Expert Tips for Productivity You Can Use Today: Part Two

In a perfect world, we’d be at our peak productivity every time we walked into work.

Unfortunately, that world doesn’t exist. If it did, there’s a good chance you wouldn’t be on your phone and your coworkers wouldn’t be stopping by to interrupt your work cadence.

In our first post about productivity, we highlighted five tips that included learning how to say “no,” taking mini-breaks, avoiding over-scheduling, cutting back on emailing and cleaning up your desk.

Each of these bits of advice is easy to implement. However, they aren’t the only ways to augment your creativity. The experts we reached out to were more than happy to share their wisdom with us, so much so that there was too much advice to fit into one article.

So, in this post, we’re going to list an additional seven tips straight from the experts’ mouths.

1) End Your Multitasking: Marc Prosser, Co-founder of FitSmallBusiness.com

“Numerous studies have found that multitasking does not enhance productivity. In fact, multitasking reduces productivity. However, we often need to accomplish personal matters while we are ‘at work’ or during the workday.

“Instead of trying to do ‘personal business’ while listening to a phone call or making evening plans on your phone during a meeting, take a five- or 10-minute break to handle personal matters. Those around you will notice that you are more focused and less distracted as a result.”

2) Plan the Night Before for the Next Day: Suzanne Brown, Founder, Mompowerment.com

“Use the night before to play the upcoming day. If you’re in an office environment, take about 10-15 minutes before you leave to understand what your next day will look like. Understand what your most challenging tasks or goals are and prep for those.

Gather any resources you might need or put headings on a few slides. The idea is to take the time the day before so that you know what the flow of your day needs to look like and so that you can hit the ground running.”

3) Wean Yourself Off Social Media During Work Hours: James Pollard, Owner, TheAdvisorCoach.com

“Use a browser extension that blocks social media sites. There are horror stories of how much time—many hours—workers spend on social. You can solve this problem by completely eliminating the temptation

“If you’re using Google Chrome, I recommend installing extensions like StayFocusd, which allow you to block certain sites”

4) Plan Your Week Ahead, Not Just the Day Ahead: Samantha McPhall, Marketing associate, Aciron

“At the beginning of each week, create a weekly check-in where you make a list of the tasks you want to complete during the week as well as the time you think it will take to complete each task.

“Throughout the week, categorize and track your time not just by to the tasks your set for yourself at the beginning of the week, but also by the unforeseen tasks that arise on a day-to-day basis.

“At the conclusion of the week, compare your weekly check-in to the actual time you tracked to give yourself a better understanding of where you’re spending your time in the office.”

5) Monitor How Much Time You Spend on Tasks: Nellie Akalp, CEO, CorpNet.com

“A real downer on productivity is spending too much time on one certain task. Spending hour after hour on one thing can make your eyes blurry and your brain go radio silent, which doesn’t help that project get done any faster!

“I’ve found that if we have large-scale projects that take a lot of time, my team is much more productive when we divide and conquer the tasks between employees and for only a certain amount of time at once. This ensures the job gets done but morale stays high with everyone.”

6) Block Off Time During the Day for Focused Work: Jessica Watson, President, Points North

“When we are interrupted by phone calls or emails during a time when we should be productive, we have to start all over again with getting focused back on our project.

“If you are able to and your company allows it, block time on your calendar (maybe a 2-hour window in the morning or afternoon) that is uninterrupted time for some of the more complex tasks you are working on. This will allow you to get focused, stay focused and be more productive in a shorter amount of time.”

7) Front-Load Your Week: Lindsay Satterfield, Founder, Satterfield & Company

“Figure out what you most want to accomplish that week and begin working on it on Monday. What often happens is you know what you want to accomplish and you start thinking about it on Wednesday. And then, it’s Friday and that important thing is still untouched on your to-do list, hijacked by all those everyday ’emergencies.’ But, if you start making progress on that high-impact work on Monday, you start out ahead of the game.”

Wrapping It Up: It’s All About Focus

Productivity is a matter of discipline: Can you remove distractions and plan ahead? According to the experts we interviewed, it’s well worth the time to have a plan of action each week with the proper protocols in place to help you avoid social media and email distractions.

One of the things that defines the way we handle our interactions with our clients is planning and protocol. We meet with you to find out what your office needs, then we apply our expertise and meticulous installation standards to provide you with a finished product that matches the dream office you had in mind.

Part One Link

Expert Tips for Productivity You Can Use Today: Part One

Productivity is that elusive quality that few seem to master.

