conversation with HR.

“Rx”: The Hit Show That Makes Fun of Life in the Office Cubicle

The average college grad doesn't dream of a career spent confined in a cubicle, staring at a computer screen and counting the seconds 'til 5. But even the most idealistic and ambitious of job seekers often find themselves obsessively checking Facebook in between struggling to stay awake through coma-inducing meetings at a thankless job.

"Rx," a new play by Kate Fodor playing at 59E59 Theaters in New York, satirizes the sometimes mind-numbing world of office life while poking fun at the overmedicated masses.

(Meena and Dr. Phil share a moment during "Rx." Photo courtesy of

The stage production centers around a pharmaceutical company that is testing a drug, called SPF-925, to alleviate the workaday blues. One of its test subjects, Meena Pierotti, is a wannabe poet who's ended up in an unfulfilling position as the managing editor of piggeries for American Cattle and Swine Magazine. She periodically sneaks away from office drudgery for a good cry over the life she's missing out on.

Phil, the doctor administering the test, and Meena begin falling for each other, endangering the trial. Conflict ensues when the drug begins to take affect and Meena starts to find work more satisfying and has less time for Dr. Phil.

Theatergoers -- who themselves spend their workweeks waiting for Friday night -- will no doubt find plenty to giggle at (or at least relate to) in the digs at various office stereotypes and characters.

And "Rx" isn't the first production to find great comedic and dramatic fodder living in corporate culture. Playwrights have long been inspired by the plight of the lowly office peon hoping to rise above the mundane world of cubicle life.

Here are a few other shows that have put the 9-to-5 grind on stage:

(Photo courtesy of St. Louis Theatre Snob.)

"9 to 5: The Musical" by Mel Brooks - Three working women conspire to gain control of their company, overthrowing their bigoted boss in the process. The show features plenty of office staples -- including gossiping co-workers, bitter employees and an impossible-to-use copy machine.

(Photo courtesy of Drama Queen NYC)

"How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying" by Frank Loesser, Abe Borrows, Jack Weinstock and Willie Gilbert - The musical follows the rise of a young window washer from mailroom to vice president of advertising (with questionable ethics) at the World-Wide Wicket Company. Daniel Radcliffe of "Harry Potter" fame has made a big impression in the current revival of the show -- proving he's more than just wands and robes. Employees at World Wide Wicket bemoan the guy who takes the last cup of coffee, office nepostism and ignorant bosses.


(Photo courtesy of

"Death of a Salesman" by Arthur Miller - A weary traveling salesman who's about to lose his job wants to make up to his wife and two alienated sons after years of being absent. There's plenty not to love about office life in this one, including an inflexible boss, long days on the road and people who want to appear more successful then they are. Not exactly a pick-me-up, but a must-see for disenchanted office dwellers everywhere.

(Photo courtesy of )

"The Way of All Fish" by Elaine May - Uber-successful businesswoman Miss Asquith seems to have everything -- a multimillion dollar corporation, designer clothes and a busy social life -- but she longs for simple companionship. During dinner in the office, her hard-working but mousy secretary reveals that the one thing she wants in life is infamy -- in the vein of such notorious criminals as John Wilkes Booth, Charles Manson and Jack the Ripper. The darkly humorous play centers on their conversation and what really lies underneath both women's ambitions. And let's be honest, who doesn't have a co-worker that they've long suspected had homicidal tendencies?

occupy-wall-street-musical"Occupy Wall Street: The Musical" by Joshua Brown - According to, preproduction for this off-Broadway show was to begin in January. The play tells the story of David, an "idealistic young occupier," who falls for a disenchanted Goldman Sachs employee and attempts to lure her into the Occupy movement. Jenny must choose between a promising career on Wall Street and true love all to the backdrop of drum circles in Zuccotti Park and "suited and slick" investment bankers.

