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Archives for June 2012

Office Furniture Gets a High Tech Makeover

All that mobile technology we're lugging around these days sure does give the average worker more freedom. After all, who needs to be tethered to an office cubicle any more when your work can go wherever you are?

That is until that little battery icon goes from green to red and you find yourself desperately searching for a plug to recharge your cell phone, iPad or notebook computer.

Even when you are working at your desk, finding a free outlet can be no easy task and might even involve you crawling into the sea of dust bunnies and potato chip crumbs under your desk to locate one.

Luckily, office furniture designers have taken note of the plight of the outlet-short worker. At the NeoCon World's Trade Fair in Chicago earlier this month, manufacturers showcased products that better integrate new technology.

And creating these new pieces isn't as straightforward as sticking an outlet onto a desk, said a spokesperson for Haworth Office Furniture.

“You’ve got to take that furniture — that has a really long life — and marry that to technology, which has a real short life,” she said.

Rather then developing revolutionary new furniture, designers are tweaking existing pieces to accommodate the changing technology. For instance, Herman Miller's Flo computer monitor arm can now hold a tablet computer as well. And with the focus on collaborative workspaces, Herman Miller has designed pieces in its Canvas collection to include flat screens where users can pull up their laptop screen. recently featured some high-tech desk designs - including several that had computers integrated into the workspace.

Check out some of the new ideas for high-tech office furniture. While many pieces just offer a spot for workers to recharge a device, others are super-integrated conceptual workstations that might make you feel like Captain Kirk on the U.S.S. Enterprise.

Thinking beyond the basic workstation, this office furniture maker is now including plug-ins in a whole line of furniture including tables, chairs, couches and ottomans. Now you really can ditch the desk and kick your feet up in a comfier locale.

Flatmate Secretary

Designed by Michael Hilgers for Magazin, this uber-compact desk offers a streamlined space to stow all of your gadgets (including a shelf specifically designed for your iPad) and includes glare-free lighting and power sockets. The murphy bed of desks is just 5 inches deep (when folded out the work surface is 28-by-16.5 inches) so it's probably cozier than your cube.

MWE Emperor 1510

This scorpion-shaped contraption is not just a desk - it's an ergonomically-friendly work environment that allows you "to experience unprecedented comfort and quasi total immersion" in your computer for increased productivity. While we're not sure what "quasi total" means, we're digging the integrated audio system, LED lighting, floating monitors and the fact that we're pretty sure we could take over the world with this thing.



Created by a 30-year-old Dutch man, this all-in-one desk features a Core i7 processor and 4.5 GHz and a water-cooling system with 17 ventilators to monitor the temperature. We're sure it's perfectly suited for whatever job you need to get done. Plus, it will look really cool at the next rave you throw in your office.



This 40-inch, high-def work surface looks kind of like a tablet on steroids. Your computer monitor sits behind this multi-touch screen surface, which gets us one step closer to the vision of interactive computing we saw in "Minority Report." Sorry, Tom Cruise not included.



Similar to the EXOdesk but for the Apple enthusiast, the iDesk features the Mac operating system on a large touchscreen surface that can be synchronized to your computer using iCloud. The iDesk can run multiple applications simultaneously and can help you streamline basic functions (say updating your calendar, making a phone call, or writing a digital post-it note) on to one space. In short, you no longer have an excuse for that mess.

Office Furniture That’s Good for the Environment, Too

These days everyone is jumping on the "going green" bandwagon, and office furniture makers are no exception. They're creating and marketing pieces made from sustainable materials and using sustainable manufacturing methods.

You'll find pieces made with everything from crushed walnut shells to old car bumpers built in factories that rely on renewable energy.

We'd like to point out that Arnolds Office Furniture was a huge fan of the environment long before green was the new black (selling used office furniture prevents it from ending up in a landfill and saves natural resources).

There are plenty of things to consider when looking for office furniture that's good for the environment.

Here's a rundown of what to look for:

  • Durability: Purchasing furniture that is built to last means that you won't be tossing it into a landfill in a few years and using up more raw materials to replace it.
  • Locally sourced: When possible, buy furniture that was made locally: the fewer miles a delivery truck has to travel means less fuel and lower emissions. Even better, purchase equipment that was made from locally-sourced materials.
  • Recycled materials: Look for furniture made from recycled materials. This could be anything from a chair made from old detergent bottles to a desk made from reclaimed barn wood.
  • Sustainably harvested: When purchasing anything made from wood, look to see that it has been certified by the Forest Stewardship Council (FSC) ensuring that it was harvested using sustainable methods.
  • Rapidly renewable material: Bamboo, cork, straw and wool are among the types of non-petroleum-based building materials that has a harvest cycle of under 10 years, which means it can easily be replaced.
  • Air quality: Look for VOC (Volatile Organic Compound)-free furniture that is Greenguard certified. Typically found in synthetic material, glue or paint, products with high VOC content have been linked to poor air quality, birth defects and cancer.
  • Where it's manufactured: The material used to build the furniture isn't the only component to making it a green produce. Look for furniture built in factories that use green energy and strive to reduce waste and emissions.

