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.

May 312018
 

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

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

Tune Up HVAC System Annually

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

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

Set the Thermostat

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

Turn Off Computers at the End of the Day

Turn Off Computers at the End of the Day

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

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

Move IT Infrastructure to the Cloud

Move your IT infrastructure to the cloud.

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

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

Replace Incandescent Bulbs With LEDs or CFLs

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

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

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

Use Smart Lighting

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

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

Upgrade to ENERGY STAR Appliances and Equipment

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

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

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

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

Control the Curtains

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

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

Cut Back on Printing

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

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

Fix Thermal Leaks

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

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

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

Set Equipment to Low-Power Mode

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

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

Use Stairs Instead of Elevator

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

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

Beware of Vampire Devices

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

Install a Solar Power System

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

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

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

May 082018
 

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

What Is Office Syndrome?

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

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

#1) The 20-20-20 Rule

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

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

#2) Document Holder

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

#3) Anti-Glare Filter

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

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

#4) Wrist Stretches

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

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

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

#5) Sit Right

Sit with proper posture in your office chair.

Proper Posture Matters

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

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

#6) Ergonomic Chair

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

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

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

#7) Take the Stairs

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

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

#8) Create an Ergonomic Workstation

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

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

#9) Open Layout

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

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

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

#10) Eat Right

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

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

#11) Exercise Outside the Office

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

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

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

#12) Get Sleep

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

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

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

Apr 032018
 

Does your office have a dedicated meeting space? Meetings are a routine part of business for many business executives and workers. In fact, a study of 65 CEOs conducted by The Wall Street Journal found that the average CEO spends approximately 18 hours of a 55-hour workweek in meetings – nearly one-third of his or her total time at work.

A meeting space will allow you to hold productive, meaningful meetings in your office. Whether you spend 18 hours or one hour per week in meetings, it’s a smart investment that will help your business succeed. However, there are a few things you should know when designing a meeting space.

What Is a Meeting Space?

What is a meeting space?Also known as a conference room, a meeting space is an area in an office where executives or workers gather to discuss business-related topics. This multi-purpose space is invaluable in today’s ever-changing business landscape. Here, you can brainstorm ideas with other executives, conduct training sessions, meet with clients, unveil new products, discuss leadership changes and more. While you can always discuss these topics elsewhere in your office, a meeting space offers a private and comfortable environment in which to do so.

Of course, any business owner or executive can slap a sign on a door room and call it a meeting space. But it takes thorough planning and proper execution to create an effective meeting space that resonates with your workers and clients.

The Size Is Right

Conference table sizesThere’s no universal size specification for an office meeting space. Different businesses have different needs. So, when designing your meeting space, consider how many people will use the space at once. A small meeting space may consist of just four chairs with a table in the center, while a large meeting room can hold a dozen or more workers.

Keep in mind, however, that you may need a larger meeting space as your business grows. Even if only two or three workers currently use your meeting space, this number may multiple in the future. Therefore, you should plan for the future by designing your meeting space with additional seating. You can’t squeeze more seats into a small room, but you can always leave extra seats unused.

Conference Table

Conference table One of the first things you’ll want to do when designing your meeting space is to choose a conference table. This will serve as the central hub of your meeting space, with workers gathered around to discuss the topic at hand.

Conference tables are available several different shapes, including the following:

  • Square: Designed for small meeting spaces and rooms, square conference tables are inexpensive and easy to move, but they lack the necessary seating for many modern-day offices.
  • Rectangular: The most common shape in which conference tables are made, rectangular tables provide sufficient seating, a clean and symmetrical design, and some even feature extensions to adjust shorten or lengthen its size.
  • Circular: Like square conference tables, circular conference tables are typically used in small meeting spaces.
  • Racetrack: A popular alternative to rectangular conference tables is the racetrack or oval. Featuring a shape similar to that of a racetrack, these conference tables have a long body with rounded ends.

You really can’t go wrong with either a square or racetrack conference. They both offer adequate seating and promote engagement among workers.

Pay attention to the materials from which the conference table is made. Like most types of office furniture, conference tables are available in a variety of materials. Authentic wood is a classic, timeless choice that looks great in all offices. Whether it’s cherry, mahogany, rosewood, walnut, maple or oak, you can rest assured knowing that it will enhance the aesthetics of your office. Alternatively, you could choose a metal conference table with a glass top, which usually cost less and are easier to maintain than wood conference tables.

Seating

Conference room seatingAfter choosing a conference table, you should select the seating. With most rectangular and racetrack conference tables, you can place a single chair for every foot the table is wide. If you have a rectangular table that’s 15 feet wide, you should be able to fit 15 chairs around it. You can adjust the seating in your office space accordingly, but this is a good rule of thumb to follow to create a comfortable and efficient meeting environment.

Don’t just choose the cheapest office chairs and call it a day. To promote a productive environment in your office space, you should invest in high-quality, comfortable office chairs. Swivel chairs with casters on the bottom are an excellent choice. They allow workers to easily change direction if someone else begins talking, and many provide adequate lumbar support, which can protect workers from musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) and related pain injuries.

Here are some tips on choosing the right seating for your meeting space:

  • Choose chairs with an adjustable height so that you can easily fit them under your conference table
  • Avoid chairs with a fixed, non-movable base and, instead, choose chairs with casters on the bottom
  • Stick with a single style for all the office chairs used in your meeting space
  • Make sure the office chairs have armrests, preferably adjustable armrests that workers can raise or lower as needed
  • Choose office chairs with a strong, supportive backrest (they’ll see a lot of use)
  • If your office is located in a region with a hot-year climate, consider a mesh-back ergonomic office chair, which features a breathable mesh backrest for additional airflow
  • Purchase a few extra chairs to place against the wall of your meeting space

Design With Color

Design with colorAccording to a study conducted by researchers from the University of British Columbia (UBC) in Canada, integrating blue into your meeting space’s design will encourage creativity and innovation. From 2007 to 2008, UBC researchers tested the cognitive function of participants while exposing them to different colors. Participants who were presented with a red testing environment experienced the highest levels of memory retention, but those who were presented with a blue environment experienced the highest levels of creativity and innovation.

You can use this to your advantage by making a blue a key color of your meeting space’s design. You don’t have to necessarily use blue furniture. Rather, consider blue decorations like paintings, wall art, photos, and rugs.  Assuming your meeting space has an interactive whiteboard, you can also display a blue screensaver to further project this color throughout the area. These are just a few ways to incorporate blue into a meeting space. Feel free to experiment with other design methods to see what works best for your office.

Bring in the Outdoors

Consider decorating your meeting space with outdoor elements like container plants. Aside from the aesthetic benefits they offer, plants promote higher levels of productivity among workers. A study conducted by researchers from Washington State University (WSU) found that office workers completed tasks 12% faster in offices decorated with plants, while a second study found that plants boost office productivity by up to 15%.

Container plants offer any key benefit when used in office meeting spaces: cleaner air. As explained by Live Science, plants absorb volatile organic compounds (VOCs), carbon dioxide, toxins and other pollutants through their leaves. When used in your office’s meeting space, they’ll filter the air to create a cleaner environment and, subsequently, protect workers from infectious illness and disease.

Keep It Open

Keep an open floor plan for your meeting spaceThere’s no substitution for an office design in an office meeting space. After all, the fundamental purpose of a meeting space is to provide executives and workers with a convenient environment in which they can converse and share their thoughts. If a meeting space contains partition walls or cubicles, they won’t be able to easily converse.

A study published by the Harvard Business Review (HBR) found that open office spaces increase employee satisfaction, communication, and collaboration – three elements that are essential for an effective meeting space. So, keep your meeting space open and don’t use partition walls or cubicles.