"Onward and Upward" by Maile Chapman - After he's found having an affair, Frank finds himself banished to office purgatory where an annoying co-worker conspires with others to make his life hell. The one-act play originally appeared in Seattle.

Why Meetings Can Make You Stupider (and How to Make Them Smarter)

boredmeetingFinally, a study proves what we've always said: Far from making you super-efficient machines of corporate productivity, meetings actually make you stupider.

"You may joke about how committee meetings make you feel brain dead, but our findings suggest that they may make you act brain dead as well," says Read Montague, coauthor of the study and director of the Human Neuroimaging Laboratory at the Virginia Tech Carilion Research Institute.

Montague says that meetings affect our ability to think -- and he has the MRI evidence to prove it. Montague and his colleague Kenneth T. Kishida tested 70 students with IQs averaging about 126.

The students were divided into groups of five, and then randomly tested twice: once before the experiment, and once after being asked a series of questions and being given feedback on their answers. The goal was to duplicate the experience of participating in a meeting. Specifically, researchers hoped to show how feeling inferior to a colleague who seems to have all the answers (and the PowerPoint to back it up) makes people, well, dumber.

The second tests showed significant drops in IQ scores for students who participated in the meetings. So the good news is that you're right when you say you feel stupider after a meeting. The bad news, however, is that you actually are stupider.

How can companies combat this problem? Other than having fewer meetings, which for many organizations, is not a feasible solution, companies might try a few of the following tricks to make meetings more productive:

1. Ask yourself if this meeting is really necessary.

Sure, some meetings are a necessary evil. But if you find that you're having endless brainstorming sessions with no measurable results, consider scaling back to just the essential sessions.

2. Determine the objective ahead of time.

Before you drag everyone out of their office cubicles, make sure that you have real goals for your meeting. Write them down, like our ancestors did. After the close of each meeting, have the meeting organizer send points that need action or follow up.

3. Be on time, and don't recap for latecomers.

There is nothing more frustrating than spending an hour in a meeting because half the team didn't show up until 15 minutes in. Be respectful of people's time, and insist that they do the same.

4. Don't get into the weeds.

If people start talking about an issue unrelated to the main agenda, table it for later. You can always follow up afterward via email.

5. Minimize the number of presentations.

Everyone likes a chance to show off what they know, but only include presentations that are a definite benefit to everyone in attendance. Schedule too many PowerPoints and you'll wind up with bored, frustrated colleagues. Or maybe just really stupid ones.

Image: Site Seeker

6 CEOs Who Began Their Work Life in an Office Cubicle

While it might seem like the CEO of your company can't tell a cubicle from a closet, chances are he or she might know a thing or two about modular work life.

Not all executives were born with a silver spoon - plenty started out where you are - jockeying for a better parking space and praying the person at the next desk doesn't plan on eating leftover fish again.

Many didn't even start off with a desk!

Andrew Taylor, CEO and chairman of Enterprise Rent-a-Car, started out washing cars at Enterprise lots when he was 16. Sidney Weinberg, former CEO of Goldman Sachs started out working for $3 a week as a janitor's assistant at the investing giant. And Best Buy CEO Brian Dunn hawked refrigerators and TVs at the electronics and appliance giant in the mid '80s.

We rounded up a few more famous CEOs who started out in less-than-glamorous office jobs.

Steve Jobs (Co-found, Chairman and CEO of Apple, 1974-1985 and 1996-2011)
Jobs, a college dropout, got hired at arcade game manufacturer Atari in 1974 as a technician in a small warehouse lined with games. Even back then Silicon Valley was known for its loose dress code and casual work environment, which suited Jobs well. According to one article, the famous Apple co-founder was described as a "scuzzy kid" whose personal hygiene, strange eating habits and abrasive attitude left a bad taste in his co-workers' mouths. He left Atari (after a spiritual journey in India) and went on to found Apple with buddy Steve Wozniak.

