Increase Your Employees’ Productivity by Increasing Their Privacy!

micro-manager-productivityIf your employees don’t work in cubicles, you might not realize that you could be stunting their efficiency. According to a study by Harvard, “employees figure out the quickest ways to get things done… [by being] able to identify the sorts of shortcuts and workarounds that boost productivity.” The problem arises when employees don’t get any privacy to work in – so “when managers [constantly] watch their workers work, employee productivity dips [because] employees feel more compelled… [to] follow all corporate policies to a T,” even when they’re inefficient.

The study showcases real life examples of coworkers in manufacturing plants who utilize little strategies and tricks, here and there, which exponentially boost overall productivity. However, whenever management came around, they stopped using these shortcuts – seemingly resulting in the study drawing the correlation between productivity decrease and management observation. Astonishingly, the study found that when companies “kept a curtain up between workers and managers, productivity increased by 10 to 15 percent.”

Increasing cubicle privacy isn’t just about giving employees a breather from administrators – it also gives them a break from coworkers! According to another article, coworker noise – such as telephone calls, frustrated blurts, and etc. – has caused “30% of workers in cubicles, and roughly 25% in partition-less offices, [to be] dissatisfied with the noise level of their workspaces.”

Have no fear, OBEX is here! We offer cubicle panel extenders, mounts, and all sorts of supporting materials to increase the privacy of your employees’ workspace. Increase your employee productivity and contact us today!

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Cubicles And Desks With Office Panel Extenders Create Private Offices

open-officeOver the past ten years, open-plan offices have become the norm. For companies, it makes sense since they can put more employees in a smaller amount of space. Open spaces also give ample opportunity for employees to collaborate. Despite these benefits to the organization, employees are not always pleased with them. Their complaints include decreased privacy, increased noise and visual distractions. Employers can mitigate some of these issues by installing office panel extenders. Here are some ways that they’ll make your employees happier and more productive.

Privacy Issues

For employees, one of the biggest issues with an open-plan office is the lack of privacy. Conversations can easily be overheard, making it difficult to focus. It’s not just the people right next door that can be heard either, it’s every worker in the area. It is difficult for introverted people to speak to a client, co-worker or supervisor in these situations. This is important to note because one-half to one-third of the workforce falls within this category of personality types. By minimizing the external noise from co-workers, these employees can focus on their work and are, therefore, more effective.

Productivity Issues

When employees are distracted by those around them, whether it’s because of talking or because of movement, their productivity naturally decreases. Any business owner or manager will easily recognize what that can do to the bottom line. According to researchers, a happy employee is more productive. Small things like giving praise, an occasional sweet treat and, yes, creating more private spaces can increase happiness. It’s a win-win situation for employees and employers.

Problem Solving

Although it may not be possible for most companies to return to the days when private offices were dominant, there are some ways to reduce the issues. Creating private spaces that workers can use for at least part of their work day is one option. These spaces can be shared by employees, giving each a set amount of time to work in privacy before returning to their cubicle. Another option would be to install office panel extenders with sound-deadening fabrics to help minimize the external sounds and other distractions.

If your employees are not happy and productive, it’s in everyone’s best interest for you to find solutions to the problem. We understand how important these issues are to you and your success. Contact us for more information about office panel extenders and how they can help create a quieter, more productive workplace for all.

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Five Reasons To Consider Installing Cubicle Panel Mount Extenders

cubicle-panel-mountOffices and classrooms are often set up in an open format that allows everyone to see and hear everything that is happening. That’s not always a bad thing, but, certain activities are better done in a semi-private setting. From testing students to training employees and dealing with clients, there are many reasons to consider temporary walls for cubicles. Here are five reasons to consider installing cubicle panel mount extenders for your students or employees.

  1. Individual Spaces – Although there are many times when group-work and collaboration are beneficial, that isn’t always the case. Special projects in the office or testing in schools require a quiet, individual space to work. By using cubicle panel mount extenders, small, semi-private offices can be created in just a couple of minutes.
  2. Sound Absorption – Telephones ringing, conversations being had and typing can all be extremely distracting, especially when combined. It may not always be possible for employees or students to use headphones or other means to block out the noise. Cubicle panel mount extenders with sound-deadening fabrics all but eliminate ambient noises and help create quiet areas for study and employees to work.
  3. Ease Of Installation – It literally takes less than five minutes to install cubicle panel mounts and it only requires a small allen wrench to get the job done. That means you won’t have to call in a carpenter to make sure the installation is done correctly. It also means that there are no lengthy disruptions during classes or working hours.
  4. Easily Changed – Perhaps your students or staff only need the added privacy for a short time. These types of panels are just as easy to remove as they are to install. This is excellent news should you decide to change the overall look of the space as well. Additionally, there are several fabric and polycarbonate options that will suit your needs.
  5. Cost-Effective – While it may be tempting to order new furniture that will accommodate your needs, it’s not always possible. For most businesses and schools, finding room in the budget to upgrade the furniture is impossible. Rather than purchasing all new cubicles, simply adding to your existing furniture is a much more cost-effective and eco-friendly choice.

