Why Cubicles are the Way to Go with Modern Office Designs

The modern offices of today are full of experimental workstation setups and multifunctional workspaces. While it’s important to cater to the specific needs of your business with your office layout, many companies find themselves sticking to some version of the standard office cubicle.

Though the cubicle has developed some stigma over the years since its invention in 1968, its design took the office furniture industry by storm and has remained a staple in workplace layouts ever since. Here are a few reasons why the classic cubicle still deserves a spot in even the most modernized workspaces:

It provides privacy and individuality within the workplace. If you work in a busy office with a lot of employees, it can be easy to feel like just another cog in a larger machine. Having a cubicle gives each member of the team a predetermined spot to not only get work done but also hang pictures, calendars, wall art, and other personal items that help to make the workspace feel more individualistic and diverse.

It gives employees the ability to work in peace. Depending on the size and scope of your office, a workplace can become relatively loud with all of the different tasks being accomplished. Plus, distractions like breakroom snacks and water cooler conversations can make focusing on work difficult if your individual workspace doesn’t have any dividers from the office at large.

Though offices provide optimal privacy and separation from the rest of the office, it can also make employees feel isolated during the workday. The cubicle is a happy medium between closed office and open workspace, allowing employees to easily transition between individual work time and group interaction.

The design is customizable to fit any workplace. When most people think of a cubicle, they imagine a square closed-off space that separates employees from the rest of the office with a relatively high boundary. Though this cubicle design is incredibly useful and works well for companies that require mostly individual work from employees, it may not meet the needs of every business.

Many companies rely on face-to-face interaction between employees and clients as well as collaborative efforts between members of the same department. In order to meet these demands, many modernized cubicles are designed with fewer walls or even lower barriers between desks as well as predetermined seating for guests. Oftentimes, dividers between desks are designed to be added or taken away in seconds. This way, employees can interface with clients and each other while also having the option to close off their workspace for individual work time.

Want to learn more about modern cubicles and workstations? Contact Office Furniture Direct today.

 

Planning an Office Seating Chart with Social Distancing Measures in Mind

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed the formats and protocols of businesses around the globe. Though many companies are choosing to remain in a work-from-home format for the time being, many are making the slow but steady transition back to office work.

Even if your company is making the switch back to business as usual, office life is going to look very different for a while. With social distancing protocols in full effect in the workplace, your team may be having trouble figuring out how to bring employees back safely while still keeping office work productive and efficient.

Planning Office Seating Charts According to Social Distance Protocols

Though the workplace may look and feel different than it did at the beginning of 2020, your team doesn’t have to sacrifice functionality or employee safety. Here are some of the best ways to plan your seating chart with social distancing in mind:

Be aware of high-traffic areas. One of the most important factors when it comes to office safety during COVID-19 is keeping workspaces away from busy walkways or areas where people tend to gather.

Whether you establish new direction-specific walkway protocols or keep your walkways as they are, make sure that no employees are sitting at a workstation within 6 feet of potential passersby.

Know the measurements of your office. In order to keep desks far enough apart for safety, you’ll need to know the exact measurements of boundary walls, pillars and doorways. Additionally, take note of available power outlets to make sure any employee that needs one will have access.

Provide visual cues for employees and visitors. Creating visual markers that remind your office’s inhabitants to follow one-way paths or stay 6 feet away from workstations will only make it that much easier for guidelines to be diligently followed. Plus, you can turn your visual markers into an opportunity for unique interior design with bright colors and individualistic signage.

If you need to group desks or use conference tables, organize it by department. Avoiding close workspaces is ideal; however, if your business requires face-to-face interactions between employees in order to complete tasks, make sure that only the necessary personnel are included.

Whether or not workstations need to be close together, keeping departments clustered can help to prevent excessive travel throughout the office, reducing risk of airborne pathogens.

Use transparent partitions when needed. Many companies cannot do their work without interfacing directly with clients or other employees. When this is necessary, a transparent partition between seats can greatly reduce risk of infection.

Contact Office Furniture Direct for more information regarding COVID-safe office furniture.

 

Helpful Space Planning Tips for Offices After COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything from the way we conduct business to our personal lives and relationships. With many companies hastily switching from in-person offices to a work-from-home model, schedules have been shifted and so have the responsibilities of employees.

Though some companies have yet to transition back into some form of in-person work model and some have made the choice to stay remote indefinitely, many companies are already bringing employees back into the office as stay-at-home orders are lifting. However, as in-person work is slowly returning to the fore, companies are rethinking office space layouts and organizational plans in order to maintain social distancing and ensure that employees feel safe returning to work.