Jack Welch
(Chairman and CEO of GE, 1981 to 2001)
Welch started out making $10,500 a year as a chemical engineer in the plastics department of GE. He nearly got fired from his job after blowing the roof off the factory he worked in. Like many recent college graduates who feel stuck at the bottom, he was frustrated with the company's bureaucracy and the paltry raise he was offered after his first year and threatened to quit, but a colleague convinced him to stay. Twelve years later he was named a vice president and continued to move up the ranks.

David J. O'Reilly
(Chairman and CEO of Chevron, 2000-2009)
After attending University College of Dublin, O'Reilly was recruited by Chevron in 1968 and began his career there as a process engineer. What does a process engineer do? Well, they literally study how different processes work - from pumping oil to refining it - and look for improvements on everything from safety to efficiency. It's not the most glamorous job. He spent some time out in the field -- looking for problems at a refinery, for example -- but was often stuck behind a desk studying models.

Ursula Burns
(Chairman and CEO of Xerox, 2009-present)
Raised by a single mom in a New York City housing project, Burns received a bachelor of science degree in mechanical engineering from Polytechnic Institute of NYU in 1980, and a master of science in mechanical engineering from Columbia in 1981. She began her career at Xerox as a mechanical engineering intern in 1980. During her 20s, she worked in product development and planning, impressing supervisors with her candidness and ability to multitask. She went on to become the first woman to succeed another woman at a Fortune 500 company when Anne Mulcahy stepped down in 2009.

Samuel Palmisano
(Chairman and CEO of IBM, 2002-2011)
The Baltimore native got a degree in history from Johns Hopkins in 1973 and turned down an offer to tryout for the Oakland Raiders before becoming a salesman at IBM when he was just 22. That's right, he was kind of a Jim Halpert or Stanley Hudson, albeit for a much larger company. He eventually worked his way up the ranks to become CEO in 2002 - something we don't see Stanley doing - what with his love of doing crossword puzzles instead of work.

Anne Mulcahy
(Chairwoman and CEO of Xerox, 2001-2009)
05 Anne Mulcahy-1
Mulachy started out as a field sales representative for Xerox in 1976, after getting her BA in Journalism and English from Marymount University. She rose through the ranks, achieving more senior management positions (and no doubt ditching a cubicle for a bigger office).

5 Things Your Office Cubicle Reveals About You

Like it or not, our office cubicles say a lot about who we are. If you're trying to remain incognito at work, your first step should be to ask for unassigned seating, because if you sit in one place for more than a day, you're going to leave a mark. This is probably the major reason James Bond does not have an office cubicle: too much opportunity to give away secrets to his enemies. (The other reason is that it would immediately turn the Bond movies into comedies.)

What does your cubicle say about you? Depending on how you keep your work area, we might learn that:

1. You're a Neat Freak
If you're a tidy person at work, you're probably a tidy person in all areas of your life. For instance, we have never failed to see a correlation between how someone keeps their desk and how they keep their bathroom at home. Become friends with a tidy coworker and go over to their house for poker night. When you use the bathroom, you'll notice that their bathtub is cleaner than an operating room. When you leave the bathroom, you'll probably be asked to leave the house, because it's so creepy that you're staring at their bathtub.

2. You're a Big Sports Fan
Office environments and sports paraphernalia go hand in hand. It starts small: a pennant, perhaps, or a lone bobblehead of your favorite sports figure. Before you know it, your computer is being crowded out by an army of figurines and commemorative mugs. It gets worse as playoffs approach, especially if your team is still in the game. By that time, big sports fans start coming to work entirely dressed in their team uniform, causing their coworkers to wonder if they actually think they're playing for the team.

3. You Love to Travel
Some people put up pictures of their families, or their pets, or their dream house. You have photos of palm trees and mountains and fields of flowers, far away. The world is your home, and you like to go there every chance you get. Either that, or you're just way better at imagining your happy place than your coworkers. Come to think of it, can we borrow that snapshot of the Tuscan villa?

