Perhaps another location for an extra panel is in the reception area. A reception desk should feel open and inviting to visitors. But it can often feel a little vulnerable to the receptionist. This is especially true in a layout where reception is located near an open hallway and employees are traipsing back and forth all day. If the front office has floor to ceiling glass windows overlooking the sidewalk, the receptionist may feel under scrutiny from passersby as well. Placing a desk mounted privacy panel along one side of the desk offers a little shielding while still making the receptionist easily approachable by guests.
If you do a quick web search for content about cubicles, you’ll come away with a pretty bleak picture of how employees feel about this type of workstation. Most articles offering advice make it clear from the outset that the goal is simply to make cube life a little more bearable. This excerpt from Joshua Piven and David Borgenicht’s “The Worst-Case Scenario Survival Handbook: Work” is a good example. The authors write about ways to survive in a tiny workspace.
Many of the tips are tongue in cheek (they recommend suspending your stapler and tape dispenser from the ceiling to free up valuable desk space and hiding luxury items like your TV and hair dryer). But a lot of the recommendations are reasonable. For example, they caution against picking a cubicle near a supply room or other high traffic area. Employees who actually have a choice about where they sit can benefit from this tip and some of the other advice as well.
Of course, their statement that standard cube size is 8×8 may be a little outdated for a book published in 2008. Cubicles have been shrinking in size over the past couple of decades. So, chances are your employees are feeling more cramped than ever. Is it possible for workers to actually be happy and productive in such tight quarters?
We believe the answer is 3-fold:
- First, the company culture and especially the employees’ relationship with their immediate supervisor is the most important factor in satisfaction. Employees with flexible schedules and a boss who is “on their side” are likely to adjust well to their work environment – even the dreaded cubicle.
- Second, the nature of the work assigned is very important. For example, employees at startup companies who are thoroughly excited about the innovative project they are working on are less likely to be bummed out by shortcomings in their workspace than those who do boring, repetitive tasks. Cross training employees may break up the monotony and help them stay interested in coming to work.
- Finally, the quality of the design, layout and materials used for the cubicle do matter. Even a small cube can be outfitted with a comfortable chair, ergonomic tools like a keyboard tray and adjustable monitor arm, and panel extenders that add privacy and reduce noisy distractions.
How do you help your employees thrive in the cubicle workspace? Share your advice in the comments.
Are you building a new office space or renovating your existing site? The LEED point and credit system developed in 1998 by the U.S. Green Building Council may provide you with grant funds and tax breaks if you make the right design decisions. The Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design program looks at the entire office building, inside and out, to determine compliance with best practices for sustainability.
Points are tallied up for each choice that promotes greater energy efficiency, more environmental responsibility, or better indoor air quality. Everything from building materials to lighting choices and office furniture are taken into consideration during a review by an LEED accreditation professional. Participating businesses can achieve progressively higher levels of certification all the way up to “Platinum” which offers the biggest incentives and most bragging rights.
How OBEX Products Factor In
One of the smartest ways to take advantage of the potential financial benefits of LEED certification is by saving money up front. You might think that buying “green” office furniture is more expensive than purchasing standard equipment. That might be true – if you buy new. But pre-owned office furniture is much cheaper and qualifies for LEED points because it reduces the energy and raw material consumption that goes into furnishing your office. In fact, buying used furniture is always more environmentally friendly than buying even the most eco-responsible new furniture.
The downside of buying used workstations is that you don’t have quite the range of options you might like. For example, you might not find cubicles with walls high enough. Or, you might find that the most cost-effective option is a benching configuration – but not want to go with an entirely open office layout. Our panel products can extend the height of cubicle walls or turn a regular desk into a more private, less noisy workstation in minutes at a very low cost. Second hand cubicles can be refurbished in the fabric of your choice – and you can have your panel extenders made to match.
To answer the question in the title of this post: Our privacy panels give you more flexibility in using pre-owned workstations. So, we think they deserve a little appreciation for making it easier for you to earn those LEED points while saving money at the same time.
