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.

Apr 042019
 

Many business owners overlook the importance of having a break room in their office, believing that it’s an unnecessary expense that doesn’t improve or otherwise benefit their business. While workers typically don’t perform job-related tasks in a break room, this space can still have a positive impact on their performance.

According to a study cited by Forbes, workers who take regular breaks are more productive and less stressed than their counterparts who rarely take breaks. Breaks allow workers to rest and reset themselves mentally so that they can return to their job with more energy and focus. As a business owner, you can take advantage of these benefits by creating a breakroom in your office. Below are 12 practical tips on how to design an office breakroom that workers are sure to appreciate.

#1) Include Trash Cans and Recycling Bins

Add recycling cans to your office break room

Depending on the size of your break room – and the number of workers whom your business employs – include one or two trash cans as well as recycling bins for aluminum, plastic, and paper. Waste will naturally accumulate when workers use this area to prepare and eat food. You can keep this waste to a minimum, however, by setting up recycling bins for the materials previously mentioned alongside the trash can or cans.

A report published by The Green Team suggests that a single recycled aluminum can enough energy to power a computer for three hours. When you consider how many aluminum cans office workers go through in a typical day, it really adds up. Of course, that doesn’t account for plastic and paper packaging materials, both of which can be recycled as well.

#2) Set Up Dining Area

Office dining areaCreate a dedicated dining area in your break room where workers can enjoy their snacks and meals. There are a few ways to do this, one of which is to add a single large conference table. Alternatively, you can set up several small dining tables in your break room.

Dining tables are usually preferred because they are designed to withstand spilled liquids, allowing you to get more use out of them. However, there are plenty of high-end conference tables that can last just as long if not longer than dining tables. Regardless, you need to set up a functional dining area in your office break room.

#3) Offer Complimentary Coffee

StatisticsOffer complimentary coffee to your employees show that fewer than half of all U.S. businesses that operate out of an office offer complimentary coffee to their workers. Purchasing coffee for all your business’s workers costs money, but you should consider the positive impact it has on workers’ performance.

More than 80% of Americans drink coffee daily. For office workers, this number of even higher. And drinking coffee has become a morning ritual for countless office workers, many of whom rely on caffeinated beverages as a source of energy. If you don’t offer complimentary coffee, some workers won’t be able to enjoy this productivity-boosting beverage – not unless they bring their own coffee, at least.

Here are some tips on how to set a coffee station in your office break room:

  • Choose a single-serve coffee maker, such as a Keurig.
  • Place the coffee maker next to the sink.
  • If your coffee maker uses filters, keep filters nearby as well.
  • Offer a variety of coffee flavors.
  • Add condiments to a drawer or caddy, including sugar, sugar substitutes – Stevia, Truvia, Splenda, Sweet & Low, etc. – cream and half and half.
  • Provide workers with disposable foam cups with lips and stirs.
  • Print and laminate a sheet of instructions on how to use the coffee maker.

#4) Design With the Right Colors

Design with the right colors to improve moodThe colors in which your office break room is designed will affect more than just the aesthetics of this space; it will affect the mood and atmosphere. Gray, for example, is a neutral color that creates a depressing mood, making it a poor choice for a break room. Orange, on the other hand, represents warmth and energy, making it ideal for this space.

You can still include other colors in your break room’s design, but try to focus on bright, bold colors to create an uplifting and energetic atmosphere that reflects positively on workers’ performance. Blue, red, yellow and light green are all excellent colors that can help you set the right mood in your office break room. To include more of these colors in your break room, consider painting the walls, decorating with throw pillows, adding container plants and displaying colorful artwork.

#5) Make It Private

Make your break room private and free from other office noiseThe fundamental purpose of a break room is to provide workers with a quiet and peaceful area to retreat from the conventional hectic office environment. This is only possible, however, if the break room is private. Designing an open break room without walls or doors prevents workers from using this space to its full advantage. Workers can still eat and lounge in an open break room, but they won’t be able to make personal phone calls or converse amongst themselves.

