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.

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.

Aug 222017
 

3 Steps to ProductivityMaintaining a high level of office productivity is essential in the workplace, and offices are no exception. If workers’ productivity levels begin to drop, the company for which they work will produce fewer goods or services – or produce them at a slower pace. Regardless, the company takes a hit by generating less revenue.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the average American clocks 8.8 hours per day at his or her job. However, studies show that office workers are only productive for a fraction of this time. Office managers and employers can encourage higher productivity levels by familiarizing themselves with the following ten things that affect office productivity.

#1) Privacy

Privacy, or lack thereof, can affect workers’ productivity levels in the office. In 2011, the Harvard Business Review published an article in which it concluded that open office designs promote higher productivity. Basically, workers in open offices realize they are being watched more carefully, so they tend to have shorter discussions with coworkers and instead focus on their job.

Research conducted by the Cornell University International Workplace Studies Program reinforced this belief, also suggesting that open workspaces are more effective at foster productivity and learning than closed, cubicle-designed workspaces. Researchers found that workers in office cubicles would spend more time talking on the phone, browsing the Internet for non-work-related content, and gossiping with coworkers. By using an open office design, these productivity-killing problems were largely eliminated.

#2) Happiness

Unhappy employees affect office productivityWhether or not workers are happy can affect office productivity levels. According to a study conducted by economists from the University of Warwick, happy workers are 12% more productive than their unhappy counterparts.

Led by Professor Andrew Oswald, researchers found a direct correlation between happiness and workplace productivity. Professor Oswald explained that positive emotions “invigorate human beings,” prompting them to work harder and more efficiently.

Some employers assume that offering workers financial incentives – bonuses, increased pay, company shares, etc. – is the most effective solution for a happy workforce. According to Professor Oswald, employee support and recognition are most effective at producing a happy workforce. Whether it’s an employee-of-the-month award or a verbal “thanks for the hard work,” a little recognition goes a long way at fostering happiness in the office.

In addition to promoting higher productivity levels, a happy workforce offers other benefits as well:

  • Lower absenteeism
  • Improved employee health and wellness
  • Lower employee turnover rate
  • Less conflict between workers
  • Improved morale
  • Increased sales
  • Fewer work accidents and mistakes
  • Reduces the need for micromanagement
  • Encourages leadership and teamwork

#3) Plants

Are plants incorporated into your office’s design? If not, you should consider adding them. Along with the aesthetic benefits they offer, plants may promote higher productivity levels in the office. A study conducted by Dr. Chris Knight from Exeter University found that workers in “lean,” barebones offices were 15% more productive when just a few houseplants were added. Adding just one houseplant per square meter substantially improved workers’ memory retention skills.

Throughout the 18-month-long study, Dr. Knight and his colleagues observed workers becoming more engaged with their surroundings when houseplants were added to their workplace. While this study was done on offices in the United Kingdom and Netherlands, it’s safe to assume the results are universal and apply to U.S. offices as well.

How can houseplants promote higher productivity levels exactly? Researchers were reluctant to answer this question, saying only that they observed a correlation between the presence of houseplants and increased environmental engagement. Other studies, however, have found that plants can lower stress and anxiety, improve cognitive function and increase attention spans. Perhaps these collective effects are the reason why houseplants are a powerful productivity booster in the office.

So, if you want to promote higher productivity levels in your office, try decorating with a few houseplants. You can place them on windowsills, desks, or in stand-alone containers. Assuming this study is correct, this otherwise simple decorative accessory can make office workers more productive.

#4) Sunlight

SunlightExposure to sunlight can also affect workers’ office productivity. The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays stimulate the production of vitamin D and serotonin while also regulating the body’s internal clock (circadian rhythm). Vitamin D is important because it helps the body absorb calcium and subsequently promotes strong bones, whereas serotonin regulates mood and sleep. For these reasons, most health professionals recommend getting at least 15 to 20 minutes of sun exposure per day, depending on the fairness of your skin.

Unfortunately, though, many office workers don’t get enough sunshine to yield these benefits – and researchers believe this lack of exposure could interfere with their sleeping habits and ultimately lower their productivity levels.

A study conducted by researchers at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine found that employees who worked in offices with windows were more likely to exercise and experience healthy habits than their counterparts who workers windowless offices. Researchers further added that lack of sleep leads to memory loss, slower reaction times, shorter attention spans and lower productivity.

The study’s researchers concluded by saying sunlight “may provide a profound way to improve office workers’ productivity and health, as well as the safety of the community they work and live in.”

Lighting is essential in the office, but it’s also a major complaint among workers. A survey conducted by the American Society of Interior Design (ASID) found that 68% of office workers complain about lighting. Artificial light is often problematic because it’s either too bright or too dim, causing strain and discomfort.

Therefore, office managers and employers should consider natural lighting as an alternative. Installing new windows, removing obstructions, and leaving the curtains and blinds open will bring in more natural light. Even if it’s not a complete substitution to overhead fixtures, natural lighting can improve workers’ satisfaction while also boosting their productivity levels.

