Mike Harley

President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I'm an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.

Jan 032019
 

Furnishing your office with the right furniture is essential to your business’s long-term success. From executive chairs and computer desks to file cabinets, end tables, partitioning walls and more, all commercial offices can benefit from high-quality furniture. By choosing the right furniture, you’ll foster a productive environment that allows employees to work more efficiently, resulting in greater success for your business. When buying office furniture, though, you should avoid making the following 10 mistakes.

#1) Choosing Mismatching Colors

An example of a well designed, modern officeThe color of your office furniture won’t affect its performance, but it will affect your office’s aesthetics. If you choose furniture in an eclectic combination of multiple colors, your office will look outdated and poorly designed. Mixing brown and black furniture, for example, isn’t recommended because these two colors clash with each other. To create an attractive workspace, you should choose furniture in a matching color scheme. You don’t have to limit yourself to using furniture in a single color. Rather, choose colors that compliment each other so that it promotes an attractive working environment in your office.

Here are some popular color schemes for office furniture:

  • All black
  • White and black
  • White and brown
  • White and gray
  • White and green
  • Light brown and dark brown
  • Blue and gray
  • Blue and white
  • Blue and brown
  • Brown and gray
  • Silver/chrome and black

#2) Overlooking the Upholstery

A genuine leather office chair

Genuine leather upholstery

When buying office chairs, recliners, sofas and other forms of seating, pay attention to the upholstery. Different types of office furniture feature different kinds of upholstery. And the fabric from which the upholstery is made will affect its comfort, longevity and overall value.

Leather upholstery is a popular choice for office chairs and other forms of seating. Consisting of tanned and processed animal hide, typically cowhide, it’s uniquely soft and luxurious. The downside to leather office furniture, however, is that it tends to cost more than other fabrics. According to Better Homes and Garden (BHG), vinyl is an attractive alternative to leather that’s easy to maintain and costs less than its leather counterpart. While genuine leather is a natural, organic fabric, vinyl is classified as a synthetic fabric because it’s manmade. Therefore, it’s able to withstand moisture, dust and contaminants without succumbing to damage.

A third fabric commonly found in office chairs and other forms of seating is polyester. This synthetic fabric features many of the same characteristics as vinyl, including moisture resistance, durability and longevity. Like vinyl, polyester is a relatively inexpensive fabric, making it an attractive choice for business owners seeking to furniture their office with new furniture.

Finally, faux leather has become an increasingly popular fabric for office furniture. Also known as eco leather or bonded leather, it’s a synthetic fabric that’s designed to look and feel like real leather. But because it is manmade, faux leather is cheaper to produce and, therefore, costs less to purchase than genuine leather.

Benefits of faux leather office furniture include the following:

  • Costs less than genuine leather
  • Repels moisture and contaminants
  • Easy to clean
  • Long-lasting
  • Eco-friendly
  • Resistant to mold and mildew
  • Soft, supple texture that reduces stress
  • Resistant to fading
  • Doesn’t crack or otherwise damage easily

#3) Only Buying Enough Furniture for Your Current Workforce

According to a report by Forbes, U.S. businesses generating less than $5 million can expect to grow by roughly 7.8% per year. Assuming your business follows this same path, you’ll need to hire more employees to sustain its growth – and each employee whom you hire will need furniture to perform his or her job. If you only buy enough office furniture for your business’s current workforce, you may be forced to buy different, nonuniform furniture pieces for future hires.

Unfortunately, no business can predict exactly how many employees it will hire in the future. Some businesses may hire five new employees a year, whereas others may hire 50 or even 100 a year. Hopefully this doesn’t happen to your business, but there’s always a possibility of downsizing in which a business will lose employees rather than gain them.

Nonetheless, it’s best to err on the side of caution by purchasing more office furniture than what your business currently needs. Having a half-dozen or more extra workstations will allow you to accommodate the needs of any new employees whom you hire in the near future. If you currently have 20 employees working in your office, for instance, consider buying at least 26 individual workstations.

#4) Choosing Computer Desks Without a Slide-Out Tray

Office desk

Not all office desks need a slide-out tray. For computer desks, though, a slide-out tray is an essential feature that shouldn’t be overlooked. Statistics show that up to 5.8% of the population will develop carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This otherwise common musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) is characterized by pain, numbness and a pins-and-needles sensation in the wrist and/or fingers. While anyone can develop CTS at any time during their life, it’s most prevalent among office employees who type using a computer keyboard for multiple hours a day.

You can protect your business’s keyboard-typing employees from CTS and other related MSDs by investing in computer desks with a slide-out tray. These desks are designed with a flat top on which you can place a computer monitor (or monitors) as well as a printer, telephone and other equipment. A few inches below this top surface, however, is a separate tray that’s designed specifically for a keyboard and mouse. It’s ergonomically designed to reduce wrist stress when typing, so employees who use them are less likely to develop CTS than their counterparts who use a traditional desk with a single, flat top.

According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – the government-run organization that’s responsible for protecting U.S. workers from on-the-job injury and illness – the slide-out keyboard tray should have a minimum height of 22 to 28.3 inches. In other words, vertical distance from the floor to the slide-out keyboard tray should be at least 22 to 28.3 inches. This is a comfortable height that promotes comfort and productivity among workers while also protecting them from CTS in the process.

#5) Not Allocating Enough Funds

Choose a budget in advance when buying office furnitureSome business owners assume that they can furnish their entire office with new furniture for just a couple hundred bucks. It’s only until they start shopping for new furniture when they realize that this isn’t feasibly possible. You may be able to secure a few pieces of low-end furniture for this price. But to create multiple, high-quality workstations in your office – complete with a desk, chair, file cabinet and other furniture – you’ll need a larger budget.

According to business entrepreneur and investor David Cummins, businesses should expect to spend about $2,100 per employee for mid- to high-end office furniture. That may sound expensive, but you should view office furniture as an investment in your business’s future. It pays off in the form of increased employee satisfaction and productivity – two factors that are invaluable to your business’s success.

#6) Purchasing Oversized Furniture

Space is an invaluable commodity in a commercial office. An article published by TIME found that the average size of office cubicles in the United States has decreased from 90 square feet in 1994 to 75 square feet in 2010. As office cubicles continue to shrink, it’s important for business owners to consider the size of their furniture and whether it will fit in their respective employee workstations.

Prior to ordering new office desks and tables, get the measurements of the cubicle or area in which you plan to use them. You can then use these measurements to purchase office furniture in an appropriate size. The furniture should be smaller – both length and widthwise– than the cubicle or area in which it’s used. If it’s too big, you’ll have to completely adjust the layout of your cubicles, which requires a substantial amount of time and work.

#7) Prioritizing Style Over Ergonomics

A Herman Miller Aeron chairThere’s nothing wrong with choosing stylish, aesthetically pleasing office furniture, but you shouldn’t prioritize appearance over ergonomics. Ergonomics is actually more important than appearance, as it affects employees’ comfort when using the furniture. OSHA explains that ergonomics in the workplace reduces muscle fatigue, protects against MSDs (including CTS), and encourages a higher level of productivity.

How do you know if office furniture is ergonomically designed? There are certain standards for furniture that specifically focus on ergonomics, such as EN 1335:2012, EN 1728:2012, ANSI/BIFMA X 5.1 and others. With that said, most well-known, reputable brands of office furniture emphasize ergonomics in their products’ design. They design their office furniture so that it minimizes stress and increases productivity among employees.

For office chairs, some of the top reputable brands include the following:

#8) Overlooking Employee Privacy

Cubicles provide privacy for your workersUnless you’re specifically trying to achieve an open office design, you should choose office furniture that promotes a private working environment for your employees. A study conducted by the Ponemon Institute in conjunction with 3M found that U.S. employees are 50% less productive when working in open spaces where they have little or no privacy. For large businesses with more 7,500 employees, the cost of this lost productivity is estimated at $1 million per year. Even if you have small business with just a handful of employees, though, lack of privacy can still take a toll on their productivity.

You increase privacy for your business’s employees by investing in the right office furniture. A workstation with tall partitioning walls, for example, allows employees to work in a private environment without coworkers or other people watching their every move. Additionally, you can install privacy filters on employees’ computers. These filters attach over a computer monitor so that only the worker who’s directly in front of the monitor can see it. Anyone who attempts to look at the monitor from the side will see a dark, tinted screen.

#9) Choosing Office Chairs With Fixed, Non-Rolling Legs

Traditional office chairs with fixed, non-rolling legs can lower employees’ productivity. Even in a small 75-square-foot cubicle, employees must still move around their workstation to access documents, tools and other equipment needed to perform their job. If an employee is forced to use a chair with fixed legs, he or she may struggle to move around their workstation. Thankfully, there are office chairs that feature multiple rolling legs on the bottom, allowing employees to easily move around in their workstation.

Charles Darwin is actually credited with inventing the modern office chair with rolling legs. One report suggests that Darwin installed rolling legs on the bottom of his chair so that he could access his research specimens more quickly. Darwin’s design become popular, with businesses throughout the United States and elsewhere incorporating them into their offices. Today, you can find a variety of high-end office chairs featuring a five-star design with five individual legs and rolling casters on the bottom.

With that said, traditional office chairs with non-rolling legs are still useful in certain areas of the office. In waiting rooms and conference rooms, for example, there’s really no need for chairs with rolling legs. But for employee workstations, office chairs with rolling legs are an important feature that can improve employees’ productivity levels.

#10) Buying Office Furniture Without a Warranty

broken office chairsBuying office furniture that’s not backed by a warranty is a serious mistake that should be avoided. If neither the vendor nor manufacturer offer a warranty, it’s usually because their furniture is inferior to their competitors’ furniture. They know that their furniture is likely to break, so they don’t offer any type of warranty. You may think that you are getting a good deal on an office chair or desk that’s not backed by a warranty, but you’ll quickly realize this isn’t the case when the item breaks. Without a warranty, you’ll have to pay out of your business’s pocket to repair or replace it.