If you are interested in learning more about cubicle mount panel extenders for your school or office, contact us. We will be more than happy to talk to you about the various ways that you can incorporate them into your space.

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The Advantages Of Using Modesty Panels In An Office Setting

lunch-at-the-officeModesty panels allow you to transform your workplace. Panels can be added to create a separation between desks and provide each employee with their own space. Adding modesty panels to a workplace can be an alternative to cubicles and transform an open space into a workplace with a spot for each employee.

Modesty panels can be added on top of existing panels or placed on a desk or table to create separate spaces. Panels come in a wide variety of colors and materials. Adding modesty panels to your workplace does not have to make things dull since you can choose panels with lively colors or prints.

Investing in panels allows for more flexibility than installing cubicles in your workplace. Modesty panels can be easily removed and re-arranged as your needs change. Investing in sturdy panels is definitely worth it since these items will last for years as you re-arrange your workplace.

The main advantage of modesty panels is to provide employees with more privacy. People will probably feel more comfortable and relaxed at work if they do not get the feeling that their desk and activities are visible to everyone.

Providing employees with their own workstation isolated with modesty panels will help them concentrate. Productivity should go up if employees are not tempted to keep an eye on what someone else is doing. Modesty panels are also an excellent way to reduce the noise levels employees are exposed to.

Giving each employee their own work space should help them stay organized. They will consider their work station as their own space and develop their own system to organize documents and items.

Modesty panels are a great place to pin important papers and reminders. They also provide employees with a space where they can pin family pictures and other personal items. This is a great way to help employees feel more at home without giving them their own cubicle or office.

OBEX can provide you with modesty panels and other furniture for your workplace. Contact us to learn more about the different options available to you.

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Three Unique Benefits of Using Cubicle Extenders in Your Office

unique-benefits-cubicle-extendersInstalling cubicles and adding panel extenders can increase the efficiency of many office setups. Today we’re going to illustrate a few examples of unique benefits of cubicle and desk extenders, and show how they can help your business save money:

  • Lower Capital Cost – Buying simpler, more basic furniture and then customizing it later through the use of desk and cubicle extenders will often save you quite a bit of expense when it comes to the purchase of your office furniture.
  • Design Versatility – Some areas of your office are better suited to open environments where conversation is easy (sales, for example), while other areas require a bit less distraction (accounts receivable) and more quiet.  Using cubicle extenders can let you do both at the same time, where appropriate.
  • Easy to Change – The needs and circumstances of your business change all the time, and retaining the freedom and flexibility to make adjustments to your office design on the fly can often end up saving you quite a bit of time and hassle.

So if you are considering an office redesign, check out the different extenders and accessories that are available prior to purchasing any furniture.  You may be able to design the perfect solution for your business for significantly less money than you would normally spend.

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Five Ideas for Office Dividers

Walls are the most traditional form of office dividers. But they’re expensive and difficult to move without a full remodel. These days, businesses are looking for simpler, faster, and cheaper ways to create divisions between work areas. Here are a number of unusual ways they can do just that.

#1 Accordion Walls

moloOne of the most flexible and unique ways to divide space is with freestanding accordion partitions. Molo, a NeoCon 2014 Gold winner, is a well-known provider of this type of solution. Their Tyvek honeycomb architectural products are designed to dampen sound and visually separate space. Because this type of privacy screen can be easily reconfigured by one or two people, it’s an attractive option for employees who like to take control of their work environment.

#2 Modular Floor Tiles

modular floor tilesSometimes, space separation is more about visual delineation than physical barriers. It’s possible to use color, texture, and light to divide one space from the next. For example, colored floor tiles laid down in geometric or curving patterns can carve pathways through the workspace and create diverse environments for each department or “zone”.

#3 Decorative Lighting

cloud lightingExtravagant architectural lighting installations from companies like Seeyond can make walls or ceilings completely unique in each work area. Some of these solutions even create alcoves within the workspace by arcing in curving lines from floor to ceiling. These internally lit structures feature different levels of brightness or even different colors to impact mood.