Interactive Whiteboard

Westinghouse Interactive WhiteboardA whiteboard is an essential tool for office meeting spaces. Rather than using a traditional dry-erase-style whiteboard, though, consider investing in an interactive whiteboard. Featuring a large digital touchscreen display, they allow you to project your computer or device to everyone in your meeting space. Most interactive whiteboards have an average lamp life of 2,000 to 8,000 hours, after which the bulb must be replaced.

An alternative to an interactive whiteboard, however, is an interactive multi-touch display, which connects to your computer or device so that it too displays everything on screen. Interactive multi-touch displays live up to their namesake by supporting multiple points of simultaneous contact. While an interactive whiteboard usually supports a single or two simultaneous points of contact, an interactive whiteboard may support up to 10 points of simultaneous contact. Furthermore, they have a significantly longer lamp life of up to 50,000 hours.

Wi-Fi

If you’re designing a meeting space from the ground up, check to make sure Wi-Fi is accessible. Even if the rest of your office has fast and reliable Wi-Fi, a meeting space located on the edge of your office may not. To check the Wi-Fi speeds in your office, walk into your meeting space and connect to it via a wireless device. Next, use an online speed testing tool like the AT&T Internet Speed Test, which will measure your connection’s download and upload speeds. If it’s slower than the rest of your office, you should make some changes to boost the signal.

There are several ways to boost the Wi-Fi signal in your office meeting space, one of which is to move the router closer. If your router is currently located in the west wing of your office and your meeting space is located in the east wing, the long distance will create slower connection speeds. Moving the router closer shortens the distance, however, resulting in faster speeds.

You can also try using a different channel for your Wi-Fi. If your office is located in a commercial building that’s shared by other companies and their offices, there might be too many people attempting to use the same Wi-Fi channel. And just like the traffic on a highway slows down when it becomes congested, so will the traffic on a Wi-Fi channel. You can change your Wi-Fi channel by logging in to your router and adjusting the settings.

Lighting

Use LED lighting in your boardroomYour meeting space should be designed with proper lighting so that workers can easily see presentations and other material. Light-emitting diode (LED) fixtures with a dimming feature are a popular choice for office meeting spaces. They are energy efficient, stylish, and you can turn down the illumination power when using a projector to protect against glare. Although they cost more than incandescent light bulbs, LEDs can last for up 20,000 to 50,000 hours, whereas the former only lasts for about 1,000 hours.

In addition to artificial lighting, you should also incorporate natural lighting into your meeting space. If there are windows, don’t cover them with curtains or blinds but, rather, leave them to open to illuminate the meeting space with natural sunlight. One study cited by Psychology Today found that employees who work in offices with windows were more productive than their counterparts who work in windowless offices.

Coffeemaker

Finally, consider adding a coffeemaker to your meeting space. Consumed by 86% of all full-time employees on a daily basis, coffee is one of the world’s most popular beverages, surpassed only by water. When you’re in the middle of a meeting, though, you probably don’t want to leave the room to use the coffeemaker on the opposite side of the office. By setting up a second coffeemaker in your meeting space, you’ll provide workers with easier access to this morning fuel.

With upper-level executives spending up to one-third of their time in meetings, a dedicated meeting space is more important than ever. However, you should follow some guidelines when designing your office’s meeting space. This includes using the right conference table, adding comfortable chairs, designing it with color, using the right lighting and more. By following the tips listed here, you’ll create an effective meeting space in your office.

Mar 052018
 

With Earth Day right around the corner (April 22), there’s no better time than the present for business owners and office managers to reevaluate their operations and Go Green. Unfortunately, many businesses have a single goal: to generate profits. They don’t care how their actions affect the environment, nor do they care about the long-term effects it has on public health. By going green in your office, however, you’ll create a more sustainable business while helping to protect the environment and public health in the process.

 

Benefits of Going Green

Recycle Reuse Reduce

reuse reduce.jpg

The greatest benefit of going green is the positive impact it has on the environment. Going green is a catch-all term referring to the use of sustainable, environmentally friendly and ecologically responsible practices. Therefore, businesses that embrace green practices promote a cleaner, healthier environment – and that’s something from which we can all benefit.

In 2007, for instance, Coca-Cola announced plans to replenish the amount of water it uses by 2020. In other words, the company wants to give back every drop of water it uses for its product to the planet. Well, Coca-Cola achieved this goal in 2016 – four years ahead of schedule. This is just one instance of how green businesses help the environment.

There are other reasons to go green in your business’s office, including increased sales. According to a survey conducted by the video-conferencing services provider Tandberg, 53 percent of consumers say they prefer buying products and services from environmentally friendly companies than environmentally unfriendly companies. Regardless of what your business sells or offers, going green will almost certainly bring new customers to your establishment.

Furthermore, going green improves the way in which the public perceives your business. When fuel companies experience an oil spill, the public immediately has a negative perception of them, and as a result, their stock goes down. The opposite happens for green businesses, though. They are viewed as trustworthy, honest and caring by the public, which is reflected by their increased stock price.

 

Recycle

RecycleThe first step to going green in your office is recycling. According to the University of Southern Indiana (USI), 1 billion trees worth of paper is disposed of every year in the United States. We use so much paper, in fact, that it’s one of the biggest contributions to landfill waste. By recycling paper that you no longer want or need, you’ll cut down on this unnecessary waste while contributing to a cleaner environment. When paper is recycled, it’s soaked in soapy water to separate the organic material from inks, plastics, staples, and glue, after which it’s spread onto a large conveyor where it’s pressed into sheets.

Recycling paper may sound insignificant, but it can make a big difference in the environment as well as your business’s overhead expenses. Take Bank of America, for example. In 1970, it recycled just 1,400 tons of paper. By 1997, it was recycling roughly 14,591 tons annually, saving the financial services company nearly a half-million dollars in trash fees.

Here are some recycling tips to promote a greener office:

  • Contact local waste disposal and recycling centers in your area to inquire about pickups.
  • Place recycling bins in convenient locations throughout your office, including next to the trash can.
  • Encourage employees to recycle paper instead of throwing it away.
  • Recognize and reward employees who recycle the most amount of paper.
  • Try to avoid getting the paper wet, as this reduces its effectiveness in the recycling process.
  • Remember, paper is just one of many materials that you can recycle. Others include cardboard, aluminum, plastic, glass and even printer ink cartridges (drop off used ink cartridges at office supplies stores).

 

Allow Telecommuting

Telecommuting is becoming increasingly popular. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nearly one-quarter (24%) of all U.S. employees did some or all of their work from home. By allowing employees to work from your home, you’ll reduce traffic congestion and vehicle emissions.

Research cited by Forbes suggests that workers who telecommute are more productive than their counterparts. There are fewer distractions at home, allowing employees to perform more work in less time. You don’t have to embrace an all-worker, every day telecommuting policy. Rather, allow some employees to work from home on some days. Even this will make a difference in the environment while promoting higher productivity levels in the process.

 

Encourage Carpooling

Carpool to workIn addition to telecommuting, you should encourage workers to carpool to the office. According to Bowling Green State University (BGSU), a typical vehicle emits up to 114 pounds of hydrocarbons, 895 pounds of carbon monoxide, 59 pounds of nitrogen oxide and 16,800 pounds of carbon dioxide per year, all of which enters the atmosphere and contributes to air pollution.

Carpooling, as you may already know, involves two or more workers riding together in a privately owned vehicle. If two workers live in the same neighborhood and work at the same office, there’s really no need for both of them to drive separate vehicles. Doing so only contributes to airborne pollution while costing them money in fuel and automotive maintenance.