4. You Are Very Proud of Your Honors Student
We would make fun of your pictures of little Jimmy holding his various awards, but it's pretty clear we're all going to work for him someday. So tell him we send our best regards, OK? (It's never too early to start kissing up.)

5. You Don't Plan to Be Here Long
Your cube isn't so much tidy as it is totally barren. You're the person who has a totally empty desk, except for a pencil holder with one pen in it and a dusty packet of Post-it notes. In fact, dust might be the only decoration you have: you never bothered to wipe down your space when you moved in. We, your coworkers, must conclude that you either live entirely in your own head ... or that we probably won't be drawing your name in next year's Secret Santa.

1., 2., 3., 4., 5.

The Latest Office Exercise Trend: Toilet Yoga

126171336Before we discuss the benefits of Toilet Yoga, it is very important to us that you know that this article explaining its benefits is entitled: "Toilet Yoga Brings Relief for Office Workers." We couldn't possibly let that go unmentioned. You are welcome.

Now for the bad news: Toilet Yoga does not involve doing downward facing dog over the actual toilet. Rather, it's about grabbing a bit of Zen wherever you can ... even if it's in the can. (Sorry. We are so sorry.)

Yoga teacher Sarah Berry advises office workers to get a little stretching in whenever possible. As she rightly points out, you wouldn't think of sitting on a plane for nine hours without stretching your legs now and then, but most of us sit at our desks for eight, nine, ten hours a day and never think twice about it. It's no wonder that we're curled into the fetal position even when standing.

To remedy this, Berry tells workers to stand in a toilet stall -- or even just their office cubicle -- and do side to side lunges. Then, she says, clasp your hands behind your back, bend forward, and raise your hands toward the ceiling. This "rinses out" the shoulders, something we sorely need after a long day of IMing our friends and reading the internet. Berry also recommends calf stretches, using that handy toilet stall for support.

She also says that one of the most important things you can do to get your energy flowing again is to just breathe.

"Many of us don't realize how often we hold our breath (and simultaneously hunch up our shoulders) when we're stressed or concentrating," she says. "This is something I regularly see in yoga classes."

Just don't do those deep breathing exercises in the bathroom, or you'll eclipse the guy who talks on his cell phone in the stall as the office bathroom weirdo.


The 5 Most Fun Apps for Your Cubicle

Most people, even those who really love their jobs, wouldn't choose to spend the day toiling away in their office cubicle instead of, say, lying around on the beach or playing a few rounds of golf. This is why we're so lucky that there's an app for absolutely everything. Thanks to modern technology, you don't need to choose between work and play. You can use these apps to bring your hobby right into the office.

1. Cubicle Golf
For 99 cents, you can forgo club fees and long drives to the course, and play this "golf" game right from your cubicle. Instead of zany plaid pants and funny hats, your uniform is business casual. Instead of a club and a ball, you aim a worker in a chair at the goal, while striving to avoid the boss. Which is sort of fitting, since your real boss probably wouldn't be totally thrilled to find you playing pseudo-golf instead of working. (Salesmen can probably excuse this by claiming to be practicing their swing.)

Reviewers on Amazon seemed to be more impressed with the concept than the execution, but hopefully subsequent releases will address some of their concerns about starting and stopping -- and getting rid of that boss character.

2. Paper Toss
Modestly named, this app allows (nay, encourages) you to annoy your electronic coworkers by tossing a variety of items at them, including paper, tomatoes, a stapler, and something called a "burning ball," which we can only imagine results in you being sent to app prison for app assault.

Pricing on this one is a little funky. You can get 1000 paper points for 99 cents, and then a bunch of different upgrades for additional money, depending on how badly you feel the need to torture your coworkers. The reviewers seemed quite taken with this one, though, complaining only that it gets sort of repetitive.

3. Live Beach Wallpaper
We were going to hold out until they invented an app that will actually transport you to the beach (ETA 2013), but this live wallpaper of swinging palm trees and crashing waves is so hypnotic, you won't mind waiting. OK, fine, yes you will. Still: free beach, in your computer. Not bad.