To avoid this headache, only buy office furniture that’s backed by a warranty. Most reputable manufacturers of high-end office furniture guarantee that their products will be free of defect for a certain length of time. Some office furniture comes with a one-year warranty, while others may come with a six-year warranty. If the furniture breaks within this period, the manufacturer will pay to repair or replace it.

Oct 252018
 

If your business operates out of an office, you’ll probably need supplies like pens, paper, paperclips, toner, computers, flash drives, labels and furniture to perform your daily operations. It’s a regular overhead expense incurred by most businesses. For small and medium-sized businesses with a limited budget though, office supplies can take a toll on their finances. Many of these businesses end up overpaying for office supplies, which brings down their profits for the fiscal period. Thankfully, there are ways to save money on your business’s office supplies so that it doesn’t impede your business’s long-term success.

Exploring the Cost of Office Supplies

A few examples of neccessary office supplies every desk should containBefore we reveal ways to save money on your business’s office supplies, let’s first discuss the cost. Different businesses have different budgets allocated for office supplies. However, over the course of a year, a business can easily spend thousands of dollars on everyday supplies used in its office. According to a report by LAC Group, most businesses spend an average of $200 per worker per year on office supplies, while law firms – because of the heavy paperwork involves in their operations – spend an average of $1,000 per worker per year on office supplies. If your business has 20 employees, for example, you can expect to spend about $4,000 per year on office supplies, assuming your business isn’t a law firm or other legal service provider.

Conduct Regular Audits

Saving money on office supplies begins with conducting regular audits. Like other organizational, internal audits, this involves keeping a record of what office supplies your business currently owns, where those supplies are located, and which worker or workers have access to them. This will give you deeper insight into your business’s usage and consumption of office supplies.

If an audit reveals that your business is using an excessive number of paperclips, you can encourage workers to reuse paperclips from discarded documents rather than using new ones.  Alternatively, if one worker is using significantly more office supplies than the rest of your business’s workforce, perhaps you talk to him or her to find out why they are going through so many supplies.

Refill Toner Cartridges

Refill toner and ink cartridges to save moneyPrinter toner isn’t cheap. Statistics show that it costs about 3.9 cents to 5.5 cents to print a single page using black ink and 8.3 cents to 8.9 cents to print a single page using colored ink. However, when a printer in your office runs out of ink, you may assume that replacing the toner cartridge is the only way to keep it operational. If you’re trying to save money, though, consider refilling the cartridge yourself.

The specific steps to refilling a toner cartridge vary depending on whether it’s for an inkjet or laser printer, as the manufacturer’s design of the cartridge. For most toner cartridges, you’ll need to perform the following steps to refill it:

  1. Purchase a DIY refill kit that’s compatible with your toner cartridge.
  2. Open your printer and remove the cartridge.
  3. Access the cartridge’s refill chamber.
  4. Squeeze the bottle of refill ink into this chamber until it’s about four-fifths full (don’t overfill it; otherwise, it may leak inside your printer).
  5. Gently shake the cartridge so that the new ink is evenly distributed.
  6. If applicable, reset or replace the embedded microchip that tracks the cartridge’s ink levels.
  7. Install the newly filled cartridge back into your printer, and you’re good to go!

There are also companies, both locally and online, that will refill your business’s empty toner cartridges. This typically costs more than refilling the cartridges yourself but less than buying new cartridges.

If you decide to replace your empty toner cartridges with new cartridges rather than refilling them, don’t throw the old ones away. Some of the nation’s biggest office supply stores offer rewards for recycling empty toner cartridge. At Office Depot, for example, you can drop off up to 10 empty toner cartridges per month to receive $2 off in-store credit rewards per cartridge. That’s an extra $20 in free money each month to use towards the purchase of other office supplies.

Sign Up for Loyalty Rewards Programs

Take advantage of loyalty rewards programs to save money on your business’s office supplies. Loyalty rewards programs live up to their namesake by rewarding you for being loyal to a particular office supply store. The more you spent at a particular store, the more rewards you’ll earn through the program.

Some of the top loyalty rewards programs offered by office supply stores include:

  • Office Depot and OfficeMax Rewards: 2 percent back in store credit, as well as $2 back in store credit for each product review you submit (maximum of three per month). If you spend $700 on office supplies, you’ll earn $14 in store credit.
  • Staples Rewards: Two different loyalty programs are offered to Staples customers: Base and Premier. The Base program rewards customers who spend less than $999 per year at Staples with 2 percent back in store credit, whereas the Premier program rewards customers who spend $1,000 or more per year at Staples with 5 percent back in store credit. The Premier program also includes other exclusive perks, such as $25 off print and marketing services and $20 off tech services. However, you’ll need to spend at least $1,000 per year to join the Staples Premier program.

Buy Office Supplies Through a Contract

You can save hundreds or even thousands of dollars on your business’s office supplies each year by purchasing them through a contract. With a contract, you agree to purchase a pre-determined amount of supplies from a vendor, typically as an ongoing expense. For example, you may agree to purchase 50 boxes of paper, seven boxes of pens and 20 boxes of paperclips from a vendor each month. Until you cancel the contract (or it expires), the vendor will continue to send you these office supplies each month.

How can buying office supplies through a contract save your business money exactly? Well, most vendors offer discounts to business owners for contractual purchases. This is because vendors will sell a larger volume of supplies to a business owner through a contract. Therefore, vendors pass the savings down to their business customers in the form of a lower per-unit cost. If you haven’t done so already, contact your preferred office supply vendor to inquire about setting a contract and how much money it will save you on the purchase of office supplies.

To take advantage of the cost-savings benefits of purchasing office supplies through a contract, you shouldn’t agree to buy more supplies than what your business is expected to use. Again, this is why conducting an office supply audit can prove helpful. An audit will reveal how many supplies your businesses goes through in a given period, and you can use this information to create a contract with an office supply vendor.

Switch From Paper to Digital Documents

Share and collaberate in the cloud to cut down on paper costsAccording to The Wall Street Journal (WSJ), office workers in the United States collectively print more than 1 trillion pages of paper each year. Paper is relatively cheap when compared to other types of office supplies. You can buy a box of 2,500 sheets of printer paper for about $50 bucks. Considering the massive amounts of paper printed by U.S. businesses, however, it can still impact your finances.

You probably can’t eliminate your business’s usage of paper – and that’s okay. Regardless of what your business does, you’ll need to print paper documents on occasion. The good news is that you can reduce your business’s reliance on physical paper while saving money in the process by switching to digital documents. Reducing paper printing by sharing and collaborating in the cloud will also make your office more energy efficient, not to mention less cluttered.

Rather than printing out documents on paper, try saving them as a digital document, such as a Microsoft Word, Apple Pages or PDF document. Not only does this save paper, but it also allows workers to easily access important documents over the internet or your office’s Wi-Fi.

Buy High-Quality Office Furniture

OFM Heavy Duty Dispatch ChairOffice furniture isn’t something with which you should cut corners by purchasing cheap brands. Although it may save you a few bucks initially, you’ll end up spending more money in the long run when you’re forced to repair or replace the cheap furniture. To get the most bang for your buck, invest in high-quality chairs, desks, tables and other furniture for your office. High-quality furniture generally costs more, but it lasts longer while offering greater utility in the process.

How do you know if office furniture is high quality? Here are some telltale signs for which to look:

  • Premium materials, such as leather, Leatherplus or Caressoft for chairs and real wood or metal for desks
  • Iron-clad manufacturer’s warranty
  • Manufactured by a reputable, well-known brand
  • 24-hour office chairs, which are designed with an emphasis on strength, stability, and comfort so that they can be used for long periods of time
  • Ergonomic design that minimizes bodily stress and fatigue

Make Purchases With a Rewards Credit Card

Buy office supplies with a rewards credit cardAlways use a rewards business credit card with purchasing office supplies (our personal favorite here at Office Chairs Unlimited is the Ink business card from Chase). A rewards business credit card will reward you with cash or redeemable points on eligible purchases. Most rewards business credit cards offer 1 percent to 5 percent in cashback rewards. If you use one to buy $1,000 in office supplies, you’ll earn about $10 to $50 in cashback rewards.

Like all credit cards, business rewards credit cards typically charge interest on balances carried from one month to the next. Annual interest rates can range from 10 percent to 30 percent, with some credit cards charging an annual fee as well. The key thing to remember is that you need to pay off your rewards business credit card after using it to buy office supplies. Otherwise, it won’t help your business save money.

Of course, you should already be using a business credit card to purchase office supplies. It creates a digital paper trail of this expense so that you easily record it in your business’s financial records. The bonus of a cashback card, however, is just icing on the cake that offsets some of the cost of office supplies.

Shop Online

Office Supplies can be expensive, even when buying online.Even if you have access to one or more local office supply stores, don’t ignore the cost-savings benefits of shopping online. Most national office supply stores have a website where you can purchase office supplies. Aside from the convenience of ordering over the internet and having the products delivered directly to your office, buying office supplies online often costs less than buying them in store. Online retailers charge less for products purchased through their website because it’s cheaper and easier for them to process these online orders than in-store purchases.

Amazon, the world’s largest online retailer, has a category on its website for office supplies. With more than a half-million products, it offers a quick and easy way to source office supplies for your business. Amazon is just one of many websites that sells office supplies. There are dozens of other online retailers that offer low-cost office supplies through their website, so feel free to shop around.

Check Craigslist for Free Supplies

With a little luck, you can find free office supplies for your business. Craigslist, the largest online classified ads website, has an entire section dedicated to free stuff. Here, you can find everything from used desks and tables to pens, paper, cardboard boxes and more.

Keep in mind that you probably won’t find new, premium office supplies available for free on Craigslist. However, if you’re in a financial bind and need a few basic supplies to keep your business running smoothly, it’s worth a shot to check Craigslist.