Here are some tips for encouraging workers to carpool to the office:

  • Find ridesharing opportunities for workers.
  • Educate workers on the benefits of carpooling (saves money, reduces air pollution, less automotive maintenance, etc.
  • Set an example by carpooling to the office as well.
  • Offer incentives for carpooling, such as a rewards points system or a chance to a win a prize.
  • Recognize workers who frequently carpool to the office.

To learn more about carpooling and where to find ridesharing in your office, check out the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT’s) website here.

 

Add Plants

sansevieria plantMake plants are part of your office design. These natural air filters remove dust, bacteria, viruses, and impurities from the air to create a cleaner environment. However, adding plants to your office offers other benefits as well.

According to a study conducted by researchers from Washington State University (WSU), workers are 12% more productive when exposed to plants. Exposure to plants has also been shown to lower stress levels. The exact mechanism remains unknown, but other studies have shown that when workers are exposed to plants, levels of the stress hormone cortisol decrease and they become more relaxed.

 

Go Paperless

You can also reduce your business’s environmental footprint by transitioning from paper to digital documents. Whether it’s employee paychecks, business plans, W-2s, work schedules, notes, reminders, etc., using a digital format eliminates the need for paper.

As a side benefit, using digital documents prevents them from getting lost or destroyed, assuming you back them up to a local storage device or the cloud. If an important paper document is destroyed, it’s gone forever. With digital documents, you can simply redownload them. This is one more reason go paperless in your office.

Of course, you’ll probably still use some paper documents in your office. Rather than using traditional paper, though, consider using recycled paper. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), paper can only be labeled or marketed as “recycled” if it contains 100% recovered fiber. If it contains less than 100%, it must be called “recycled-content” paper. Therefore, you should choose paper that’s specifically labeled “recycled” and not “recycled-content” for your office.

 

Volunteer

Volunteer and make a difference!If you really want to distinguish your business from its competitors, encourage workers in your office to volunteer. By giving back to the community, you’ll create a better world and improve business’s public image.

State Farm is the perfect example of volunteerism done right. The insurance provider’s Neighborhood of Good program encourages employees as well as the public to volunteer. According to its official website, State Farm employees have volunteered more than a half-million hours in 2015. As an incentive, every employee who volunteers at least 40 hours in a year receives a $500 grant towards an eligible nonprofit organization.

Salesforce is another company that excels in volunteerism. The San Francisco-based cloud computing company is said to have pioneered the 1-1-1 in which it invites all entrepreneurs and companies to invest 1% of their products, time and resources to philanthropic activities. Since the company’s founding nearly two decades ago, Salesforce has donated more than $168 million in grants, $2.3 billion hours of community service, and donated its products to more than 32,000 nonprofit educational institutions. So, follow in the footsteps of companies like State Farm and Salesforce to create a greener image for your business.

 

Donate, Don’t Trash

Habitat for HumanityWhen possible, donate items in your office that you no longer want or need instead of throwing them away. From office desks and chairs to computers, fax machines, books and more, there are nonprofit organizations out there that will take will take just about everything. Each item you donate helps to reduce the amount of waste in landfills.

Some of the leading nonprofit organizations that accept donations include Goodwill, The Salvation Army, Habitat ReStore and the American Red Cross. Normally, donated items are sold in the respective organization’s retail store, and they’ll use the proceeds generated to fund their cause. You won’t get paid for donating your old items in your office, but you can request a tax-deductible receipt. And if you’re donating a lot of stuff, the nonprofit organization may come to pick it up from your office.

 

Reuse Materials

There are certain items and materials that you can reuse in the office. Paper, for example, can often be used twice – once on the front and another time on the back. Packing peanuts, paper, bubble wrap and similar packaging items can also be reused. Even file folders, paperclips and other forms of stationary can be used multiple times.

Encouraging employees to reuse items such as these reduces waste and contributes to a greener office. It’s a small step towards cleaning up the environment.

 

Choose Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

Use non toxic cleaning productsDo you know what’s lurking in the cleaning products used in your office? Many store-bought cleaning products contain harsh chemicals that are bad for your health as well as the environment. Some of these chemicals include ammonia, chlorine, sodium hydroxide, triclosan, phthalates and more. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) explains that nitrogen and phosphorus in cleaning products, for instance, cause nutrient-loading in lakes and rivers, which lowers the quality of the water.  Other cleaning products contain volatile organic compounds (VOCs) that affect indoor air quality, making them particularly bad for the office.

Thankfully, there are non-toxic, environmentally friendly cleaning products available. Pure white distilled vinegar is a safe and effective cleaning product. It has antibacterial, antiviral and antifungal properties, killing more than 99% of germs on contact. Best of all, it’s completely organic and non-toxic. You can also buy commercial-grade non-toxic cleaning products, though it’s recommended that you check the ingredients to ensure it’s truly non-toxic and not just a gimmicky marketing scheme.

 

Watch the Coffee

CoffeeFor many office workers, coffee isn’t just a luxury; it’s a necessity. Unfortunately, though, many business owners and office managers overlook the environmental impact of this otherwise common morning work ritual. According to Hamilton Beach, the average office worker drinks four cups of coffee every day, which translates into more than 1,000 cups over the course of a year. Coffee itself isn’t necessarily bad. When it’s manufactured and sold in single-serving pods, however, it’s a different story.

Most single-serving coffee pods are made of plastic and other non-recyclable materials that contribute to a substantial amount of landfill waste. Statistics show that some 10 billion pods are dumped into North American landfills every year, attesting to the environmental problem of these convenient coffee products.

You don’t have to eliminate coffee from your office. Rather, consider a more environmentally friendly option. One solution is to use a reusable coffee pod that you fill with your own grounds. You open the top, fill it with coffee, place it in the coffee-maker, and you’re good to go. Another option is to choose biodegradable single-serving coffee pods. These pods look and function just like traditional single-serving coffee pods. The only difference is that they are made of 100% biodegradable materials.

Every business can do its part to promote a cleaner, healthier environment. The ideas listed here are just a few ways to go green in your business’s office.

Feb 142018
 

Office chairs play an important role in the modern-day workplace. While most people are familiar with their purpose and function, there are probably some things you don’t know about them that may surprise you.

#1) Office Chairs See a Lot of Use

broken office chairsOffice chairs typically see a lot of use in their lifetime. According to the National Post, the average office worker sits for approximately 10 hours a day. Assuming an employee works 262 days a year, his or her office chair would be used for a total of 2,620 hours. Because of this, manufacturers must carefully design their chairs to withstand constant, daily use.

The good news is that office chairs typically last for quite some time, even when they are used 10 hours a day. A report published by Baylor University says the average office chair lasts for seven to eight years, after which it should be repaired or replaced. Other sources are even more optimistic, citing a full decade as being the average chair’s life expectancy. Whether it’s seven years or 10, office chairs offer plenty of use when properly maintained.

 

#2) Charles Darwin is a Pioneer of the Modern-Day Office Chair

Charles Darwin is a Pioneer of the Modern-Day Office ChairWhile most known for his groundbreaking contributions to science, English biologist Charles Darwin helped create the modern-day office chair.

As explained by Gizmodo, Darwin was a workaholic who spent countless hours collecting specimens of plants and animals. And like any hard-working individual, he needed to rest on occasion. Being that he lived in the 19th century though, chairs at the time were designed only with fixed legs. Darwin wanted to be able to slide around and move while sitting, so he modified a chair to include wheels on the feet.

Today, wheels – also known as casters – is a common feature found in office chairs. Like Darwin’s rudimentary design, they allow workers to move around without having to stand up. Office chair casters are typically designed with either soft or hard materials. Soft casters work best on hardwood, laminate, tile and linoleum floors, whereas hard casters work best on carpet floors.