For increased privacy, designate an enclosed room as the break room rather than simply using open space in the middle of your office. You can go one step further by installing sound-absorption panels on the walls of your break room. Also known as acoustic panels, they live up to their namesake by absorbing sound vibrations to create a quieter and more private space for workers.

#6) Provide Access to Electrical Outlets

Workers will probably want to recharge their smartphones and other devices while using your office break room. Unfortunately, this isn’t always possible. If your break room only has a few outlets, you may have to use those outlets to power appliances like the coffee maker. So, how can you provide workers with access to more electrical outlets in your break room?

First, check to make sure that none of the outlets in your break room are covered or obstructed. If you find an unused outlet tucked behind a dining table or counter, either reposition the furniture that’s blocking it or install an extension cord so that workers can access it. With that said, you shouldn’t run extension cables across the floor. Aside from looking tacky, it poses a safety risk to workers, who could trip and fall while trying to walk over an extension cord.

Second, use outlet splitters to turn a single outlet into multiple outlets. A splitter is a small electrical device that plugs into an outlet to provide additional outlets. Even if there are only two outlets in your office break room, you can turn them into four or six outlets using splitters. Choose plug-in outlet splitters rather than power strips and other corded splitters to eliminate the risk of trip-and-fall accidents.

#7) Add Entertainment

google office decor

Aquariums and bathtubs are Google Munich’s idea of relaxing office decór for the break room.

Don’t forget to add entertainment to your office room. Some of the most successful Silicon Valley companies, including Google and Apple, use this tactic to improve their workers’ morale and increase productivity. Entertainment allows workers to enjoy their break rather than simply sitting around while waiting to return to their job, so it naturally improves their morale.

Here are some entertainment ideas to consider for your office break room:

  • TV
  • Video games
  • Interactive whiteboard
  • Playing cards
  • Billiards
  • Magazines
  • Foosball table
  • Ping pong
  • Board games

According to Inc.com, adding entertainment to a break room offers another benefit besides improved worker morale: stronger teamwork skills. Workers can get together to play team-based games, such as ping pong, that encourage them to work together. As workers build stronger teamwork skills in the break room, it may carry over to their work performance.

#8) Install a Refrigerator

a fridge is a must have for an office break roomNo office break room without a refrigerator. Without this otherwise common kitchen appliance, workers won’t be able to keep their foods and beverage cool. While you can always invest in a full-sized refrigerator for your break room, this usually isn’t necessary. For most office break rooms, a compact refrigerator will suffice. Compact refrigerators are about half the size, so they don’t take up much space. Also, because of their smaller size, compact refrigerators usually cost less than their full-sized counterparts.

You can also stock your break room refrigerator with fresh fruits and vegetables. According to a survey conducted by the office supply store Staples, 57% of office workers prefer healthier foods such as these, whereas only 10% prefer empty-calorie foods like potato chips and candy bars.

#9) Include a Variety of Seating Options

Design your office break room with a variety of seating options to improve its functionality. You can use traditional dining chairs around the dining tables, for example. Available in metal, wood, composite wood, and plastic materials, dining chairs are perfect for an office break room. They feature a sturdy, upright design that allows workers to comfortably eat or drink while on break.

But not all workers use break rooms to eat, which is why it’s recommended that you can include other seating options in your office break room. In addition to dining chairs, design your break room with more-relaxing seating options like sofas, chaise lounges or even recliners.

#10) Don’t Cover the Windows

Everybody loves sunlight!

Everybody loves sunlight! Let it in.

Avoid covering the windows of your office break room with curtains or blinds. You can use curtains or blinds, but you should leave them pulled back or open so that sunlight can shine in through the windows.

