Updating your office space on a limited budget

Do you work in a hopelessly outdated and uninspiring office space? You dream of an interior makeover but you’re strapped with a limited budget. The good news is there are lots of upgrades you can make that won’t break the bank and in fact, you can make improvements with no budget.  Best of all, thoughtfully designed updates can go a long way in boosting your office’s value and helping your company grow.

Start with a plan and keep it simple. Focus on problem areas and think about employee needs, many of which focus on healthy workspace options. Nearly 90 percent of today’s workers put ergonomic seating or wellness areas at the top of their office space wish lists. Talk with your employees and design a plan that helps them be more productive while making the best use of your budget.

Here are some handy suggestions for budget-friendly office updates that make a difference:

Give it a new paint job

A fresh coat of paint is one of the quickest and least expensive ways to brighten up a drab office. And you don’t need to hire a professional crew—tap your helpful employees and team up to get the job done, and boost camaraderie at the same time. Have your team select colors that keep spirits up and make it fun to come to work.

Replace old flooring

Are your employees treading on old, worn out carpeting or other unsightly flooring? High-end flooring is very expensive but reputable laminate can hold up to heavy daily wear as well. Sometimes even just a thorough cleaning can infuse new life to an old floor.

Try a new arrangement

Hampered with a zero budget? You can still change things up by revitalizing what you already have. For example, take down old and worn cubicles to create a more open and airy space that inspires communication and teamwork. You can also rearrange cubicles to blend quiet workspaces with customer areas.

Bring in foliage

Nature is filled with soothing elixirs and bringing some of it into your office can do wonders. Plants have relaxing effects and they can boost productivity as well, and are extremely beneficial in cleaning interior air.

Refresh the current lineup

Repaint old, grizzled desks, cover chairs with colorful fabric, add unique furniture items from secondhand stores or garage sales. A few little changes here and there don’t cost much but can make your office seem brand new.


When and why office cubicles were invented

Did you know that the office cubicle layout with its loved or loathed reputation was originally designed to bring out the best in workers? Debuting in the heady days of the 1960s, cubicles were intended to make office environments breezy, less confined, and altogether more efficient. From whence did this ultimately complicated office element come?

Office workers and executives all o’er the land can thank (or at least salute) designer Robert Propst for introducing the cubicle. Propst headed up the research division of legendary furniture manufacturer Herman Miller and envisioned a better way to work, with flexible and customized office space that inspired more effective work than an armada of big, heavy desks.

Indeed, the typical 1950s and 60s office worker labored in expansive, open spaces packed with row after row of huge metal or wood desks, with a background hustle of clanking typewriters, noisy telephones ringing all day, and an eternal haze of cigarette smoke. (Ironic, given the recent trendy return to the open office layout.)

Introducing the Action Office

Propst saw the answer to the office layout blues in his Action Office, focused on lightweight sitting and standing desks and filing systems. He designed the original cubicle in 1964 to empower people and thought “productivity would rise if people could see more of their work spread out in front of them, not just stacked in an in-box.” Acoustical panels helped insulate workers from the noise of telephone calls and typing, and the panels became miniature walls of multiple heights that separated each space into its own office without completely cutting workers off from colleagues.

But corporate America didn’t use the Action Office (Propst introduced two iterations) the way Propst intended. Instead of following his design for roomy desk spaces and walls of different heights, they chose tiny, boxed-in desks instead and cubicles were used to cram even more workers into offices. The office layout he envisioned shrank until it became impersonal and crowded, and the age of the cubicle farm had begun.

Government incentive

The U.S. government also helped the cubicle movement take off.  In efforts to stimulate business spending, the Treasury Department implemented new rules for depreciating assets, allowing companies to recover their costs quicker by buying furniture that “acted like offices” rather than offices themselves.

In the past 50 years, cubicles have become ubiquitous and now represent a $3 billion industry. Interestingly, cubicles of various design are often integrated into open office layouts as quiet retreats and private work areas.