Unsure how to outfit your office space for a socially distanced world? Here are a few ways to rethink your workplace layout with public health and safety in mind:

Create a 6-foot distance between desks. Whether or not your office space utilizes cubicles and cubicle partitions, all workstations within the building should be 6 feet apart. This way, employees can remain focused on work without the fear of proximity-induced infection.

Offer remote work options for sick employees. Gone are the days when employees could come into work with a light sniffle or slight cough. If an employee feels even slightly under the weather, it’s extremely important for them to stay home as a preventative measure. Therefore, making employee tasks easily remotely accessible will allow sick employees to maintain normal output levels without potentially putting themselves or others at risk. If your company was already operating remotely before returning to in-person work, this shouldn’t be too difficult of a transition.

Use shields between interfacing employees or between employees and clients. Depending on the business, remaining 6 feet apart isn’t always feasible. If your employees need to collaborate face to face on projects or need to meet with clients in person, installing transparent glass or plastic panels can shield both parties while still allowing them to interact in real time.

Provide personal devices for employees. One of the best ways to avoid the spread of sickness is to reduce the number of shared items within your workplace. If each employee has access to a personal laptop, tablet, or phone, they can limit contact with each other and in some cases even increase productivity when compared to the use of shared devices.

For all of your socially distant office furniture needs in the Portland area, contact Office Furniture Direct today.

 

Cubicle Partitions: What They Are and Their Benefits

For those that work in an office, there are many factors that contribute to productivity, comfort, and morale. One of the most important factors is the employee’s sense of privacy and ownership over their space within the workplace.

In many office spaces, an individual office for each employee isn’t feasible; this is where cubicles come in. Cubicles can provide employees with a space to call their own that they can personalize to their taste. An important piece of the cubicle is the cubicle partition, which extends vertically past the desk to a customizable height that allows employees a feeling of privacy and separation from their coworkers.

Benefits of Cubicle Partitions

The use of cubicle partitions can provide a series of benefits for the productivity and overall health of your office space, including:

Personal space. Many people find it difficult or uncomfortable to focus when there are others around, especially if others are speaking or making noise. A cubicle partition provides the illusion of a solitary workspace while also helping to muffle any outside noise or conversation throughout the office.

Separation of departments within an office. Many office managers choose to separate the office by department or job description to make the transfer of information and materials between employees of the same type easier and more efficient. Cubicle partitions can be strategically placed to not only allow each employee his or her own space but also to separate distinct departments from each other within the larger workspace.

Sense of individual identity. When working in an office, it can be difficult to feel unique or individualized among other employees of similar job descriptions and backgrounds. Cubicle partitions allow employees to personalize their space with family portraits, art pieces, and other decorations that make them feel more comfortable and relaxed in their space as well as more in tune with their own identity while in the workplace.

A positive addition to office aesthetic. Cubicle partitions come in a variety of materials, colors, patterns, and textures, allowing each employee or the office as a whole to use cubicle partitions as a means for workplace decoration. Well-chosen cubicle partitions can completely transform an office space in a positive way, increasing employee productivity and satisfaction.

Looking for cubicle partitions or other office furniture items in the Portland area? Office Furniture Direct has you covered with our expansive inventory of panel dividers, desks, seating, cubicle accessories, and many more.

 

How Big Should the Cubicles in Your Office Be?

The nationwide shutdowns that marked the early part of 2020 have slowly lifted, allowing more businesses to resume operations, but “business as usual” simply isn’t an option with the threat of COVID-19 lingering.  This has forced companies to rethink how their office settings function.

Before, it was fine to have rows of connected cubicles, or even open office environments devoid of barriers between desks, providing teams with opportunities to collaborate.  Now, everything has changed, and in addition to improving ventilation and increasing cleaning and sanitization, many businesses have to create entirely new layouts for seating, in compliance with social distancing guidelines.

The good news is, you can easily add barriers between workers when you include cubicle walls around desks, in addition to placing them six feet apart.  However, when modifying your floor plans, you’ll also have to consider the size of your cubicles, because of course, the square footage they claim will impact the number of workers you can fit into any given space.  How big should cubicles be?

Economy versus Performance

On the one hand, smaller cubicles allow you to plan a layout that includes more work stations in any given space.  Since you’re already losing space to social distancing, you naturally want to make the most of the space you have left.