The Golden Age of technology hasn’t helped. Our tablets, phones, and smartwatches constantly beg for our attention. We try to ignore them, but it can be an effort that requires just as much energy as your work.

Reaching a high level of productivity can be a tough task but it’s not an impossible one. We talked with workplace consultants and coaches to find out what you can do this week to strengthen your productivity.

1) Learn how to say “no”

Workspaces should have a certain level of privacy to them but, even if they do, your colleagues may have a knack of popping in right when you’re finding your groove on a project.

Alison Haselden, a marketing consultant at www.canirank.com, says a well-intentioned tendency to be too accommodating can crush your productivity.

“Getting distracted from the task at hand is a sure-fire way to ruin efficiency and productivity. It can be difficult especially in a busy office setting with co-workers constantly dropping by your desk for advice or assistance on a different project,” Haselden said. “As wonderful as it is to support your teammates, it’s necessary to learn to say ‘no’ and set boundaries to enable you to complete your own work first.”

2) Take Mini-Breaks

Your mind is a terrible thing to waste, especially at work. However, that’s exactly what can happen if you lock yourself in the office for hours on end and don’t get some fresh air.

To help your mind stay fresh and focused, make a habit of getting away from your workstation, said Zana Amin, co-founder of Canadian lifestyle company Continual Growth.

“Every 50 minutes, get up and go for a short walk, perhaps to the kitchen or around the office or to the other side of the office. Just make sure you get up and move around; you’ll come back to your work refreshed,” he said.

3) Don’t Over-Schedule Your Day

One of the age-old bits of advice for productivity is scheduling. Write out your day and there’s a good chance you’ll be more productive than you would be without a list.

However, there can be drawbacks to getting so intense about your scheduling that every quarter-hour is mapped out, says Harrison Doan, director of analytics at mattress company Loom & Leaf.

“Don’t try to go overboard with your scheduling. Mapping out every 15 minutes of your day may seem productive in theory, but things rarely work out as we plan,” Doan said. “I’ve found success by writing out weekly and daily to-do lists without specific time constraints. That way, I’m able to prioritize my tasks and get them done in an order that makes sense for that day.”

4) Cut Back on Your Email Time

Imagine what your day would be like if you answered every email the moment it arrived in your inbox. Nothing would get done outside of clicking the “send” button dozens of times.

That’s why Mark Lavercombe, founder of The Productive Physician, calls email “the destroyer of modern workplace productivity.”

“Close your email app/browser for as much of your day as possible. Email is the destroyer of modern workplace productivity, and by taking back control of your time and attention you will become far more effective,” Lavercombe said. “Set an autoresponder that explains that you process email between certain times each day and provide a phone number if you need to be reached in an emergency. Then work on the tasks that truly matter.”

5) Clean Up Your Desk

If you’ve got planners and calendars on your desk amid a sea of staplers, papers and all sorts of other office-related knick-knacks, it’s time to clean up a bit.

Doing so can clear your mind and it will also help you to focus on one task at a time, said Nicky Peachment, a business coach in the U.K.

“Tidy your desk so you can easily reach what you need to. Keep the project you’re working on out, and put everything else away,” Peachment said. “This helps you to focus on what you need to do next, rather than allow other tasks to distract you. Multi-tasking is a myth. You can only do one thing at a time, so do it and move on.”

Looking Ahead: Part Two of Our Series

We received an overwhelming response when we reached out to experts about things you can do to increase productivity. In our next post, we’ll review what was shared here and provide 10 more tips we think you’ll enjoy.

Return of the Cubicle: Why Walled Workspaces Are Making a Comeback

It wasn’t but a decade ago that open offices became the choice for startups who wanted a workplace conducive to creativity and collaboration.

The open office wasn’t just a workplace decision; it was a generational decision, too. As startups brought new ways of thinking to their industries, they happily left old methodologies. Cubicles were tossed out along with cumbersome business models and traditional power structures.

Cubicles are making a comeback, however. Employers have realized all the collaboration and ingenuity open workspaces were supposed to provide didn’t quite meet expectations.

We talked with marketers and consultants about their experiences with open offices and asked them if there is any value to moving from expansive, borderless spaces to more defined workstations with walls.

What we discovered was quite interesting and affirmed the fact that, while open offices may never disappear, they’re under fire from both the young and old.

Open Office Proponents Overplayed the “Cubicles Are Prisons” Hand

In an article about the changing work world, marketing speaker and columnist Samuel Scott pointed out something that we’ve known all along.

Open offices aren’t nearly as infallible as the work world thought and, conversely, cubicles weren’t nearly as awful as the common stereotypes made them out to be.