Some Amazon reviewers found the graphics choppy, but others were quite taken with the beautiful picture. Everyone loved the price, because who could complain about free?

4. Office Jerk
If we're going by the Apple and Amazon app stores, app consumers are very, very angry at their coworkers. This app allows you to torture an avatar of everyone's least favorite coworker, the office suck-up. The Office Jerk comes in early. He stays late. He keeps a spotless cube. Man, he's annoying. But with this app, you can punish him by tossing all sorts of horrible things at his desk, including paper, pencils, staplers, and, um, dynamite.

This one is free, but you can get an ad-free version for 99 cents. Which it sounds like you probably need, given your stress levels if you need to buy this game.

5. Tetris
At $2.99, this app is the most expensive one we've included in this list, and the one most likely to get you your money's worth. Tetris is the potato chip of computer games. No one can stop at one game. In fact, people usually keep playing until their eyes dry out and the office closes and everyone goes home for the weekend. Eventually, they'll find your mummified body curled around your phone, which will still be flashing your high score. At least you'll have died happy.

Reviews for this are mostly along the lines of, "Oh em gee, Tetris! Tetris, Tetris! TETRIS!" except for one lady who got the Spanish version by mistake, and one man whose version kept freezing up on him. Fittingly, he was an IT guy.

10 Products That Can Turn Your Office Cubicle Into a Fitness Center

It's no secret that Americans are getting fatter. And when you consider the average day of the average American: eight hours sitting in a cubicle in front of a computer before sitting in a car to go sit in front of the TV for the rest of the evening, it's no real surprise that our waistlines are expanding.

The number of studies on the benefits of exercise rival the number of times you've trekked back to the break room for an afternoon bag of Cheetos (ie: numerous).

that professionals who find time to workout during the day feel more productive, have better time-management skills and are less temperamental.

And we're not talking about running 5 miles during your lunch break either (although that wouldn't hurt).

You can help boost your mood, productivity and overall well-being by staying active right at your desk.

The Washington Post recently posted videos of 12 different exercises recommended by experts that you can do in the privacy of your cubicle (or perhaps for the amusement of your co-workers).

Don't feel like you have time during the day to squeeze in fitness? Surely you have a minute or 10 to spare, right?

Aerobic exercise in 60-second or 10-minute bursts can improve your heart health, Kelli Calabrese, MS, an exercise physiologist and spokesman for the American Council on Exercise told WebMD. Everything from quick sets of jumping jacks to running in place to shadow boxing (might want to go into a conference room for that last one) can get your heart pumping and improve your longevity while decreasing your risk for heart disease.

We rounded up 10 fitness products that you can stow at your desk in the chance you've skipped the gym one too many times.

1. Treadmill Desk
The concept for this is pretty straightforward - a workspace balanced on top of a treadmill. Instead of sitting all day, you can walk at a slow pace (less than a mile an hour) while you work. Dr. James Levine of the Mayo Clinic found that subjects who used a treadmill desk burned 100 calories an hour on average. He estimated that if people used a treadmill desk for eight hours a day, they could lose up to 57 pounds a year. You can purchase ready-made treadmill desks or build your own. Anywhere from $40 for a desk attachment to $1,300 for treadmill with built-in desk.

2. FitDesk X Compact Pedal Desk
This one is for those who are more Tour de France than afternoon stroll. Similar to the treadmill desk, except with a stationary bike - the Pedal Desk allows you to sit and pedal your way to fitness. The Pedal desk is more portable than a treadmill desk, but it doesn't have as much workspace. Cost: $230.

3. Stamina InStride Folding Cycle
Here's an even more compact cycle machine you can use from the comfort of your desk - even while seated . Weighing in at just 9 pounds, the Folding Cycle comes with a battery-operated electronic monitor to time your workout, as well as several resistance levels so you can change up your routine. Cycling can help improve your flexibility, without putting extra pressure on your joints. And - we're sure cubicle denizens will love this one - it can reduce back pain. Cost: $39.