Unfortunately, squeezing workers into teeny-tiny cubicles may not provide the best environment for productivity, or safety.  Consider, for example, a small work station with just enough room for essentials like a computer, a phone, and a small filing cabinet.

While it will get the job done, employees will have to leave their desk to use any other equipment (like a printer, for example).  This wastes time over having individual printers at employee desks, but it also creates greater opportunity for virus transmission as employees move through the office and interact with high-touch surfaces (printer buttons/touchscreens).

With larger cubicle and work spaces allotted to each employee, you’ll not only increase productivity and safety, but likely improve employee morale, as opposed to cramming workers into cramped, claustrophobic work stations.

How Big is Big Enough?

The size of cubicle you choose will depend on a couple of factors, including available space, the needs of workers, and whether or not you’re willing to implement measures like A/B scheduling to alleviate the need for your entire staff to be in the building at any given time.  Your best bet is to use modular products that allow you to create cubicles in a variety of sizes and configurations.  A call center employee, for example, might need less space and equipment than a graphic designer.

In addition to carefully considering sizing to suit the needs of specific employees (or types of activities), you should think about the makeup of your cubicles, including colorful paneling, see-though upper panels to preserve light flow, and ergonomic solutions that promote health and morale.  With the right cubicles, you can create an environment conducive to performance and safety when employees return to the office.

 

Using Cubicles and Dividers to Help Employees Feel Safe and Socially Distance during COVID

There are plenty of reasons why businesses use cubicles in their office spaces, not the least of which is providing employees with private space in which to get their work done, free of chatty co-workers or other distractions.  However, cubicles have become a much more important addition to your office space in the wake of challenges presented by COVID-19.  They provide a way to help employees maintain socially distancing guidelines and feel safe when returning to work.

Companies are going out of their way to create safe and healthy work environments by increasing cleaning and sanitization, adding hand sanitizer and wipes throughout the office, reducing high-touch surfaces, improving ventilation, instituting mask mandates, and more.  However, with new worries about the coronavirus potentially spreading by airborne means, the addition of cubicles and dividers can not only curb the spread of particulates, but also put employees at ease.  Why should you include these features as part of your office upgrades?

Add Physical Barriers

Proper ventilation, social distancing, hand-washing/sanitizing, and mask mandates go a long way toward stopping the spread of the coronavirus, but studies have shown that when people linger indoors, every exhalation can add to the amount of virus in the air.  Proper air circulation and ventilation can help to draw contaminated air out and infuse fresh air into the environment, but you’ll still want to stop air from drifting between work stations.

This is where cubicles and dividers come in, creating physical barriers that stop and redirect air currents.  With the right layout, you can not only maintain social distancing, but direct potentially contaminated air to vents, where it will be removed from the environment, rather than coming into contact with employees.

Discourage Socialization

Many companies work to foster a family feeling in the workplace, encouraging camaraderie among teams and a general atmosphere of collaboration.  Unfortunately, COVID-19 has made it downright dangerous for employees to fraternize as they once did.  For the foreseeable future, your business will have to work to discourage not only water cooler talk, but employees popping their heads over cubicle walls to chat with the person at the next work station.

You might not like the idea of placing floor-to-ceiling barriers between cubicles, as this can make employees feel isolated and create a dark, depressing space.  The good news is, there are plenty of options to engineer a bright, attractive work environment.

 

Modern, modular cubicles not only allow for a wide range of configurations, including spacious and ergonomic solutions, but you can choose panels in bright hues that stimulate the brain and boost morale.  You can also select transparent panels that allow for unhindered light flow, and even let employees engage in non-verbal communication through panes (waving, smiling, and so on), so they still feel like they’re part of a team.  With the right cubicles and dividers in place, you can design an office that still feels social, even as you keep employees safe and socially distanced.

 

The negative effects of poor office ergonomics

Many workers are in a constant mindset of getting things done as effectively as possible, focusing intently on the job that’s in front of them. Principles of ergonomic, the physical science of working more safely and efficiently, probably aren’t at the forefront of their minds. But they can play a huge role in a worker’s overall quality and productivity—especially if they’re bad.

Physical symptoms

Physical pain and discomfort are the most noticeable effect of bad work ergonomics, and many of the most serious effects make themselves apparent over time.

Muscle, joint, or back pain can be some of the first symptoms that arise. Some of the more known conditions that can appear after prolonged, bad posture include musculoskeletal disorders like tendonitis, carpal or radial tunnel syndrome, disc diseases, and trigger finger.