Factors to consider when moving office locations

Moving office locations can have a significant effect on businesses of all sizes, whether the intent is room to grow, creating more space for staff, or expanding your brand. Indeed, a new space is exciting—once you finally get all the boxes unpacked. Office relocations are major projects and need careful planning right from the start. It can seem overwhelming to coordinate everything but like any big endeavor it can be broken down into a series of simple tasks.


Planning is the key ingredient in a successful move. Take advantage of documents, spreadsheets and office moving checklists to make your life easier. Include every task that needs to be completed, no matter how small, as well as the people, teams and applicable vendors responsible for each of them.

This approach keeps tasks separate into more manageable chunks. Use planning documents as a road map for the move and collaborate with everyone involved to ensure a seamless transition.


Plan the timing of your move very carefully. If you have flexibility with moving dates, avoid moving at your company’s busiest time of year. Keep in mind that business still has to carry on during the moving process.

Establish a deadline. Having deadlines in place will help you get everything done more efficiently and defend against putting things off until the next day. Deadlines can also be great motivators.

Find the right space

If you are relocating your entire business, it is critical to ensure the new site have plenty of space to comfortably accommodate all employees and visiting clients. Your staff needs space to work, along with easy access to peripherals like printers and servers.

A new office already furnished of course goes a long way in reducing stress; it’s one less thing to worry about if you don’t have to go shopping for desks and chairs and coffee machines. In fact, move-in-ready locations are often at the top of the list for many companies. However, be sure the new space is in good condition, with functional equipment and layout.

Internet and related communications

Reliable internet access and connectivity is critical for any business. Research available options in the area and ensure everything is “on” for move-in day. All other communications details should also be ready to go, including landline phones and a sufficient electrical grid. Everything should be installed and tested no less than a week prior to moving in.

With all of this in place, your team can settle in and do great things.


How to create privacy with cubicles in an open office floor plan

Open office layouts are all the rage in today’s business environments. In fact, some of the world’s largest companies, with names like Google, have embraced the collaboration inspired by open offices. In fact, studies show a 15 percent boost in productivity in companies that encourage collaborative working and the concept of creating and sharing information has steadily infiltrated office culture.

However, not everyone is a fan of an open office environment and while many people welcome a collaborative setting, being crammed in a space with no privacy ultimately defeats the purpose. Creating or updating an open layout should include visual privacy while reducing distractions and here are some handy tips to make it happen:

Create privacy however you can

Even if it is just an illusion, it is very important to include personal space.  For example, employees can experiment by staging a tall plant along with a small shelf on their desks to create personal space, or face outward from the larger group to lessen visual distractions.

Make use of meeting spaces

Well-designed open offices always include meeting spaces or smaller rooms to use for personal phone calls and other tasks. Take advantage of these spaces to conduct private business to help keep common areas a bit quieter.  Don’t have meeting spaces? Seek out a stairwell or head outside to get a break from the bustling scene.

Block the noise

If it is difficult for you to leave your desk, try noise cancelling headphones or traditional earplugs to tune out distractions. Many workers listen to music at work but if that in itself is distracting, try a white-noise app on your phone to channel your choice of soothing sounds.

Be respectful but speak your mind

Everyone working in open offices must be mindful of others in the space. With that in mind, be sure to remain respectful with things such as noise levels, perfume, fragrant flowers, and strong-smelling food. (Think microwave popcorn.) Use common sense and cover your mouth when sneezing and stay home when very ill so you don’t share it with your fellow employees.

If you simply don’t appreciate an open office, or it negatively impacts your work, speak up. If something is bothering you, such as loud or personal conversations, go ahead and politely ask people to take conversations elsewhere or at least keep their voices down. Some people might not even realize they are being disruptive.


Common signs that it’s time for an office furniture refresh

Boring office furniture is bad. It might not seem like a big deal but dull furniture can actually make employees lazy, surly, and unproductive. And that won’t do if you want to maintain an efficient and successful company. An office environment reminiscent of classic Mary Tyler Moore show sets won’t inspire your workforce and certainly will not make an ideal impression on visiting customers.