4. Stamina Elliptical Trainer
This compact elliptical machine weighs just 24 pounds and can be stowed easily under your desk. Pull it out during your morning coffee break for a quick 10-minute workout, or find a workspace you can stand at to fit in a longer routine while responding to e-mails or typing up a report. Cost: $90.

5. Fitness Ball
Trade your office chair for a fitness or stability ball and you'll not only improve your balance, but also strengthen your core muscles. When you're not sitting, use the ball throughout the day for things like wall squats or crunches. Cost: $15-$25.

6. Resistance Bands
Challenge that annoying IT guy to a little arm wrestling after a week or two of working out with this easy-to-store exercise equipment. You can work out your arms, chest, back and shoulders right at your desk. Resistance bands are portable, inexpensive, easy to use and will help increase your coordination. Check out this video for different exercises to try with your resistance bands. Cost: $10-$30.

7. Light Dumbbells
Use them for a light arm workout while sitting at your desk or take them along during your lunchtime power walk. Light weights can help you build and tone muscle over time, without putting extra stress on your joints. Keep in mind that even with light weights, if you are able to do more than 10 to 12 reps, then you won't be building muscle size so much as muscle endurance. Also, be sure to change up your daily routine so your muscles don't get used to your desktop workouts. Cost: $3-$20.

8. Ankle Weights
Why not make walking around the office a little more challenging by adding five pounds to your legs? Adding resistance to your lower body with these little guys will help build up muscle strength over time. They might look a little conspicuous worn with a skirt - so it's probably wiser (or at least more fashionably conscious) to wear them with pants. And just to be safe, don't don them with heels. Cost: $8-$15.

9. Pedometer
Experts recommend that people walk an average of 10,000 steps a day, or about the equivalent of 5 miles. The average number of steps a sedentary person walks is just 1,000 to 3,000. That's right, we have a lot of catching up to do. Motivate yourself to get moving around the office by wearing a pedometer. Whether it's heading out for a walk at lunch, or getting up to talk to a co-worker in person instead of just sending an e-mail, this little gadget will help you track your progress and get you moving toward your 10,000th step of the day. Cost: $10-$20.

10. Social Media
No, tossing virtual straw bales on Farmville does not count for actual exercise, but there are plenty of social media sites out there that can help you stay motivated about getting in shape. To get started, check out FitLink and DailyBurn.

Contact Arnold's Office Furniture now to setup your perfect office that can utilize all these great office fitness tips!

And the Winner of the Cubicle Toy Design Contest Is…

It's rare to find an office cubicle totally devoid of desk toys. Even the neatest and tidiest workers among us feel the need to commune with their inner child during the day, and keeping a few bobbleheads and Rubik's cubes around is easier than stuffing a full-size pony into their cube. (Also, more humane.)

Since you can never have too many cubicle toys, the editors of Desktop Engineering decided to create a contest to inspire the creation of all-new gadgets to keep us entertained. There were over 80 submissions. Here are the three finalists, and ultimately, the winner. Please note that the runners up weren't ranked, so you can pretty much consider them both in tie for second place.

3. Ray Kelley's Bottle Cap Blaster
Finally, something to do with all those water bottle caps that have been littering your cubicle. The Bottle Cap Blaster was designed to be cheeky, but non-lethal -- something those of us who have experienced high-powered homemade slingshots around the office can appreciate.

Its creator, Ray Kelley, described his plan thusly, "I set out to create a fun, cool cross bow-type toy with enough attention to detail that it might actually be made and used without serious injury ... Overall, most elements amuse and annoy, and hopefully others will inspire and maybe even amaze."