The long-term potential effects of inferior ergonomics can be especially surprising and harmful. Corrupted posture can create excessive compression on internal organs like the lungs and digestive tract, which can cause respiratory damage and stomach issues. Decreased circulation can lead to the formation of varicose veins. In worst-case scenarios, bad ergonomics can lead to excessive weight gain, which can contribute to the development of type-2 diabetes or heart disease.

Bad moods, stress, and mental fatigue 

Bad ergonomics can also result in diminished moods and mental fatigue. Just as bad posture compresses internal organs, it can do the same to the nerves throughout your spinal column.

Forward Head Posture is a condition that frequently occurs among workers who are bent over a computer screen for excessive amounts of time, and it exerts excessive pressure on the spinal cord. When that happens, the body’s nervous system becomes more restricted, which directly impacts one’s thought patterns and emotional demeanor—which can put a worker in a horrible, stressed-out mood.

Incorrect ergonomics can also restrict one’s oxygen flow, which can significantly reduce the overall capacity of one’s lungs. That can result in excessive tiredness or fatigue.

Lower productivity

All the above conditions, naturally, can have a direct and adverse effect on the amount and quality of one’s work productivity. Some may become so uncomfortable or ill that they need to take time off. Others who straggle into the office may be unable to do more than the absolute minimum work required.

Depressed office morale is a direct correlation of low productivity, as well. Those scrambling to meet a certain level of output to make up for absent workers may begin to feel resentful. Some may even quit to find a better opportunity where they can more easily meet expectations.

 

How coronavirus will reshape the look and feel of your office

Global events with long-lasting implications usually don’t happen more than once in a generation. Most of them are impossible to predict. But when they occur, the shockwaves they produce can have far-reaching effects that affect every aspect of our lives.

Such is the case with the COVID-19 pandemic. Many of the measures taken to restrict the spread of the virus have been viewed as temporary. But as the coronavirus continues to spread and proliferate, some of its effects may be more permanent than even some experts used to imagine.

One area that’s been affected more than most is the workplace. The advent of working at home has already changed how teams function. Uncertainty about the future of COVID-19—especially its transmissibility—may even change the course of all office designs in the future.

Conceptual changes

The COVID-19 pandemic highlighted one aspect of work culture that had already been taking hold for some time: the rise of working from home. Since coronavirus shutdowns began in March 2020 around 62% of American workers have worked from home, compared to just 25% before.

So perhaps the most dramatic change in the contemporary office is that its very necessity has become questioned—it’s not the intensely focused hub of activity that drove business in the 20th century. Office designs of the future will be revised to reflect an innovative approach to group collaboration, one that emphasizes the inclusion of more remote workers and improved connectivity. Technology is central to those efforts.

A more distributed floor plan

In theory, with more workers based in remote locations, offices will have more open space. On top of that, there’s every likelihood that social distancing measures may continue into the foreseeable future.

Both these factors suggest that employees’ workstations will be more physically separated from each other in a reshaped office and may employ more permanent physical barriers like partitions between them.

In addition to spreading out desks and cubicles, employees themselves may be more sparsely distributed. Certain employee groups may come into the office on just a few designated hours a week, alternating with other groups. Offices may also establish different options to control employee concentration, either 100% work-at-home or a “hybrid” of off- and on-site workers.

The contact-free office

COVID-19’s nature as a contact-spreading virus impacts our contact with physical surfaces. This reality may be reflected in future office design with technology that works to reduce touching to complete even basic functions.

For example, voice activation could be used to operate everything from a computer terminal to the audio-visual equipment in conference rooms. Optical technology could be employed to make everything from coffee makers to toilet flushers responsive to hand waves.

Smartphones can play major parts in the contact-free offices. Mobile phone controls may replace manual controls in everyday operations like printing documents or handling phone banks—even something as mundane as pushing elevator buttons.

Focus on more sanitary materials

With the increased attention on virus transmissibility through touched surfaces, even the basic materials used to build and maintain the office could evolve quickly in the coming years.

One criterion is a given material’s ability to stand up to heavy and more corrosive cleaning agents—stone and laminates can withstand such deep cleaning, whereas oiled wood may not. On the other hand, certain non-porous surfaces proven to keep the virus around longer, like steel, may be avoided.

Offices may use more methods and advanced technology to make conditions safer—such as installing ultra-violet light filters in air ducts, providing more sinks for hand-washing in various locations, or sneeze guards at every desk.