If your employees are sitting at aged desks and perched on orange vinyl-covered chairs, it’s time for a refresh. Even a simple switch to bright colors will help boost productivity and instill an upbeat attitude among the troops. But how do you know when it’s time to take the furniture-upgrade plunge?

Change is in the air

If your office furniture is still structurally sound, in acceptable condition, and supports people and equipment; why not keep it around? Maybe you can get another year or two out of it and save a few bucks. Alas, even a subtle deterioration in furniture quality can negatively impact productivity. Let’s look at some common signals that it’s time to refresh your office furniture vibe:

Stuck in the past

Is your office lobby adorned with a couch and chairs with long-dated patterns or covered in an uncomfortable texture? Perhaps it is in shabby condition at best and detracts from a professional image. Investing in contemporary styles and function goes a long way in promoting your business and productivity within.

Space saver

If your company is young and rapidly growing, or established and expanding, it is likely you will soon run short on space and that always puts a damper on efficient operations. While you might indeed need a physically larger office, your current collection of furniture might be to blame. Old, unnecessarily large, and poorly arranged furniture takes up a lot of space. Consider an open floor plan with compact workstations or cubicles.

Dissent in the ranks

Proper posture at work is very important and worn out, uncomfortable chairs have the opposite effect. Work-related muscle injuries are commonplace and can take key staff out of commission for lengthy periods of time. Rickety desks and cluttered workspaces are also troublesome and if you hear complaints and concerns from staff, take them seriously and start researching sources for an influx of new furniture.

Not tech friendly

Today’s offices are designed to accommodate technology. Old desks lack cutouts for cables and employees end up with a dozen cables strung across their desks, taking up valuable workspace.


Choose cubicles to minimize distraction in the workplace

The now-ubiquitous office cubicle was invented way back in 1967 and soon found its way to offices around the world. Indeed, office environments all o’er the land were soon home to mazes of uniform cubicle layouts and other “cubeville” workplaces. And for the most part, workers loved them. Individual cubicles are ideal for providing an element of employee privacy while still fostering collaboration and team building. Cubicles also save space, offer customizable individual workspaces, and allow for seamless communication with colleagues.

In terms of privacy, cubicles remain directly linked to productivity. Most people are more focused when working in a private space and cubes also allow a person’s individuality to shine with a personal space within a team setting.

You’re distracting me

Perhaps one of the biggest advantages of cubicles is minimizing workplace distraction, which can be nothing short of rampant in today’s office environments. It’s no secret that noise plays a big factor in staying focused on multiple tasks and completing daily projects. Peppered with distractions all day presents a challenging scenario for employees to stay on track and accomplish what they are charged with in their job roles. To that end, cubicles provide just the right balance of privacy and collaboration to maintain an individual space to focus on work, with the option of sharing ideas with a colleague next door.

Open office environments are all the rage these days and in fact sparked a widespread exodus from the traditional cubicle workplace. Fueled by the siren song of collaboration, flexibility, team-building, and creativity; offices everywhere ditched their tried and true cubicle layouts for wide open spaces, funky “privacy nooks,” and team gathering destinations. While this works well for some companies, noise and distraction are major drawbacks. The din of a dozen different conversations, racket from various office equipment, and a parade of “hey, do you have a minute” or “can we talk about the new project” can make it extremely difficult to stay on task.

Return to Cubeville

In an ironic twist, the mad rush to keep up with the open office trend actually spurred many people to flee back to the familiar comfort of their cubes. One of the most attractive reasons is community. Cubicles in place of private offices remove the hierarchy and promote a level playing field, helping employees feel included and fueling the sharing of innovative ideas and efficient communication.

Quiet individual work and team collaboration directly benefits a company’s end goals, saves valuable office space, and ultimately creates a united and productive business unit.