Allowing sunlight light to enter and illuminate your office break room is beneficial for several reasons. According to Psychology Today, office workers who are exposed to sunlight through a window are more productive than their counterparts who are forced to sit in windowless spaces all day. It’s believed that exposure to sunlight helps regulate office workers’ circadian rhythm, thereby improving their quality of sleep and, in turn, their productivity levels.

Sunlight also promotes a more energy-efficient break room by reducing or eliminating the need for artificial lighting. The biggest energy expense in modern offices is heating, ventilation, and cooling (HVAC), which accounts for more than half of all energy spent to power a typical office. But statistics show that about 16% of all energy used in offices involves lighting. By pulling back the curtains and opening the blinds in your break room, you won’t need as much artificial lighting, allowing you to save money on your business’s energy expenses.

#11) Create and Display Rules

Designing an office break room is only half the battle. Once set up, you must clean and maintain it. To make this process a little easier, create and display rules that workers must follow when using the break room.

Common rules for office break rooms include:

  • No loud music.
  • Label all personal food and beverages stored in the break room.
  • Don’t take food or beverages that isn’t yours.
  • Discard trash in the trash can and recyclables in the respective recycling bin.
  • If you take the last cup of coffee, brew a new pot.
  • Keep appliances clean.
  • Don’t adjust the temperature or humidity settings of the refrigerator.
  • Fully close refrigerator door after opening.
  • Don’t store uncovered food in the refrigerator.
  • Wash hands with soap and water before returning to work.
  • Clean dishes after using them.
  • Don’t heat (or eat) food with an overwhelming smell.

#12) Ask Workers for Input and Suggestions

Like other areas in your office, you may need to design your break room to improve its aesthetics or functionality. To identify ways that your break room can be improved, ask workers for input and suggestions. You can ask them in person, via email or a suggestions box. The latter is particularly useful because it allows workers to leave suggestions anonymously. Just place a box labeled “Break Room Suggestions” somewhere in your break room and include some slips of paper on which workers can write their suggestions.

After acquiring feedback from workers, identify the most requested features and consider them adding them to your office break room. If a significant number of workers requested a sofa, for instance, update your break room with a sofa. If they requested a foosball table, add a foosball table. By updating your break room with worker-requested features, you’ll create a more pleasing and enjoyable space in which workers can relax.

Feb 202019
 

It’s not uncommon for businesses to relocate their office to a different area. According to a survey of 170 upper-level corporate executives cited by Priceonomics, nearly half of respondents moved their business once in the past decade, and 21 percent had moved their business twice in the past decade.

While businesses move their office for a variety of reasons – to accommodate growth, streamline operations, be closer to their target audience, or their current office lease is expiring – it’s a tedious and often stressful process. Moreover, when poorly executed, it can create a hectic and chaotic working environment that hinders a business’s productivity, resulting in lower profits. This shouldn’t discourage you from attempting to move your office, however. By planning ahead, you can transfer all the equipment, furniture and resources in your current office to a new location while avoiding the headaches that typically come with an office relocation.

Create a Moving Plan

think, plan, act - increase office productivityAbout 10 months to one year before you intend to move, create a moving plan. A moving plan is an invaluable tool for moving an office. This document provides essential information about the move that you and your business’s workers can use to facilitate your office’s relocation.

When creating a moving plan, be sure to include the following information:

  • Address of your new office
  • Directions to your new office from your current office
  • Designated moving coordinator (who’s in charge of overseeing the relocation)
  • Moving dates and times
  • Expected downtime for business
  • Worker responsibilities
  • Layout of current office as well as new office
  • Reasons for moving

Stockpile Cardboard Boxes

Stockpile cardboard boxesYou can never have too many cardboard boxes when moving your office. According to some sources, it takes about 23 boxes to pack a single room. If your office has a half-dozen rooms, that’s 138 boxes. You may need even more boxes if your office has lots of equipment-filled cubicles. To prepare for your office’s upcoming relocation, start stockpiling boxes now.