Buy Older Model PCs and Computer Equipment

When it comes time to upgrade your office’s PCs and computer equipment, avoid buying the latest models. Instead, purchase models that were released last year. Most experts recommend replacing your computer every three to five years. After five years, computers become somewhat obsolete, resulting in slower speeds, technical bugs, and compatibility issues.

However, new computers are sold at a premium cost because they feature the latest hardware. By purchasing a model released last year, you can save hundreds of dollars per computer. For an office containing dozens of computers and related equipment, this can save your business thousands of dollars.

Oct 012018
 

Companies that follow in the footsteps of their competitors are destined to fail. It’s the companies that take the initiative to try something new that experience the greatest success. Their innovative new products are the first to hit the market, so they can dominate their respective market with little or no competition. If you own or manage a company, consider the following tips to foster creativity in the office and achieve greater success.

The Importance of Creativity

The Importance of CreativityAccording to a survey of corporate executives conducted by Forrester Research, 82% said creativity is beneficial to their company’s operations. A separate survey conducted by IBM found that corporate executives ranked creativity as the single most important factor to their business’s success.

How does creativity translate into increased success exactly? When workers are creative, they’ll experiment with new ideas that can give your company a competitive advantage. A creative worker may develop a new, more efficient way to perform a specific task, or he or she may improve one of your company’s existing products. Furthermore, creative workers are typically more productive than their counterparts. Creativity stimulates cognitive function and energy levels, so workers can produce more work in less time.

Focus on Individual Workstations

As previously discussed on our blog, there are pros and cons to using an open office design. For creativity, though, individual workstations usually work best. You don’t have to necessarily use cubicles, but you should design your office so that each worker has his or her own personal space. Individual workstations such as this offer a distraction-free, semi-private environment in which your company’s employees can work. Workers won’t encounter the distractions of an open-office layout, allowing them to express their creativity more freely.

Design a Collaboration Area

Design a Collaboration AreaEven with individual workstations, you should still design a collaboration area or zone in your office where workers can share ideas and work together to achieve a common, shared goal. According to Fast Company, workers spend more than half of their workday, on average, collaborating with other workers. Without a dedicated area for collaboration in your office, workers won’t be able to effectively and efficiently work together. Consider using a large, spacious meeting room or lounge in your office as a collaboration area.

Here are some tips to create the perfect collaboration area in your office:

  • Use a large circular or rectangular desk so that workers can see each other while brainstorming ideas.
  • Place blinds or curtains over windows and glass walls to increase privacy.
  • Invest in a digital whiteboard for the front of the collaboration area.
  • Design it with creativity-boosting colors like blue and green.
  • Install a video conferencing app to allow workers in the collaboration room to network with other workers in the office or elsewhere.

Include Workers in Decision-Making Processes

You should take a page from HubSpot’s playbook by including workers in your company’s decision-making process. The software development company allows its employees to participate in major decisions. HubSpot even offers its employees professional development opportunities so that they can climb the corporate ranks. It’s the little things like including workers in the decision-making process, however, that fosters creativity. When workers are allowed to share their opinions, they’ll feel more comfortable experimenting with creative new ideas.

Decorate With Plants

There are dozens of accessories with which you can decorate your office, including paintings, framed photos, artwork, clocks, posters and more. However, plants are particularly beneficial because of their positive impact on workers’ creativity levels. A report cited by The Guardian found that workers in offices decorated with plants were 15% more creative than their counterparts who worked in offices without plants. That alone should be reason enough to include plants in your office’s décor, but research also shows that adding plants to an office’s décor increases workers’ productivity levels and overall satisfaction.

Change Your Office Design

When was the last time that you changed your office’s design? Once you’ve found a design that works, you may keep it for several years or longer. But workers may express greater creativity if you change your office’s design more frequently. A study published in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology found that participants who changed their morning routine were more creative than participants with the same morning routine. Although this study specifically focused on morning routines, researchers believe that any change in a person’s routine or environment – including a new office design – can spark creativity.

Don’t Overdo Cleaning and Organization

Cleaning and organizing your office is essential to creating a productive environment, but you shouldn’t overdo it. Employees are more creative when working in a messy environment. According to a study cited by the American Psychological Association (APA), working in a messy environment instills creativity. Researchers found that participants were more likely to try new things when exposed to a messy environment. You shouldn’t allow clutter and trash to accumulate in your office. Rather, ease up on the tidiness so that it doesn’t hinder workers’ creativity.

Hire Creative Workers

Creativity can quickly spread throughout your office. When one or more workers are creative, their coworkers will take notice by expressing their own creative thoughts and ideas. Therefore, you should hire creative workers. When recruiting new workers, go beyond the traditional interview questions to gauge the individual’s creativity levels.

You can gain insight into a prospective worker’s creativity by asking the following questions during an interview:

  • When was the last time that you had to think outside of the box?
  • What’s your idea of the perfect workday?
  • What’s the single best idea that you’ve ever had?
  • Who are your role models and why?
  • If you encounter a challenge that prevents you from doing a specific task, how would you handle it?
  • What makes you stand out from other job candidates?
  • How do you respond to negative feedback?
  • When you aren’t working, what do you for fun?

Encourage Workers to Relax

Encourage Workers to RelaxStressed workers are less likely to be creative than their relaxed, non-stressed counterparts. In an interview with the APA, psychologist Robert Epstein, PhD explains that stress kills creativity. The mechanics behind this phenomenon are unknown, but many experts agree that stress makes people less creative.

There are several ways to reduce stress levels among your company’s workers. First, create a positive and welcoming atmosphere by talking to workers one on one. During these one-on-one sessions, you can thank workers for their hard work and motivate them to continue. Positive reinforcement such as this is a natural stress reliever. Second, consider allowing workers to bring their pet to the office on one or more days. Studies have shown that working around pets promotes the release of stress-relieving chemicals in the body like oxytocin and endorphin.

A third way to help workers relax is to buy them a massage. You can have a massage therapist visit your workplace to provide workers with a stress-relieving massage without ever leaving the office. After getting a massage, workers will feel more relaxed and, therefore, more creative.

Allow Workers to Listen to Music

Allow Workers to Listen to MusicWhile blasting the radio in your office probably won’t yield positive results, allowing workers to listen to their own music through headphones can spark creativity According to a survey of workers conducted by Totaljobs, 59% said listening to music boosts their mood and sense of wellbeing. Even if it’s only for one day of the week, allowing workers in your office to listen to music can stimulate their creativity, so don’t discourage it.

Invest in High-Quality Office Furniture

Mesh back ergonomic office chairThe quality of your office furniture can affect workers’ creativity. If a typical workstation in your office consists of a stiff, non-adjustable chair with a computer desk that’s designed equal as poor, it will reflect upon their work. Low-quality office furniture such as this increases physical stress on workers’ bodies. After using them for several hours, workers may feel sore and fatigued, thus limiting their creativity.

To minimize stress and foster creativity, furnish your office with premium, high-quality furniture. Each workstation should feature an ergonomic office chair with an adjustable height, swivel base, armrests and low back (lumbar) support. Ergonomic chairs are designed specifically to provide the highest level of comfort and support possible, making them a smart investment for your company.

The workstations in your office should also feature an ergonomic desk where workers can comfortably type and use and the computer without stressing their body. In the past, office desks were designed with a single, flat surface. With the advent of computers, however, they are now mostly designed with a top surface for a computer monitor and a lower slide-out surface for a keyboard and mouse. This design is preferred for the modern office because it offers the highest level of comfort when using a computer.

Embrace Natural Light

Embrace Natural LightIf your office has windows, open the blinds and curtains so that natural light can enter and illuminate the workspace. Not only is natural light the most-wanted natural element in an office design, according to the World Green Building Council; it also invokes creativity and cognitive function.

One study found that office workers were 15% more creative when working in a naturally lit environment than their counterparts who worked in an artificially lit environment. Exposure to natural light regulates the body’s internal circadian rhythm while offering an excellent source of much-needed vitamin D in the process. The culmination of these effects results in increased creativity among office workers.

You probably won’t be able to fully illuminate your office using natural light all the time, but that’s okay. When the sun is shining, open the blinds and curtains to take advantage of the creativity-boosting benefits of the sun. And rather than hosting parties and ceremonies inside the office, take them outside. Sunlight offers a myriad of benefits for office workers, only one of which is increased creativity.

Reward Creativity

Don’t let workers’ creativity go unnoticed in your office. When a worker is creative, reward him or her. Otherwise, they’ll feel unrecognized and underappreciated. You don’t have to give workers a bonus check or other tangible gift. Just telling a worker, “Nice job on the project. Keep it up!” is enough to motivate them to continue expressing their creativity.

Be Tolerant of Mistakes

Creativity is all about experimenting with new ideas to see what works and what doesn’t. As a result, creative workers are bound to make mistakes. Rather than punishing workers for their mistakes, though, you should be tolerant and encourage them to continue trying new things.

Manage the Thermostat

Studies show that 68 degrees is the ideal office temperature for productivity. Workers in chilly 68-degree offices have been shown to produce more work than their counterparts in warmer offices. Conversely, a study conducted in 2010 found that workers are more creative in warmer environments. Therefore, you should try setting the thermostat in your office to 72 degrees or higher. You may discover that it helps workers express their creativity.

Create a Flexible Work Culture

What is a flexible work culture and how can it boost workers’ creativity? A flexible work culture means that workers are given more freedom over basic processes, such as the hours they work and the location from which they work. You can implement a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, for instance, that gives workers the freedom to bring and use their own device, such as a tablet computer, from home. Workers are often more comfortable using their own device than a company-issued device, so it helps them be creative.

You can also allow workers to telecommute. When telecommuting, workers perform their work from home rather than the office. It’s not possible for all jobs, but it’s certainly becoming more common in the modern workplace. A report published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) found that almost one-quarter of all U.S. employees telecommuting in 2015.

Productivity is important in the office, but creativity is equally if not more important. Creative workers come up with new ideas that ultimately help their company succeed. You can foster creativity in your company’s office by following the tips outlined here.

