One of the coolest things about the new OBEX desk-mounted privacy panel is the customization option. Yes, you can pick the design you want on your custom printed tiles (as long as it’s not copyrighted by someone else). Here are just a few of the themes you could feature:
- Department names for ease of navigation through a large workplace
- Company logo for branding purposes
- “Employee of the Month” panel (remember, these dividers are easy to move from one desk to another)
- Scenes from nature (trees, dew kissed grass blades, sunrises, flowers, mountains, etc.)
- Motivational sayings from your favorite authors or inspirational speakers
- Your company’s mission statement
Have you heard of the concept of the super-cubicle? The term describes the size of the cubicle pretty accurately. But it’s not like the Seinfeld “Pothole” episode where Kramer paints over the dividing lines on the highway to create super wide lanes for a more luxurious driving experience. Instead of being a great big cubicle for one employee, it’s a group cubicle that encloses several workers (3 or more) in a single workspace. There are walls surrounding these workstations, but no dividers between the employees inside the super-cubicle. The idea is to create a tightknit team within these close quarters and, of course, promote the ever popular but somehow evasive “collaboration” that everyone’s excited about these days. The manager actually inhabits the super-cubicle with his or her direct reports to offer guidance (and keep everyone from slacking off).
No One Seems Thrilled with This Idea
As you can imagine, this concept is not terribly popular with the average office worker who is often no big fan of the traditional cubicle to start with. Rob Enderle points out one obvious flaw: if collaboration is going strong in the super-cubicle, it’s likely to get loud. It makes more sense to move that kind of brainstorming meeting to a conference room. After all, that’s what meeting rooms (with their closable doors) are designed for.
Ken Hardin, who came up through the ranks working and thriving in a very noisy, completely open newsroom environment holds a kinder view of the super-cubicles at his workplace. But he admits that he’s biased. So, he conducted an informal survey of how his colleagues feel about the setup. These were a few of the things they said they would prefer:
- More privacy (both visual and auditory)
- More choices for styles and colors in at least some aspect of individual workstations
- More flexibility in how the workstation is set up
With our panel extenders or our new desktop-mounted privacy panels, it’s possible to transform a super-cubicle to meet all these criteria. The desk mounted panels can be installed front to back to separate individual coworkers within the super cube – even if they share the same uninterrupted worksurface. Our polycarbonate panels come in a variety of bright colors, so workers could pick what they like best. The acoustic fabric covered panels can also provide a buffer against too much noise within the shared cubicle environment.
That’s the argument made by software developer Stephen Harrison. His take on the whole open office with no walls or privacy is this: Have the managers work out in the open and put the knowledge workers in enclosed workspaces. After all, the managers are the ones who really need to be in the thick of things since managing people is their job. The job of software developers is managing code. Imagine how difficult it is to create non-buggy code when you can barely concentrate! Stephen’s tried the “listen to music on headphones” solution and it didn’t work. He’s a bigger fan of the ChatterBlocker to help mask noise while he’s at his desk. We think he’d also enjoy our new desk-mounted privacy panels. They can be used to provide additional noise control in the ultra-modern, no-cubicle offices that so many tech companies are setting up these days.
There are a number of different ways to go about choosing a color scheme for your cubicle panel extenders. You can try to match or complement the rest of your décor. Or, you might choose a color that represents your branding/logo. If neither of these options is appealing, you might also consider using Feng Shui to help you pick a hue that creates just the right vibe. There’s a blog post up at the Business Interiors Water Cooler about the symbolism of colors in the office space. It’s pretty fun to use this kind of system to help you make the best choice. Here’s a little bit about some of the colors we have available in our polycarbonate tile panel extenders and how to use them to your advantage.
- Red is the color of action. Want your sales team to get results? Cap their cubicle panels with bright red panel extenders. Yes, red is a little aggressive, but sales reps can enjoy the invigorating effect of a little healthy competition.
- Yellow is the color of optimism and creativity. Use it in areas where your workers need to come up with ideas. Great for brainstorming and to lift the mood of an office space that doesn’t get a lot of natural sunlight.