#4 Glass and Acrylic Panels

3formInstallations from companies like 3Form and LOFTWalls take a semi-transparent and entirely artistic approach to office space division. These pieces of a glass or acrylic can be curved or flat, colored or clear, textured or smooth. Many designs contain inclusions of natural or manmade materials to add visual interest. They may be specified as free-standing panels, but many are used as inset decoration in other structural components.

#5 Desktop Dividers

office space dividersAt the individual workstation level, cubicle walls have long been the standard for office dividers. However, the advent of the open office has created demand for a more customizable solution. Our OBEX desktop mounted privacy panels achieve that objective. With a wide variety of textiles, polycarbonate tiles, and even custom-printed panels, these products are another example of how space division has gone beyond the boring, blank wall.

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Workplace Seating Arrangements and Privacy Part 2

Last week, we reviewed 70-80 years of history about workplace seating arrangements. We ended up with a quick look at the cubicle—now one of the most disparaged pieces of office furniture ever. However, when it was first introduced the cubicle enjoyed a positive reception. There’s a perception today that cubicles replaced private offices and companies need to go back to having private offices for everyone. The fact is that cubes were the closest thing a traditional low-level “bullpen” employee would ever get to an office. According to designer Douglas Ball (one of the men who was involved in early cubicle design), this type of workstation was originally intended to be a step up the corporate ladder, not a step down.

Open Office Designs Replace Cube Farms

Unfortunately, what started out as a generously sized, enclosed workspace soon began to shrink. From 1994 to 2010, workers lost 15 square feet of personal space in the average cubicle. The backlash against cubes getting smaller and smaller led to the introduction of the “open office” layout. In an attempt to counterbalance the claustrophobic cube farm trend, dividing panels were shortened and made of partly or completely transparent materials.

Next, benching systems came into vogue. Employees began sitting directly across from each other with no visual or noise privacy at all. This workplace seating arrangement turned out little better than the original bullpen setup of the first half of the twentieth century.

Finding Balance between Seclusion and Chaos

Fortunately, the pendulum appears to be swinging to the center now. Today, more and more office seating arrangements are ‘multiple choice’. Workers may have the option to sit at an assigned desk or take their laptop to a collaborative area or a secluded spot. Coworkers may even band together and rearrange a highly flexible suite of furniture on a regular basis to meet their needs.

Collaborative areas are being more carefully designed to foster voluntary teamwork rather than forced comradery. For example, a social area such as a lounge might supplement or replace a standard benching system. Cubicle walls are going up again at the request of workers who prefer less distraction and a return to privacy.

OBEX panel extenders play a role in creating a flexible office where employees have more control over their level of privacy. Our customers have confirmed that this is the wave of the future—and we’re here to help them create their ideal work environment.

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Office Seating Arrangements and Privacy Part 1

How do office seating arrangements impact the day-to-day experience of office workers? Let’s have a look at how office layouts and workstations have changed over the past 100 years—and what this has meant for individual employee privacy.

At the dawn of the 20th century, white collar clerical work and “knowledge work” was becoming a more and more important part of commerce. Businesses had moved to a centralized administrative structure that allowed them to house white collar staff together for easier management and oversight. This led to some interesting experimentation with office layouts. Putting a large number of people in the same room to work on different tasks was definitely not the same as designing a factory assembly line where everyone worked toward the same goal. Here are some of the ideas that have been tried over the years to make the office space efficient and productive.

The School of Work

In a 2009 Wired Magazine article, Cliff Kuang takes us through an interesting pictorial representation of office seating arrangements from the early 1900s through today. The first highly regimented layout with row upon row of desks was reminiscent of a school—only with no teacher at the front. Everyone worked with someone (literally) peering over their shoulder from a desk immediately behind them. There was little real privacy for anyone except the bosses who had private offices from which they could oversee work on the “production” floor.

Breaking up the Workforce

The early 1960s saw an uptick in more innovative seating arrangements, with different tasks being supported with varying layouts. Workers who needed to focus might sit in rows so they could more easily ignore one another. Those who were expected to collaborate might gather in clusters. Panel systems had not yet been developed, so there was nothing to dampen noise or create visual privacy. This was the time of the bull-pen office, with its hustle and bustle. While some people still look back on this era with fondness, it wasn’t a layout that was well-suited to very many industries.