 

#3) German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck Popularized the Office Chair

Otto von Bismarck

Otto von Bismarck

While Darwin is largely credited with inventing the rolling design of the modern-day office chair, it was German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck who is believed to have popularized the design.

Around the mid-19th century – a time when railroads were expanding – the workplace culture was shifting into a more office-like setting. Businesses found themselves hiring additional receptionists and administrative workers, many of whom sat for long periods of time. German Chancellor Otto von Bismarck was intrigued by the office chair, viewing it as a revolutionary new tool for the workplace. He saw the practical, real-world value of the office chair, and not surprisingly, wanted to share it with others.

So, Bismarck took the liberty of ordering hundreds of custom-built office chairs for his Parliament. This introduced members of the German Parliament, as well as the public, to the office chair; thus, popularizing the now-common office furnishing. If it weren’t for Bismarck and his desire to furnish the Parliament, perhaps the office chair wouldn’t have gained notoriety at the time.

Bismarck is regarded by many historians as being a political genius. In addition to popularizing the office chair, he later went on to establish the world’s first welfare state.

 

#4) The Right Office Chair Can Protect Against Injury

Back pain from uncomfortable office chairOffice chairs provide more than just comfort. They protect workers from physical injury.

Sitting for long periods of time can take a toll on the body, resulting in muscle pain, joint stiffness, aches, sprains and more. One such injury that’s commonly associated with sitting is coccydynia. This isn’t a specific injury or illness, however. Rather, coccydynia is a catch-all term used to describe any injury or condition involving pain in the tailbone (coccyx) area.

The U.K.’s National Health Service (NHS) explains that coccydynia is usually characterized by stress of the tailbone and/or its supporting ligaments and muscles. So, how exactly does the right office chair protect against this type of injury? Well, sitting in a chair with a hard, unsupportive bottom will stress your tailbone. Over time, this constant stress can strain your coccyx and eventually lead to coccydynia. A high-quality office chair should feature a soft, supportive seat cushion to minimize stress on your tailbone.

Furthermore, the right office chair can protect against back injuries like lumbar strains. As you may know, the lumbar spine is an area of the lower back where the spinal column begins to curve inward. Here, vertebrae are supported by ligaments, tendons, and muscles. When these supportive structures are stressed beyond their limit, it creates a painful condition known as a lumbar strain.

Thankfully, many office chairs – except for entry-grade task chairs – are designed with extra support for the lumbar back. The additional material creates a supportive area for the worker’s lower back; thereby, reducing the risk of lumbar strains and similar injuries of the lower back.

 

#5) Office Chairs are Designed with a Focus on Ergonomics

ergonomic workstation and chairOffice chairs are now designed with a focus on ergonomics, meaning they are optimized specifically for human use.

Ergonomics became a hot topic in the 1970s, during which employers acknowledged the importance of designing workplaces to meet the needs of the human worker. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) were widely rampant in the 1970s workplace. In response, employers began to design their workplace to minimize stress on workers and create a safer environment.

Among other things, this led to a redesign of the office chair. Ergonomic office chairs are designed with strict specifications to ensure the utmost comfort and support for the worker. They typically contain adjustable armrests, an adjustable seat, lower back support, and a soft seat cushion.

You’ll now find that many ergonomically designed office chairs boast one or more of the following testing certifications:

  • EN 1335:2012
  • EN 1728:2012
  • DIN EN 1335
  • AS/NZS 4438

 

#6) Office Chairs Affect Worker Productivity

In addition to protecting against injury, the right office chairs can also improve workers’ productivity. This, of course, is something from which all employers and managers can benefit.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), workers who clock eight hours a day are typically only productive for two hours and 53 minutes. When they aren’t working, they may browse the Internet, update their Facebook status, gossip, play on their smartphones or simply “zone out.”

You can encourage higher productivity in your workplace, however, by investing in high-quality office chairs. According to a study cited by the University of Southern California (USC), employees are 17.5% more productive when working in an ergonomic setting. A separate study cited by USC researchers suggests that workers are 17.7% more productive when given a highly adjustable office chair.

 

#7) The Rise of Mesh-Back Office Chairs

When shopping for new office chairs, you’ll probably notice that many are designed with a mesh-fabric back. Rather than featuring a solid material like leather or cotton-stuffed polyester, they have an open fabric through which air flows. The actual seat cushion is typically still solid. However, the back contains an open mesh material.

Mesh-back office chairs originated in the early 1990s, during which Herman Miller released its Aeron chair. As you may recall, this era was defined by the dot-com bubble. Countless tech startups were rising to fame by launching successful web-based businesses. With this new-age revolution came the need for a comfortable, ergonomic office chair – a need that Herman Miller fulfilled with its Aeron chair.

Named after the Celtic god, Aeron, the Aeron chair was once ranked as America’s best-selling chair. It’s even featured in the Museum of Modern Art’s (MMA) collection.

One of the defining characteristics of the Aeron chair is a mesh back, allowing air to circulate more freely. When workers sat in traditional office chairs for long periods of time, they would get hot and sweat. This was especially true for Silicon Valley workers in California. The Aeron chair, as well as other mesh-back chairs, solved this problem with its revolutionary new design.

Furthermore, the mesh material is more flexible and elastic than traditional material used to make office chairs. It can stretch and flex without breaking, which is another reason for its popularity.

 

#8) The 19th Centrygo Centripetal Spring Armchair

Thomas Warren Centripetal Spring ArmchairLong before Herman Miller released the Aeron chair, there was the Centripetal Spring Armchair. According to the Vitra Design Museum, this 19th-century chair was one of the world’s first modern office chairs.

The Centripetal Spring Armchair was invented by Thomas E. Warren in the mid-1800s. After creating the basic design, Warren hired the New York-based American Chair Company to manufacture it. The Centripetal Spring Armchair featured a cast-iron structure with varnished steel, wood, and soft velvet upholstery. In terms of size, it was similar to some of the office chairs sold today, measuring 107 inches tall, 61 inches wide and 71 centimeters deep.

Slate Magazine explains that the Centrygo Centripetal Spring Armchair had all the features of modern-day office chairs, including an adjustable base, tilt movement, revolving seat, armrests, and caster wheels. The only feature it lacked was lumbar support.

Perhaps the most interesting historical fact about the Centrygo Centripetal Spring Armchair is that it initially failed to gain traction outside of the United States because it was too comfortable. During the Victorian era, the United Kingdom valued unsupported seats as a means of demonstrating willpower. With its exceptional support and high level of comfort, the Centrygo Centripetal Spring Armchair was viewed as being immoral; thus, it was rarely used outside of the United States.

 

#9) High-Quality Office Chairs are a Smart Investment

Some business owners are reluctant to buy new office chairs, viewing it as an unnecessary expense that will hurt their finances. This couldn’t be further from the truth, however.

While buying new office chairs requires money, it’s a smart investment that pays off in the long run. As previously mentioned, high-quality office chairs can protect workers from injury and promote higher levels of productivity. Because of this, purchasing new office chairs is typically a smart financial investment that allows business owners and office managers to save money.

Like desks, file cabinets and other office furniture, office chairs are also typically a tax-deductible expense. Assuming you use them strictly for business purposes, you can usually write them off as an expense on your taxes. Whether you buy one new office chair or 20, you can write them off on your taxes. Just remember to save your receipts for accounting purposes.

 

#10) Armrests Were Once a Controversial Feature in Office Chairs

Proper Posture When Sitting in an Office Chair

Proper Posture Matters – Use the armrests!