#5) Color

Dull officeYou might be surprised to learn that the color of an office can affect workers’ productivity. Research shows that the human eye can see roughly 7 million different colors. While some of these colors can trigger negative reactions in the body, including headaches, stress, and anxiety, others have the opposite effect by producing positive effects, such as increased productivity.

According to human resources professional and co-author of The Future-Proof Workplace Linda Sharkey, engaging office workers with the right colors promotes higher energy levels, reduces fatigue and improves overall productivity in the workplace. Some of the top colors to foster productivity in the office, according to Sharkey, include blue, yellow, orange, red and green. Moreover, colors that you should avoid, or at least limit the use of, include white and gray.

Researchers at the Lighting Research Center at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute recently sought to investigate the way in which color affects the brain. By measuring biomarkers of brain activity, they found 460-nanometer blue triggered the same circadian rhythmic response as daylight, whereas 640-nanometer red a strong alerting effect that didn’t reduce or otherwise disturb individuals’ melatonin levels.

#6) Vacation

Bahamas VacationA 2016 survey conducted by the Washington Post suggests that Americans wasted 658 million vacation days in 2015. Whether you prefer the beach, the mountains or elsewhere, there’s no better way to unwind than by taking some time off work. Unfortunately, though, some workers choose to skip their vacations, believing they’ll work longer and earn more money by staying on the clock – and this could be hurting their productivity levels.

As explained by Inc, clocking too many hours at the office can hurt your productivity levels. By taking vacations, however, it improves your productivity in several ways:

  • Vacations allow workers to catch up their sleep
  • Workers are typically exposed to nature when vacationing
  • Vacations spark ingenuity and creativity
  • Vacations offer a change of perspective
  • Workers can rest both their body and mind when vacationing

The combination of these effects can, in turn, reduce stress levels, improve cognitive function, foster happiness and boost productivity levels. So, if you’re thinking about skipping vacation this year, you should reconsider. A short getaway to your preferred destination is the perfect way to rejuvenate your body and mind, allowing you to work more efficiently when you return to the office.

#7) BYOD

There are both advantages and disadvantages to allowing workers to bring and use their own electronic devices from home. Known as a bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, it’s become a hot topic among employers and office managers in recent years. Some companies embrace a BYOD policy for the cost savings and convenience it offers, whereas others reject it due to security concerns. If you’re able to create an iron-clad security plan to mitigate the risk of data theft, however, you may find a BYOD policy is an effective strategy to improve workers’ productivity levels.

A study conducted by Dell Software found that two-thirds of businesses notice improved worker productivity – and customer response times – by implementing a BYOD policy. Workers are more familiar with their own devices, so they tend to use them more efficiently than devices provided by their employer; thus, improving productivity levels.

#8) Indoor Air Quality

Indoor air pollution was recently ranked as one of the top five environmental hazards by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). According to the EPA, the air inside a home or building is between two and five times more toxic than outdoor air. In addition to increasing the risk of disease, the high concentration of toxins and particulate matter in the air may make workers less productive.

One study found that indoor air pollution makes workers 6% to 9% less productive on average. A separate study published in the Harvard Business Review (HBR) suggests that workers are 5% to 6% more productive when working in environments with “good” air quality rated by the EPA.

#9) Temperature

It’s just the air quality that affects workers’ productivity; it’s also the temperature of the air. Granted, office temperatures vary wildly from company to company. Some companies prefer a cool office of 70 degrees Fahrenheit or lower, whereas others prefer warmer offices in excess of 77 to 80 degrees Fahrenheit. So, which environment yields the highest productivity for workers?

Researchers from Cornell University found that raising office temperatures from 68 to 77 degrees Fahrenheit resulted in 44% fewer typing errors. Before the study, researchers theorized that cooler temperatures would encourage workers to work harder and better. After examining the effects of cool vs. warm offices, however, they found the latter was most effective at improving workers’ productivity levels.

If your office’s thermostat is cranked down, try raising it to see how it affects workers’ productivity levels. At the very least, employers and office managers will reap the benefits of lower utility bills during the summer. The study cited above, however, indicates that a warm office also makes workers more productive, and that alone is reason enough to raise the thermostat.

#10) Noise

Of course, noise can also affect office productivity. Constant and/or loud noises distract workers from their respective tasks, making them less productive. To put the problem into perspective, one study found that workers are 66% less productive when exposed to noise from a near conversation. Other studies reinforce this belief, also indicating that noise is a top productivity-killer in the office.

The American Society of Heating and Air Conditioning Engineers recommends limiting workplace noise to 58 dBA to minimize distraction and improve productivity. When noise begins to exceed this limit, it creates a distracting environment that’s difficult to work in.

Aside from providing workers with noise-canceling headphones, there are other steps you can take to minimize distracting noise in the office, some of which include:

  • Install sound-absorbing materials into walls, floors, and structures
  • Encourage workers to speak quietly to one another
  • Dedicate special “quiet zones” throughout the office
  • Install soundproof windows
  • Consider plant acoustics – a wall made of live, growing plants – as a natural, Eco-friendly sound-absorbent solution
  • Keep doors closed when possible

These are just a few somewhat surprising elements that can affect productivity in the office. By implementing the necessary changes to avoid these problems, you’ll create a more effective and enjoyable environment in which to work.