- Blue is a color for peace and stability. This is a color to use if you want a more quiet work environment where workers can stay focused. It’s hard to stay agitated when you’re surrounded by a calming blue sea. So, try this color for areas where coworkers don’t always get along.
- Green is the color of growth. Consider green panel extenders to breathe new life into a department that’s experiencing stagnation. Younger workers are especially likely to respond well to this hue.
Who says you have to pick just one? You could consider dividing your office space up by tile color to indicate different teams or departments.
The new OBEX desk-mounted privacy panel has applications beyond the traditional workstation. These dividers can be installed front to back at regular intervals along a long table or bench style worksurface. That makes them ideal for testing environments. You can easily turn a built-in, standalone, or flip-top table into a testing station to host 3 or 4 job applicants at a time. Administer typing or data entry tests, ERI, Wonderlic, and other job candidate tests in these “pods” anytime. You can also set these up for use during new hire orientation and web-based onboarding.
The panels are tall enough to provide visual privacy even in close quarters. They can be covered with acoustic fabric to dampen sound for added concentration. What makes this setup even more beneficial is that you don’t have to leave the panels up when you’re done. Removal is just as easy as installation. This means you can use both your office furniture and your office space for multiple purposes. Desk-top privacy panels take up little space in storage and are ready and waiting when you need them again.
Keep Private Info Private
It’s not just employee training or applicant testing that could be enhanced by these panels. Think about this the next time you do open enrollment for workplace health insurance. Workers won’t have to worry about anyone seeing their personal identifying information such as SS#s and birth dates as they fill out forms. This approach may also help you keep employee’s private health data and other privileged information from accidental exposure. That’s important since more than 50% of identity theft cases have their source in the workplace.
School Is In
Workplaces are only one example of an environment where desk-top mounted panels will come in handy. Educational organizations will also find these dividers helpful for creating study and testing areas for students. Can you think of other applications for our new product? Let us know – we’re eager to learn!
At OBEX, we’re always on the lookout for new products that can enhance worker satisfaction with the cubicle environment. Here’s a pretty interesting one that addresses a common complaint among office employees – glaring fluorescent overhead lights. Some people would much rather work with a small LED task lamp and the glow from their computer screen as their main sources of illumination. For these individuals, an overhead canopy might be a very valuable option. That’s the accessory that CubeShield has created.
These lightweight shields attach to the top of fabric covered cubicle walls using Velcro. That makes installation and removal a breeze. When not in use, the shield is small enough to fold up and store in a workstation drawer. Obviously, for this tool to work, it needs to be mounted on a fairly high cubicle wall. That’s where our panel extenders come in. You can top low cubicle walls with an extender to bring them up to head height, then cap them with a canopy to create the ultimate employee cocoon!
Here’s an interesting article by Kelly Eggers about how open offices are placing workers in a difficult position from a noise perspective. The trend of doing away with cubicle walls is still going strong. But the cost savings come at a high price where employee satisfaction is concerned. Kelly has compiled some recent statistics showing that workers who must cope in “open offices” in mid to large sized companies are really struggling. Their work environment is designed for collaboration, but this simply doesn’t mesh with the reality of their day to day job duties. The average white collar worker spends about 2/3 of their time on quiet, focused work that doesn’t involve others. So, why is the office set up to accommodate the type of activities they do the least?
While overall productivity may be negatively affected by this problem, one business owner Eggers interviewed is seeing a huge increase in profits from this trend. The head of Workscape Inc. talks about the opportunities that open office designs are offering to companies that specialize in retrofitting these modern “collaborative” workspaces for better noise control. His firm knows the minute they see an open office design that it’s just a matter of time before the client starts asking for sound-masking technology.
As suppliers in the workplace noise and privacy industry, we’ve experienced the same thing Open offices may not be good for your business, but they certainly help keep us in business! If you’ve discovered that doing away with panels has created productivity and satisfaction problems, let us know. We’ve got the tools you need to retrofit your work environment in a way that’s fast and affordable.
