What are the benefits of contemporary office cubicles?
Since their introduction to the world in the 1960s, office cubicles have become everyday homes for millions of workers in a wide range of industries all over the land. Right from the start, the convenient transport, setup and layout options rocketed cubicle popularity to the top of company and employee wish lists. In one fell swoop, employees could have their own private, comfortable space in which to work and employers had an affordable option for arranging an office configuration that strategically designated departments and company hierarchy.
One of the biggest drivers behind the rise of cubicles in office environments is their ability to promote a sense of individuality and personal space while maintaining a sense of team spirit with colleagues. Distractions are another challenging element to a productive workday and cubicles offer the ideal blend of privacy and collaboration. Even better, today’s iteration of cubicles goes far beyond the drab gray panels clumped together in a collection of squares. Modern office workers can choose from a rainbow of colors, panel heights and materials, and all manner of unique layouts.
Let’s look at some of the most powerful benefits of the contemporary office cubicle:
Sense of community
Instead of the once-common practice of housing upper management in private offices and relegating legions of worker bees to a depressing cube farm, modern cubicles help foster a sense of pride for the organization, where their ideas and efforts are welcome and valued. Groups of employees can also work easily together on specific projects as part of a team effort.
Save money and space
Building permanent walls throughout an office is expensive, time-consuming and messy. It also immediately separates employees from each other and supervisors. Cubicles are an instant money saver and streamlined new designs and layouts save valuable real estate in a large office. Better yet, companies can choose cubicles made with recycled material to support and promote responsible resource use.
Another great advantage with contemporary office cubicles is their flexibility. Gone are the days of rigid squares; today’s cubes come in an array of designs that are wildly easy to assemble and if you feel it’s time for a new look, simply separate the panels and create an entirely new configuration that promotes productivity, ease of movement and a vibe that fits your company’s unique image.
When it’s time for an office update, consider your company’s business model and staff needs. A new cubicle influx may be the spark of tomorrow’s success.
The importance of ergonomics when it comes to office furniture
If you are like millions of other workers across the country, you spend long, consecutive hours camped in an office chair staring at a computer screen. There’s also a good chance your posture is less than ideal, and day after day of slumped shoulders and curved spine isn’t doing your overall health any favors.
Ergonomics is more than just a marketing buzzword to sell fancy office chairs. In fact, ergonomics is a formal arena of scientific and medical study that happens to have a direct impact on workplace dynamics. When it comes to office furniture, ergonomics matters.
Ergonomics and you
Ergonomically sound furniture makes a big difference in everyday work environments. The difference between a “good” chair and a “bad” one is evident in reduced employee stress, fewer nagging aches and fatigue, and a dramatic boost in productivity. Studies have shown that ergonomic furniture has a direct impact on increasing speed and efficiency of work by easing the load on the body’s typical pressure points. On the other hand, neglecting employee health rapidly devolves into more serious health problems, errors in work, sick days and company-wide financial loss.
The right furniture makes the grade
Simply defined, ergonomic furniture is specifically designed to foster comfortable sitting and working positions for long time periods. Not only is this type of furniture noticeably more comfortable, it helps prevent injury to the shoulders, neck, and lower back. Adjustable supports from height to lumbar to tilt all combine to dial in the ideal position for long days of productive work.
Ergonomic furniture options
Today’s busy and conscientious managers have plenty of options in terms of quality office furniture. In addition to standing and sit-stand desks, other popular choices include kneeling chairs, stability balls, reclining chairs and even inverted, face-down “chairs” that are certainly not mainstream but some workers swear by them.
The end result is ergonomic furniture is very effective at improving posture while removing muscle strain and that all-over tired feeling from your head and neck to hips, knees and even your feet. Keep in mind that ergonomic related injuries lead to roughly 12 days a year of missed work time, costing far more than the typical expense of securing quality furniture at the outset. For example, health coverage to address an inflamed wrist runs more than $30,000.