Aug 012017
 

Office Furniture - Conference TableOffice furniture affects more than just aesthetics; it plays a role in workers’ productivity, morale, health, teamwork and more. According to a survey cited by BusinessNewsDaily, however, nearly 90% of workers are not happy with their current working space. Workers cited several reasons for this dissatisfaction, the most common being lack of privacy.

Employers and office managers can overcome this challenge and regain the confidence of their workforce by upgrading their office with new furniture. Renovating your office with new furniture will allow you to address workers’ concerns, such as privacy, while also better aligning your office with your company’s culture and values.

However, there are a few do’s and don’ts you should follow when buying new office furniture…

Do Get Measurements

Trying to “wing it” with your measurements is a recipe for disaster. Whether you’re buying a new chair, desk, conference table, shelving unit, filing cabinet, etc., use a tape measurer to determine exactly how much space you have available and compare it with the product’s own dimensions (width, height and depth). Upgrading your entire office with new desks only to discover later the desks are too big is a serious headache – but thankfully it’s also something that can be avoided by taking measurements.

Additionally, you should also consider doorway and staircase measurements and whether the furniture can easily fit through. In the United States, commercial buildings are typically constructed with specific door measurements using the International Building Code (IBC). Under the IBC specifications, doors should be 32 to 48 inches wide and a height of at least 80 inches. Because of the varied door width specifications, you should measure the doorways in your office to ensure your furniture can pass through.

Keep in mind that you may be able to tilt certain furniture on its side to pass through doorways and tight spaces. Alternatively, you may be able to move the furniture through the doorway while it’s still packaged and then build it once you reach the other side.

Don’t Prioritize Price Over Quality

There’s nothing wrong with trying to get a good deal on your office furniture. After all, a full-sized laminate desk with a matching hutch can cost upwards of $2,000 – and that’s only a single piece. If you’re furnishing or renovating an entire office, you can easily burn through your available budget. While saving money is great, though, you shouldn’t prioritize price over quality when buying new office furniture.

A cheap desk made of particleboard, for instance, will likely wear down more quickly than a higher quality desk made of solid oak or birch wood. So, while it may cost less than its higher quality counterpart, you’ll end up spending more in the long run when you’re forced to repair or replace it. Always choose quality over cost-savings to avoid headaches such as this.

Do Consider Mobility

 

Office chairs typically fall under the category of being stationary or mobile, depending on whether they roll. Stationary chairs feature fixed, pole-like legs that do not move, whereas mobile chairs feature wheeled legs (known as casters) that can move.

Consider the area in which the chairs will be used and choose the type that’s best suited for your needs. Mobile office chairs are generally recommended for use in working spaces with desks and conference tables. Stationary chairs, on the other hand, are typically used in reception areas and waiting rooms where mobility is not required.

You’ll probably notice that most mobile office chairs have five wheels instead of four like their stationary counterpart. Why the nuance in leg numbers? With four legs, stationary chairs are easily stacked and can be placed flush or near flush against walls. Mobile office chairs, however, typically have five wheeled legs for the following reasons:

  • It improves the chair’s stability
  • Less likely to wobble and tip over
  • It increases the chair’s weight
  • Creates more even distribution of the chair’s load

Don’t Overlook Cost of Ownership

Consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) when shopping for new office furniture. Popularized by Gartner Group in the late 1980s, TCO refers to a financial estimate of the direct and indirect costs associated with a product. Basically, you want to estimate how much the furniture will cost you over the course of its lifetime, which is the product’s TCO.

The initial sale price of office furniture typically isn’t the total cost. If you’re upgrading your office with a large desk, you may need to hire someone to assemble it, adding to the TCO. Or if you’re buying new cubicles or walls, you’ll have to pay someone to install them, also adding to its TCO.

Repairs are another common cost associated with office furniture. If your new desk falls apart – and it isn’t under warranty – you’ll have to pay to get it fixed. Over the course of the desk’s lifetime, this can greatly add to its TOC.

There’s no way to predict exactly how much money you’ll spend on a piece of furniture throughout its lifetime. However, taking into account factors like assembly, installation and repairs can help you estimate the TOC. And remember, you can minimize repair costs and subsequently lower the TCO by choosing high-quality furniture that’s backed by the manufacturer and/or vendor.

Do Choose Ergonomic Furniture

Use the backrest. That’s what it’s designed for!

When choosing office furniture, make sure it’s ergonomically designed to minimize stress and strain on workers who use it. This is arguably the single most important thing to consider when buying office furniture.

If your furniture isn’t ergonomically designed with the end-user in mind, workers will become less productive, experience lower morale, and it will increase their risk of injury.