Most office chairs have armrests on which workers can rest their forearms. However, this was once considered a controversial feature.

On its website, the Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety (CCOHS) explains that office chairs in the past typically didn’t feature armrests because it prevented workers from getting close to their desks. If a worker was sitting in a chair with armrests, the armrests may prevent him or her from sliding up to the desk. Thanks to advancements in office chair designs, though, this is no longer a problem.

Office chairs today are usually designed with armrests that extend 10 inches or less from the back of the seat. This relatively short armrest allows workers to rest their arms while also moving their chairs close to the desk.

There’s a good reason for using an office chair with armrests: it takes some of the load off the worker’s shoulders and neck. Without armrests, there’s nothing to support the worker’s arms. So, the worker’s arms will essentially pull down his or her shoulders; thus, increasing the risk of muscle aches and pains. Armrests are a simple and effective solution to this problem, offering support for the worker’s arms.

After reading this, you should have a better understanding of office chairs and why they are such an integral part of the modern-day workplace. From single-person startups to Fortune 500 companies, businesses big and small use office chairs in their daily operations.

 

Nov 282017
 

Office furniture has a finite lifespan and will eventually need to be replaced. Whether it’s a chair, desk, stool, conference table, file cabinet, shelving unit, etc., there comes the point when you’ll have to retire it. Maybe the style of a desk has become outdated, or perhaps the upholstery of a chair has worn away from excessive usage. Regardless, you’ll have to say “goodbye” to your old furniture and replace it with new furniture.

Before hauling your old office furniture off to the local dump, however, you should consider the following solutions.

#1) Convert File Cabinets into Planters

File Cabinet Planter

Indoor air pollution is a serious problem, yet it’s also something that business owners and office managers overlook. According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), poor indoor air costs tens of billions of dollars in healthcare and lost productivity every year. You can promote cleaner air in your office, however, by growing plants in old file cabinets.

There are several ways to convert a file cabinet into a planter, one of which is to simply cover the drawers in a plastic wrap and fill them with soil. Alternatively, you can remove the drawers and place pots inside, as described in this Lowes article. Regardless of which method you prefer, make sure the bottom is waterproof to prevent water from seeping onto your office floor.

#2) Convert Two File Cabinets into a Desk

Another idea is to convert two file cabinets into a desk. Each file cabinet essentially acts as a “leg” for the desk, with one file cabinet being used as the left leg and the other being used as the right.

You’ll still need to create the actual tabletop for the desk, however. So, place a piece of rectangular-shaped lumber – popular, walnut, cedar, oak, etc. – over the two file cabinets. If you need help finding the right-sized wood, visit a local home improvement store and ask for assistance. After adjusting the wood according to your liking, drive several screws through the wood and into the top of each of the file cabinets.

This is a fun and innovative way to repurpose old file cabinets. You can even go one step further by painting the file cabinets and staining the wood desktop. From an outsider’s perspective, this looks just like any ordinary desk, complete with a wood top and pull-out drawers.

#3) Refinish Wood Desks

Laptop on DeskOf course, you can always refinish wood desks and other wood furniture. If you have a wood desk that’s faded over the years but otherwise still structurally sound, this is a great way to restore its luster and continue using it.

Some of the most common stains used on wood furniture include:

  • Pigmented oil stains: typically consisting of linseed oil, mineral spirits or other solvents, pigmented oil stains are inexpensive and easy to use. Because they are non-penetrating, however, they aren’t the best choice for hardwoods. Pigmented oil stains also have a long drying time.
  • Penetrating oil stains: on the other side of the fence are penetrating oil stains. Once applied, the stain settles deep into the pores of the wood, making it difficult to remove. Penetrating oil stains are great for both hardwoods and softwoods.
  • Non-grain rising (NGR) stains: made of aniline dye and spirits, NGR stains are more expensive and difficult to use than the aforementioned stains. However, they offer one of the most cohesive, uniform colors after the stain has dried.
  • Varnish stains: finally, there are varnish stains, which are usually made of aniline dye combined with a varnish. Normally, varnish stains are only used on hidden or concealed areas of wood furniture due to its messy appearance. Therefore, this stain isn’t recommended when refinishing old office furniture.

If you plan on refinishing an old desk or other wood furniture, you’ll need to clean and sand it beforehand; otherwise, the imperfections left behind will remain visible, even after you’ve refinished it. This DIY Network article offers some helpful tips on how to strip, clean, buff and sand wood furniture.

#4) Cubicle Wall Billboards

Cubicle Wall Billboard DesignDo you have some old cubicle walls laying around your office that you no longer want or need? If so, consider using them as billboards. Most cubicle walls are made of a wood or metal base with a soft fabric covering, allowing workers to staple notes, posters, and other items to them. After the cubicle wall has been removed, though, you can still use it for this purpose.

If you have one or more empty rooms in your office, you can use an old cubicle wall as a decorative billboard. Simply mount the cubicle wall to an empty wall in the room, after which you can fill it with decorations – or even allow workers to place their own decorations on it. Billboards are also useful for notifying office workers about upcoming events.

#5) Reupholster Office Chairs

Reupholstering an office chairNormally, it’s the upholstery on office chairs that wears away over time. This is particularly true in the workplace, where office chairs are used for eight or more hours a day. All that use can degrade the upholstery, causing it to tear or crack open. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you must get rid of it, though. You bring your office chairs back to life by reupholstering them.

Reupholstering involves securing new fabric to the outside of the chair’s old fabric. Usually, this is done by stretching and stapling the new fabric to the chair. Check out this Instructables article for a step-by-step walkthrough on how to reupholster old office chairs.

#6) Moving to a New Office? Sell Your Old Furniture to the New Tenant

If you’re moving to a new office, perhaps you can sell your old furniture to the new tenant. Many business owners and office managers don’t want to mess with the hassle of trying to pack and move all their furniture. After all, moving is already a stressful process, and trying to keep track of your furniture makes it even more stressful. If you know the company or person who’s going to take over your current office space, you can ask to see if they are interested in buying your furniture.

This is arguably the easiest and most profitable way to sell old office furniture. You won’t get the full face value of your furniture, but you can still expect a decent sale price. Best of all, you don’t have to worry about breaking down or moving your old furniture. You can leave it in your office, and once the tenant moves in, they can begin using it.

#7) Liquidate

Liquidation is another option to consider. There are dozens of companies that specialize in office furniture liquidation. They’ll purchase all or most of your furniture with the goal of reselling it for a profit. Liquidators usually work both sides, buying used furniture from businesses looking to move or upgrade to new furniture, and selling that used furniture to other businesses in need of inexpensive furniture.

There are both pros and cons to liquidating your old office furniture. On the plus side, it’s one of the easiest ways to get rid of office furniture while also putting some money in your pockets. The liquidation company will handle everything from disassembling to moving your furniture. However, you won’t get top dollar for your used furniture. Liquidation companies usually only pay between 5% to 10% of the furniture’s original value.

Here are some tips to get the most money from your liquidated office furniture:

  • Contact and request quotes from multiple furniture liquidators.
  • Inform every liquidator of the highest quote (others may raise their offer to compete for your business).
  • Provide photos of your office furniture to liquidators.
  • Don’t rush it. Liquidators will generally offer a lower price if they believe the company is trying to move out of the office in a hurry.
  • Clean and maintain your office furniture, so it’s in good condition.
  • Choose name-brand furniture over generic brands.

#8) Donate It to Charity

Habitat for HumanityIf you can’t sell your old office furniture, why not donate it to a good cause? There are numerous nonprofit organizations in the United States that will gladly accept your used furniture. Goodwill Industries, is one of the largest nonprofits, operating with more than 1,500 stores throughout the country. Once they’ve received your furniture, they’ll sell it in one of their stores. The proceeds generated through these sales are used to help people with disabilities, the homeless and others.