Here’s what he wrote in a Jan. 2018 article for The Drum:

“The most eye-rolling claim in the tech world is that open offices encourage collaboration – as though no one ever worked together until they were all crammed into rows in single, large rooms like sweatshop factories,” Scott wrote.

He went on to point out that one of the main motivations of an open office may not be creativity – it may be price.

Referring to a post on LinkedIn by branding consultant Geoffrey James, he noted that, while the average open office will save you money up-front, they’ll end up costing about three times as much in reduced productivity.

As we’ve discovered in our own research, open offices tend to have more cases of sickness and, as a result, more employees taking sick days.

Of course, not all open offices are bad. Companies who take the time to sit down with an expert and plan out an office layout that matches their company goals for productivity and workflow tend to have better outcomes than those who do an office because it’s the thing to do.

A good example of this is an office redesign we did for New Orleans-based accountant firm Bruno and Tervalon. They wanted to transition their workspace from an open office to a hybrid design. We were able to incorporate elements of an open workspace along with private workstations.

 

Contrary to Popular Belief, Cubicles Promote Productivity

As we mentioned earlier, cubicles became the punch line of jokes about offices being more of a dungeon than a dynamic arena for growth and progressive thinking.

However, multiple studies over the past 30 years have shown that humans need a sense of spatial and auditory privacy for their brains to feel secure enough to focus, think critically and generate new ideas.

Matt Dubin, a workplace expert and leadership consultant, noted that as introverts’ unique needs have come into the consciousness of employers, cubicles have become a necessity.

“Cubicles can be quite productive, especially for introverts,” Dubin said. “While open floor plans have been glamorized recently as being the layout of choice for progressive companies, they usually work best for extroverts who draw energy from constant interaction.”

Introverts need a quieter space to excel, he said. Enter the cubicle.

“For employees who are more introverted and are energized by more quiet spaces that promote internal thought and reflection, cubicles can be more effective for their productivity,” Dubin said.

Ideally, he said, offices would implement a floorplan that includes a mix of cubicles and open spaces similar to what we did for Bruno and Tervalon.

“All offices should have a combination of cubicle-type areas and open spaces that encourage both focused, deep work and in-person collaboration,” Dubin said. “Office plans that incorporate both will maximize the unique strengths and personality of all employees.”

We’ll Help You Make Your Cubicle/Open Office Decision

The Office Planning Groups implements a three-step process for crafting the right office for your business. We start with a free space plan and design consultation, work with you to come up with the perfect office and then install that office with our trademark efficiency and professionalism.

That first stage is where we can help you decide if an open-office, cubicle or hybrid layout is best for the type of culture you want to create and the level of productivity you expect.

Contact us today to take the first step in designing the perfect office.

How to Improve Office Communication: Part 1

We’ve all had that Michael Scott moment, haven’t we?

You’re sitting in a meeting that seems to be going on forever and whoever is leading the discussion seems to be rambling on without an end in sight. It’s reminiscent of one particular scene in The Office in which the hapless Scott says, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.”

Lack of a clear goal is one of the quickest ways to undercut office communication but, as experts have pointed out to us, bad communication habits aren’t permanent.

There are dozens of ways you can improve the way that you transmit information in your workplace, whether it be an important meeting, a brainstorming session or an intra-office email with details about a company picnic.

This post and the upcoming one for next month will offer some excellent reminders on how you can rehabilitate and strengthen the communication in your workplace.

Invest in a Strong Intranet

Intranets are a classic double-edged sword situation. Having one is a great way to ensure clear communication about events and benchmarks but it can be the bane of your team if it’s not properly designed and optimized for fluid communication.

Darya Afonava, a marketing specialist with software development firm ScienceSoft, says it’s time you make your company intranet the fulcrum of correspondence.

“They offer solutions that optimize connecting employees with their teams, managers, HR, etc. For example, personal pages can be helpful for task distribution and progress assessment,” Afonava said.

Another advantage with intranets is that they can be a platform for team projects, accessible from the office and at home.

“They can also facilitate joining working groups, sharing professional experience or discussing business issues,” Afonava said. “It is especially important for newcomers, since they need to navigate in a large flow of new people and information.”

When You Need Clarity, Don’t Be Afraid to Call

We’ve gotten so used to sending emails back and forth to our colleagues that phone calls seem almost antiquated.

However, many an issue can be resolved with a three-minute phone call instead of a carefully crafted email that takes up at least 10 minutes of your time.