Aug 302018
 

Not everyone works in a commercial office building. According to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report, 43% of employed Americans work either fully or partially from their home office. If you fall into this category, you should create a productive working environment to increase your business’s chance of success. Here are 10 essential things to consider when designing your home office.

#1) Colors

Choose neutral colors when designing your home office What type of colors do you intend to use in your home office’s design? Assuming you’re designing your home office from scratch, you’ll have the freedom to paint the walls whatever color you desire. And while wall color may sound like an insignificant element of a home office, it can affect your productivity and overall success.

Research cited by HuffPost suggests that extremely bright colors, such as red, instill anxiety and impaired cognitive function. In comparison, teal or slate gray boosts cognitive function, allowing you to produce more work in your home office. Painting the walls either teal or slate gray is an excellent way to revitalize your home office and create a highly productive working environment. You can check out this Entrepreneur article for a list of other productivity-boosting colors.

You don’t have to limit office’s design to a single color. It’s perfectly fine to use two or more colors. Just remember to choose colors that create a positive atmosphere and flow cohesively with one another. If your home office features clashing or mismatching colors, it will bring down the atmosphere while prompting an unproductive working environment in the process.

#2) Lighting

Let it natural sunlight. Open the blinds!Natural sunlight is the best type of lighting for a home office. It’s easy on the eyes, provides ample illumination and doesn’t require power. There’s even some belief that natural sunlight promotes health and wellness. A study conducted by researchers from the Department of Design and Environmental Analysis at Cornell University found that workers in sunlight-illuminated offices were 84% less likely to suffer from eyestrain and headaches than their counterparts in artificially illuminated offices. Other studies have found that office workers are more productive when exposed to natural light.

When it’s sunny outside, pull open the curtains so that sunlight will illuminate your home office. In the mornings and evenings when there’s no sunlight – or when it’s cloudy outside – you’ll need an alternative source of illumination for your home office. Your office probably has an overhead fixture already, but you should still use an adjustable table lamp with a 3,000 to 5,000 Kelvin lightbulb to create optimal illumination on your desk. Bulbs ranging from 3,000 to 5,000 Kelvin create warm, soft light. Bulbs with a Kelvin rating higher than 5,000 produce particularly bright color that’s almost blinding.

#3) Storage

desk drawer clutterStorage space is an invaluable commodity in a home office. Regardless of the type of work you do, you’ll need furniture and containers in which to store your business-related items. You can install shelves on the wall to store books, binders, folders, equipment and other items. Another idea is to install shadow boxes on the wall, which you can also fill with items.

For pencils, pens, and markers, coffee cups are the perfect storage container. Considering that 83% of Americans drink coffee daily, there’s a good chance that you own a coffee mug (or several). If you have an old coffee mug that you aren’t using, place it on your office desk to use a storage container. You’ll have an easier time accessing pencils and other writing instruments when they are stored in an open coffee mug rather than a desk drawer or other closed container.

Perhaps the most useful storage container for a home office is a file cabinet. Also known as a filing cabinet, this tall piece of equipment features vertically stacked, connected slide-out drawers for storing documents. File cabinets manufactured and sold in the United States are designed to accommodate paper documents measuring 8.5 by 11 inches – the standard size for letters in the United States. If you buy a file cabinet outside of the United States, though, it may support a different size of paper, such as 8.3 by 11.7 inches (A4).

#4) Climate

A comfortable climate is essential to a productive workspace, and home offices are no exception. Working in an excessively hot or cold environment forces your body to use more energy as it attempts to regulate its internal temperature. If you’re cold, you’ll shiver to make yourself warmer. If you’re hot, you’ll sweat to make yourself cooler. These natural bodily functions require energy, resulting in quicker fatigue while working.

So, what temperature should you set on the thermostat? There are conflicting studies regarding the ideal office temperature. PGI cites two studies, one of which found that the ideal office temperature for productivity was 71.6 degrees Fahrenheit, with another study finding that 77 degrees Fahrenheit is the best temperature for a productive office. The truth is that different people work best in different climates. Therefore, you should find a comfortable temperature that allows you to work without the distraction of being cold or hot.

#5) Desk

A well organized desk creates a more productive work environment.No home office is complete without a desk. For most home-based telecommuters, the desk is where the bulk of their work is performed. Here, you can write letters, type documents on your computer, read books and perform countless other business-related activities.

Rectangular desks are a popular choice for home offices because they require minimal space and offer a clean, efficient design. Some rectangular desks feature nothing more than flat top with four legs on the bottom. Others, however, feature built-in file cabinets and drawers. There are also corner desks that are designed to fit in a corner. They feature an L-shaped design that you can place against two adjacent walls.

Whether you choose a rectangular or L-shaped desk for your home office, make sure it features a slide-out tray for your keyboard and mouse. Placing these computer peripherals on the same surface as your monitor may strain your wrists and eyes. You’ll have to raise your wrists higher to type, and you’ll have to look down to see the monitor. An ergonomic office desk should feature a surface height of about 29 inches with a slide-out tray a few inches below.

Office desks are made of a variety of materials, some of which include genuine wood, manufactured wood, aluminum, steel and even glass. While manufactured wood desks are the least expensive, this is a case of “you get what you pay for.” Also known as engineered wood, manufactured wood is cheap and highly susceptible to damage. It may look and function fine at first. But over time, desks made of engineered wood are likely to break and degrade.

#6) Chair

Choose a chair that you can comfortably work in at least 8 hours per day

So many to choose from. Which one is right for me?

In addition to a desk, your home office needs a high-quality, ergonomically designed chair. You can invest in a premium hardwood desk, but it’s going to improve your productivity unless it’s paired with the right chair.

There are dozens of different types of office chairs, each of which has its own unique characteristics. Executive office chairs, for example, feature multiple castor rollers on the bottom of a swivel base, along with armrests on the side and a solid backrest. Mesh office chairs, on the other hand, are characterized by a mesh backrest for additional airflow.

The most important thing to consider when choosing an office chair is how it supports your back. Your office chair should feature additional fabric or material on the bottom of the backrest to protect against low back pain. Many office workers suffer from low back pain because they are forced to sit in poorly designed chairs. One study found that more than one-third of office workers suffer from low back pain. In addition to taking regular breaks by standing up and stretching your legs, choosing an ergonomic office chair with lumbar support can protect you from low back pain.

#7) Privacy

Design your office with an emphasis on privacy to prevent distractions. Privacy is a critical factor to consider when designing your home office. Working from home has its perks, such as no daily commuting and the ability to prepare your own meals in the kitchen, but it also has its drawbacks. According to a survey conducted by the Endurance International Group, one out of five (21%) business owners said they are less productive when working from home because of distractions.

When working from a home office, you’ll probably encounter a variety of distractions, including the television, answering personal calls, family members, and household chores. It’s important that you design your office with an emphasis on privacy to prevent these distractions from hurting your productivity. If noise from other rooms is slowing down the pace at which you work, for example, try installing sound-absorbing panels on the wall. Also known as acoustic panels, they significantly reduce the amount of sound that passes through the wall on which they are installed. If you get distracted by the television, leave it off until you are finished working. Something as simple as closing the door to your home office can also minimize the number of work-related distractions you encounter.

#8) Size

Pay attention to the size of your home office. Pay attention to the size of your home office. Conventional wisdom should lead you to believe that you can fit more furniture and equipment into a large home office than a small one. More importantly, the size of your home office will affect your taxes. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) allows business owners and independent contractors to deduct the cost of their home office from their taxes for the year in which it was used. According to Forbes, however, most people who work from home don’t take advantage of this deduction.

As of 2018, there are two ways to deduct the cost of your home office from your taxes, both of which consider your office’s square footage. Under the simplified option – the most common method – you can deduct $5 per square foot of dedicated office space, with a maximum annual deduction of $1,500. If your home office is 125 square feet, this allows you to deduct $625 from your federal taxes. Contact a professional tax accountant to learn more about the home office deduction.

#9) Technology

Cloud technology works better with a faster internet connection.Although there are exceptions, most people who work from a home office rely on technology to perform their business’s work. If you don’t have an internet connection, for example, you won’t be able to send and receive email, conduct video conferences, research websites, access online project boards and perform other online activities.

Even if your Internet connection is reliable, a weak Wi-Fi connection may hinder your ability to work from your home office. If you experience slow or unreliable Wi-Fi in your home office, here are tips to improve your connection:

  • Place router as close as possible to your computer and other wirelessly connected devices.
  • Switch security encryption protocol of router from WEP to WPA or WPA2.
  • Install a repeater to boost your Wi-Fi signal.
  • Update your router’s firmware whenever a new version is released.
  • Reposition your router’s antennas to see which direction and placement offer the fastest speeds.
  • Avoid hanging mirrors on the wall. Mirrors reflect light as well as Wi-Fi signals, so using them in your home office may slow down your wireless connection.
  • When all else fails, plug your computer directly into your modem so that it doesn’t rely on Wi-Fi to connect to the internet.

#10) Décor

Clear off your desk! Give yourself some space.Even though this space is used for business-related purposes, your home office should still feature an attractive décor. If it’s cluttered with unused furniture, boxes of seasonal clothes and other unnecessary items, it creates a negative atmosphere that may hurt your daily productivity. Furthermore, you may be ineligible for the complete home office tax deduction if you use this space to store your personal belongings.

There’s no single “best” way to decorate a home office, but you should keep it clean and tidy. This, of course, is something that the right storage solutions can help you achieve. And remember, avoid storing personal items – clothes, furniture, toys, etc. – in your home office. This area should be decorated and designed with the sole purpose of allowing you to work in a productive and efficient manner.

Jul 272018
 

Air pollution in the office isn’t something that most business owners or their employees think about. Most people know that outdoor air, especially in populous cities, contains pollutants, but many are surprised to learn that indoor air also contains pollutants as well. While exposure to indoor air pollution may seem harmless, it can negatively affect workers’ health, mood and productivity. To prevent this from happening to your business, follow these tips to improve the air quality in your office.