By popular demand, we’re preparing to launch a new product that’s the perfect complement to our panel extenders. The OBEX Desk Mount Privacy Panel is designed for use with any flat worksurface. Mount these panels on a desk, table, or workbench. These desk dividers are available in all of the same fabrics and polycarbonate options as our cubicle dividers. You can also order them with custom tiles.
Why Desk Panels Now?
As you’re probably aware, the cubicle is a type of office furniture that’s gotten a really bad rap over the years. A significant percentage of companies are moving away from panel based systems altogether. That’s not surprising with today’s emphasis on “collaboration” as a top priority in the workplace. This means that a lot of office designs are now fully open with no panels at all. Benching worksurfaces and other space-saving solutions are making inroads as alternatives to the cube.
Many architects, commercial interior design consultants, and facility managers see the value in these more open environments. However, the reality of actually working in this type of setup doesn’t always meet the needs and expectations of employees. But when you’ve invested tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars in workstations that aren’t equipped with panels, it’s hard to consider switching to cubicles. Even adding freestanding panels would be a very costly process. Fortunately, it’s not necessary to start from scratch to give desks a makeover to add noise control and visual privacy.
Meet the Universal Desk Mounted Privacy Panel
Our customers have been asking for a desk-mounted divider for a while now. So, after half a year of designing and testing, we’re giving business owners exactly what they want. These privacy panels can be mounted front-to-back or side-to-side on virtually any flat worksurface from .75” to 2” thick. The panels are available in 12, 18, and 24” heights to provide just the desired amount of privacy. Like our cubicle extenders, these dividers mount in minutes with just an Allen wrench (provided with your order). Now, it’s easy to blend the collaborative environment of the modern office with the secluded spaces needed for work that requires more concentration.
This week, there was another interesting Q&A session over at The Globe and Mail. An employee wants advice on how to get a chatty cubicle neighbor to shut up. Obviously, the coworker wasn’t taking the subtle hints sent her way. The responses include having a frank talk with the coworker, involving a supervisor, using noise canceling headphones, or moving to a different workstation.
A simpler solution might be to make short cubicles taller with panel extenders. Nothing says “Let’s have some peace and quiet” like an actual, physical barrier between coworkers. Sometimes, out of sight is out of mind for employees who tend to talk too much. Often, highly talkative people are having their own problems focusing on the work at hand. They get easily triggered into starting a conversation at the least visual distraction. So, the less stimulation they have around their workstation the better. The higher cubicle walls can actually help all parties pay more attention to productivity.
When you think about it, there are quite a few ways in which cubicle panel extenders might enhance an employee’s at-work health. You’ve seen some of the studies and surveys on this blog about how too much noise and too little privacy is causing stress for cube-dwellers. Obviously, increasing privacy and decreasing noise is a no-brainer for addressing these issues. But perhaps there are additional hidden perks that workers could enjoy with higher cubicle walls.
How about Workplace Exercise?
We’ve all seen the popular articles about exercises you can do at your desk. They involve moving major muscle groups, stretching out ligaments, keeping joints supple, and making sure circulation isn’t interrupted. However, most of us probably don’t do these mini-workouts very often. It’s not that the exercises don’t feel good – they do. It’s just that we feel self-conscious about doing something that other people aren’t doing. If you suddenly stand up and start doing yoga or calisthenics at your desk (or even while still seated in your chair), you’re sure to get a few funny looks. Your coworkers will get used to your workout habit over time. But you’ll still be known as the “health-nut” who can’t sit still. Or, they might think you just can’t focus or that you take too many breaks.
Shield Yourself from View
What if you had a nice, tall cubicle panel giving you some visual privacy for your at-the-desk exercises? Would you feel free to move around more? Would you feel less like people were staring at you as you ensure your level of wellness stays high? When you feel healthy and limber instead of tired and achy, it’s easier to focus and do your job better. Some companies actually have everyone stop and do wellness exercises as a team. Until your workplace catches on with the trend, using your workstation as your own private gym may be a more realistic solution.