A side benefit of donating to your office furniture to charity is that many nonprofit charities, including Goodwill, will come to you to pick it up. You don’t have to worry about breaking down and moving the furniture. The organization will send a worker or team of workers in a truck to pick up your furniture.

Some business owners automatically reject the idea of donating their old office furniture, simply because they don’t make money from it. While it’s true that you won’t earn money, you may still be eligible for a tax credit. The charity organization will give you a receipt with the estimated value of the donated items, which you can use to offset your taxes for the respective year.

This Internal Revenue Website (IRS) article offers some helpful advice on charity deductions. Of course, you should always consult with a tax accountant before attempting to make any new deductions on your business’s taxes.

#9) Recycle It

Recycling BinSometimes office furniture has sustained so much use and wear that it can longer be sold or even donated. Nonetheless, taking it to the dump still isn’t the best solution, as it quickly adds to the already congested landfills. Statistics show that textile waste accounts for roughly 4% of all landfill space in the United States. A better, more Eco-friendly solution is to recycle your old office furniture.

How does furniture recycling work exactly? Normally, furniture and other waste are dumped landfills where it’s left to slowly decompose. During this incredibly long process, however, the decomposing items release greenhouse gases and toxic chemicals into the environment. When office furniture is recycled, it’s broken down and reused for other purposes, such as building new furniture.

Recycling your office furniture will give you peace of mind knowing that you aren’t contributing to additional landfill waste. Additionally, some recycling companies provide itemized receipts for furniture, classifying them as donations. So, like donating your office furniture to a charity organization, recycling your furniture could offset some of your business’s taxes.

Some companies specialize in recycling furniture, whereas others recycle all materials, including furniture. Use the Recycling Locator tool on Earth991 to search for a furniture recycling company near you.

#10) Give It Away

Lastly, you may want to give your office furniture away. Craigslist has an enormous section of free items, including office furniture, for every major U.S. city. When a business owner or office manager wants to get rid of their old furniture, they can post an ad on Craigslist.

You won’t make money giving away your old office furniture, nor will you earn tax credits. You may, however, help other entrepreneurs and professionals in need. If a small business owner cannot afford to buy an entire suite of new office furniture, he or she may look for used freebies on Craigslist. Just remember to specify in your listing that the recipient must pick up the items; otherwise, they may expect you to deliver the furniture to them.

Be warned, though, you’ll probably receive some serious call volume inquiring about your free furniture. To prevent your phone from ringing off the hook, you should take down your listing once someone has picked up the furniture.

The Bottom Line…

These are just a few things you can do with old, unused office furniture. Even if you’re able to squeeze a little more life out of your furniture, though, replacing it may be the best option. New furniture is generally considered a business-related expense so you can deduct the cost from your taxes. It’s also a simple way to promote higher worker satisfaction and productivity in the office.

Oct 252017
 

Designing a functional and efficient ergonomically designed office isn’t always easy. Among other things, you’ll have to create a layout for all workstations, ensure the workstations can fit in the desired area, consider accessibility to power outlets, acoustics, lighting and more.

Because it’s such a laborious and time-consuming task, many business owners and managers overlook ergonomics when designing an office. And in doing so, their completed office lacks a fundamental element of a successful office design. Whether you’re designing an office from scratch or redesigning an existing layout, you should follow the recipe below for an ergonomic workplace.

What is Ergonomics?

er·go·nom·ics – the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.

An Ergonomically Designed OfficeWhile most people have at least heard of ergonomics, few know or understand its true meaning. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – the federal organization that regulates workplace safety in the United States – ergonomics is the “science of designing the job to fit the worker.” Basically, it’s the process and methodology of designing a workplace to meet the needs of the worker.

The International Ergonomics Association (IEA) specifically lists three different types of ergonomics:

  1. Physical Ergonomics: this involves physiological processes that can affect a worker physically, such as the implementation of lifting machines, office chairs with lumbar support and desks installed at the proper height.
  2. Cognitive Ergonomics: as the name suggests, cognitive ergonomics involves psychological factors, such as memory retention and perception of one’s surrounding environment.
  3. Organizational Ergonomics: this involves company rules and policies as well as employer-to-worker communication.

The term “ergonomics” was first coined by British scientist and author K.F.H. Murrell in the late 1940s. Murrell joined together the Greek words “ergon” and “nomos,” which mean “wok and “law” respectively. In 1949, Murrell also formed a small group of workers for research involving human factors. This group would later become the Ergonomics Research Society. While the term “ergonomics” was initially used in the U.K., it quickly spread to other countries, including the United States.

Does Ergonomics Really Matter?

The short answer is yes, ergonomics does matter. When employers turn a blind eye to ergonomics, it creates numerous problems that interfere with their normal business operations and ultimately costs them money.

Protects Against Injury

Risk of Injury SignPoor ergonomics is a leading risk factor of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), some of which include carpal tunnel syndrome, epicondylitis, tendinitis, vertebrae disc herniation, torn ligaments, muscle sprains, nerve damage and more. MSDs are injuries that affect the body’s movement and/or its musculoskeletal system.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), MSDs are responsible for nearly one-third of all work-related injuries and illnesses, further attesting to the importance of an ergonomic workplace.

Saves Money

When workers sustain MSDs due to poor ergonomics, it places a significant financial burden on the employer. Injured workers, for instance, are often required to seek medical attention and take time off from work, all of which costs the employer.

While the exact cost of MSDs remains unknown, statistics estimate that direct costs of MSDs are about $20 billion a year, while the total costs – both direct and indirect – is around $45 billion to $55 billion. The same OSHA article mentioned earlier even suggests that $1 of every $3 spent on worker’s compensation goes towards treating MSDs. The bottom line is that failure to create an ergonomic office will end up costing you big bucks in the long run. Therefore, you have to think of ergonomics as an investment. It may cost some initial money to create an ergonomic office, but it will reduce worker’s compensation and other associated expenses.

Increased Productivity

slump

No way this guy is getting anything done

Ergonomics can also affect the productivity of workers. According to a study cited by Canada’s Institute for Work and Health (IWH), tax workers who were given an ergonomic adjustable chair and training on ergonomics experienced an 18% increase in productivity. While this study was small, involving just 200 workers, it was one of the first studies linking an ergonomic workplace to increased productivity.

So, how does ergonomics improve the productivity of workers? Well, given the fact that office workers often sit for up to eight hours a day, a poorly designed chair can promote fatigue. Workers who sit in uncomfortable chairs become tired sooner in the day, which subsequently lowers their productivity. An ergonomic workplace, on the other hand, reduces fatigue and increases productivity.

An ergonomic office also promotes greater productivity by simplifying certain tasks, such as walking to and from the fax machine. If the office is poorly designed, workers may be forced to take unnecessarily long routes to use the fax machine. If it’s properly designed with ergonomics in mind, however, workers can easily access the fax machine or other equipment without wasting time or energy. These are just a few of the ways in which ergonomics can increase productivity in the workplace.

Improves Worker Satisfaction

Finally, an ergonomically designed office can improve worker satisfaction. Forcing workers to use outdated, poorly designed equipment doesn’t exactly send a positive message. Some workers may feel neglected by their employers, resulting in them seeking a job elsewhere.

This is important because according to a survey conducted by the Conference Board, 52.3% of Americans are unhappy with their current job. And when employees are unhappy, they may either search for a different job or become less productive at their current job.  If you’re able to create an ergonomic office, however, you’ll create more satisfied workers while avoiding problems such as these.