Email was intended to be a quick way to communicate, but it’s not always the best solution for getting clarity, says Ayesha Gallion, senior communications editor at Inteplast Group.

“Sometimes a phone call is more convenient for one party, or even all parties involved – but if one person shies away from this kind of fluid communication, completing projects or collectively finding solutions may take longer than needed,” she said.

Gather Data About Personalities and Use It

The golden age of personality tests is slowly fading but there are still uses for tests like the Meyers-Briggs and Enneagram.

For career coach and TEDx speaker Tracy Timm, a test called the Predictive Index is her go-to assessment tool when she consults with businesses about how to improve workplace communication.

The test highlights various aspects of each employee’s personality and helps everyone understand that while one person may need to talk out solutions to a problem, another might need to think it out first.

In fact, she encourages those who take the test to leave the results on their desk or in common areas where their co-workers can see it.

“I find that because these profiles are readily available they can be used in the moment to remind someone of the similarities and differences between herself and her coworker,” Timm said. “This allows for real-time change in behavior and analysis of self. But it all comes down to a person’s willingness to modify their behavior and communication for someone else.”

Employees who aren’t willing to communicate undermine the process, so it’s important to bring in talented people who are coachable, Timm said.

Looking Ahead to Part Two of Our Series

In our next post, we’ll go over four more expert insights into how to improve office communication.

While many of the tips we provide are related to communication methods and theories, remember that office communication also includes the choices you make about workstations.

We specialize in providing solutions for your office, many of which improve productivity and communication through simple choices about desks, cubicles and furniture.

How to Plan a Work Event: Tips from the Experts

Summer is nearly upon us.

Before you know it, you’ll find yourself slapping on the sunblock and getting ready to bat cleanup at your company softball game. Afterward, you’ll all feast on a picnic and share stories. You’ll revel in the fact that you’re together with your co-workers in the warm sunshine and not in the confines of your office.

While planning a work event like a picnic may seem simple, there are plenty of nuances you want to keep in mind.

We reached out to workplace experts across the country for advice on how to plan a successful work event.

Never Forget the Fun

Even if you’re just hosting a picnic at a local park, you should invest some planning in events that serve no other purpose than letting everyone have fun.

Jeff Kear, owner of online event planning software Planning Pod, says fun is a catalyst for a great event, as obvious as it may sound. Summer is the season of good times and your event will be competing with epic family vacations and weekend getaways.

“Most employees and their families have a lot of activities on their plate in the summertime, and many of them involve doing something fun, like going to a ballgame, or going hiking, or a trip to an amusement park,” Kear said. “Unfortunately, your work events have to compete with these other activities, so you need to give your employees incentive to attend your event.”

Carnivals are a great way to get kids involved, Kear said, along with raffles and booze, as long as they fit within company rules.

“Just make sure that you are offering fun activities that resonate with your audience,” he said.

Nail the Creature Comforts

Planning a memorable work event is all about mastering the details, says MaryBeth Hyland, founder of consulting firm SparkVision.

You should consider everything from the temperature of where the event will be held to providing enough food and drink for everyone and making sure everyone knows where and when to go.

“These are the most basic yet most important aspects of any environment,” Hyland said. “Believe it or not, they are often overlooked, which is why they are the very first thing to take care of. Creature comforts are the things that we need to stay physically comfortable.”

Make the Food Free or Do a Potluck

As great as the actual event may be, every employee hopes that food and drink will be on the house. When that actually happens, there’s a sense of relief that enhances the enjoyment of the event.

Laura Handrick, a workplace analyst at FitSmallBusiness.com, says companies should make every effort to provide a free meal.

“The best way to get employees engaged in after-work events is to provide food and drink,” Handrick said. “If it’s in the budget, have the event catered by a popular restaurant nearby. There’s nothing like ‘prime rib sandwiches’ or craft beer to entice employees to show up at your summer offsite work-sponsored event.”

Sophia Borghese, an SEO and content specialist with NOLA-based Online Optimism, says renting food trucks is also a great way to build excitement about an event.

If your budget doesn’t allow for the company to pay for the cost of food and drink, then consider doing a potluck.

Handrick pointed out that if the event is a sporting event, a potluck is a great way to tailgate. Also, getting people to sign up to bring a dish is a good way to get commitment.

“Once employees agree to ‘bring something’, it’s more likely they’ll attend, as they won’t want to let their peers down,” Handrick said.

If You Can, Keep Everything Free

There’s nothing that says “employee appreciation” like an event that will cost your employees nothing, says Bill Fish, co-founder of sleep site Tuck.com.