According to a study conducted by researchers at Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries, office workers’ productivity increases by 15% when ergonomic chairs and furniture are introduced. The same study also found that money spent on an ergonomic redesign was paid back in less than a year. This begs the question: how does ergonomic furniture essentially pay for itself?

According to a report published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the average worker who sustains a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) loses about seven days of work for every MSD incident. If a worker suffers from severe lower back pain caused by prolonged sitting on a non-ergonomic chair, for instance, he or she may take seven days off work. Or if a worker develops carpal tunnel syndrome (CPS) while using a poorly designed desk, he or she may also take a week off work.

This absenteeism places a heavy financial toll on employers. A separate study found that health-related absenteeism at work costs U.S. employers more than $260 billion every year. When a worker takes time off, the employer must exhaust additional time, energy and resources to find a replacement.

Furthermore, employers must cover worker’s compensation expenses when a worker is injured, and statistics show that $1 of every $3 spent on worker’s compensation goes towards MSD-related injuries like lower back pain and CPS.

Here are some qualities of an ergonomic office chair:

  • Adjustable height, allowing workers to achieve an eye-level position with the top of their computer monitor while also keeping both feet planted on the floor
  • Adjustable armrests so workers can rest their arms when using the computer or writing
  • Proper lumbar support
  • Tilt lock feature
  • Sturdy, high-quality construction that doesn’t bend, flex or otherwise change shape through regular usage
  • Doesn’t pinch or dig into the worker

Don’t Buy from the Wrong Company

Of course, you should buy your office furniture from the right company. Hopefully, nothing happens to your new furniture, but if a problem arises – either during or after the purchase – you want a company that’s eager to help.

Not all furniture companies stand by their products. Some use a bait-and-switch tactic where they promise to deliver an exceptional-quality piece of furniture, but once it arrives the customer realizes that it’s a lower quality piece. Unless the company offers returns, the customer may be forced to keep his or her subpar furniture.

You should also beware of hidden fees and charges when shopping for office furniture. Just because a product is listed for a certain price doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the final price. Granted, there’s nothing with charging for shipping, but furniture companies should be upfront and transparent with these and other associated costs.

So, choose a company with an iron-clad return policy and transparent pricing when shopping for office furniture.

Do Choose a Timeless Style

ergonomic office spaceOffice décor and design trends change on a regular basis. A design that’s popular today may be outdated and obsolete next year. Unless you plan on replacing your office furniture annually, you should choose a timeless style.

Avoid bold and bright-colored furniture styles and instead stick with a more basic, modern style that will withstand the hands of time. A black mesh-back adjustable chair, for instance, is an excellent choice for desks. Leather executive chairs are also a timeless style. You can still choose sleek, aesthetically pleasing furniture, but it shouldn’t be over the top.

Here are some characteristics of timeless office furniture:

  • Clean lines
  • Basic colors (either single or two-tone)
  • Natural wood tones
  • Symmetric design
  • Efficient use of space

Don’t Buy Used Furniture

broken office chairsBuying used office furniture may sound like a great way to save money, but it may backfire by costing you more money in the long run. First and foremost, used furniture typically isn’t backed by the manufacturer with a warranty. Warranties either expire or don’t transfer after the transaction. So, if something happens to your new furniture, you’ll be left with a damaged product that you must pay to fit.

Another problem with used furniture is the potential for hidden damage. You really don’t know who used the furniture, for how long they used it or what they did to it. As such, buying used office furniture is a gamble. You may get lucky and find a great deal on a high-quality, gently used piece. However, you may also end up with a product that has serious underlying damage that you were unaware of.

Let’s face it, used office furniture typically looks worn and aged. Even if there’s no structural or other serious damage, it may have scuffs, blemishes, fade marks, and other imperfections. Do you really want to “upgrade” your office with visibly worn furniture? (hint: you don’t)

For the reasons and others, avoid buying used office furniture and stick with new pieces instead. The piece of mind knowing that it’s backed by the vendor and warranty makes it well worth the cost. You might also be surprised to learn just how nominal the price difference is between used and new office furniture.

Do Choose Furniture That Supports Future Growth

In addition to a timeless style, you should also choose office furniture that supports future growth. Growth is a fundamental metric of a company’s success. Successful companies are continuously increasing their revenue, expanding their reach and tapping into new markets.

And with this growth comes the need for office updates and improvements. If you hire new employees, for instance, you may need to rearrange your furniture to accommodate them. This means shuffling desks and file cabinets so you can create an additional workspace for the new employee. If you have large, bulky office furniture that’s difficult to move, you may have trouble achieving this goal.

To support future growth, your office furniture should also accommodate technology. Today, most computer desks are designed with hidden cable runners in the back. Power cords, USB cables, printer cables, etc. run through this area, essentially concealing them from plain sight. Given that computers are essential in the modern workplace, this simple feature should be a requirement for all office desks.

Upgrading your office with new furniture is a smart decision that will pay off in multiple ways. It promotes higher productivity levels, higher worker morale, and it allows you to reinforce your company’s culture. Just remember to follow the tips outlined here to ensure you get the best deal for your money.