Is Air Pollution in Your Office Really a Problem?

Is Air Pollution in Your Office Really a Problem? The short answer is yes. Unless you take steps to minimize airborne pollutants, your office and its workers will suffer from dirty air. And you might be surprised to learn that indoor air is typically more polluted than outdoor air. According to studies conducted by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Science Advisory Board (SAB) – a division of the EPA that focuses on scientific research – indoor air pollution is one of the top five environmental risks to public health.

Although indoor air pollution poses a myriad of problems, some of the most common include:

  • Headaches
  • Upper respiratory irritation
  • Allergy attacks
  • Weakened immune system (leaving workers susceptible to infectious illness)
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Dizziness and vertigo
  • Nausea
  • Increased risk of cancer

Control the Humidity

Control the humidity in your office with an air conditionerHigh humidity is a leading cause of indoor air pollution. Unbeknownst to many people, air is filled with moisture particles. Expressed as a percentage, humidity refers to the amount of water vapor in the air relative to what the air can hold at its current temperature. If your office has a humidity of 50%, for example, the air is half full of water.

To promote clean air in your office, you should try to maintain a humidity level of 40% to 50%. When the humidity creeps to 60% or higher, it encourages mold and mildew to grow. You may discover black mold on your office’s windows and walls. As mold develops on these surfaces, some of the spores will be released into the air where they are inhaled by workers. Use your office’s heating, ventilation and cooling (HVAC) system as well as a dehumidifier to control the humidity.

Clean Spilled Liquids

Whether it’s a soda, water bottle, cup of coffee, etc., you should clean spilled liquids in a timely manner. Allowing liquids to sit on your office’s floor contributes to mold and mildew – just like high humidity. Place paper towel dispensers and trash cans throughout your office and encourage workers to clean up spilled liquids. Spilled liquids are bound to happen, but if you clean them up, they won’t contribute to air pollution.

Decorate With Plants

Use plants in your office to clean the airPlants aren’t just decorative; they provide functional benefits for your office, including cleaner air. First, plants absorb carbon dioxide, converting it into oxygen via photosynthesis. Second, plants collect and capture pollutants like dust, bacteria and mold from the air. These effects allow plants to naturally clean indoor air.

In the late 1980s, NASA conducted a study to determine which plants offered the greatest air-purifying benefits. Known as the Clean Air Study, it found that some of the best air-purifying plants are the Dwarf date palm, acreca palm, Boston fern, English ivy, spider plant, devil’s ivy and peace lily.

According to NASA, business owners should include at least one plant for every 100 square feet of office space. If your office is 1,000 square feet, use at least 10 plants in the décor. If it’s only 500 square feet, use five plants. You can place them on desks, windowsills, tables or even the floor. Just remember to choose the right plants, such as those cited in NASA’s Clean Air Study.

Avoid Using Air Fresheners

They may smell nice, but air fresheners can add toxins and harsh chemicals to your office’s air. Surveys show that 19% of people have experienced health problems caused by air fresheners. According to WebMD, air freshener work by masking odors with synthetic fragrances, which often come from chemicals like camphor, ethanol and formaldehyde.

And don’t assume that scented candles are any better. Whether they are made of soy or wax, scented candles contain many of the same chemicals found in air fresheners. To make matters worse, however, these chemicals create new, harsher chemicals when burned. If your office smells funny, focus on improving the ventilation and eliminating the root cause of the odor rather than masking it with an air freshener or scented candle.

Vacuum Floors

Vacuum your floors regularly to remove dirt and germsCreating clear air in your office begins with vacuuming the floors. It’s not uncommon for a midsize office to have 20 to 30 workers, while larger offices can have more than 50 workers. All this traffic results in dirt, germs and debris being trekked into the office by workers’ shoes. If left unchecked, some of this debris will enter the air and contribute to pollution. You can prevent this from happening by vacuuming your office’s floors regularly. Whether you do it yourself or use a professional commercial cleaning company, vacuum your office daily to reduce airborne pollutants.

Open the Windows

Something as simple as opening the windows can improve the air quality in your office. On its website, the EPA says that opening windows improves air quality by replacing stale indoor air with fresh outdoor air. Most HVAC systems – both in homes and commercial buildings – recycle air rather than bring in fresh air from outside. As a result, airborne pollutants are unable to escape and continue to circulate. Opening windows solves this problem by allowing fresh air to enter your office and stale air to leave.

Of course, not all business owners and office managers have the luxury of opening their windows. In many commercial buildings, office windows are locked shut for safety and security purposes. Assuming you can open your windows, though, you should do so when weather permits to create cleaner air.

Replace HVAC Filter

Change your HVAC filter to help keep the air clean in your office and increase air quality

Photo: Angie’s List

The filter in your office’s HVAC system plays an important role in keeping the air clean and free of pollutants. Consisting of a fibrous square- or rectangular-shaped material, it removes particulate matter from the air so that it doesn’t recirculate back through your office. Most homes can go for 60 to 90 days without needing to change the air filter. In commercial workspaces like an office, though, you should change the filter at least once a month.

Here are some tips on choosing the right HVAC filter for your office:

  • Choose a filter in the same size as your existing filter (measured in length, width and depth).
  • Consider a high-efficiency particulate air filter (HEPA) for maximum filtration power. Under federal law, all HEPA filters sold in the United States must remove at least 99.97% of particulate substances from the air.
  • Inspect the air filter’s Minimum Efficiency Reporting Value (MERV) rating. Ranging from one to 20, it reflects the filter’s ability to remove small particulate matter. The higher the rating, the smaller the particles it will filter.
  • Check to see what the filter is made of. Most filters are made of either fiberglass or a pleated material.

HEPA filters with a high MERV rating offer the greatest protection of airborne pollutants. It’s important to note, however, that airflow may be restricted with these highly efficient filters. Because they filter more pollutants from the air, HEPA and high-MERV filters slow down the speed at which air passes through them. Choose an air filter for your office that offers strong filtration power while still allowing air to easily flow through it. It’s a good idea to tune up your HVAC system annually.

Don’t Block Vents

When furnishing your office with new desks, chairs and other furniture, you may accidentally block one or more vents. Not only will this lower the performance of your office’s HVAC system, but it also contributes to air pollution. HVAC systems feature two types of vents: supply and return. Supply vents are designed to eject newly cooled or warmed air into your office, whereas return vents draw air from your office into the HVAC system so that it can be recycled. When either of these vents are blocked, less air flows through your office, thereby causing higher levels of airborne pollutants.

Use an Air Purifier

Use an air purifier (we are partial to Rabbit Air) to clean the air in your officeNot to be confused with a humidifier, an air purifier is a device that removes toxins and pollutants from indoor air. It sucks in ambient air, at which point it removes potentially harmful pollutants before ejecting the air back into the surrounding space.

There are different types of air purifiers, the most common of which uses a filter. These filter-based purifiers clean air the same way that an HVAC filter cleans it. Other air purifiers clean air using ultraviolet (UV) light, activated carbon or thermodynamic sterilization. Regardless of which one you choose, place it in the center of your office to achieve the best results.

Choose Low-VOC Furniture

When buying furniture for your office, choose low-VOC pieces. Volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are a major source of indoor air pollution. Released as a gas from a solid or liquid product, VOCs are commonly used in finishes, adhesives and varnishes for office furniture. You can often determine if a piece of furniture has a high concentration of VOCs by smelling it. High-VOC furniture has a strong, chemical odor that’s almost nauseating, whereas low-VOC furniture has little or no odor.

The EPA says that VOC levels are two to five times higher indoors than outdoors. When workers are exposed to VOCs, they may experience adverse health effects like headache, liver damage, nausea, skin allergy, fatigue and throat irritation. Thankfully, there’s low-VOC office furniture available to minimize workers’ health risks.

Keep in mind that office furniture is just one potential source of VOCs. You may also find VOCs in paint, cleaning products, pesticide and disinfectants.

Inspect for Moisture

Moisture in the workplace is a major concern for business owners and office managers. Standing water causes higher humidity level while encouraging mold and mildew to thrive in the process. Unfortunately, water often accumulates in hidden areas like under appliances and around HVAC equipment. To keep your office’s air clean, inspect it for moisture and water.

There shouldn’t be any freestanding water in your office, so fix all leaks and condensation sources. Whether it’s clogged condensation line in your HVAC system or a leaky water supply line, don’t ignore problems such as these. Fix them as soon as possible to prevent mold from developing and minimize airborne pollution in your office.

Clean With Microfiber Cloths

Clean with microfiber cloths to remove pollutants (we love VibraWipe's)Why should you clean your office with microfiber cloths? Unlike traditional cloths, microfiber cloths are designed with fine, thin strands of fabric that catch more dust and debris. While traditional clothes are made of natural fabrics like cotton or wool, microfiber cloths are made of lab-created synthetic fabrics like polyester or nylon.

Cleaning desks, counters and other surfaces in your office with a microfiber cloth will remove more pollutants than cleaning these same surfaces with a traditional cloth. You can even invest in a microfiber mop if your office has hardwood or laminate floors. These mops contain heads designed with the same synthetic fabrics as handheld microfiber cloths, allowing for superior cleaning power.

Be Conscious of Air Quality With Your Office’s Layout

Finally, you should be conscious of your office’s layout in relation to its air quality. For example, place cubicles or workstations away from photocopiers. Studies have shown that photocopiers release high levels of particulate matter into the air. And while there’s no evidence indicating that photocopiers cause or contribute to cancer, long-term exposure to this common piece of office equipment has been shown to increase oxidative stress in human workers.

Another office design tip is to set up cubicles and workstations near windows and supply vents. Opening the windows will immediately provide nearby workers with fresh air, and turning on the air conditioner or heater will provide workers with cleaner, though not necessarily fresh, air.