Cubicles Create the First Mini-Office

Individual workstations with dividers (Action Offices) were introduced in the late sixties and have been arranged in a huge variety of ways ever since. They’ve gone from pods to rows and back again, changing shape from squares to honeycombs and other novel office seating arrangements. Dividers started out fairly low, but got higher over time to simulate office walls. The improvement in visual privacy was immediate, while the ability to dampen distracting noise improved with the development of acoustic materials.

Stay tuned: Next week, we’ll look at what happened after the cubicle began to fall from favor.

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Does White Noise in the Office Cause Stress?

Using white noise in the office is a commonly suggested remedy for covering up intrusive sounds at work. But that might be like prescribing a medicine with side effects as bad as the illness it’s designed to treat. Let’s explore a different perspective on whether white noise is really beneficial or if it just adds to the burden of excess noise in the workplace.

Why Is White Noise Recommended?

It’s very well established that noise in the workplace is a major source of stress. Unwanted noise is distracting and can be associated with low morale, poor health, and a number of other issues. Conversation is one of the most intrusive sounds, since the brain automatically tries to listen and understand what’s being said. But everything from whirring printers to ringing phones and clicking keyboards can be problematic.

So, white noise may be used to help mask the hustle and bustle. Some of these sound tracks imitate noises found in nature, such as whispering breezes, waves, or rushing water. Others use specifically selected wavelengths of sound in spectrums known to be soothing. The idea is that the added layer of noise will help filter out or dampen the effect of less appealing sounds.

Not Everyone Likes White Noise

Unfortunately, white noise in the office doesn’t always work as intended. Kery Floyd, writing for forcexinc.com, clearly states his dislike for this artificial sound. He finds that it actually makes concentration more difficult. Floyd points to a couple of studies that have shown mixed results for white noise. In one, individuals who typically had difficulty concentrating were helped by the noise. Those who were usually attentive suffered a decline in performance. White noise was something of an equalizer, but certainly not an overall performance booster for all participants.

A summary of research published over at sonicstate.com offers a grim view of white noise in the office. It uses the research of Mark Andrews, (a physiology professor) to make the case that white noise causes stress and can lead to many harmful stress-related conditions. However, a closer reading reveals that Andrews is discussing low level background noise—which would include typical workplace sounds that we already know are distracting. It’s not specifically about white noise machines. At the same time, the comments on the article show a strong aversion to the use of “sound conditioning”. Complaints include headaches and distraction.

What’s the Takeaway?

Remember that perception is everything. If you do decide to use white noise, check to see if it is actually helping your employees. When you have workers complaining about white noise, it’s not the right solution. When it’s working right, no one should notice that it’s there.

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Should Every Employee Have an Office with a View?

office windowNot every workspace is a corner office with a view. But that doesn’t mean rank and file workers should be left without access to windows during their workday. There might be quite a few benefits for businesses that are willing to open up the workspace with exterior windows. Or so it would seem. Let’s take a look at some opinions from around the web.

Nature Is Good, Let’s Get More of It

According to an article published by the University of Washington, “The experience of nature helps to restore the mind from the mental fatigue of work or studies, contributing to improved work performance and satisfaction.”

Getting out and about in nature has the most profound effect, but even the visual stimulation of being able to see a natural scene out of a window could prove beneficial. As the article also points out, workers instinctively know they need this “green” stimulation. Those who don’t have a window view introduce twice as many natural elements (such as plants) into their work area compared to those who have a nature view at work.

Daylight at the Office Improves Nights at Home?

A good night’s sleep is certainly one key to a more productive day. According to a study conducted in Illinois comparing workers in windowed and windowless offices, there is a marked difference in sleep quality for those who get regular exposure to sunlight throughout the workday. “Their sleep logs showed that they slept an average of 46 minutes more per night and had better scores on measures for sleep quality, sleep disturbances and daytime sleepiness.”

More Studies Are Needed

The hard numbers to back up claims of improved work performance are still being gathered. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory reviewed some of the available studies and found that, in one, “Workers with the best outdoor view at their workstation, compared to no outdoor view, performed 10% better in the cognitive acuity test and 16% better in the memory test.” Other studies showed little or no improvement on a variety of different metrics.

A set of case studies evaluated in a Haworth white paper found no link between exterior views, access to natural light, and a superior workplace. “Contrary to predictions, neither percent exterior view nor daylight-only luminance was related to organizational quality, workstation quality or job quality, but as expected, these objective measures did not predict job performance/productivity.” In other words, even though common sense might suggest that companies offering larger and better outdoor views would have more satisfied employees, the jury is still out on whether this is really true.

What’s your experience? Does having a beautiful outdoor view help your employees work harder, faster, and smarter?

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