An added and enduring bonus is placing ergonomics as a priority makes a statement to employees that you care for their health, and that sentiment is returned in productivity and loyalty.
When are office cubicles best?
Whether you are planning an entirely new office space or injecting new life into a current layout, you will likely at some point need to decide on the efficient use of cubicles to meet employee needs. The open office, agile trend has its fans and detractors but many industries and specific company dynamics benefit from the versatility and privacy of cubicle environments. Some companies even incorporate a blend of open, private, and cubicle. For example, if a cadre of employees spends a good portion of the day making phone calls or discussing sensitive information, cubicles offer a private and relatively quiet place to do so.
Does your office need cubicles?
Office space planning is a big deal; it must consider employee and senior management requirements, specific company workflow parameters, potential employee shifts between departments, and future growth. If you are gearing up to plan an office space or weighing the benefits of cubicles, keep these factors in mind:
Check with your employees
Current employees are not only reliable company assets; they can provide essential feedback on preferred work environments and what facilitates consistently solid performance every day. A dozen of your staff might vote strongly for cubicles while others wish to spend part of the day in a cube, with the option of collaborating in a more open space elsewhere in the room.
If your company initially jumped on the open office bandwagon but you see a parade of employees leaping (or falling) off due to the noise and distraction, the privacy of cubicles might be the answer to relighting the productivity flame.
Cubicles are the office version of Lego. It’s all about organization—employees are generally provided a small space in an office and a cubicle allows opportunity to set up that area in a functional way. In the bigger picture, an entire office space can leverage the flexibility of cubicles to organize in a visibly and operationally effective manner.
If you build a wall in an office, it’s there for the duration. If you decide you don’t want it, it means a lot of work, mess, and disruption in the day. Cubicles solve this problem with their versatile and easily moveable panels. You can rearrange them as many times as you need, adapt different configurations, and add new sections for additional employees as your company grows. This allows a beneficial space-saving and organizational option that is easy on the budget and looks great.
Why space planning is important in office design
The trend of makeovers fits everything from personal appearance to kitchens to your old car. Corporate and home offices also respond well to a new look and in fact, strategic office space planning has a big impact on inspiring employees with an upbeat environment in which they can contribute their best talents toward long-term company success. First impressions are also critical components in establishing rewarding client relationships when they see your office for the first time.
What is office space planning?
Office space planning is an element of interior design that specifically focuses on intentionally organized space layouts most conducive to collaboration and productivity throughout the workday. Communication between employees, quality work, and comfort are important end goals.
Why is space planning important?
Offices are most often made up of one or several large spaces where many people gather day in and day out. To that end, adequate planning and organization is critical to ensure the company dynamic and efficiency remain intact during evolving business growth. It requires being part oracle and anticipating your company’s future space needs balanced with those of today, while incorporating employee wish lists for an idyllic and productive work environment.
Bring on the image and hold the panic
A well-planned and presented office space exudes personality and charisma, like Steve McQueen striding into a room. A client visiting your office for a big seminar or product launch will be duly impressed with a smartly designed space filled with uber-productive staff and that could contribute to landing the year’s best contract.
Proactive organization is also of course a reliable deterrent to those last-minute panics when it comes time to adding employees, revamping entire departments, or establishing designated meeting spaces.
Location and type of seating is another important planning element. Daily tasks and activity of employees should be considered to ensure seamless workflow. For example, if a particular group works together most days, it would be prudent to arrange their seating in close proximity. Employees charged with frequent document management should be located close to printers, scanners, and other peripherals.
Ancillary facilities should also be considered, including restrooms, drinking fountains, and cafeteria or lounge area.
Blend the org chart
While companies’ internal structures vary, most house senior staff in separate offices, perhaps along outlying walls or upper levels, while other employees work in partitioned spaces or cubicles. Smart space planning takes this into consideration while simultaneously preparing for potential addition to increased employee numbers in the future.
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.
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.
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.