Indoor air pollution is a hazard to all workers, but it’s also something that can be avoided with the right planning. Following these tips will help you create a clean, productive working environment in your office with minimal air pollution.

Jul 032018
 

The right open office design is an invaluable asset for your business. It provides employees with a productive, efficient environment in which to work while fostering a positive company culture in the process. Although there are countless ways to design an office, many businesses use an open layout for their office. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of an open office, and is right for your business?

Open Office Design Explained

Mayline Office FurnitureAn open office design is an office layout that’s characterized by the presence of large spaces with few or no partition walls or structures. In the past, offices were typically designed using cubicles, with each worker having his or her own cubicle. Now, a growing number of businesses have switched to an open design, which features one or more large open spaces rather than cubicles. The lack of walls provides a better communication method for employees and also increases teamwork by not feeling “walled in”.

Characteristics of an open office design include:

  • Large open spaces
  • Few or no enclosed spaces
  • Few or no partition walls
  • Workers can easily see each other
  • Short computer desks and furniture

History of the Open Office Design

Open Plan OfficeAlthough it just recently gained popularity in the modern-day workplace, open offices have been around for many decades. In the first half of the 20th century, open offices were designed with rows of chairs, desks and benches. In the 1950s, a German design team named Quickborner expanded on this design to develop what would eventually become the modern-day open office design. Quickborner believed that removing walls within an office would allow workers to communicate more effectively with each other, so they created a design that consisted of workgroups in large, open spaces.

The open office design didn’t exactly take off, however. In the United States, as well as in other regions, companies opted for cubicles up until the late 20th century. Around the 1990s, this methodology shifted towards the open office design. This was a pivotal time for companies, as the mobile technology was transforming the workplace. To capitalize on the trend of mobile technology in the workplace, companies began using an open office design. This allowed employees to work from any area within the office using their smartphone, tablet computer or other mobile device.

Popularity of the Open Office Design

The open office design has become incredibly popular. While the exact number remains unknown, a report published by The Washington Post suggests that 70% of all commercial office spaces in the United States use this layout. Whether it’s Google, Apple, Amazon or Netflix, countless companies now use an open office design. Given the newfound popularity for open offices, it shouldn’t come as a surprise to learn that it offers several benefits.

Pro: Easier Communication

Quickborner created the open office design because it believed that it would improve communication between workers. With traditional cubicles and individual rooms, workers are often required to walk across the office to talk with other workers. This takes time, which could be used for other, more productive tasks (we’ll get to that later). The open office design, however, allows workers to communicate more easily and efficiently. If a worker wants to ask another worker a question, he or she can typically stand up and ask it. This is important because a study published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that companies that communicate effectively generated 47% higher profits than their counterparts with poor communication skills. When workers can easily communicate with each other, they can troubleshoot problems, delegate tasks and finish projects more quickly.

Con: It’s Noisy

Open office designA common complaint shared by employees who work in an open office is that it’s distracting. Without walls or enclosed spaces, noise can travel more freely throughout the office. And considering that noise is the most commonly cited cause of inefficient work, according to a survey of more than 11,00 workers, this may deter some business owners from using an open office design.

The constant noise of computers, devices and workers talking can be distracting, but this shouldn’t prevent you from using an open layout in your office. There are ways to reduce noise in an open office, including the following:

  • Place rugs made of sound-absorbing material on the floor
  • Designate specific areas of your office as a “quiet zone”
  • Ask workers to turn down the volume on their computers and devices
  • Install acoustic ceiling panels
  • Add container plants throughout your office to further absorb sound
  • Encourage workers to keep speak softly
  • Ask workers to step outside to talk when making or receiving personal calls
  • Use a white noise machine to dampen otherwise distracting noise

Pro: Increased Wi-Fi Strength

Another advantage of using an open office design is increased Wi-Fi strength. The current generation of Wi-Fi technology loses strength as the signal goes through walls or other physical structures. Therefore, workers in traditional cubicle offices may experience slow speeds or dropped connections. This isn’t an issue with open offices. Thanks to their open nature with few or no walls, Wi-Fi signals are stronger and more reliable. If workers in your office rely on Wi-Fi to send and receive emails, share files, access databases or other information technology (IT) tasks, you should consider an open office design for this reason.

Con: No Privacy

Open office lack of privacyWorkers have little or no privacy in open offices. A study conducted in 2013, found that nearly one-third of workers in open offices aren’t happy with this layout because of its lack of privacy. With cubicles, workers have their own individual workstation that’s partially enclosed. This offers workers a private area where they aren’t being constantly watched. Open offices, on the other hand, lack this privacy.

Like noise, though, there are ways to overcome this problem and provide workers with privacy. You can place large whiteboards, for example, between desks, or you can create a collaboration space in a spare room. Alternatively, you can create a semi-open layout that features both open and enclosed spaces.

If you’re worried about lack of privacy causing dissatisfaction among workers, ask them for their input. You can valuable insight into your workers’ thoughts on an open office design simply by asking.

Pro: Higher Productivity

You may discover that workers are more productive in an open office. Granted, there’s conflicting evidence regarding the impact that open offices have on worker productivity. Some studies show that it hurts productivity, whereas others show that it increases productivity. The studies suggesting that open offices hurt productivity, however, are usually attributed to the fact that it’s noisy and, subsequently, distracting. But that’s something you can overcome by following the tips previously mentioned.

An open office design can actually make workers more productive in several ways. First, workers can communicate more easily. Second, improved Wi-Fi strength means fewer IT problems. Third, open offices are easy to navigate, allowing workers to quickly traverse the workplace.

Con: Fewer Design Options

Open office design optionsYou’ll have fewer design options with an open layout. This doesn’t necessarily mean that you can’t create a unique, custom design that accurately reflects your business’s culture. Rather, you must choose the right furniture and decorative accessories. Avoid generic, low-quality furniture and accessories that offer no real aesthetic value. Instead, design your open office with high-quality chairs, desks, tables and other items.

Another way to improve the aesthetics of your open office is to paint the walls in a bold, attractive color. Blue and green are both popular choices for office designs. Blue is said to spark creativity and imagination, whereas green sparks productivity and balance. You can use other colors in your office’s design, but green and blue are excellent choices because of their psychological impact.

Pro: Lower Cost

Open offices typically cost less to designOpen offices typically cost less to design than traditional offices with cubicles and enclosed rooms. According to Study.com, open offices cost about 20% less than their traditional counterparts. How are they cheaper exactly? Well, open offices are characterized by their minimalistic approach with fewer, smaller pieces of furniture, so you’ll spend less money on furniture when creating them.

Aside from a cheaper initial cost, you’ll also save money on heating and cooling expenses with an open office design. With a traditional office design, the heating, ventilation and cooling system (HVAC) may struggle to provide heated or cooled air to each workers’ cubicle. This means a higher monthly electric bill and increased overhead for your business. An open layout can lower your business’s monthly electric bill by allowing heated and cooled air to flow more freely through your office.

Furthermore, open offices are easier to maintain than a traditional office. You don’t have to worry about dusting and cleaning partition walls, thereby saving you money on cleaning products and labor. Of course, you should still clean the furniture in your open office, but you’ll probably find that it’s easier and cheaper to clean because of its simplistic nature.

Con: Germs

A potential disadvantage of open offices that’s often overlooked is germ exposure. It’s not something that most workers want to think about, but offices are riddled with germs. Some sources claim that the average desk has 400 times more germs than a toilet seat. Whether it’s a desk, phone, computer keyboard or coffee mug, though, germs are everywhere in the office. And with an open layout, workers are more likely to be exposed to these germs. Unfortunately, this means increased rates of worker illness.

Statistics show that lost productivity from worker illness costs businesses roughly $227 billion each year. When workers are sick, they’ll either call out or try to make it through the day. When a worker calls out, you must find a temporary replacement to cover his or her shift. When a sick worker continues working, he or she probably won’t be very productive. Either way, worker illness can hurt your business’s finances.

If you’re going to use an open office design, take measures to minimize the transmission of germs. Placing hand sanitizer throughout your office will allow workers to easily clean their hands. Also known as hand antiseptic, it kills infection-causing germs on contact. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), alcohol-based hand sanitizer is one of the safest and more effective ways to control the risk of transmission.

You can also reduce the risk of transmissible illness in an open office by cleaning dirty surfaces on a regular basis. Things like elevator buttons, phones, doorknobs and vending machine buttons all commonly rank as the dirtiest surfaces in the office. Cleaning them on regular basis, however, will neutralize infection-causing germs and protect workers from illness.

Pro: More Natural Light

Open offices provide more natural lightFinally, an open layout will increase the amount of natural light in your office. When interior walls are removed, natural light will illuminate your office more effectively. You can pull open the blinds, for instance, so that sunlight will beam through the windows and illuminate your entire office. As sunlight shines through the windows, it’s able to project throughout your entire office thanks to the fundamental design of open offices.

Workers will appreciate the natural light offered by an open office design. Exposure to natural light boosts cognitive function, lowers stress levels and promotes healthy sleeping habits. To take advantage of these benefits, consider an open office design with your window blinds and curtains open.

The Bottom Line on Open Office Designs

Used by roughly seven in 10 businesses, the open office design isn’t going to fade anytime soon. As businesses continue to acknowledge its benefits, it will likely grow even more popular in the years to come. It’s a versatile design that offers a myriad of benefits.

Before switching to an open design in your office, you should consider its advantages and disadvantages. An open office design offers improved worker communications, improved productivity, better Wi-Fi, more natural sunlight, and cost-savings benefits. On the other hand, some workers complain about noise, lack of privacy and germs in open offices. If you’re on the fence and can’t decide if it’s right for your business, try gradually acclimating to an open layout. If you experience negative results, you can easily revert your office back to its previous layout.

May 312018
 

make your office more energy efficientAre you tired of paying an outrageous amount for your business’s monthly electric bills? Electricity is one of the biggest overhead expenses for businesses that operate in an office. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), U.S. businesses spend an average of $654.98 per month for electricity, with businesses in Washington D.C. spending the most at a staggering $3,152.26 per month.