2. Jason Cox's Remote Control Mouse
This is legitimately one of the funniest ideas we've heard in a long while: the Remote Control Mouse, as you might have guessed, allows a remote user to control the primary user's mouse clicks. The mental picture this creates is probably almost as good as the actual experience of watching someone use it.

Contest judge Josh Mings said, "I can picture team-building experiments where one team tries to protect the RC Mouse and the other team tries to kick it through the office manager’s plant ... a very valuable part of building a functional company culture."

Also: hilarious.

1. Mark Norwood's Water Spraying Tank
And the winner is Mark Norwood, with a water-spraying Sherman tank. The tank itself is a toy you can purchase at any toy store, but Norwood outfitted it with a water tube that will make tormenting coworkers easier (and damper) than ever before.

Judge Tony Lockwood said, “Each gentlemen is a winner in my book. All have proven themselves disruptive technologists, impish pranksters, and ingenious beyond compute. And, of course, all meet and exceed the Robbins Razz requirement for tormenting your cube mates [a test inspired by the way executive editor Steve Robbins makes a beloved canine companion chase a laser pointer's light]."

Lockwood and the other judges said that the detailed modeling in Norwood's drawing helped him win the prize, a Dell Precision Workstation with professional AMD FirePro graphics (retail value estimated at more than $5,000.)

Images via

Is Your Office Air Killing You?


Do you arrive at work every day feeling perfectly fine and notice as the day rolls on that you develop a runny nose or headache or have unexplained fatigue? It might not be the job that's making you feel bad. It could be the office itself.

The Environmental Protection Agency, which frequently releases studies and information on indoor air quality, even has a term for what your office is doing to you: Sick Building Syndrome.

The EPA explains that a person could experience a number of vague symptoms that are tough to trace to one specific source. These might include irritation in the nose, eyes and throat; sneezing; stuffy nose; fatigue or lethargy; headache; dizziness; nausea; irritability; and forgetfulness. These symptoms could be caused by any number of factors - everything from poor lighting to psychological stress - but when they go away as soon as the sufferer leaves the office, it might be time to blame the air quality in the building.

It's not an uncommon phenomenon. The World Health Organization reports that 30 percent of new and remodeled office buildings around the globe are the subject of complaints about air quality.

And poor air quality isn't just limited to work. "Good Morning America" recently measured the level of air pollution in a newly-finished baby nursery. After setting up the new crib, changing table, rocker and decorations, they found the air inside the nursery contained 300 different chemicals. The crib mattress alone contained 100 different chemicals and the rocker had seven times the level of formaldehyde recommended by the state of California.

At home, experts recommend airing out any new furniture before bringing it indoors, painting during the fall and spring months when you can open windows to ventilate, and using unscented products. They also recommend avoiding pressed-wood products and buying used furniture and accessories (that's already been aired out at someone else's house).

But what should you do at your office when you're at the mercy of your employer and building managers?

In offices there are three main causes to poor indoor air quality, according to the EPA:

1. Indoor Air Pollutants
These include environmental tobacco smoke; asbestos from insulating and fire-retardant building supplies; formaldehyde from pressed wood products; other organics from building materials, carpet, and other office furnishings, cleaning materials and activities, air fresheners, paints, adhesives, copying machines, and photography and print shops; biological contaminants from dirty ventilation systems or water-damaged walls, ceilings, and carpets; and pesticides. Boy, that's a lot of pollutants!

2. Ventilation Systems
For you, the office ventilation system might just be the source of background noise or frigid, teeth-rattling air, but from a health standpoint, it's much more. The building's ventilation is responsible for heating and cooling the building as well as circulating outdoor air into the building. If any part of the ventilation system is blocked or poorly maintained, it can affect air quality in several ways, including not allowing fresh air into the building; circulating air contaminated by vehicle exhaust, fumes or other outdoor pollutants; and spreading biological contaminants.