 

Jul 192017
 

The modern office has come a long way over the years. Just a few decades ago, they consisted largely of side-by-side cubicles, either in an open floor plan or separated by thin partition walls. Of course, some companies opted for a different design, but this was the de-facto standard for most offices constructed in the 1970s and 1980s.

Since then, however, office designs have evolved to incorporate aesthetics, ergonomics, and productivity. Whether you are designing a new office or modernizing your existing office, you should consider the following design trends to promote a positive working environment.

#1) Modular Design

One trend that’s becoming increasingly popular in offices today is modularity. A modular design is characterized by the use of multiple interchangeable parts – doors, windows, walls, ceilings, etc. –  that allow business owners and managers to easily change the layout. Rather than removing an entire wall that separates workers’ desks, for instance, you can simply remove parts of the wall to achieve your desired layout.

Modular office designs allow for an unmatched level of customization. You can change out the components to create a layout that’s truly one of a kind. However, there are other reasons to consider a modular design for your office.

Some of the benefits of using a modular office design include the following:

  • It costs less than conventional designs
  • Ability to change the design on the fly
  • Custom design options to reinforce your company’s culture
  • It’s future proof

#2) Emphasis on Collaboration

According to research conducted by Herman Miller, Inc., 80% of an individual worker’s output is dependent on group collaboration. As a result, many companies are designing their offices to encourage teamwork and collaboration. Aside from the positive impact, this has on workers’ attitudes, it also improves their productivity – and that alone is reason enough to at least consider a collaborative-focused office design.

Collaborative-focused office designs often include large conference-style tables, open spaces and lounge area. This is in stark contrast to the individually segmented cubicles found in earlier office designs.

Companies big and small are taking a newfound interest in sustainable, environmentally friendly practices, including their office design. A survey conducted by the Nielsen Company found that 55% of consumers worldwide are willing to pay more for products and services offered by environmentally responsible companies. This has prompted many companies to carefully consider their operations and how it affects the environment.

An environmentally friendly office design may incorporate non-VOC furniture, natural lighting, energy-efficient lighting (e.g., LED and CFL), non-toxic cleaning supplies, rugs made of organic materials, natural hardwood or bamboo flooring, rechargeable batteries and recycling bins. Basically, these “green” offices focus on clean, sustainable products that don’t consume a lot of energy or resources.

In addition to the positive impact it has on your company’s brand image, an environmentally friendly office could save you big bucks. The DVIRC reports that office buildings account for roughly 19% of all commercial energy consumed in the United States. Embracing an environmentally friendly office design by changing out incandescent light bulbs for LEDs or CFLs and performing other actions, however, can lower these costs.

#4) Standing and Hybrid Desks

You’ll find many modern offices now featuring either standing or hybrid-sitting/standing desks, the latter of which can convert from a traditional “sitting” desk to a standing desk. So, what makes this a popular trend in office design? Simply put, sitting for long periods at a time is bad for your health.

Studies have linked prolonged sitting to a wide range of adverse health conditions, including heart disease, obesity, diabetes, cancer and even premature death. “Everybody knows smoking is bad for your health. But what isn’t common knowledge is that physical inactivity is as powerful a risk factor as smoking,” said Dr. I-Min Lee of Harvard Medical School.

It’s unknown why prolonged sitting is bad for your health, though some experts believe it’s attributed to the negative ways in which it impacts blood-sugar levels and metabolism. Nonetheless, the consensus is that sitting for long periods of time increases the risk of many chronic diseases.

While standing and hybrid desks are still a relatively new concept, there’s strong evidence reinforcing their health benefits. A study published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) suggests that sit-to-stand products, including the desks mentioned above, are effective at reducing prolonged sitting. When a worker has access to a standing or hybrid desk, he or she will be more likely to stand.

Standing and hybrid desks allow office workers to perform their respective tasks while standing. And being that you burn 30% more calories when standing versus sitting, this trend could play an important role in improving the health of office workers.

#5) Hidden Wires and Cables

Electrical wires and cables are a serious eye-sore in the office.  Whether it’s Ethernet data cables, computer cables, monitor cables, printer cables, power strips, phone lines, etc., the average office has a lot of wires running through it. Leaving these wires and cables exposed creates a cluttered, messy atmosphere that hurts your office’s décor.

Furthermore, exposed electrical wires and cables create a tripping hazard. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reports that 15% of all accidental deaths in the United States involve slips, trips, and falls. Other statistics show that 1 in 6 of all work injuries that merit time off from work involve falls. Hiding all electrical wires and cables isn’t going to eliminate the risk of falls, but it can certainly help by lowering the risk.

In an effort to improve the safety and aesthetics of their workplace, many business owners and office managers are now concealing their wires and cables. There are several solutions to conceal wires and cables, some of which include wire tubes, furniture with built-in wire passages, wall mounts, ties, organizers and more. Electrical outlets can even be installed directly into the flooring, allowing workers to plug in their devices under their workstation.