You might not find furniture that means all of these criteria, but there are plenty of manufacturers out there striving to improve their environmental footprint.

The Daily Green recently highlighted some pieces that score major points on the green scale and we found a few more to add to their long list.

Bambora by Ecowork - PIeces in this collection are made from bamboo with no added formaldehyde and coated with a low-VOC urethane.
deNUO by Ecowork - This workstation was built from recycled Steelcase frames and covered in material made from old soda bottles.
Knoll Life Chair - The winner of various green awards, this chair is made from 55 to 60 percent recycled material and has been certified for indoor air quality. In addition, Knoll has taken measures to reduce wastewater and emissions, recycle wood scraps, and use FSC-certified wood and fibers.
Knoll Cube - The company's water-based adhesives and UV-cured wood coating means its products are almost totally VOC-free. You'll also find products in its line of workstations that are made with FSC-certified composite wood and that are Greenguard certified.
HAG by izzydesign - Since 1995 this line has been using everything from salad containers to ketchup bottles for plastic components. Plus, it receives 100 percent of its energy credits from wind power.
RH Form Furniture - These chairs are 100 percent recyclable (the company will even take old models of its chairs and recycle them for free). In addition, the company has reduced factory waste by 99 percent and is working on a new biodegradable fabric.
Embody by Herman Miller - Designed for folks who spend long hours seated, this chair is not only ergonomically amazing (it conforms to your every movement improving your circulation and reducing your heart rate), but also features the staples of Herman Miller's efforts toward sustainability. The chair is made of 42 percent recycled content and 95 percent of it can be recycled at the end of its life. What's more, the facility where it's manufactured produces just 77 pounds of waste a month, none of which is hazardous and only uses renewable energy.
NaturesCast Barque Table - All furniture by this company is made from dried leaves, twigs and barks gathered from the forests of the Philippines and bound together using a water-based adhesive.
Green Tables by Baltix - The company seeks out locally-based, recycled, rapidly renewable, and VOC-free materials. Its lightweight pieces are also shipping-friendly, which improves gas mileage. Tables in the collection are built from materials including bamboo, crushed walnut shells, soybean and corn byproducts, recycled paper and recycled steel.

The 10 Hottest Workplace Design Trends

The days of office cubicle farms are quickly disappearing as companies embrace technology, collaboration, the environment and employee satisfaction.

Wired magazine recently reviewed some of the latest ways designers are revolutionizing the workplace. We're taking a look a few of those, as well as other changes to office furniture, layout and design.

Check out the 10 hottest trends in workplace design to find out what could be coming to an office near you.


1. Virtually Friendly Office

While a virtual office is not new - anyone with a laptop and a wi-fi connection can have one of those -  designers are now attempting to create workspaces that improve the presentation of your virtual self during video conferencing. What does that mean? A desk with better lighting and acoustics to make it seem more like you're meeting in person, rather than hundreds or thousands of miles away. The Living on Video workstation by Steelcase promises that the nuances of in-person communication (body language and facial expressions) will be just as obvious on video.


2. Standing/Walking/Anything-But-Sitting Desks

More than 1/3 of Americans are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and sedentary desk jobs aren't helping us drop those extra pounds. Thankfully, plenty of office furniture designers are now designing desks that get workers on their feet. From desks that allow you work standing up to workstations attached to treadmills and stationary bikes, there's no reason you can't get your heart pumping while you're bringing home the bacon. The latest addition to the non-sitting desk trend is Focal by Keen, which offers middle ground between sitting and standing in the form of a bike-seatesque contraption connected to a drafting table. Whether you go with a bike or just the bike seat, the bottom line is sitting at a desk for 8 to 12 hours at a stretch is a thing of the past.


3. Couch Cubicle

Between companies demanding more from employees and employees hoping to recession-proof their job security, workers are spending more and more hours at their desks. At least one designer has taken notice of the need for a little in-office R&R and has come up with a solution: The Integrated Workstation by Cranbrook for Herman Miller. Part desk, part couch, the workstation offers a spot for a tired employee to grab a quick nap to recharge or just kick their feet up. We're still waiting for La-Z-Boy to get in on the office furniture gig.


4. Ergonomic Computers

Your HR rep has drilled into your head the importance of a perfectly positioned office chair, keyboard and monitor. Well, now your computer itself can provide friendly reminders to take care of your health. The new Phillips ErgoSensor use a camera to track your pupil movement and determine if you are working in the most ergonomically sound position. The computer not only reminds you to adjust your head, but also to take a break now and then. It even powers itself down when you're away.


5. Raw Space

Tech and other youth-driven companies are more often finding homes in old warehouses replete with brick, concrete, and exposed beams, but not a whole lot else, which is just fine by their tenants. These open industrial spaces are the perfect canvas for creative employees to put their stamp on, which is exactly what business owners want. The likes of Facebook and other uber-hip startups encourage workers to make the office space their own with inspirational artwork (think graffiti and the like) and design a space perfect for fostering an innovative environment - making those generic starving-artist-sale abstract paintings and wilting office ferns a thing of the past.