As a Cincinnati-based business, Fish says a common work event is going to a Cincinnati Reds game. And, when the events are planned, he makes sure his employees don’t have to pay for tickets, parking or food and drink.

“I believe the key is to not ask the employee to spend a dime once they make it to the event.  Thus, we always find tickets in a hospitality area that includes food and beverages,” Fish said. “The goal should be to have everyone in a relaxed fun state and get to know the team on a personal level.”

 

Five Tips for Improving Teamwork in the Workplace

There are few things more frustrating for employees than being in a workplace devoid of collaboration and connection.

This past year, Financial Times reporter Emma Jacobs noted the importance of identifying loneliness in the workplace.

Her article referenced a joint study by California State University and the Wharton School of Business that noted, “management should not treat loneliness as a private problem but rather one that affects the business.”

With that in mind, we reached out to various experts to get their advice on how individuals and management teams can foster an environment of teamwork.

Be Intentional About Building Friends

Many of us have become accustomed to keeping our work life separate from our private lives. But, according to Shawn D. Madden, CEO of corporate events company FunCorp, building those connections improves your frame of mind and strengthens the workplace.

“Friends will do more for another friend in a week than they will do for a co-worker in a month, so your teamwork and productivity will improve as you build social connections,” Madden said.

See Yourself as Bigger Than Your Job Description

Harvey Deutschendorf, an emotional intelligence expert and a regular contributor to Fast Company, said part of building a team is having employees who look beyond themselves when they walk into the office every day.

They see their role as helping in any manner they are able to and are always willing to give of their time and knowledge. They view their role as larger than their job description and look for ways they can contribute to the organization,” Deutschendorf told us. “When they see something that needs to be done, they step up and help out.”

An employee who sees themselves as larger than their role should be handled with a genuine, positive spirit, though. Someone who becomes obsessed with overachieving for overachieving’s sake will most likely alienate their team instead of bringing them together.

Do Whatever It Takes to Arrive with a Positive Attitude

As we mentioned in the previous section, overachievers who push themselves for the wrong reasons will be a detriment to their team, not a benefit.

One of the best ways to avoid that is to come into work with a genuinely positive attitude; not a façade, but a genuine spirit of optimism, says Deborah Sweeney, CEO of MyCorporation.com.

“Do whatever you need to before arriving — whether it’s exercise, grabbing a coffee, or meditating — so that when you arrive you’re in good spirits and ready to work with your team,” Sweeney said.

See Your Coworkers as Individuals, Not Roles

One of the quickest ways to turn your workplace into a purposeless void is to treat coworkers as roles and not as real people, workplace engagement strategist and coach Lisa Barrington told us.

“Employees should work to see their colleagues as individuals, with unique needs, not just as the person who does ‘xyz’ task,” Barrington said. “By humanizing their colleagues, they will be inclined to step up to help them, support them, find ways to enhance the team’s success over their own, individual needs/goals”

Know When You Need Help … and Ask for It

We often view success as something that happens when you accomplish your goals on your own. Asking for help is seen as a weakness.

However, says Dan Stones, a team dynamics and workplace culture specialist, asking for help is a crucial element to building a strong sense of teamwork among employees. Exactly why is asking for help so powerful?

Stones said it’s a matter of trust.

“The largest benefit that asking for help brings is actually tied to trust. As soon as the employee asks for help, they immediately put themselves in a position of vulnerability,” he said. “This sort of openness is what’s required for a higher level of trust to develop among team members.”

A Reminder What Can Happen When Teamwork is Devalued

There’s a lot of good sense in what the experts told us about teamwork. Some of it may seem idealistic and nearly impossible considering the environment in your workplace.

But, as Tephra Miriam, a communications expert and author, reminded us, the price of a fragmented workplace is dangerously high.

“Without true cohesion and unity, the system falls apart,” Miriam said. “This can literally kill an organization.”

Three Principles for Effective Office Planning

One of the things that made McDonald’s such a revolutionary business is the concept of planning the work area. The original owners of the business were meticulous with the way they organized locations for the grill, fryer, shake makers and pass-thru.

They realized an important principle: Design influences productivity. That principle is one of the main reasons we emphasize planning as part of our business process. We work with companies to determine which layouts function best for their productivity and workflow objectives.

Knowing which type of design will work for you is much easier when there’s a basic understanding of how your office plan influences your daily life at work.

Good Planning Creates Convenience

If you’ve ever moved into a new home, figuring out how to configure your furniture and electronics can be tough. The goal is to organize everything in a way that makes movement and communication easy.