How to Create an Ergonomic Office

Now that you know a little bit about the importance of ergonomics, you might be wondering how to implement it in your office. Creating an ergonomic office requires a multi-pronged approach, including the following elements.

Follow Ergonomic Standards for Desks

office discomfortEach desk in your office should be designed and installed according to generally accepted ergonomics standards. Simply tossing up desks with no regard to the worker will only hurt your efforts to achieve an ergonomic workplace. Here are some ergonomic standards to follow when setting up desks in your office:

  • The height of the keyboard tray should be the same height as the worker’s elbows.
  • The keyboard tray should feature an area for the mouse and mouse pad to the right.
  • Padding should be placed in front of a keyboard tray to support the worker’s wrists.
  • The top of the computer should be parallel to the worker’s eyes when he or she is seated.
  • The computer monitor or document holder should be placed directly in front of the worker.
  • The computer monitor should have a 10 to 20-degree tilt.
  • Distance between the worker and computer monitor should be roughly 20 to 28 inches.
  • Computer Desks should be installed on a flat, even surface.
  • Workers should plant both feet directly on the floor, keeping them about shoulder-width apart.
  • Most importantly, choose a high-quality, well-made desk. Cheap office desks made of particle board or other low-grade materials lack the support and ergonomic features of their higher quality counterparts.

Strategically Place Furniture and Commonly Used Items

When choosing a location for furniture and commonly used items in your office, consider how it will affect workers. Placing a short file cabinet on the floor, for instance, forces workers to bend over to access it. An alternative solution that promotes greater ergonomics is to place the file cabinet atop a small desk or table, allowing workers to access it while standing.

Placing extra printer paper in a storage cabinet on the ground is another element of a poor office design. Because printer paper is accessed frequently by workers, it should be placed in a natural, easy-to-reach location, such as adjacent to the printer. The general idea is to prevent workers from bending down or making other stress-inducing movements when possible.

Keep Walkways Clear

Walkways and “traffic paths” in your office should be kept clear. While placing some boxes down in a hallway may seem harmless enough, it can negatively affect the office’s ergonomics. Workers will be forced to walk around those boxes, adding to fatigue and stress.

To prevent this from happening, designate specific areas for storage – and only store items in those areas. Walkways, hallways and other traffic paths should remain clear at all times.

Provide Workers with Ergonomic Office Chairs

Office Chair AdjustmentsThe right chairs are also a critical component of an ergonomic office. You have to remember that workers spend a substantial amount of time sitting. In fact, an article published by Times indicates that office workers spend up to 75% of their waking hours sitting. Therefore, employers and managers must provide their workers with ergonomic chairs.

When choosing chairs for your office, make sure it has an adjustable height. Being that no two workers are exactly the same height, they’ll need to adjust the chair at their desk for proper ergonomics. Additionally, check the seat cushion when choosing office chairs. An ergonomically designed chair should feature a soft, comfortable cushion to minimize stress on the pelvis, as well as the armrests at a 90-degree angle.

An ergonomic office chair should also feature strong support for the lower back. Statistics show that 31 million Americans suffer from lower back pain at any given time. It’s so common, in fact, that 80% of the general population will experience it at some point in their life. While back pain can be caused by any number of things, sitting in a poorly designed chair for long periods of time is a common risk factor, which is why it’s important to choose office chairs with proper support for the lower back.

Proper Lighting

When you think of office ergonomics, lighting probably doesn’t come to mind. Nonetheless, the type of lighting and its location can affect ergonomics in the workplace.

Some employers assume that brighter is better when it comes to lights. After all, bright lights provide greater illumination, allowing workers to see what they are doing. However, lights that are too bright may interfere with workers’ ability to see. It can create blinding glares and reflections, all while preventing workers from completing their regular tasks.

Conversely, dim lighting forces strain workers’ eyes, which can cause headaches, fatigue and low productivity. If the lighting is too dim, workers may strain to see what they are doing. Therefore, you need to use balanced lighting that falls somewhere in the middle.

Here are some lighting tips to create an ergonomic office:

  • Install lighting over workstations.
  • Consider using task lighting to reduce eye strain and improve ergonomics.
  • Choose yellow instead of white lights.
  • Use a smart lighting system to automatically adjust brightness levels depending on the time of day.
  • Embrace natural lighting by setting up workstations around windows (but position them away from the window to avoid sun glare on monitors).
  • Install glare filters on computer monitors.

Train Workers on Safe Lifting Practices

safe lifting practicesA form of organizational ergonomics is training workers on safe lifting practices. Have you ever pulled a muscle while lifting a heavy object? Well, this is a common type of injury that millions of people suffer from. The good news is that it’s completely avoidable by following some safe lifting practices.

Workers should be trained to lift boxes and other objects with their feet, not their backs. Rather than bending their back to grab and lift a box, for instance, the worker should bend his or her legs until their knees are about parallel to the floor, at which point he or she can grab and lift the box. This way, the weight of the box (or object) is placed on the worker’s legs instead of his or her back.

Encourage Workers to Take Breaks

Finally, you should encourage workers to take breaks. Contrary to what some employers believe, this won’t have a negative effect on productivity levels; it does the opposite by promoting higher productivity levels. When workers are allowed (and encouraged) to take breaks, they’ll be able to walk around and refresh their mental clarity.

Following this recipe will help you achieve an ergonomically designed office. Remember, though, ergonomics is an ongoing process that requires constant observation and adaption. As long as you remain vigilant and continue to optimize your office for human function, you’ll create an ergonomic workplace.

Sep 252017
 

Motivated employees are the driving force behind every successful company. When employees are motivated, they’ll work harder and more efficiently to help the company meet its goals. On the other hand, an unmotivated workforce has the opposite effect by creating a lack of engagement and lower productivity levels.

According to a Gallup poll, only 21% of employees strongly agree that they are motivated to perform outstanding work. Statistics such as this reveal the disconnect between employers and their employees. Motivation begins with upper-level management, however. When employers and managers encourage and engage their workforce, it has a positive impact on employee performance.

The following employee motivation strategies can improve worker satisfaction and productivity in the office.

Say Thanks

Sometimes all it takes is a brief “thanks for the hard work” to motivate employees. According to a study conducted by Reward Gateway, 70% of employees believe they would be motivated to work harder if management told them thanks more often. It’s an effective, low-cost strategy to motivate employees in the office.

Of course, employers are often busy with their own work, so they tend to overlook non-essential tasks like telling employees thanks. However, you can simplify the process by creating personalized handwritten thank-you notes ahead of time. Don’t just give employees the same generic note, but rather include a personal note praising them for their work ethics. Personalized thank-you notes such as this will have a stronger impact on employees, encouraging them to go the extra mile.

Celebrate Personal Milestones of Employees

What does this mean exactly? Well, even if you currently celebrate your company’s own milestones – years in business, sales records, customer satisfaction, etc. – you should also celebrate the personal milestones of your employees. Similar to giving employees a personalized note, this shows you care about them on a personal level and not just a professional level.

For instance, you can motivate your workforce by celebrating employee birthdays in the office. Assuming you still have their applications on file, you should already know your employees’ birthdays. Instead of just conducting business as usual on these days, take a few minutes to announce this personal milestone and wish them a happy birthday.

In addition to birthdays, other employee milestones to consider celebrating include the following:

  • Employment anniversaries (years spent with company)
  • Marriages
  • Birth of a child
  • Retirement

You don’t have to necessarily throw a full-blown party for these personal milestones, as this can be counterproductive when it forces your entire office to stop working for half an hour (or longer). A better approach is to simply take a few minutes to announce the employee’s milestone while also expressing your gratitude for their hard work.