6. Energy Efficiency

Companies continue to look for ways to reduce their environmental footprint by implementing cutting-edge green design. For instance, Bayer is currently spending $17 million to refurbish its campuses outside of Pittsburgh to be more environmentally friendly by using Energy Star-rated HVAC systems, low-flow plumbing and energy efficient windows, according to The Chesapeake Bay Foundation's headquarters in Annapolis, Md. features a rainwater collection system and composting toilets. And more offices across the country are filled with furniture and decorations made from recycled materials. But going green isn't just good for the environment - increased natural light and open spaces with views to the outdoors make for happier employees, too.


7. Cutting-Edge Technology

"Minority Report" might not be far off in the future if this sophisticated workstation known as the BendDesk has anything to do with it. This 40x40 inch acrylic touch surface designed by Media Computing Group consists of a curved multitouch display that supports up to 10 touch points. The bottom part of the station can be used as a traditional desk - supporting a laptop and that antiquated pen and paper we just can't seem to give up. According to, researchers are continuing to develop potential uses for the BendDesk. We just have one question: When can we get one?


8. Better Breakrooms

Companies want to find and retain talented and competitive employees, which means they need to make the office environment more appealing. One area that has gotten more focus recently is the communal break or lunchroom. No longer is it a dark enclave with a few tables and a microwave. Large tech corporations have gained notariety for providing enormous, full-service dining halls to their employees. Even smaller companies are re-imagining the space employees go to unwind during the day - creating areas that look more like the local Starbucks than a cafeteria, according to


9. Compact Desks

As more offices attempt to go paperless, or mostly paperless, businesses are recognizing there's not as much need for bulky workstations with extra storage. In many companies, all that some employees require is a place to camp their laptop. Designers have been tasked with creating compact workstations for companies without making employees feel as if they're wedged in a shoebox. The results have been clever doll house-inspired workspaces that afford some privacy and personality without giving up valuable real estate, like this station from Torafu Architects.


10. Open Spaces

While not a new trend - a recent New York Times article cited research that said 2/3 of American office space is a more open plan - getting rid of offices and high-walled cubicles continues to be popular. Companies trying to save money on overhead costs like office space while simultaneously promoting a more collaborative work environment are more often turning to nontraditional workspaces to fulfill both needs. Open offices also allow more natural light into the work space as well as offer greater flexibility for an increasingly mobile workforce. With the move to cloud computing, employees are no longer tethered to one specific workstation, which means they are free to roam around the office or even work remotely, requiring less assigned seating.

7 Signs You’re Suffering from Office Burnout

In this economy, it might feel like putting in a 12-hour work day and putting up with belittling bosses and obnoxious co-workers is the only way to achieve job security. But at what cost?

According to a recent article on the Huffington Post, workplace burnout is becoming pandemic -- especially in woman under 30.

You don't have to become another blog statistic. Just learn the signs that you're about to explode into a giant pile of disgruntled employee goo and back away from that cubicle.

Here are 7 tell-tale signs you have a problem:

1. You spent last weekend making a voodoo doll of your boss

Put down the pins. Everybody has had to deal with a bad boss at one point in their life, but there's no need to resort to supernatural forces in order to vent you frustrations. If your boss routinely belittles you, throws you under the bus, overloads you with work, or commits any other number of terrible offenses, it's time to let him know (respectfully) how you're feeling. If you can't get through to him, it might be time to visit HR to vent your frustrations.

2. You leave anonymous, passive-aggressive notes on the coffee machine to the person who refuses to brew a new pot after finishing off the old one.

OK, annoying co-workers are a dime a dozen. They eat reheated fish sandwiches at their desks for lunch. They have loud fights with their spouses over the phone at least three times a week. They corner you in the break room to rehash, minute-by-minute, last night's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance." While it's tempting to confront them on their petty annoyances, your bad attitude can be just as toxic to the workplace. Rather then getting hung up on all of their quirks, try to keep your sense of humor and remind yourself that they're only human. And if you get to a point during your week when you just can't take it any more - try leaving the office for your coffee break.

3. Your keyboard both clicks and crunches from all crumbs it's collected as a result of your eating lunch at your desk every ... single ... day.

Not only might you be that obnoxious loud-chewing co-worker who eats stinky food at their desk all the time, but you're also foregoing a much-needed break in the middle of your work day. Instead of subjecting your poor computer and colleagues to more food-borne abuse, get out of your cubicle for a half hour. Eat with a friendly co-worker in the break room or, heaven forbid, leave the office for a little fresh air. The time away will allow you to recharge and help you make it until 5 o'clock.

4. You regularly turn your socks inside out to get a second wear out of them because you don't have time to do laundry after your 14-hour workday.