#6) Tailored Towards Millennials

Offices are now being tailored to meet the needs of millennials and for a good reason. According to a report by SHRM, an overwhelming majority of HR professionals (68%) believe the millennial generation will play a major impact on the workplace in the next five years.  A separate report published by PWC suggests that millennials will account for nearly half of the entire global workforce by 2020, attesting to their significance in the corporate world.

The successors to Generation X, Millennials are defined as middle-aged men and women who were born sometime between the early 1980s and mid-to-late 1990s. As this generation takes the place of the baby boomers, offices are being specifically altered to satisfy their needs. Millennials typically have a greater interest in technology, wellness, and social and environmentally responsibility. Modern office designs incorporate these elements, so they are more appealing to this ever-increasing demographic in the workplace.

#7) Ergonomic Chairs

We can’t talk about office design trends for 2017 without mentioning the use of ergonomic chairs. In the past, office managers typically selected chairs on the basis of aesthetics, paying little-to-no attention to their ergonomics (or lack thereof). Now, however, office managers are going the extra mile to ensure their workers have access to comfortable, ergonomically designed chairs.

So, what does “ergonomic” mean exactly? This catch-all term describes the process of designing a product or workplace to meet the needs of the person who uses it. Ergonomic chairs, for instance, are designed with a focus on comfort and body support, specifically for the lumbar (lower back) region.

Investing in ergonomic chairs for your office serves several purposes. First, it improves worker morale and satisfaction. Secondly – and most importantly – it reduces the risk of musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).

MSDs are injuries or conditions that affect the muscles, ligaments, tendons and supporting structures. Common examples include carpal tunnel syndrome, muscle strains, lower back strains, shoulder cuff tears and trigger finger. According to statistics cited by OSHA, nearly one-third of all worker injuries and illnesses that occurred in 2013 were MSDs.

Ergonomic chairs can help prevent MSDs in the workplace by ensuring that workers are adequately supported when sitting.  Chairs that are not ergonomically designed will stress the lower back, causing fatigue and increasing the risk of MSD-related lower back pain.

#8) Blending of Outdoor Elements

Coming in at number eight on our list of popular office design trends for 2017 is the blending of outdoor elements. When workers are forced to sit indoors for eight or more hours a day, it can negatively affect their mood. By bringing outdoor elements into the office, it counters this effect to create a more aesthetically appealing environment.

Decorating your office with low-maintenance houseplants is one way to blend the design with outdoor elements. Strategically placing houseplants throughout your office will enhance the décor, creating a sense of the outdoors.

Additionally, houseplants promote cleaner air by filtering dust, bacteria, bold and other impurities from the air. The Environment Protection Agency (EPA) says that indoor air pollution is one of the leading concerns for public health. And just because the air in your office looks clean doesn’t mean that it is. By incorporating houseplants into your office design, you’ll promote cleaner air with lower levels of toxins and pollutants.

Another idea is to install an indoor water fountain in your office. The sound of flowing water instills calmness and tranquility while reflecting the outdoor environment. And like houseplants, water fountains also promote cleaner air by filtering airborne particles. The only downside is that is that indoor water fountains require regular maintenance; otherwise, they’ll accumulate dust and debris while also promoting mildew.

#9) The Right Color

Color can make or break the design of an office. The wrong color combination can literally lower workers’ performance by instilling a sense of anxiety and stress. The right color combination, however, has the opposite effect by promoting a sense of wellness and relaxation, while subsequently improving productivity and performance.

According to a study conducted by researchers from the University of Texas, the worst colors for an office design are gray, beige and white, which reflect sadness and depression. Yellow, on the other hand, embraces innovation and optimism. Other colors to consider incorporating into your office design include red, blue, orange, green and shades thereof. Feel free to experiment with different colors to see what works best for your office layout.

Alternatively, you may want to consider using a metallic finish in your office, which according to Domain is one of the top interior design trends for 2017. Mimicking the appearance of a stainless-steel surface, metallic finish is a classic style that’s guaranteed to withstand the hands of time.

#10) Technology Integration

Finally, technology integration is an office design trend that’s becoming more and more popular. Most modern offices have a wireless Internet connection at the very least – and that’s not expected to go away anytime soon. However, there are new technological innovations that are slowly being integrated into the office.

Wireless charging is one such technological innovation that’s commonly found in offices. Also known as inductive charging, it uses an electromagnetic field to send power to nearby devices, typically through a charging station. The obvious benefit of wireless charging is that it doesn’t require a direct connection between the device and a power outlet, which is a huge plus in a crowded conference room with dozens of workers.

Wireless charging is still in its infancy, though, so it’s typically limited to smartphones and mobile devices. In the future, experts believe it could be used to power nearly all electronic devices, essentially eliminating the need for power cords altogether.

Some companies are also integrating iBeacon technology into their offices. Originally developed by Apple and presented at the Developers Conference in 2013, iBeacon is a Bluetooth low energy proximity sensing protocol that sends location-based information to nearby iPhones, iPads and other Apple devices. It can be used to guide interns around large, complex office facilities, or it can be used to send critical information to teams collaborating in various rooms.