Most post offices, package courier stores, self-storage stores, office supply stores, and even major household retailers like Walmart and Target sell cardboard boxes. Depending on the size, you can expect to pay anywhere from 50 cents to $5 per box. The good news is that you can claim the cost of boxes, as well as other supplies and services directly used to move your office, as a tax deduction. You’ll still have to pay for the boxes, but this will lower the amount of taxes your business owes for the year in which you purchased them. Just remember to save your receipts for your business’s accounting department.

If you’re trying to save money and want to minimize the cost of moving your office, you may be able to find boxes for free. Grocery stores, for example, typically receive shipments in large boxes, which they break down at the end of the day for recycling. Some grocery stores will gladly give you their boxes, however, so that they don’t have to worry about recycling them. Don’t just call and ask a grocery store if it has any free boxes. Rather, visit the grocery store in person to ask a manager. You’ll have a better shot at scoring free boxes if you ask in person instead of over the phone.

Craigslist is perhaps the place to find free boxes for your office’s relocation. There are typically dozens of listings for free boxes in most major U.S. cities. Whether your business is located on the East Coast, West Coast or somewhere in between, you can probably find free boxes on Craigslist.

Purchase Packing Supplies

Cardboard boxes are important when moving your office, but there are packing supplies you’ll need for this project, including the following:

  • Tape (either shipping tape, filament tape or masking tape)
  • Bubble wrap
  • Foam packing peanuts
  • Packing paper
  • Plastic wrap
  • Scissors
  • Markers
  • Box cutters
  • Trash bags
  • Blankets
  • Felt furniture pads

These packing supplies are sold at many of the same stores that sell boxes.

Pack and Label Office Equipment

cluttered desk drawerWith boxes and supplies in hand, you can begin packing your office equipment. There’s no secret formula for packing office equipment. Just go through your office and begin placing items in boxes. From files and books to staplers, pencils, artwork and more, everything must be packaged before the moving day.

Be conscious of how much items weigh when packing them into boxes. Boxes, even when made of heavy-duty corrugated cardboard, can only support so much weight. If you stuff a box with more weight than it can handle, the bottom may fall out while you or someone else is carrying it, sending the contents falling to the floor below. The Spruce recommends limiting the weight of moving boxes to 50 pounds, which is a good rule of thumb to follow when packing your office equipment. With that said, check the specifications of your boxes to see if the manufacturer listed a weight limit. Some boxes may have a 50-pound weight limit, whereas others have just a 20- or 30-pound limit.

To protect fragile items from breaking, use both bubble wrap and packing paper. To pack a glass vase, for example, wrap it with one or two layers of bubble wrap and secure the bubble wrap with tape. Next, place the wrapped vase in an appropriately sized box, after which you can fill any remaining space in the box with packing paper.

After filling a box and securing it with tape, use a marker to label the outside. There are different ways to label moving boxes, though the easiest is to simply use the room or area in which the contents belong. A box filled with items from your office’s break room should be labeled as “break room,” while a box filled with items from the conference room should be labeled as “conference room.” For individual cubicles, use a numbering system that corresponds with the layout of your office’s new location.

Partner With the Right Moving Company

Moving everything yourself may sound like a smart way to save money on your office’s relocation, but it’s usually wise to invest in the services of a professional moving company. They have the vans, hand trucks, experience, and workers to move your office in the fastest and most efficient way possible.

When choosing a moving company with which to partner, call and request a quote from at least three different companies. Moving companies typically won’t reveal the exact cost of their service, as unforeseen circumstances and other factors can affect the total price. However, they should provide you with an estimated cost, giving you a better idea of how much you can expect to pay. Some moving companies may send a worker known as an estimator to your office so that he or she can take inventory and determine the amount of work your relocation project requires, while others will provide an estimation based on information you provide over the phone or through their website.