OK first off, that's just gross. The stench you're emitting might be the reason your co-workers all crowd at one end of the conference table during morning meetings. But secondly, you're working too much. Putting in long hours from time to time might gain you some brownie points from your boss, but doing it day after day will only contribute to major burnout. You need to find a work-life balance that allows you an hour or two to wash your skivvies every week, as well as socialize with friends or develop a hobby. If you're unable to handle the workload, it might be time to look at how efficiently you're spending your time at work or to ask your boss to develop more realistic expectations for your time.

5. The only dates you've been on in the past six months were with your chiropractor.

If your fingers are numb, your back is aching, your eyes are dry and you get regular headaches, it's definitely time to step away from the cubicle. Repetitive stress from hours spent in front of a computer without a break can have long-term health effects, including weak muscles, sore eyes and depression, according to an article on Health experts recommend workers take a break from the computer screen once every half hour. Maybe during that break you can chat up that hottie over in accounting about going on a real date.


6. The closest thing to a vacation you've had in the past three years was the tropical island scene on your screen saver.

Sure you might get to cash out on all those unused vacation days when you finally get a new job, but how much of your sanity will you have left? For the love of god, take a week off. According to Psychology Today, chronic stress affects your body's ability to fight infection, maintain vital functions, and get enough sleep. Not to mention the mental toll it takes resulting in irritability, depression and anxiety. A vacation allows you to step away from your day-to-day stress, recharge, and re-connect with your family or friends. So go find yourself a nice palm tree or two -- preferably with a hammock.

7. You were passed over (again) for a promotion by the summer intern.

Being stuck at the bottom of the totem pole is never a good feeling -- especially if you devote extra time and energy to doing your job well. So if you just can't seem to get ahead at your job, no matter how hard you work, it might be time to move on. Look for a company that might value your contributions more, consider a new career path, or go back to school to brush up on your skills. Life's too short not to be doing what you love and getting paid for it.

11 Cubicle Decorating Ideas for 4th of July

Summer holidays might scream fun and sun for school kids and retirees. But for most of us, it means being stuck inside our drab office cubicles with nary a bit of sun or fun to be found.

July 4th falls on a Wednesday this year, which means if you're going to celebrate your independence and the great American way, you're going to have to do it in the confines of your fluorescent-lit office. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to make work a little more festive. We rounded up some amazing red, white and blue decorations to make your cubicle explode with patriotism.

Now just get someone else to bring the apple pie.

1. Eureka Patriotic Deco Kit
Borrow a page from your third grade teacher's decorating style with these patriotic cardboard decals. Pin them to your cubicle walls and remind your co-workers that Independence Day isn't just about fireworks and beer - it's also about old white guys with unique choices in personal grooming. $6.46 on

2. Wall Eagle Plaque
If cheesy red, white and blue decor isn't your style, but you still want to show you love the old U.S. of A. in your cubicle, make Ron Swanson proud and pick up this uber-classy eagle plaque. $130.13 on

3. Patriotic Dizzy Danglers
No holiday decorating is complete without something shiny that dangles from the ceiling. So grab your Dizzy Danglers, climb on your desk, and let the stars rain down over your patriotic workspace. $3.49 on

4. Patriotic Couple Stand-in
If your co-workers need to take themselves a little less seriously, add a little carnivalesque fun to the break room with this photo-opportunity in the making. Post the results on the bulletin board and get laughs long after the fireworks have fizzled. $32.99 on

5. American Flag Door Cover
If you're lucky enough to have an office with an actual door, then take advantage of your high status this July 4th with this giant, door-ready flag. For added fun, play a recording of the National Anthem and watch as your co-workers stand to salute you ... errr ... your office. $4.79 on

6. Americana Bunting
Festoon your cubicle with this patriotic bunting and your co-workers might start looking for the parade down Main Street. $6.99 on

7. Red, White and Blue Metallic Foil Curtain
You've always been nostalgic about your junior year prom and you love the 4th. So why not combine both of your favorite things with a fun foil curtain?
$4.99 on

8. Inflatable Patriotic Cooler
OK - bringing a giant inflatable red, white and blue cooler to work might be a little over-the-top - but hey isn't that the American way? Your co-workers will be happy to overlook the fact that your cooler is blocking the aisle if you stock it with their favorite beverages (non-alcoholic, of course). $16.99 at

9. Star Berry Wreath
If you're a little less Clark Griswold and a little more Martha Stewart, then skip the inflatable cooler and show your patriotism with this sweet little homage to America. You'll win subtlety points from the boss while showing off your great taste. $14.99 at

10. Statue of Liberty and Uncle Sam Bobble Heads
No bobble head collection is complete without Lady Liberty and good old Uncle Sam on display. And what better time to show off your new oversize-headed knickknacks then on Independence Day? $14.99 on

11. George Washington Wig Collar
Be your own patriotic cubicle decoration with this easy-breezy Founding Father costume. You'll get a George Washington wig and collar (wooden teeth not included) to inspire and amuse your co-workers. $9 on

The 8 Best Office Planning Tools

If you're stuck with the job of configuring your company's new office space and don't know the first thing about creating a floor plan, you're in luck - there are plenty of easy-to-use tools (many of which are free) available to you on the Web.