How to improve your office layout to get employees excited

It’s no big secret that the physical look, appeal, and functionality of a workplace directly impacts productivity and overall excitement of employees. On the flip side of that, an inefficient or drab environment inspires distracting habits that take away from the job at hand. If you want to inject a boost of morale and motivation in your staff, consider a new office layout.

Open office or private?

With the considerations and needs of your staff in hand, you can factor in the company’s culture, working styles, staff personalities, and your budget to determine the best fit. Open office plans have been a popular trend in recent years and tend to work great with startups and collaborative thinking environments. Private spaces, on the other hand, are also effective at inspiring productivity and excitement for their jobs.

Bring in some color

Colors have an array of psychological effects on us, including emotional and behavioral. Consider incorporating your company’s logo colors into the workspace to inspire pride, and bring in greens for balance and growth, blue to inspire intelligent thought, and yellows or oranges to stimulate happiness.

Let there be light

Lighting has an enormous effect on office morale and productivity. Natural light is critical to humans’ circadian rhythms and is proven to boost happiness. In fact, exposure to light directly impacts an office worker’s performance and overall quality of life. If your office does not have windows, consider mirrors or full-spectrum light bulbs.

A little flora goes a long way

The simple introduction of plants in an office can reduce stress and sickness, as well as dampen noise levels. Plants are also great at cleaning the air and “planting the seed” of creativity. Look for low-maintenance plants and others with color or unique looks.

Tap your inner artist

Along with attractive plants, artwork is highly effective in establishing an upbeat office vibe. Studies show that art directly enhances productivity and creative work, boosts morale, and offers employees an opportunity to personalize their workspaces, which subsequently lowers stress.

Switch up the amenities

Many times it’s the little things that make a big difference. Ditching the Ho-ho’s from the vending machine, for example, and replacing with healthy alternatives can charge up someone’s day. A place for employees to relax and recharge during the day can inspire excitement to dive into the next project with verve. On-site childcare is a big deal for many people as well. Knowing your little one is nearby is guaranteed to make you smile.


Health benefits of workstations with sit-stand desks

A large majority of today’s office environments include traditional workstations with cubicles, a desk, and chair; at which workers sit for many long hours every day. In fact, some people arrive at work, plop down in a chair, and remain there for eight or ten hours.

All that sitting is bad for your health. Studies show that employees sitting still for extended periods every day have a greatly increased risk of diabetes, heart disease, and even earlier death. Another immediate and more visual effect is weight gain, as just sitting in one place does little to burn calories.

But what choice do office workers have if they are chained to a desk day after day? The good news is new and versatile desk options are now available, including models that offer the choice to stand or sit.

Introducing the standing desk

Simply defined, a standing desk (or stand-up desk by another name) is an adjustable desk that allows a person to work while standing up. Many different models are available and most include simple controls to adjust their height to comfortable working positions. The desk can be returned at any time to a traditional position if the worker wishes to sit.

While research is ongoing, standing for at least part of the day appears to have noticeable health benefits and can boost productivity. To that end, let’s look at some of the benefits of a stand-up desk.

Lowered risk weight gain and obesity

We gain weight by taking in more calories than we burn, and the opposite is also the case. Sitting in one place at a desk all day does virtually nothing to burn calories and in fact we burn more calories sleeping than sitting in a chair for extended periods. Exercise is of course the best way to burn calories but standing during the work day, at least intermittently, is also a sound health strategy.

Lowered risk of heart disease

Scientific studies tell us that extended sitting can increase the risk of heart disease by nearly 150 percent. Even an hour of intense exercise doesn’t negate the effects of a full day of sitting.

Go easy on your back

Back pain is a common malady of office workers everywhere but standing desks have shown a significant improvement in lower back pain.

Boost your mood

Less stress and fatigue keeps us happier and energetic during the day, while sitting around trends toward anxiety and depression. A stand-up desk can be just what your wellbeing needs.