Offices aren’t that different; your planning needs to consider movement, communication and several other work-related factors like desk size, collaboration space and break rooms.

Business reporter Jill Leviticus highlighted additional considerations in a Houston Chronicle article about office planning:

“If you plan to redesign your office layout, make a list of key tasks employees perform, such as speaking to customers on the telephone, handling the mail or producing invoices. The list will serve as a convenient reference when you begin planning the new layout.”

Good Planning Considers Personalities

The days when all workers were considered drones with unilateral personalities are gone. Companies are devoting more time to understanding how their team members think and how each personality influences performance.

As a result, office planning has, in some circles, trended toward providing a workspace that meets the needs of extroverts and introvert.

In an interesting read from Fast Company, reporter Anjali Mullany talks about designing an office space that provides personality-soothing spaces for social butterflies and those who like to keep to themselves.

“Noise, interruptions, and lack of privacy are definitely a problem in open workspaces, and not everyone in an office works the same way or does the same work–which is why giving workers many options in a space is key to open office success,” Mullany wrote.

 

Good Planning Prioritizes Your Company Over Trends

The history of office workstations is an interesting one, to say the least. Cubicles have been around since the ‘60s and, while they have a poor reputation in popular culture, their emergence was actually pretty revolutionary.

They were first intended to provide the worker with a comfortable workstation that afforded them enough privacy to focus on their work and increase productivity without feeling trapped.

With the emergence of tech startups in the ‘90s and ‘00s, traditional “cubicle farms” were shunned for open-office concepts that, according to some, improved creativity and collaboration.

In recent years, though, research has been coming out proving that open offices may not be as effective in promoting creativity and productivity as once thought.

Another article from Fast Company illustrates this point well, if not with a little snark:

“Every workspace should contain nothing but offices. Offices for everyone. Offices for the junior associate and the assistant editor, and offices for the vice president and the editor-in-chief. Take those long tables, the ones currently lined with laptops at startups, and give them to an elementary school so children can eat lunch on them. We’ll have to do away with all those adorable communal spaces, but they were always a little demeaning, a little not-quite-Starbucks. We won’t need them now that we all have our own meeting place.”

The bottom line is that office planning should focus on who your company is and not trendy office design philosophy. Trends change faster than your company’s personality. Find the right fit for you; don’t fit your organization to cubicles or an open-office layout just because that’s what everyone’s pushing.

The Bottom Line: Office Planning Should Be Tailored to Your Team

One of the things we’ve learned as we’ve worked with hundreds of companies in Louisiana is that office planning isn’t a canned process where the planner pushes an agenda that’s divorced from the needs and nuances of the client.

Stop by our Space Planning page to learn more about what goes into our planning process and why, in the end, what we install in your workplace is appropriate for your expectations and needs.

Cubicles: How They Started and How They’ve Evolved Over the Past Six Decades

In just a few months the cubicle will hit its 54th birthday, a rather innocuous milestone for what’s turned out to be a hotly contested aspect of office life.

Your perception of the cubicle can take many forms. You may be part of the Office Space crowd; cubicles, as far as you’re concerned, are death.

Or, you might be a student of history and say that the cubicle, in its original form was a beautiful design concept intended to make your work life accessible, comfortable and private.

Wherever you stand on the cubicle-opinion spectrum, there’s no denying that these walled office workspaces have a clear beginning proceeded by a colorful history.

Cubicles Have Roots in Design History

If you’re a fan of high-end office chairs then you’ve probably heard of the name Herman Miller, the company responsible for the Aero, arguably the single most important piece of office furniture ever invented. The Aero brought a new level of comfort and support to the office-chair world, revolutionizing the relationship between workplace form and function.

Herman Miller designer Robert Propst had hoped to bring that same design revolution to the workspace. He worked on something called the “Action Office”, which was meant to be a way for workers to see their workflow with new eyes.

Here’s how Fortune described Propst’s creation:

“After years of prototyping and studying how people work, and vowing to improve on the open-bullpen office that dominated much of the 20th century, Propst designed a system he thought would increase productivity (hence the name Action Office). The young designer, who also worked on projects as varied as heart pumps and tree harvesters, theorized that productivity would rise if people could see more of their work spread out in front of them, not just stacked in an in-box.”

Cubicles Were the Good Idea That Went Bad

Despite Propst’s elegant concept for an individual workspace, companies weren’t interested in buying the Action Office. In fact, History.com pointed out that the Action Office was more popular with individuals who worked at home than actual companies.