We took a few minutes to round up several software programs and applications that will allow you to create and share a professional-looking floor plan without needing knowledge of CAD or other advanced layout software.

Now all you need to worry about is making sure you have enough packing tape.

1. SmartDraw - If you're a small business in need of office planning assistance, there's no need to invest in expensive and difficult-to-use architectural software. With SmartDraw, just find the pre-loaded office template that's most similar to your own, then customize it to best suit your needs. There are easy-to-add symbols for everything from workstations to plants to plumbing to help you visualize the layout. The software will then help you align and arrange items for the best-looking results. Not only can you use SmartDraw to map out seating arrangements and the like, but you can also use it to create evacuation routes and electrical plans. And, better yet, you can try out this popular software program with a free download.

Cost: Free trial or $197-$497 for more advanced software

2. Similar to SmartDraw, Edraw allows you create CAD-like drawings, without the complications of CAD. Create detailed floor plans starting from a pre-loaded template, then stamp into position thousands of ready-made graphics including cubicles, furniture and office equipment. The program aligns and arranges everything for you -- even as you rotate, shrink and move elements of the floor plan. Edraw is available for a free 30-day trial.

Cost: Free trial or $99.95 for Edraw Max

3. Apache OpenOffice Draw - If you're a more confident designer who prefers starting from scratch, download this free graphics software to create your workspace diagram. Unlike the previous programs mentioned, Draw does not have pre-loaded floor plan templates, which means you can build an exact replica of your office. Manipulate and rotate objects in 2-D and 3-D, and create photorealistic images using texture, lighting effects, transparency and perspective. The program comes with a gallery of clip art, but you're also able to load your own, meaning you can use images of your furniture, workstations and other office equipment to create a more realistic rendering. Your project can be saved in OpenOffice format -- making it compatible with any OpenDocument-compliant software -- so you won't be tied to Draw when you want to present it.

Cost: Free

4. Layout Assist for iPad What better way to arrange your office then by starting with its exact blueprints? With Layout Assist you can upload a construction plan (a PDF or photo) of each floor of your office then drag on furniture and plants to arrange the space quickly and efficiently. The app also comes with a gallery of useful shapes, symbols and objects. Share your new floor plan on an external monitor or video projector, or export it as a .jpg or PDF via e-mail.

Cost: $9.99

5. Trimble SketchUp - Amaze your bosses and co-workers by showing them a 3D rendering of what your new office space will look like using this popular software. SketchUp has made creating 3D models accessible to everyone with it's intuitive tools. You can build your floor plan from scratch or visit the Trimble Warehouse and start from a user-shared model. Need help troubleshooting? There are dozens of tutorial videos, a Help Center and a worldwide community of users to tap into. SketchUp is available with a free download, or buy SketchUp Pro to export and share your model into 2D or 3D formats.

Cost: Free for SketchUp; $495 for SketchUp Pro

6. ExhibitCore Floor Planner Start by building a digital space to the exact dimensions of your office, drag and drop hundreds of objects into it, then show off the results in 2D and 3D. With ExhibitCore Floor you can plan your office using the actual products, which means your layout will accurately reflect real-world dimensions. Plus, after your model is built, you can explore it in 3D by panning, zooming, and rotating the space. You can even take a snapshot of the room from any angle. Get immediate feedback on your plan by sharing links via e-mail or on social networking sites like Twitter and Facebook. Or use Peer-to-Peer to collaborate with another user remotely.

Cost: Free to $49.95/month

7. MagicPlan for iPhone and iPad: If you don't have time to wait for your building's construction plan or blueprint, this app can help you out. Just stand in the middle of your office and point and click: the app will take care of measuring your room and drawing a floor plan for you -- no extra skills needed. Then you can view the drawing in PDF, .jpeg or DFX format to start adding furniture and other features. Everyone from homeowners to contractors love how easy the app is to use and how useful the results are.

Cost: Free

8. My Measures for Android: Make sure your furniture and office equipment will fit into your space using this app, which allows you to take a photo of any object and store its measurements for you to see and share anytime.

Cost: $4.99

3 Companies That Don’t Have Offices … Even for Their CEOs

How hot is the open plan office trend? Increasingly, companies are designing office spaces with no private offices whatsoever -- not even for the CEOs.

Here are just a few of the organizations who proudly boast that even their most senior executive shares space with the common folk.

1. Burger King


If you work at Burger King's corporate offices in Miami, you can have it your way, just as long as your way doesn't include having a private work space. Everyone sits out in the open at company headquarters, including Bernard Hees, the company's chief executive officer. Instead of occupying cubicles or offices, employees work at long tables without dividers, an arrangement that facilitates information flow and speeds decision-making, says chief people officer Jose Tomas.