Who knows where office designs are headed next. As technology and interior design practices continue to change, so will offices. However, it’s safe to say the office design trends listed above will remain popular for quite some time.

Mar 092017
 
ergonomic office chairs

Help protect your spine with an ergonomically designed chair

Have Back Problems? An Ergonomic Office Chair Can Help

Office work can leave your body feeling strained and exhausted, particularly when you are not supporting your spine correctly. Not sitting up straight with the proper support of an ergonomic office chair and the correct posture can wreck havoc on your back and neck. Computer work can be very consuming, so much that many people unconsciously learn forward towards their monitor while working, offsetting the muscles that work together to keep your body sitting correctly. This strains your back even more, which you are going to feel later.

It is very important to understand and use proper posturing techniques during the day at the office and also invest in an office chair that properly aligns and supports your lower back. Many people actually sit on the front edge of their chair when using a computer, which doesn’t allow for any support for your lower back and spine. Using the right type of support for your back can relieve a lot of the stress and strain that it may feel otherwise, when not using an ergonomic chair or not having good posture.

Your Spine is Important – Treat it Well

Your spine is an incredibly important part of your body as it is the highway of nerves that connect your brain to all the other parts of your body. Protecting your spine and keeping it properly supported and positioned is in your best interest when considering keeping your body in good working order, and alleviating unnecessary pain and aching.

Choosing the best office chair that is tailored to your body in size and support is vital in keeping your back and spine healthy. Find a chair that is comfortable and fits your body. A chair that supports the natural curve of your spine and that allows you to rest your elbows on the armrests while they are close to your body at about a ninety-degree angle is best. Keep your keyboard close enough that you don’t have to reach or lean out to use it. Keep the monitor at eye level to avoid straining your neck and upper back.

Need Help? We’ve Got Your Back!

Do some research on ergonomic office chairs and try some out for yourself to find the perfect fit. Once you have one, don’t forget to use it properly and sit back into the chair to allow it to support your spine. Call Office Chairs Unlimited with any questions or concerns you have; we are always happy to help you find the right chair that will keep you feeling your best!

Aug 112015
 

best office chair choice

Ergonomic office chairs have become much more common over the past few years, and many of them are quite good at fitting a variety of people’s needs. But not all ergonomic chairs are created equal. Choosing the right chair is essential to your comfort and productivity.
If the chair in your office is not comfortable, you will find that you are not as productive as you should be.

There are many things you need to consider, including the quality of the chair, the size, and the overall ergonomics of it. The following tips will help you choose the right chair for your office space.

Adjustment Options

An ergonomic chair should have appropriate options to allow you to adjust it. If you find that you are unable to adjust the height of your chair, you will begin to have problems as you may need to strain to look at your computer screen or you may need to bend in awkward positions to write on your desk.
Your chair’s height should fit your height and you should never pick a chair that cannot support your weight.

Seat of the Chair

The seat of your chair should not wear down quickly. To test this, sit in your chair for 60 to 90 minutes and then stand up. Does the seat deflate or cause your bottom to hurt? If so, you need a new chair. An ergonomic chair seat will not begin to wear and deflate after using it. When a seat pan does begin to wear down this quickly, you cause additional pressure on your spine, which results in pain and inflammation.

Lower Back Rest

All ergonomic chairs should have a lower back rest to help support your spine. If the chair does not have a lumbar rest, you should have it replaced. The rest is in place to relieve the additional pressure on your spine.
In addition to having a back rest, the rest should be adjustable to fit your body size. If you cannot move the rest, what is the point in having it there?

Easy Swivel and Movement

The chair you choose should have a five pedestal base. If it does not, you are causing your spine to take on an awkward shape. The five pedestal base helps you move around the room and distributes your weight evenly. If the wheels on the base are not functioning properly, it is time to get a new chair. You should never have to struggle to move.
In addition to easy to move wheels, your chair should swivel without a struggle. If you feel you need to use too much pressure to turn your chair, you are hurting your spine in the process.

Armrests

If your chair does not have armrests, consider picking a chair that does. Armrests helps you relax and provide you with additional support when you need to lean back. The armrests on your chair should be adjustable as well. If they are not, there is no reason to have them. Armrests that are too low will cause your body to strain and armrests that are too high will wear your arms down and create unnecessary pressure on the spine.
Ergonomic chairs help relieve pressure on your spine and allow you to sit in a comfortable position that does not create unneeded stress on your back. Always make sure the chair you choose is comfortable and equipped to handle your height and weight.

Jul 202015
 

If you are in need of an office desk, you will be overwhelmed to find out how many different materials and shapes office desks come in. If choosing office furniture wasn’t hard enough, now you have to try and identify the right shape desk for your office. Before you settle on one desk, consider the benefits it offers you and weigh whether or not it is functional for you and your office. The following tips will help you narrow down the right shape desk for your office.

Types of Shapes

There are a variety of shapes of desks that you can use in your office. The type of desk you choose should depend on your budget, your needs, and the size of your office space. If you do not have the room for a large desk, don’t buy one.