Electricity isn’t just a luxury for modern businesses; it’s a necessity. And while there’s no practical way to eliminate your business’s monthly electric bills, you can lower it by making your office more energy efficient. Upgrading your office with energy-efficient technology and adopting energy-saving habits will reduce your business’s environmental footprint while saving you money on electricity costs in the process.

Tune Up HVAC System Annually

A heating, ventilation and cooling system (HVAC) is essential for creating a cool, comfortable and productive working environment in your office, but it’s also the biggest source of consumed energy. Statistics show that about one-quarter of a commercial building’s monthly energy usage goes towards its HVAC system. Having your office’s HVAC system tuned up at least once a year can improve its performance and efficiency.

During a typical tune up, an HVAC technician will clean the condenser coils, check refrigerant levels, replace the air filter, inspect fan blades, inspect electrical connections, test and calibrate the thermostat, inspect return vents and more. The purpose of an HVAC tune is to catch problems early, before they progress into bigger, more costly problems that leave you with an expensive electric bill.

Set the Thermostat

Adjusting the thermostat in your office can also save money on heating and cooling. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) recommends an indoor climate of 68 to 76 degrees Fahrenheit and a humidity level of 20% to 60%. Therefore, you should set your thermostat for somewhere within this temperature range for your business’s hours of operations. You can save energy, however, by adjusting the thermostat – setting it higher in the summer or lower in the winter – at night when your office is unoccupied. If no one is in your office past 7:00 p.m., blasting the air conditioner or heater will only waste energy without offering any real benefits.

Turn Off Computers at the End of the Day

Turn Off Computers at the End of the Day

Many office workers neglect to turn off their computer at the end of the day. Rather, they allow it to enter sleep or hibernation mode. Both sleep and hibernation mode still consume power, however, so you should encourage workers to turn off their computer and monitor before leaving the office. You can even plug workers’ computers into a power strip, allowing you to easily turn off all connected computers by flipping a switch on the strip.

So, how much money will you save by turning off computers in your office? It varies depending on the number of computers, what they are used for, how long they are used and other factors. But a study published by US News found that businesses with 10,000 desktop computers in their office waste $260,000 in energy from idling (computer is turned on, but no one is using them). While you probably won’t save one-quarter of a million dollars, it can still make a noticeable difference in your business’s monthly electric bills.

Move IT Infrastructure to the Cloud

Move your IT infrastructure to the cloud.

If your office currently houses data servers or other information technology (IT) equipment, consider moving it to the cloud. According to a study conducted by McKinsey Co. and Gartner, up to 90% of the energy consumed by data servers is wasted. When data servers are stored locally in your office, you must power them. And being that they are power-hungry devices, the costs can quickly add up. Furthermore, locally stored data centers require onsite maintenance. If something goes awry with a server, you must send an IT technician to fix, also adding to the total cost.

You can lower the cost of your business’s IT infrastructure by moving it to the cloud. Whether you choose Microsoft Azure, Amazon Web Services (AWS), IBM, Google Cloud Platform or Oracle, cloud services eliminate the need for local IT equipment. You simply purchase the type and amount of IT resources that your business needs from a cloud service provider (CSP) over the internet. The resources are accessed online, thus eliminating the need for local, on-premise IT equipment.

Replace Incandescent Bulbs With LEDs or CFLs

Replace Incandescent Bulbs With LEDsOne of the easiest ways to make your office more energy efficient is to replace incandescent light bulbs with light-emitting diodes (LEDs) or compact fluorescent lighting (CFLs). Because they are the cheapest, many business owners choose incandescent bulbs to illuminate their office. But incandescent bulbs cost more over time because of their short lifespan and high energy consumption properties.

An incandescent light bulb will last for about 1,200 hours while consuming 60 watts of electricity. In comparison, a CFL bulb will last for 8,000 hours while consuming just 15 watts of electricity. LEDs are the most efficient, as they consume just 7 watts of electricity and last for up to 50,000 hours. Replacing incandescent bulbs with either LEDs or CFLs is a great way to save energy in your office.

If you’re going to use CFLs in your office, though, you should instruct workers not to throw blown CFLs in the trash. Unlike incandescent bulbs and LEDs, CFLs contain toxic mercury. If disposed in the trash, this mercury vapor could be released into the environment. Contact a local hazardous waste disposal center for instructions on how to dispose of blown CFLs.

Use Smart Lighting

In addition to replacing incandescent bulbs with LEDs or CFLs, you can also save energy in your office by using smart lighting. These systems automatically control lighting by turning on fixtures when workers are present and turning them off when workers are not present. Known as occupancy detection, it’s intended to create a more energy-efficient environment, either in a workplace or home.

Many workers neglect to turn off lights before leaving their room, cubicle or space. Over time, the cost of this wasted energy will add up, resulting in higher monthly electric bills. With a smart lighting solution, however, this isn’t a problem. The lights in your office will turn off automatically when no one is around to save energy and, subsequently, money.

Upgrade to ENERGY STAR Appliances and Equipment

Upgrade to ENERGY STAR Appliances and EquipmentAppliances and equipment featuring the ENERGY STAR logo are designed with stringent specifications to reduce energy consumption. Product manufacturers must adhere to the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) and Department of Energy’s (DOE’s) requirements to receive this accolade. If a product fails to meet the necessary criteria, the manufacturer can’t display the ENEGY STAR logo on it. By choosing ENERGY STAR appliances and equipment for your office, you can significantly reduce your business’s energy usage.

Here are a few different types of ENERGY STAR-certified products for the office:

  • Computers
  • Monitors
  • TVs
  • Printers
  • Copiers
  • Routers
  • VOIP phones
  • Data servers
  • Uninterruptible power supplies
  • Refrigerators
  • Dishwashers
  • Ovens
  • Dehumidifiers
  • Vending machines
  • Water coolers

Many manufacturers also offer rebates on the purchase of their ENERGY STAR products. Before buying a new product for your office, use this online tool to see if there’s a rebate available. This can help offset the cost of new energy-efficient appliances and equipment for your office.

Control the Curtains

Curtains are more than just an aesthetic feature of your office; they affect your office’s climate and energy usage. According to the DOE, pulling window curtains closed during the summer days reduces heat gains by up to 33% and pulling them closed during the winter reduces heat loss by up to 10%.

Not all curtains offer the same energy-efficient benefits, so it’s important to choose the right type for your office. Insulated curtains offer the greatest benefit because of their thermal-resistant properties that minimizes the transfer of heat.

Cut Back on Printing

Cutting back on the amount of paper that you print can save energy in your office. According to Record Nations, the average office worker prints 10,000 pages of paper each year, nearly half of which ends up in the trash at the end of the day. Each page of paper requires energy to print, and printing tens of thousands of pages can leave your business with a hefty electric bill. So, encourage workers to make smarter printing decisions by printing only the pages that they absolutely need.

You can also cut back on printing by switching to digital media. Rather than printing letters to send customers or clients, for example, you can send emails. You can even design the emails to look just like an actual letter.

Fix Thermal Leaks

Thermal leaks in your office can cost your business big bucks. If your office isn’t sealed, warmed or cooled air will escape, forcing your HVAC system to consume more power as it tries to achieve the target temperature set in the thermostat. Whether you do it yourself or hire an HVAC technician, you should inspect your office for thermal leaks.

Common sources of thermal leaks in office buildings include the following:

  • Missing or damaged weatherstripping around doors and windows
  • Open doors or windows
  • Holes in ductwork
  • Poorly insulated attic or roof

Set Equipment to Low-Power Mode

Check the settings of your computers, printers, copiers and other equipment to see if they have a low-power or energy-saver mode. Many devices now feature modes such as these to help users save energy.  Low-power and energy-saver modes generally work by reducing the device’s performance so that it requires less power to operate. Windows laptops, for instance, will automatically switch to energy-saver mode when the battery is low, but you can adjust the settings so that it’s always on.

You may have to sacrifice some speed and performance when using low-power or energy-saver mode. Assuming you have relatively new, professional-grade equipment, though, it shouldn’t have a significant impact on your business’s operations.

Use Stairs Instead of Elevator

Taking the elevator to reach your office is certainly faster and easier than climbing the stairs, but it also consumes energy. According to Great Forest, elevators consume about 2.5 watt-hour (Wh) of energy for every floor they travel. If you need to go up five floors, that’s 12.5 Wh of energy. The only energy that climbing stairs consumes is your body’s own energy, making it a smart choice for energy-conscious business owners and workers.

Aside from saving energy, taking the stairs is also good for your health. It’s a form of aerobic exercise that stimulates the heart and lungs. Some studies have even found that people who climb stairs daily have a lower risk of heart disease than their counterparts who never or rarely climb stairs.

Beware of Vampire Devices

What are vampire devices, and how can they affect energy usage in your office? A vampire device is any device that constantly consumes electricity. A common example is a phone or tablet computer charger. When plugged into the wall, these chargers will continue to draw power, even if they aren’t connected to a device. Other vampire devices include radios, clocks, monitors, phones, answering machines, security systems, TVs and cable boxes. Unplugging or using a power strip to turn off vampire devices can reduce energy usage in your office.

Install a Solar Power System

Install solar panels similar to OFM, Inc's headquarters in North Carolina.If you’re willing to make the investment, installing a solar power system can reduce your business’s need for grid-supplied power. It won’t necessarily make your office more energy efficient, but it will lower your business’s electric bill by powering your office with clean, renewable solar power. With a solar power system installed atop of your office building’s roof, it will convert sunlight into electricity for use in your office.

A solar power system isn’t an option for all businesses. If your business operates in a high-rise commercial building with dozens of other businesses, you may not have the authority to install solar panels on the roof or surrounding property. But if you do have this authority, a solar power system is a smart investment for your business.

Don’t let the high cost of electricity hurt your business’s finances. Follow these tips to create an energy-efficient office. Be sure to check out our tips on how to Go Green in your office as well.