2. Citrix


Citrix Systems is another totally open work place. Based in Fort Lauderdale, the software company offers employees a variety of places to work, from comfy couches to whiteboard tables to, yes, a few open, low-walled cubicles. Workers can even work from home. The one thing they can't do is leave their stuff anywhere in the office: the place is cleaned out every night. There are lockers for storage purposes, but since most people work on tablets or laptops, there's not a whole lot of stuff to store. Still, that hasn't stopped entrepreneurial types from trying to make a buck off of the situation: one worker put a sign on their locker reading, "For rent, $10 a week."

3. City Hall, New York City

Mayor Bloomberg has taken a lot of flack for some of his changes. The smoking ban, now almost universally applauded, was controversial back in the mid-2000s. And recently, talk shows have had a field day poking fun at his proposed ban on giant sodas. Less famously, he pioneered a bullpen-style office at City Hall that is definitely a love it or hate it proposition.

New York magazine had a telling quote from an anonymous former bullpen-er: "As a work space, it is something that you do not think that you can ever get used to. But when you see the mayor hosting high-level meetings in clear sight of everyone else, you start to understand that this open-communication model is not [salty language redacted]. And that it works."

Images: Burgerdoctor,, New York magazine

5 Tips for Buying Used File Cabinets

Planning an office? Here's something you probably forgot about: No matter how digitally advanced your company is, chances are, you probably still have some physical files. And having physical files means that you need an actual place to store them.

Your best bet is to shop for used file cabinets, which are obviously cheaper than brand-new, but pretty much indistinguishable from something you'd buy right from the factory. (Especially if you . Ahem.)

Here are five tips for getting a great deal on used file cabinets.

1. Figure out how many files you really need to keep.


Everyone has worked for one of those companies that keeps files for years longer than they need to. Dig around in the corporate archives, and you'll find bills of sale so yellowed and dated, you're not sure whether to toss them out or donate them to the Smithsonian. Don't be one of these companies. Only keep physical files when you absolutely have to. You'll save space, which means that you'll save money.

2. Shop around.


Used file cabinets are cheaper than new, of course, but there's a wide range of prices, depending on what you need and where you buy.

3. Figure out if you need fireproof file cabinets.


If you really do need to keep those paper files, chances are you can't afford to lose them in the event of a fire. In that case, look into buying fireproof file cabinets. We have a wide variety, including cabinets by respected manufacturers like FireKing and Schwab.

4. Make sure to factor in delivery costs.


Some sellers offer free delivery; others charge extra. Whichever option you choose, make sure you budget in shipment of your "new" file cabinets. Anyone who's ever bought a $50 table from IKEA only to pay $150 in shipping charges knows how delivery can add up.

5. Check for keys.

lost keys

A true story to illustrate the importance of this one little step: A few years ago, a friend of ours worked for a company that renovated their offices. One major selling point was that everyone in the office would get all new furniture, including enough file cabinets to store their voluminous paper files. Our friend received two shiny new cabinets ... without keys. They might as well have sent her plant stands instead.

5 Ways to Hide in an Open Office Space

Oh, open plan offices. We love the advantages you bestow upon us, like being able to see daylight, and not having to deal with people who think their slightly better-located cubicle is the equivalent of a corner office. You're cheaper than old school office designs, and there's even the distinct possibility that you're making it easier for us to collaborate with our coworkers.

But we must be honest with you: every once in awhile, we could really use a moment to ourselves. And in those moments, we miss cubicles with a passion. So, because we are caring individuals who long to help, we've compiled this list of ways to hide in an open office.

1. Take bathroom breaks. Lots and lots of bathroom breaks.

full of beans

Back in the old days, we often heard coworkers talking on their cell phones in the bathroom and thought to ourselves, "Wow, way to multitask yourself onto the wrong end of an etiquette column, Phoney McPhonerson." Now, however, we understand. In the open office environment, those stalls look an awful lot like private work space to us. If you want to make your sales calls from the cube, we won't pick on you. (That is a lie. We totally will. But we'll understand.)

2. Book a conference room.

Most open offices still have some private spaces available for people who need to have closed-door meetings. Book one of these and have a private meeting all on your own. If it makes you feel better, you can always talk to yourself. That always makes us feel like we're really getting things done.

3. Imitate an ostrich.


Buy a face mask; put it on whenever you feel overstimulated. If you can't see them, they can't see you.

4. Wear headphones.


This is similar to our previous suggestion, and best for when you need to concentrate on a task. If you really need a moment to yourself, headphones aren't going to cut it. But if your problem is Nina in Accounts Payable chirping into her phone all morning, then a little white noise might just be the answer.

5. Stay home.


Don't get us wrong: We're not suggesting that you stage a sick-out or stop coming to work altogether. But a lot of companies that use open plan offices also embrace flexible scheduling. Sometimes, having a day or two to yourself each week to get work done without distractions can be the difference between loving and loathing the open office.