3. Use of the Building
If your office shares building space with other types of businesses - dry cleaners, restaurants, print shops, etc. - or if it has a parking garage underneath it, pollutants from these sources can find their way into your office. Also, it is important that buildings that have been renovated from a previous use - old factories, warehouses, etc. - into office space make appropriate modifications to ventilation and wall partitions to ensure that outdoor air is circulating properly.

If you feel like you've been sick for unexplained reasons, then it might be time to look at environmental causes.

The EPA listed both the short- and long-term effects of bad air.

Immediate symptoms:
Immediate side effects can show up after just one exposure or continued exposure to indoor pollutants, according to the EPA. Symptoms include irritation to the eyes, nose and throat; dizziness; headaches; and fatigue. These pollutants can also exacerbate symptoms from other diseases including asthma, hypersensitivity pneumonitis and humidifier fever.

Long-term effects:
According to the EPA, there are some effects of indoor air pollution that might show up years after exposure or only after repeated exposure over an extended periods of time. These include respiratory diseases, heart disease and cancer.

What to do:

  • Talk to other employees and your supervisor to find out if they are experiencing the same problems. If they are, make sure to document the symptoms everyone is experiencing.
  • Talk to your doctor and bring your physician's recommendations to your supervisor, company doctor or HR representative. Speaking up about your concerns will hopefully spur the company to look into better air quality management.
  • Talk to your state and local health departments about your symptoms and possible building pollution.
  • If you can, take periodic breaks from the awful indoors and get some fresh air outside.
  • Consider purchasing an air purifier to use in your office or cubicle.
  • Work with your company to make sure you're not being exposed to tobacco smoke from people smoking in or near the building.

The EPA warns that finding testing for and solving indoor air quality problems in a large office building can be a time-consuming and expensive process. But don't give up hope - your job shouldn't be killing you.

Photo courtesy of Stock.Xchng

Good News for Those With Messy Desks … You’re More Productive

BEDX27Messy desk-havers, unite! Recent studies show that you might not be the lazy, disorganized slob your tidier coworkers believe you to be. Instead, you just might be the next Einstein or Roald Dahl.

"Messy desks may not be as detrimental as they appear to be, as the problem-solving approaches they seem to cause can boost work efficiency or enhance employees' creativity in problem solving," say researchers.
Jia Liu of the University of Groningen says that managers who promote clean office cubicles might be going about increasing productivity the wrong way.

Clean desk policies are "based on the conventional wisdom that a disorganized and messy environment can clutter one's mind and complicate one's judgments," says Liu. "However, not all evidence supports this conventional link between a messy environment and a messy mind."
Instead, researchers found that clean desk advocates were being overly simplistic. They tended to choose less complicated products, such as t-shirts with a simpler design, instead of more creative, involved merchandise.

The benefits to messy desks might outweigh the costs. In their book, "A Perfect Mess," authors Eric Abrahamson and David H. Freedman, argue that a messy desk can actually be the product of a productive worker.

"Mess isn't necessarily the absence of order," say Abrahamson and Freedman. "A messy desk can be a highly effective prioritizing and accessing system."

Messy deskers often claim that they have a system, and Abramson and Freedman say they might be right. In a messy environment, they claim, important documents tend to stay on top of the pile, where they're most needed. In addition, some of those sloppy-looking piles might represent a fairly advanced organizational system, they say.
In fact, the messiest desks of all might belong to the CEO. "Company heads are decidedly less organized than their subordinates," said Dr. Wayne Nemeroff, PsyMax Solutions CEO. Workers with higher levels of education and experience tended to have messier desks than those at lower levels in the organization, the book said. And that's not even beginning to talk about famously messy creative geniuses like Albert Einstein, Roald Dahl, and Steve Jobs.

Still, companies don't always recognize the advantages of the messy desk lifestyle. Occasionally, they go so far as to fire workers who don't conform to the organization's ideal of the tidy work area. In 1985, a former Red Cross employee -- ironically named Rita McClean -- sued for $92,000 after being terminated, in part for having a messy desk. No word on whether she (forgave them) cleaned up.


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