Unfortunately, many people do overestimate the size of their office space and underestimate the size of the desk they are choosing. When your desk comes in, you do not want to shock the delivery man with a look that screams, “When did my desk take steroids!”

When searching for the right desk for your office you have the following options:

  • L-shaped desk
  • Straight desk
  • U-shaped desk
  • Center room desk
  • Corner desk

Benefits of Each Desk

Now it is time to go over the benefits that each desk offers you. Before you make a quick decision, weigh the pros of each and figure out which desk would be more practical in your office.

U-Shaped Desk

U-shaped deskThe u-shaped desk provides a lot of workroom for you to use. If you plan on having a large workload on a regular basis, this type of desk would be ideal. You can choose to store a lot of items on the counter of the desk.

One of the downsides to a u-shaped desk is that it takes up quite a bit of room in your office. Make sure you have the space prior to purchasing it.

 

Center Desks

center deskCenter desks sit in the middle of the room and take up a large amount of space right through the center of the room, but you are given additional space in front of the desk and behind the desk. A center desk can be moved around the room and placed wherever you want it to go.

Often, people in the workplace do not choose these desks as the wires connecting your computer and telephone are easily visible.

 

Straight Desks

straight deskStraight desks sit along the wall and often anchor to the wall to provide durability. The desk is able to store a large amount of paperwork on top and is convenient because it takes up minimal room in your office.

One of the downsides is the desk sits in one place only and if anchored to the wall, it must remain in the same place.

 

L-Shaped Desk

L-shaped deskThe l-shaped desk is one of the more popular choices and provides you with extended room for storage and your desk items. The desk does take up a lot of room, so be prepared.

 

Corner Desk

corner deskCorner desks help save room and they fit into any corner of an office. They are ideal for home environments or small offices.

A corner desk is ideal in an office environment where you probably do not have clients coming in to your office. Since you will be facing the wall, it would not be ideal to have a client staring at your back as you talk.

When choosing a desk for your office, consider your needs and the measurements of the office you plan on putting the desk in.

Jul 062015
 
grass in office

The landscaping maintenance may be a bit much, but doesn’t this look relaxing?

If your employees are working in an environment that they would consider high stress and chaotic, they may not be as relaxed as they should be. When employees become uptight, you lose your productive work environment and your employees deal with stress more than they work. So, how do you create a relaxed and productive environment? It’s impossible, right? Wrong.
Consider the following tips below and make subtle changes to improve your employee’s overall morale.

Improve the Lighting in Your Workplace

office lightingLighting plays an important role on your employees. If you have ever rubbed your temples after a trip to your doctor’s office full of fluorescent lighting, you know just how terrible bad lighting can be. According to Forbes.com, studies that have been conducted have shown that employees are much more productive when they have natural lighting in the workplace. Open the blinds and watch as your employees’ fingers begin typing away.

Organize Desk Drawers

desk drawer clutterDesk drawers that are organized help boost relaxation and reduce the stress of not being able to locate an important item or supply in a stressful situation. Yes, that paper clip can cause someone to have a meltdown in a high pressure sales transaction.
In addition, an organized desk drawer can improve productivity by allowing you and your employees to find the items they need to finish their day.

 

 

Comfortable Seating

Office Star Heavy Duty Air Grid ChairIf you are sitting in a chair that is uncomfortable, would you be relaxed, let alone productive? Of course not. When you provide your employees with comfortable chairs that support the back, you will have employees who are able to focus without pain caused from an uncomfortable chair.

Multipurpose Furniture

Utilizing multipurpose furniture to organize your entire company and workplace can help your employees be more productive by having all of the items they need in one spot. For instance, a cabinet on the sales floor may contain paper, staples, paper clips, sales order forms, and the like. Your employees are able to quickly get to the items and access them when they need them.

Decorate the Office Space

google office

Aquariums and bathtubs are Google Munich’s idea of relaxing office decór.

An office interior that is full of bland paintings, white paint, and boring tone colors will only set the mood for boredom and an unproductive day. To help keep your employees happy and relaxed, create a fun and uplifting work space with lively colors, fun paintings, and more.
Allow your employees to place items on their desk that remind them of home. If an employee has a picture of a family member on their desk, they will remember they work to provide for that member. They will also remember the more work they get done now, the quicker they can go home.

Rearrange the Office

If your office is outdated or arranged poorly, consider purchasing new office equipment to create a new look. You can rearrange the furniture and place it in more functional spots. For instance, if your receptionists handle the incoming faxes, why not place the fax machine near their station. By moving the machine, you provide them an opportunity to be more productive as they do not have to walk across the building to get the papers.

Comfort = Productivity

Creating a comfortable environment for your employees will help boost productivity and keep your employees relaxed throughout the day. Once you rearrange the office and update the furniture, your employees will have a new burst of energy and appreciation for your company. This appreciation will push them to produce more so that they can continue enjoying the nice furniture, beautiful pictures, and comfortable chairs that you have placed in the office.