Offer Informal Feedback

According to a survey conducted by the Harvard Business Review, 72% of employees said their performance would improve if upper-level management would give them feedback. Many companies already provide feedback in the form of performance reviews. This “formal” feedback, however, lacks the motivational power of more personal, informal feedback.

When offering feedback to employees, there are a few things to keep in mind. For starters, you should stick to face-to-face meetings between you and the other employee. The personal nature of a face-to-face meeting eases the employee’s stress and anxiety while also allowing him or her to better absorb the feedback.

Secondly, focus on the positive elements of the employee’s performance. You can still tell them how to improve in certain areas, but you should keep the conversation positive and uplifting; otherwise, it’s not going to serve as an effective motivator. Maybe the employee has outsold his or her colleagues, or perhaps they’ve pioneered a more efficient technique. Discussing positive elements of an employee’s performance such as this encourages them to keep it up.

Feedback should be a two-way street, however. So, ask employees how they feel about their jobs, including what they like and what can be improved.

Casual Friday

Casual Friday AttireThere’s nothing wrong with using a formal dress code in the office, though employers should consider a “dress-down” day for at least one day of the week. Instead of wearing a suit or other formal attire on this day, for instance, workers can wear casual clothes like a t-shirt and denim jeans on this dress-down day. Not only does this increase employee satisfaction, but it could motivate employees to work harder.

According to a survey cited by TrainingZone, 70% of employers believe dress-down days have a positive impact on employee performance, and roughly half believe that strict formal dress codes have a negative impact on employee performance.

Dress-down days such as this are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. According to a separate survey conducted by the Society for Human Resources Management, 62% of companies allow workers to dress casually once a week. So, if you’re looking to motivate your employees, try jumping on the bandwagon by embracing a dress-down day such as casual Friday. It’s a simple yet meaningful way form of appreciation that speaks volume about your company.

Invest in New Office Furniture

Mayline Office FurnitureYou might be surprised to learn that buying new office furniture can motivate employees. Forcing employees to sit in uncomfortable chairs and use poorly designed desks for six or more hours a day can leave them feeling dissatisfied. And when employees are dissatisfied, they aren’t going to push themselves on the job.

To prevent this from happening in your workplace, upgrade to newer, higher quality office furniture. Replacing cheap plastic chairs with ergonomically designed office chairs, for instance, is guaranteed to have a positive impact on employee satisfaction and subsequent performance. Instead of leaving the office with an aching back, employees will feel healthier and less fatigued – all for the small investment of buying new chairs.

Define Your Company’s Mission

When employees don’t understand their company’s goals, they’ll feel less driven to help it succeed. Therefore, it’s important to clearly define your company’s mission.

As explained in this Forbes article, motivation begins with defining the company’s vision, mission and strategy. Employers should create a shared mission in which workers can participate. The general idea behind this strategy is to make employees feel like they are part of a team, with the goal of accomplishing something bigger. This in turn motivates them to put their best foot forward; thus, promoting higher productivity levels in the workplace.

When using this strategy to motivate your workforce, consider displaying your company’s mission in a visible, easy-to-see location somewhere in your office. You can display it on a whiteboard in the break room, for instance, or you can design a large poster to hang on the wall. If workers see it daily, they’ll be reminded of your company’s mission, which should motivate them to work harder.

Celebrate Employee Appreciation Day

Held annually on the first Friday of March, Employee Appreciation Day offers the perfect opportunity for employers to express gratitude for their employees’ hard work, devotion and dedication. As the name suggests, this day is all about showing appreciation to your employees. Employee Appreciation Day is like Boss’s Day (October 16), though it focuses on employees instead of employers.

When the first Friday of March rolls around, consider throwing a small party for your employees. You can schedule a 20 to 30-minute office party to celebrate Employee Appreciation Day, during which employees can enjoy food and beverages while conversing amongst themselves. Of course, you can also use this time to recognize employees for their hard work by announcing their names and accomplishments

With that said, you should integrate employee appreciation into your company’s culture rather than just a once-a-year occurrence. Failure to appreciate your employees the other 364 days will only hurt your efforts to create a motivated, productive workforce.

Performance-Based Rewards

Virtually any type of reward will motivate employees to work harder, but performance-based rewards are particularly effective for this purpose. Basically, this involves rewarding employees based on their performance. The most common performance-based reward used by companies is a pay bonus in which employees receive additional pay that’s not part of their regular salary or wages for their work.

For data-entry jobs, for instance, an employer may provide a tiered bonus pay for employees who are able to type more than 10,000 keystrokes per hour. Employees who type between 10,000 and 11,000 keystrokes per hour may receive a $200 bonus, while employees who type 11,000 to 12,000 keystrokes per hour receive a $400 bonus. The higher the performance, the better the reward.

Another type of performance-based reward is profit sharing. With profit sharing, however, rewards are based on the performance of the company as a whole instead of individual employees. When the company succeeds in generating higher profits, some of those profits are shared with employees.

Performance-based rewards such pay bonuses and profit sharing encourage employees to work harder by giving them an inventive to do so.

Encourage Creativity

Encouraging creativity in the office can have a positive impact on employee performance. When employees are given the freedom to express their own thoughts and ideas as opposed to performing linear tasks, they’ll feel a newfound drive to succeed.

Take Google, for example. The world’s largest search engine embraces a corporate culture in which employees can spend 20% of their time working on creative projects. When employees aren’t working on specific, delegated tasks, they are free to work on their ideas, assuming it takes up no more than 20% of their total work time. As explained by VentureBeat, this led to the creation of some of Google’s most successful products, including its online advertising and revenue-sharing program AdSense.

Google isn’t the only company that encourages creativity in the workplace. LinkedIn has an InCubator program, which allows employees to work on their own product ideas; Microsoft has The Garage where employees can turn their product ideas into a reality using Microsoft’s tools; and even Apple has a creativity program where employees can work on their own projects. By following a similar format with your company’s culture, you’ll motivate employees to go above and beyond in their respective work.

Employee Recognition Program

Finally, implementing an employee recognition program in your office can motivate employees to work harder. In the most basic sense, an employee recognition program is designed to acknowledge employees for their work.

Far too many employers turn a blind eye to their employees’ performance, only discussing negative elements of an employee’s performance. As a result, there’s no real incentive for employees to push themselves, other than getting yelled at by their employer. But if you recognize employees for their positive accomplishments, it will encourage them and others to keep up the work. This is the fundamental reason why recognition programs are such an effective motivator in the workplace.

One of the most forms of employee recognition is an employee-of-the-month program. With this type of program, a single employee is recognized for his or her outstanding work ethics every month. Different companies have their own criteria for choosing an employee of the month, though most use multiple factors like performance, attendance and quality of work. Once a month, a single employee is selected using this criteria and named employee of the month.

When using an employee recognition program, be sure to reward the chosen employee with some type of incentive. After all, you want the employee to feel like he or she is being rewarded for their efforts; otherwise, a recognition program isn’t going to motivate them.

Here are some reward ideas for an employee recognition program:

  • Pay bonus
  • Personalized plaque or trophy
  • Gift card
  • Company-branded t-shirt
  • Free lunch or dinner
  • Massage or spa day
  • Double break time (e.g. 30-minute break instead of standard 15 minutes)
  • Coveted front-row parking spot for a month
  • Free gym or health club membership
  • Charitable donation in the employee’s name
  • Name placement on the “wall of fame”
  • Work from home for a day
  • Allow employee to bring their dog to work for a day

Following these strategies will motivate office workers to work harder and more efficiently. Most importantly, though, communicate with your employees and acknowledge their professional achievements.