Images:,, Hyperconnected Innovation, Lifehacker,

What’s the Germiest Place in Your Office?

In these days of budget cuts and slashed salaries, it's good to know that some things are more plentiful than ever before. Unfortunately, one of those things is germs, which are apparently treating your office as a petri dish right this very second. (Sorry about that. If it were up to us, you'd get more free lunches and fewer colds, but what can you do?)

These are some of the germiest places in your office.

1. Phones


Your desk phone is the single dirtiest thing in your office cubicle. It's dirtier than your trash can, and your keyboard. It's even germier than the toilet seat, according to Charles Gerba, a professor of microbiology at the University of Arizona. Yet another good reason to ask people to email you instead.

2. Keyboards and Computer Mice


Your computer keyboard is one of the five dirtiest surfaces in your office, thanks to our tendency to eat at our desks and never wipe down our work surfaces. This will come as no surprise to anyone who has actually taken their keyboard apart, only to find CSI-levels of hair and fibers.

3. Elevator Buttons


Apparently, toilet seats are the gold standard of office germ measurement. This article describes elevator buttons as being "40 times dirtier than toilet seats." We are really dying to know what people are doing that's making everything they touch so germy. Doesn't anyone wash their hands anymore? Gross, people.

4. Conference Rooms


Where do people eat, shake hands, and use the phone? If you said conference rooms, you're right. Now think of how often you see someone actually disinfect those spaces, as opposed to, say, the bathroom, or even your own desk area. Hardly ever, right? You now have yet another reason to avoid going to meetings. You're welcome.

5. The Break Room


Perhaps the germiest single location of all, the break room is a prime place for bugs to party down. Because it's shared space, the company kitchen tends to collect every virus and bacterium that travels through your building. The microwave alone has scary amounts of germs on it: Kimberly-Clark, a company that makes disinfectants, did a study that showed that half of microwave door handles have "high degrees of contamination." Yuck!

Images:,,,, MSNBC

Your Complete Guide to Reducing Office Noise

Offices are, by nature, going to have some noise: they involve a lot of people working in a fairly small area, chatting, making their lunch, talking on the phone, walking from place to place, typing at their computer, coughing, and so on.  But add to that other sounds: computers whirring, chairs squeaking, doors slamming, elevators dinging, microwaves beeping, phones ringing, cellphones going off...and you start to have what some have called an acoustically hostile environment: a place where it's hard to concentrate.


Office noise can cost you productivity and make your workers miserable.  Fortunately, it's also an easy problem to fight.  With some simple steps, and some smart choices, you can make any office an oasis of quiet.

Start With Your Employees

Some of the biggest sources of noise are, of course, your employees.  But they probably don't want to drive each other crazy, so, work with them to build workplace policies that make sense.  A few examples:


  • Ask that employees set their cell phones to vibrate, avoid using speakerphone on personal calls, and limit personal calls to five minutes or less.  Of course, they should be doing this anyway, but understanding it's about their fellow workers makes them more likely to comply.
  • Set a rule by which conversations that might run long be taken out of the cube and into someone's office or a similar space.
  • If employees listen to music over their computers, ask them to use headphones, and to keep it down to a low level for other people's sake.   A good demonstration is to, for example, put on some headphones and play a song at high volume: that way people can really hear just how loud supposedly "personal" headphones really are.
  • Talk privately with employees others complain about.  Unsurprisingly, people who make lots of noise are comfortable with others being noisy, and may not realize that they're distracting their fellow employees.  Just have a brief chat with them about noise, so they understand where you're coming from.

Observe Your Space


After coworkers, the next step is looking at the equipment in your office, and the office itself.  Start with the way the office is built: are there tile floors, hard paneling, or other hard surfaces?  It's important because sound reflects, and even sound energy you can barely hear can be distracting to your employees.  If you want a demonstration, just grab something that makes a sharp noise, like a stapler, and click it over a carpeted area...and then over a tiled area.  You'll notice the difference as the sound reflects.

Similarly, look for placement of building systems like air-conditioning ducts and elevators.  These can not only make noise, but also carry noise from other parts of the building.

Next, take note of your equipment.  What in your office makes the most noise?  Why is equipment placed in its current location?  Is the noisier equipment placed in areas where the sound it makes is reflected across your entire work space?  Get an idea of possible problems in this respect, and then fix them, with policies like:

  • Developing -- and sticking to -- maintenance schedules for all of your office equipment, especially your office furniture.  Nobody likes a screaming, chattering fax machine, but even something as simple as a squeaking chair can drive everyone absolutely crazy, and often offices will let bad furniture slide as long as possible.  Don't let loud chairs or stuck desk drawers drive your workers crazy; have them repaired and properly maintained.
  • Making sure building systems, like air ducts, are properly soundproofed and insulated.  If possible, ask that the ceiling tiles be replaced with something more sound absorbent.
  • Moving noisy equipment away from hard surfaces, if at all possible: those reflect an enormous amount of sound.  If they can't be moved, lay down some carpeting on the floor to help absorb sound and reduce reflections.
  • Moving loud equipment -- like copiers, fax machines, and large printers -- out of common areas. Give them their own room, if at all possible.  Consider soundproofing this room, as well.  If that's not possible, try partitioning them off with sound-absorbing cubicle walls.
  • Checking the manuals for noisier equipment in the hunt for volume control and other maintenance advice.  For example, fax machines usually have some form of volume control that make their trademark piercing squeal just a little more tolerable.
  • Looking into quieter replacementsfor your office furniture and equipment. Remember: it isn't as costly as you may think.   More recent used furniture will be in better repair, and newer office equipment will be more energy-efficient and less wasteful.  Remember, happier workers are more productive workers, so you'll be seeing more value from your labor as well.

Look Into The Bigger Picture


Beyond moving equipment and repairing furniture, there's also larger things you can do, ranging from technological solutions to total redesigns of your work space.

For example, for a long time, the "open" office plan, with no cubicle walls, was extremely popular; it was considered to foster communication, and offer a more informal environment.  Unfortunately, it also can also foster a noisy environment.

So consider, for example, creating "conversation spaces" using cubicle partitions that allow employees to step away from their desks and have short conversations, which will also be good for cell phone usage.  Or create an open space for people to work, and put in cubicles for their desks.

Another effective tactic is a "pink noise" system.  Essentially, it's a device attached to speakers that generate what sounds like a low whooshing sound, but it's really a collection of frequencies at around that of the human voice.  This has the effect of, for example, making conversations impossible to hear from more than 20 feet away, thus making the office quieter overall.

Whichever option you choose, remember that you're doing this to make your work space a happier place to be.  Cutting down on noise will make your employees better able to focus, which means more gets done and everybody wins.

Image Credits:

3 Ideas for Private Space in an Open Plan Office

Open plan offices might be the wave of the future, but they're famously tough on folks who need a little privacy in order to get their jobs done. ... or just want to maintain their sanity. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to carve out a little private space in a more public office environment. Here are some of the ways employers are creating an oasis of quiet in an open office.

1. Invest in Sound Masking


Workers have been doing this on their own for years by wearing headphones, either to listen to music or to block out sound with white noise. Lately, companies have gotten in on the act, dropping cash on sound-masking equipment that provides a layer of neutral noise for the whole office. The idea is that the sound masking drowns out all the little noises that distract workers from their day-to-day tasks. While this doesn't solve the problem of not having an office door, it's a solid option for people who are mostly concerned about minor distractions.

2. Build Fun Private Spaces


A bunch of different companies have dealt with the privacy issue by building cool private areas that can be used on an ad hoc basis by workers who need a few minutes or hours of peace. Probably our favorite version of this is Facebook's phone booths. We have to imagine that it's pretty soothing to be able to pretend you're Superman while you're making a private phone call. We're dying to know who will be the first person to jump out of one of these booths dressed up like a superhero. (Just kidding. It'll be Mark Zuckerberg, obviously.)

3. Create In-Between Space


Sometimes, you need to talk to your coworkers, but don't want to do it right in the middle of the open work area. That's when in-between spaces come in handy. Consulting firm What If solved the problem of creating a collaborative space by building diner-style booths right at the edge of the common work area. This allows people to work together, without disrupting colleagues who need to be heads down on a project.

Also, diner booths are just cool.

"There's something very satisfying about a booth," said Barrie Berg, chief executive of What If's American operations.

Images:, Washington Post, New York Times

MIT Students Hack Ordinary Office Chair


Have you ever had the feeling that your desk chair is trying to kill you? If so, you've probably just ingested a little bit too much coffee and need more comfortable office furniture. Or, you've broken into the studio of Paris-based designers J.C. Karich and Pauline Jamilloux and encountered the Wild Chair.

What's the Wild Chair?

Karich and Jamilloux worked with MIT Media Lab to develop a chair that reacts to stimulus. Using a basic IKEA chair, sensors, and dozens of wooden spikes, they created piece of furniture that actually bristles if you're not nice to it. Users who hope to peacefully coexist with their desk chair would have to learn to speak kindly to it. (Or at least, say terrible things at a low volume.)

Their idea was to free chairs from the slavery of serving humans, said Karich in an interview with Fast Company.

How Do You "Be Nice" to It?

To calm the chair, approach it quietly. Caress the seat back, and whisper to it. A microphone senses the volume of sound, while sensors pick up the pressure of your hand. As long as the spikes are down, it's a fairly comfy spot to sit -- well, as comfy as IKEA chairs get, anyway.

The designer cautions users not to get too comfy, however.

"Remember," Karich warns, "a wild chair will always be a WILD CHAIR."

On the whole, we think we'll stick to our old, beat-up ergonomic chair. Even if we can never remember how to adjust the height, at least it's never tried to stick us in the back. And if regular desk chairs sensed volume and agitation, none of us would ever be able to sit in them while using a computer again.

Image: BostInno

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