You’ll want to inquire about prospective moving companies’ timeline for moving your office before partnering with one. In other words, how long will it take them to move your office to its new location? Office relocations aren’t easy, nor are they fast. For a small office, a reputable moving company may complete the relocation 10 to 12 hours. For larger offices, it could take two or three days. So, when calling moving companies to request a quote, ask about the timeline.

Only hire a moving company that’s experienced in commercial business relocations. Most moving companies specialize in residential relocations, only performing the occasional commercial relocation. By partnering with a company that’s helped countless other businesses move their office, you’ll experience better results.

Move Computers and IT Equipment Separately

Move IT separatelyIt’s a good idea to move your office’s computers and information technology (IT) equipment separately than the rest of its equipment. According to a survey by USA Today, four out five data center managers say network outages cost their business about $50,000 per hour. Unless your business specializes in IT services, downtime probably won’t cost this much. Nonetheless, it can still restrict your business’s ability to perform its operations in a fast and efficient manner. By moving your office’s computers and IT equipment separately, you’ll be able to get everything up and running more quickly.

If your business has an IT department, consider designating an executive or worker from this department to oversee the relocation of your office’s computers and IT equipment. They can back up essential data, safely pack hardware to protect against moisture damage, secure cables to their respective devices and more. Also, when it’s time to move, this individual can help direct movers on where to place the packaged computers and IT equipment in your new office.

Disassemble Large Furniture

disassemble large office furnitureWouldn’t it be great if you could move all your office furniture without disassembling it? You can probably move most office chairs, file cabinets and other types of small furniture without disassembling them. For larger types of furniture like conference tables and desks, though, this may not be possible.

Get the measurements of all doorways and hallways – at both your office’s current location and its future location – through which you’ll need to move your office furniture. Next, compare these measurements to that of your large office furniture. You may discover that some tables and desks are wider than a doorway or hallway. Therefore, you’ll have to disassemble the furniture before you or anyone else can move it.

Disassembling large office furniture can be a chore. You may have to use screwdrivers, and Allen wrenches, to remove hardware. Most importantly, you’ll need to keep this hardware – and remember where it goes – so that you can reassemble the furniture at your office’s new location.

If you come across large office furniture that’s too old and degraded to safely move without causing damage, consider replacing it with new furniture. It’s easier to order a new conference table and have it shipped to your office’s new location than it is to try and move a heavily worn conference table that’s falling apart.

Change Your Office’s Addresses With the USPS

Don’t forget to change your office’s address with the United States Postal Service (USPS). This ensures that all mail sent to your office’s old address will be forwarded to its new address. To change your office’s address with the USPS, visit this link and follow the on-page instructions. The USPS charges $1 for this service.

Alternatively, you can change your office’s address with the USPS by visiting a local post office. Just ask a postal worker for a Mover’s Guide packet. In this packet is a PS Form 3575, which you can complete and drop off to request an address change.

Regardless of which method you use to change your office’s address with the USPS, make sure the mail forwarding date is the same or close to your moving date. If you specify a mail forwarding date that’s a month prior to your moving date, all your office’s mail will be sent to its new location a month before you move there. And if you specify a forwarding date that’s a month after your moving date, you won’t receive mail at your office’s new location until a month after you’ve moved.

Update Your Business’s Contact Information With New Office Address

In addition to changing your office’s address with the USPS, update your business’s contact information to reflect this new address. The USPS will still forward all mail sent to your office’s old address to its new address. However, if a prospective customer or client sees your office’s old address listed somewhere and tries to visit it, they won’t be able to find your business.

Any digital or print media featuring your business’s contact information must be updated with your office’s new address. This includes your business’s website, social media profiles, email signatures, online directory listings, business cards, and branded stationary.

Moving your office can undoubtedly disrupt your business’s office. At the very least, it will divert time, money and resources away from your business’s primary operations. However, moving can have a positive long-term impact on your business, providing you and your business’s workers with a more productive environment.

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 Lower Back Pain 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.