How to keep your workstation organized and efficient

You spend a great deal of time at your office workstation and as such it becomes a vivid reflection of your style, personality, and daily habits. Walk through most any corporate office and you will see desks and workstations that run the gamut—sparsely appointed and tidy, personalized with colorful decorations and photos, or cluttered with stacks of papers and general office detritus.

Whatever your approach to the work day, a critical component of efficient time management, productivity, and personal comfort is a well-organized workstation. Disorder and disarray is no way to accomplish important tasks and contribute to your company’s business but fear not; a touch of motivation blended with strategy can turn your office life around.

Find a flow

There is no right or wrong way to organize your desk. In fact, the best way ultimately depends on how you naturally work. Some people work left to right, with phone, computer, and other items on the left, ideally a clear work space in the middle, and completed projects on the right. Try different methods to find one that works best for you.

Save a space

When it’s time to arrange paperwork for a project and there’s not a single free space on your desk, you end up in an unexpected cleanup session while your real work sits there unattended to. Designate part of your desk as work only and don’t put anything there you’re not working on.

Go easy on the eyes

If your work area is cluttered with way too much “stuff” it’s probably stealing your concentration as well. Visual distractions tend to command attention, such as 100 sticky notes plastered all over the place. Tidy up and remove the non-essential.

Take a digital step

Digital work environments are hardly a new revelation but many people still rely heavily on paper and in fact, paper is a big contributor to a cluttered work space. Put away the paper to-do lists and establish a calendar, task list, and other daily activities on your computer and then sync it all to your phone.

Give it a polish

It’s easy to put off or ignore altogether, but giving your monitor, keyboard, phone, and desk a regular polish goes a long way to boosting your mood and energy. Keep basic cleaning supplies handy (at least a soft rag and gentle cleaning solution) and give your workstation some love.

For more information on organizing your workstation, contact the experts at Office Furniture Direct at (503) 546-1546 or officefurnituredirect-pdx.com.


Choosing the right size cubicle for your office

Office cubicle design, appearance, and their very personality have evolved significantly over the years, from stark, maze-like environments to welcoming and productive workplaces. Co-working spaces, desk sharing, and virtual offices are all the rage in today’s corporate world. Indeed, a thoughtfully designed cubicle space inspires creativity, collaboration, and even enjoyment to be at work.

Office cubicles as we know them first appeared in the late 1960s to suit office workers’ changing needs while offering privacy and personalization. New York City’s Federal Reserve Bank was the first office to use the cubicle scenario, arranged in simple pods of four work spaces. Modern cubicle design includes varying heights, shapes, sizes, built-in storage, and ergonomic features.

Size also matters when it comes to adding cubicles to your office and ultimately your particular needs will determine final selection. To that end, here are some things to consider for your next office renovation:

Standard office cubicles

Today’s traditional office cubicles come in a wide variety of layouts and sizes, and can be very spacious. They are typically designed for one person but have enough space for an extra chair and desk space for equipment such as computers and file organization. I-shapes and U-shapes are common and are typically available in sizes from 6’x6’ to 8’x8’.

Modular office spaces

One common criticism of cubicles is loss of privacy for office functions including human resources or financial services when private information is involved. A solution to this is modular offices, which are essentially high-walled cubicles (typically about 12’) with doors and a larger footprint than standard cubes. The walls are often glass or a type of paneling and often used for executive offices.

Call center spaces

Highly active call centers demand agility and small footprints and this is where call center cubes come in, with just enough space for one person and shorter walls and panels. Popular call center cubicles often include glass panels and come in sizes from 2’x5’ to 5’x5’.

Fitting it all in

Before deciding on cubicle sizes for your office, be sure to consider work surface, panel thickness, manufacturer, and ability to cluster to a specific layout. For example, a 9’x12’ option works well for middle managers or workers with more than one computer system or other equipment while 6’x6’ is a popular choice for admin and telephone support.

For more information on sizing cubicles for your office, contact Office Furniture Direct at (503) 546-1546 or officefurnituredirect-pdx.com.

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