After the disappointing debut of the Action Office, Propst introduced the Action Office II, a cubicle that featured the acoustical panels you often see today in modern office environments. Pretty soon, knockoffs started to appear; knockoffs built with lower quality materials than what Propst envisioned.

“In the 1960s, it became easier to write off assets like furniture whose value depreciated over time,” History.com wrote. “Office furniture no longer needed to last a lifetime to be worth buying, and companies quickly saw that it was cheaper to buy an Action Office II or a knockoff cubicle than to invest in sturdier equipment.”

What happened after that was the basis for the negative perception for cubicles. Companies started to cram their employees into cramped cubicles to maximize space.

Add to this mix the fact that energy efficiency regulations created more airtight office spaces, History.com pointed out, and workplaces became boxed-in work farms chugging along with uninspiring designs and recycled air.

Cubicles: Where We Are Now

Those years of stuffy offices and cubicle farms are, for the most part, behind us. Companies large and small have adopted the open-office spaces that were popular in the ‘50s and ‘60s – remember those huge open floorplans in Mad Men?

Workplace designers have taken a holistic approach to office concepts, asking themselves how they can provide open spaces, quiet corners and community areas where employees can connect with one another, be creative and focus on their work all at the same time.

The idea is pretty incredible but the science says that it’s virtually impossible to remove office privacy and increase productivity and creativity. The brain has a basic need for privacy. When it has privacy – spatial and auditory, specifically – it’s able to think clearly and work more productively.

For that reason, we offer a wide variety of office solutions for companies that are looking for a straightforward solution for maximizing employee productivity.

Contact us today to discuss what you need. We are one of Louisiana’s longest-standing office furniture companies. Our lineup of products includes new and used pieces that can, with a little planning and expertise, revolutionize the way your office works.

Three Things You Might Be Doing That Undercut Workplace Morale

Office morale is a tricky subject to talk about.

There are so many different factors involved in keeping the office happy that it’s nearly impossible to say one factor is more important than the rest.

Pay, corporate culture, incentives, benefits, economic downturns, buyouts and mass layoffs are all things that can rip an unsightly gash into your team’s spirits.

However, workplace experts know it’s not always the big things that result in low morale. Specific habits from management and employees can slowly erode employee satisfaction until all that’s left is an unstable cliff ready to crumble.

Inconsistency is a Killer

One of the rules you learn early on as a parent is that you must be consistent with your kids. When your children know what to expect – whether it be the daily routine, rewards or punishment –they have a sense of security and confidence about what’s ahead.

On the other hand, a lack of consistency can create anxiety, fear and a general sense of instability. It’s no different in the workplace.

Inc.com contributor Anna Johansson gave some insight into how your inconsistencies can wear down the positivity of your colleagues.

“Inconsistency in almost any area is grounds for a morale decrease,” Johansson wrote. “Consistency is important because it gives people a sense of what to expect; even if your employees don’t like or agree with one of your behaviors, as long as you’re consistent with it, they’ll learn how to work around it.”

Johansson brings up a good point. Your employees can deal with consistent behaviors even if they don’t like them. What’s hard for them to do is handle inconsistency, especially when it comes to actions influenced by your moods.

“For example, holding a morning recap meeting every day — even if your employees aren’t overly fond of it — isn’t as bad as holding a morning recap meeting every once in a while, or only when you feel like it,” Johansson wrote. “This doesn’t mean you have to be robotic, but it does mean you should set consistent expectations.”

Constant Complaining

At its root, complaining is voicing your dissatisfaction with a certain issue … over and over again. Chronic complainers are like a volcanic eruption that never stops, blotting out the sun and covering your coworkers in an ash of negativity.

Your eruption, unfortunately, not only affects your reputation with others, it also diminishes your workplace’s collective morale.

“Complaining — even if it’s over something little, or is in a fleeting context — can have a significant impact on your team’s morale,” Johansson wrote. “You don’t have to eliminate complaining altogether, but you do have to take measures to prevent complaining from being a habitual or expected feature of your workplace.”

And remember, your reputation takes a hit every time you complain. Selena Rezvani, a contributor at Forbes, points out several different ways your complaining reflects poorly on you.

Here’s one of her gems:

“Often, when you complain to a group, the implicit message is that you’re trying to rally support for your way of thinking. Not only is it bad for others’ health and welfare to listen to you, but you’ll find that colleagues will think twice before being linked to you. Whether on a client project, a new assignment or an internal committee, they know they don’t have a lot to gain from being partnered with a glass-half-empty kind of thinker.”