May 082018
 

The office is the primary workplace for more than 3 million Americans, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). While working in an office offers certain advantages – a comfortable climate, less physical labor, increased satisfaction, fewer distractions, etc. – it also has some disadvantages, such as the potential for office syndrome. It’s important for office workers and employers alike to familiarize themselves with this condition so that they can foster a healthy workplace.

What Is Office Syndrome?

Uncomfortable office chairs cause office syndromeOffice syndrome is a collective term that refers to physical injuries and health problems attributed to working in an office. The average office worker sits for roughly 10 hours a day, making them susceptible to injuries affecting the muscles, tendons, nerves, spine and more. A worker who doesn’t take regular breaks to stretch, for instance, may experience lower back pain at the end of his or her shift – a tell-tale sign of office syndrome.

According to Mission Health Promotion Center, up to 70% of all office workers suffer from office syndrome to some degree. Keep in mind, however, that office syndrome isn’t a single disease or medical condition but, rather, it’s a collection of them.

#1) The 20-20-20 Rule

Office workers should follow the 20-20-20 rule to protect against eyestrain, headaches and related conditions when using a computer for long periods of time. Every 20 minutes, workers should take a 20-second break to look at something 20 feet away.

The good news is that rates of computer-related eyestrain have decreased since the advent of liquid-crystal display (LCD) and light-emitting diode (LED) monitors. In the past, office workers were forced to use cathode ray tube (CRT) monitors, which often created flickering images that promoted eyestrain. Even with the newer LCD and LED monitors, though, eyestrain is still a common medical condition from which millions of officer workers suffer. By following the 20-20-20 rule, office workers can rest and protect their eyes from strain.

#2) Document Holder

3M Computer Monitor ClipLooking back and forth between a computer monitor and a document on a desk can strain an office worker’s neck. If a worker needs to type a paper document into a computer, it can cause severe neck pain if proper measures aren’t taken. Thankfully, a document holder offers a simple and effective solution. The 3M Mount Document Clip, for example, connects directly to the side of a computer monitor, allowing workers to see both the monitor and the document without bending their neck. The clip supports up to 30 pages and is compatible with most monitors, including CRTs, LCDs and LEDs.

#3) Anti-Glare Filter

In addition to a document holder, office workers should also consider installing an anti-glare filter on their computer monitor. Consisting of a thin sheet of plastic with an anti-glare coating, it’s designed to reduce light glare and protect against eyestrain. Anti-glare filters live up to their namesake by filtering glare from computer monitors. The filter is attached directly over the monitor’s display, at which point it restricts the amount of light that passes through.

Anti-glare filters offer another benefit: privacy protection. Once installed, they reduce visibility from the side, meaning other people can’t see what’s on the screen unless they are directly in front of the monitor. For office workers in the healthcare, accounting, insurance or other sensitive industries, this alone is reason enough to use one.

#4) Wrist Stretches

Eyestrain isn’t the only problem associated with working in front of a computer for long hours. Perhaps an even more common health problem is carpal tunnel syndrome. Statistics show that 5% of all U.S. adults suffer from this condition. For office workers, the rate is even higher. Carpal tunnel syndrome is characterized by compression of the median nerve in the wrist, resulting in symptoms such as wrist pain, numbness, tingling and limited range of motion. Although there are surgical options available to treat carpal tunnel syndrome, office workers should protect themselves from this common medical condition by performing wrist stretches.

Here are some wrist stretches to protect against carpal tunnel syndrome and other repetitive strain injuries (RSIs) of the wrists:

  • Lift hands into the air and gently roll in opposite directions for two or three minutes
  • Place hands in front of body, interlock fingers together and push out – like you are popping your knuckles
  • Place hands by side and bend wrists while pulling up on fingers, holding for 20 to 30 seconds and then repeating
  • Lift hands into the air, ball fingers into a fist and squeeze, repeating this process five times
  • Perform finger stretches by gently pulling back on each finger

#5) Sit Right

Sit with proper posture in your office chair.

Proper Posture Matters

With the average office worker sitting for 10 hours a day, it’s important that workers sit in a proper position to minimize stress, strain, and fatigue. Sitting with legs crossed, for example, causes one leg to apply weight to the other, resulting in uneven distribution of the worker’s body weight across his or her spine. And sitting slouched forward or hunched back causes similar spine problems.

To protect against spine problems, office workers should sit in the center of their office chair with both feet planted firmly on the floor, maintaining natural alignment of their spine. Whether a worker sits for one hour or 10, this position will minimize pressure on the spine and promote a healthy musculoskeletal system.

#6) Ergonomic Chair

An ergonomic chair with lumbar support.Even if an office worker sits correctly, though, he or she may still experience back pain or other problems unless they have an ergonomically designed chair. Many offices feature old, outdated chairs that lack the proper specifications needed for healthy use. If a chair doesn’t feature lumbar support, sitting will strain the worker’s lower back. Without lumbar support, there’s nothing to “hold” the worker’s lower back, thus stressing the muscles and tendons. And considering that back pain is the leading cause of worker disability, this is something that office workers probably want to avoid.

Ergonomic office chairs are designed specifically to minimize stress and strain on the body, including the spine. Although there are dozens of types of ergonomic office chairs, most feature lumbar support, an adjustable height, a swivel mechanism, adjustable armrests and a firm but comfortable seat cushion. In comparison, many other office chairs lack these features, increasing stress and strain on workers’ bodies.

While buying a new chair for each worker can be expensive, it’s a smart investment for employers and office managers. It promotes a healthier working environment while reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in the process.

#7) Take the Stairs

Take the stairs for extra exercise.When given the option of climbing stairs or taking the elevator to their workplace, office workers should consider the former. Climbing stairs is an excellent form of aerobic exercise that burns calories and fat. Research has even shown that people who climb stains on a regular basis have improved lung capacity, lower cholesterol and blood pressure levels, and healthier weights than their counterparts.

And contrary to what some workers may believe, taking the elevator isn’t always faster than climbing stairs. A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal found that workers who climbed stairs reached their workplace more quickly, on average than those who took the elevator. When a worker uses the elevator, he or she must wait for it to arrive and wait for people to get on or get off at other floors.

#8) Create an Ergonomic Workstation

Creating an ergonomic workstation can make a world of difference in an office worker’s physical health. Computer monitors, for example, should be positioned so that the top is about the same level as the worker’s eyes. If it’s higher or lower, the worker will experience eyestrain when viewing the monitor. Computer workstations should also feature a desk with a slide-out tray for the keyboard and mouse. This allows workers to type and move the mouse more naturally.

Furthermore, an ergonomic workstation requires proper lighting. This doesn’t necessarily mean that bright light is better, though. When a workstation is overly illuminated, it may create a blinding glare that hurts workers’ eyes. Ideally, there should be enough light so that workers can easily see what they are doing without the presence of blinding glare.

#9) Open Layout

An open office plan layoutThere’s some belief that an open layout can reduce the risk of office syndrome. Offices with an open layout feature large, open spaces with few or no enclosed areas. The concept has been around since the 1950s, during which it was used by companies in Germany to promote higher productivity levels. By breaking down otherwise restrictive walls, an open layout encourages workers to communicate and collaborate, which often has a positive impact on productivity levels.

An open office may also encourage workers to move around. Without walls, or with few walls, workers are more likely to walk around in the office rather than staying cooped up inside their respective workstation.

Not all companies will benefit from an open layout in their office, however. Although it’s been shown to increase productivity and promote a healthier working environment, an open layout increases background noise. The lack of walls means noise is transmitted more freely throughout the office, which may distract some workers from performing their tasks. Before implementing an open layout in your office, consider the advantages and disadvantages and whether it’s right for your company.

#10) Eat Right

Eating right boosts your immune systemNutrition will directly affect a worker’s health as well as his or her susceptibility to office syndrome. We live in a fast-paced society that’s demanding for office workers. Many workers have deadlines they must meet, forcing them to work hard and fast while taking short lunch breaks. Because of this, it’s not uncommon for office workers to pick up fast food or a snack from the vending machine. Convenience foods such as this can satisfy hunger cravings, but it doesn’t offer any real nutritional value.

Office workers should consider preparing and bringing their own meals from home. A homemade meal consisting of lean meat with fresh fruits and vegetables is a smarter, healthier choice than fast food. And, in many cases, it’s also cheaper than eating out all five days of the workweek.

#11) Exercise Outside the Office

Exercise and health go hand in hand. Unfortunately, many office workers, especially those who work 50 or more hours a week, don’t get enough exercise. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) latest report states that only half of all adults meet its Physical Activity Guidelines.

Working in an office is, surprisingly, physically exhaustive. When a worker finally gets home after a long day in the office, he or she may lack the energy to exercise. This type of sedentary lifestyle can take a toll on workers’ health, contributing to diseases like obesity, diabetes and heart disease, as well as MSDs like back pain and muscle sprains.

If this sounds familiar, check to see if there’s a gym available in your office building. Many commercial office buildings have gyms that workers can access for free. If your building doesn’t have one, there’s probably a gym located nearby, which you can visit during your breaks.

#12) Get Sleep

Get a good night's sleep for your healthFinally, office workers should reevaluate their sleeping habits to ensure that they are getting at least seven or eight hours of high-quality sleep each night. Statistics show that more than one-third of Americans suffer from a sleep disorder. But sleep is essential for a healthy musculoskeletal system. Office workers who don’t get enough sleep, or enough high-quality sleep, are more likely to develop MSDs and other bodily injuries.

The key to a good night’s rest is to follow a schedule in which you go to sleep and wake up at the same time each day. Whether it’s a workday or the weekend, you should maintain a consistent sleep schedule. As your body becomes accustomed to this routine, you’ll find that it’s easier to fall asleep and stay asleep.

Don’t let office syndrome hurt your health. Follow the 12 tips listed here to promote a healthy working environment and lower your risk of disease and injury.