 

Revised Office Seating Design During COVID-19

The COVID-19 crisis, complete with temporary business shutdowns, has helped many businesses to realize how much can be accomplished with a completely remote workforce.  However, you may want to bring employees back into the office environment for a number of reasons, from oversight capabilities, to productivity, to the camaraderie formed through in-person interactions, to employee mental health, just for example

Of course, it can’t be business as usual – you’ll have to conduct operations in an entirely new way if you want to ensure the health and safety of workers.  Perhaps the most important change to your current setup is adding the element of social distancing.  How can you revise the seating arrangements in your office spaces to reflect safe social distancing guidelines?

Adding Safe Space

The first thing you’ll need to do is separate employees, and this means dividing their work stations.  While shared work spaces, including team seating arrangements, have become a popular tool for collaboration over the last several years, a return to private seating is in order post COVID-19.

Social distancing guidelines mandate a minimum of 6 feet of distance between people, but considering testing showing how far airborne droplets can spread from an uncovered cough, you might want to increase this distance or implement additional measures, like barriers.  In terms of planning your layout, you’ll either have to space out employees at current seating or create an entirely new layout with individual desks spaced farther apart.

This process can be made easier with the right layout software.  If you’re not keen to spend money on software for this purpose, you can find free tools and even templates online.  However, it might not be a bad investment, considering you can gain future use value when you scale staffing up or down.

Reducing Capacity

As you push desks apart to create a safe layout, you’ll find that you naturally have to reduce capacity in your work spaces.  This could mean allowing some employees to continue working remotely indefinitely.  Or you could create a shift schedule, whereby half of workers come to the office in the morning and the other half arrive in the afternoon, or with A/B scheduling for groups coming in every other day.  This will increase the need for thorough cleaning and sanitization, but chances are you’re planning to increase the frequency of these activities anyway.

Installing Barriers

In addition to socially distancing your office layout, it’s wise to consider supplemental health and safety features, including the addition of walled cubicles, panel dividers, or other barriers meant to impede the spread of germs in an open-air environment.  You want to create the safest possible environment for workers to return to, and physical barriers can certainly help to stop airborne particles from spreading should workers cough or sneeze.

 

Cubicles Make a Serious Comeback During the Coronavirus Crisis

In recent years, there’s been a marked shift in the way office environments operate, most notably in the seating arrangements.  Where rows of cubicles once allowed companies to provide a large staff with relatively private space to work, without the cost of building out individual offices, more recent layouts have included a more open and collaborative workspace, devoid of dividers, or with only minimal division.

While such seating arrangements have allowed for the implementation of team work stations and easier collaboration, an argument could be made that this strategy makes it more difficult for individual employees to focus, and creates an environment where employees may feel like they’re under constant scrutiny.  That said, it looks like a new shift is underway, due to COVID-19.  What can companies and workers expect?

Social Distancing

First and foremost, companies wishing to bring employees back from forced remote operations will have to comply with guidelines for social distancing, which means creating a minimum six feet of distance between each employee.  This will definitely eliminate shared workspaces like groups of desks facing each other that have gained popularity over the last few years.

It will also likely limit the number of employees that can be housed in any given space at one time.  For businesses that don’t want to spend the money to expand square footage in order to accommodate their work force, this could mean allowing some employees to remain in the remote workforce, or alternately, create an A/B schedule for different groups of employees to come to the office on alternating days, for example.

Cubicle Dividers

Even with socially distanced desks, it’s worrisome to have a large group of employees working in an open space.  For this reason, cubicle dividers or safety screens of some sort are likely to be implemented.

According to a study conducted by Florida Atlantic University, when a person coughs without covering the mouth, the airborne droplets can travel more than 8 feet, well beyond the 6-foot social distancing recommendations.  This distance was reduced to just over 3.5 feet with a bandana and only 2.5 inches with a quilted cotton mask.

For companies that don’t intend to enforce mask-wearing in the office environment, this obviously poses a serious risk of disease spread.  One obvious way to minimize risks is to place cubicle walls or other suitable barriers around individual work spaces.

Other Precautions

In addition to creating new layouts, businesses will also have to implement new health and safety policies and procedures, such as mandatory masks and increased office cleaning and sanitization.  You may have to improve ventilation, add sanitizing stations, and provide employees with individual use items to cut down on high-touch surfaces.

With proper social distancing, isolated work spaces, and proper sanitization and other considerations, you have the best opportunity to create a safe and healthy office environment for employees and clients.

 

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