You Don’t Stop Working at Work

This may sound counter-intuitive, right? We go to work to work.

However, as workplaces and workers themselves become more concerned about a holistic approach to work, breaks are a go-to for a quick restoration of energy and focus. Managers and employees who consistently work through breaks, Johansson says, can be morale killers.

“Breaks exist for a good reason; they’re important opportunities to de-stress and decompress, and taking a few minutes to relax can actually boost your productivity for the rest of the day (not to mention prevent the onset of burnout),” she wrote. “Encourage your employees to take more breaks–and take breaks yourself to set the example.”

That last part may be the toughest of all – set the example. If you’re used to working through your breaks, take a moment to think about how those missed breaks affect your team. If they see you pushing through, they’ll feel pressure to push through as well.

An Insider’s Look at the Executive Desks of America’s Business Leaders

Executive furniture says a lot about the leadership of your business.

Big, commanding desks that create space between the executive and the guest or employee indicates a power move, while an office with a normal-sized desk and a sitting area is a little more friendly.

It’s hard, though, to pin down a person or company by the type of desk they have because there could be complete surprises as it relates to the person in power and their workspace.

Being the followers of office trends and executive desks that we are, we looked at an article from Business Insider that highlighted the desks of 39 well-known business execs and entrepreneurs. Some of what we saw surprised us.

In this post, we’re going to highlight some of the more interesting things we noticed in this article.

 

Arianna Huffington, former editor-in-chief, Huffington Post: Small Desk, Lots of Books

The first photo we looked at was of Arianna Huffington’s office. Now, we’d expect the editor-in-chief of a Pulitzer-winning publication would have a somewhat roomy office, but that’s not what we found.

Huffington’s workplace is a cramped alcove with two bookshelves, at least 100 books, a small sitting area and a modest desk you’d expect to find at an antique store.

On top of that, her office has a wall-to-wall window through which everyone can see her. Curtains add some privacy, but they were drawn back in the photo we saw.

“It’s all about transparency,” Huffington told Business Insider. “I can see out, and everyone can see in.”

Michael Moritz, chairman, Sequoia Capital

If Arianna Huffington’s desk is small, then Sequoia Capital’s Michael Mortiz’s workspace is microscopic. Moritz’s desk is sparse. The venture capital guru’s desk is home to a Mac laptop, an iMac desktop, chocolate, a shot bottle of whiskey, a bottle of Pellegrino and a pair of analog clocks.

His desk is one among many desks in one room – a corner office seems to be out of the question.

What surprises us most about this is fact that Moritz’s simple desk belies the billions of dollars the company has made from investments in Apple, Google, Yahoo and LinkedIn.

Here’s an apt description of the company’s offices, via Forbes contributor George Anders.

“Sequoia doesn’t display its heritage with the well-heeled pride you might find at other top-tier venture firms, let alone the likes of JPMorgan or KKR … Sequoia partners don’t enjoy luxurious private offices; instead, they toil at stand-up desks in a big open hall. Conference rooms are adorned with cheap plastic wastebaskets. It’s as if Sequoia’s partners haven’t fully realized that they might be rich.”

 

Lou Adler, CEO, The Adler Group

Adler’s company has virtual employees all around the country, so he doesn’t like to head to the office because, in his words, “it’s boring and there’s no one to talk with.”

So, Adler works from his home office, which is comprised of a standing desk with a view of his backyard.

Adler told Business Insider he doesn’t get any work done when he’s looking at the ocean from his home, which is why he chooses to work with a backyard view.

Aaron Hurst, founder, Taproot Foundation

Hurst, like Huffington, has his own office separate from other employees.

However, he’s chosen to break down the walls, so to speak, with a floor-to-ceiling glass wall that allows him to “feel connected to the dynamic and brilliant team at Taproot while providing the sound privacy unfortunately required. My team is amazing and watching them work gives me tremendous energy.”

This is the same type of response that Huffington gave – transparency and a lack of barriers are important to executives.

Hurst’s office also includes a bookshelf, a floor-to-ceiling mirror and a small sitting area along with a metal desk that’s home to a lamp and two monitors.

Variety is the Common Theme for Executive Desks

As you’ve probably gathered, there really is no right or wrong desk for an executive. In these examples, the magnitude of the business and/or the power of the person didn’t really influence the size of their desk.

In fact, there was an inverse effect. Arguably the most valuable person on the list, Michael Moritz, had the simplest work desk: uncluttered, clean and underwhelming.

We’re aware of how executive desks have changed and our inventory reflects that. Stop by our Executive Furniture page to learn more about what we offer.