This week’s tip for panel extenders takes you outside the office and on the road. Does your company attend industry trade shows and conventions? You can easily add a sign to your booth or table with a panel extender or desktop mounted panel. Just have one custom printed with your logo. The universal brackets make setup and take down a snap and the panels can be stored and transported flat. This means they won’t take up too much space or time at your next exposition. Unlike a cheap, flimsy plastic sign, an OBEX panel is designed for decades of use with a sturdy aluminum frame and polycarbonate tile.
Image courtesy of Flickr user: milolovich69
Lifehacker has a very detailed article online right now on how the average cubicle worker can turn their workstation into a standing desk. There are actually half a dozen ways to do this for less than $50. So, it might not be as hard as you think to find the budget for this kind of project. You can also try a no-cost approach. Just set your monitor, keyboard, and mouse pad each on different sized boxes or risers on your desk to create a landscape that puts everything at the right height for standing work. That’s actually a good way to experiment with this position to see if it is something you want to do all day or if an adjustable sit-to-stand model would work better.
Keep Your Head Down?
The author of the article does point out one potential issue with creating a standing desk in the middle of a sitting environment. Other employees may not appreciate someone looming over them. If you’ve ever been annoyed by a coworker popping their head up over your cubicle wall to chat, you can relate. It just seems too intrusive – and today’s cubicles with their lower walls just make the issue worse.
However, this doesn’t mean that the proverbial “nail that sticks its head up” must be hammered back down. Desk mounted privacy panels can be added to just about any standing desk. Or, panel extenders can be installed on surrounding cubicles to give coworkers back their privacy. Like the box method for experimenting with a standing desk, these panels can be added, removed or reconfigured in minutes. There’s really no downside to giving them a try.
Managers take note: Just having the option to decide whether to sit or stand and how high their own cubicle walls should be can give employees a greater sense of satisfaction at work.
Photo courtesy of Flickr user auxesis
The universal mounting brackets on our panel products make you think: What other ways could I use these panels? We’ll look at a different concept each week until we run out of ideas!
Have you ever needed to work on something in a cubicle with a coworker? They can roll up an extra chair, but they are often left kind of dangling out in the open. This makes them vulnerable to interruption. Perhaps you could extend a 2 or 3 wall cubicle to have one longer “arm” that will shield your coworker from distractions. It would only take a couple of minutes to add a panel extender vertically on the side of a cubicle wall. The steel frame is the same as on the top, so there’s no reason a bracket wouldn’t work just as well in this position.
The American Society of Interior Designers conducted a very in-depth survey of employee attitudes and satisfaction levels with various aspects of their physical workspace. If you haven’t read this paper yet, it’s well worth your time. The ASID links employees’ feelings about their work environment directly to important outcomes like retention. Here were some key findings that relate to problems our panel extenders are designed to address:
11% of workers said that privacy and quiet were very important to them. Ironically, this is the same exact percentage as those who noted that having access to coworkers was important. Obviously, there needs to be a balance between these two workplace requirements with a space for collaboration as well as concentration. However, a full 80% of respondents said that they do currently have good access to other people or departments. So, it looks like privacy and noise control are the areas that really should be improved. More than 1 out of 3 workers said they are dissatisfied with the noise level at their job and more than half are dissatisfied with the amount of privacy they have.
The Facility Management Journal covers every conceivable aspect of office design from air conditioning and ergonomics to sustainability and lighting. It’s not surprising that you’ll find great information on how to arrange office furniture at FMlink.com as well. The case study for GlaxoSmithKline is particularly interesting. This employer was looking for ways to increase productivity and profitability while reducing overhead.
GSK used a very simple method to assess how their current office space was being used. They did a walk through 10 times per day for 2 weeks and recorded the types of activity taking place and where these areas were located. Based on this information, they found that employee workstations were only occupied an average of 41% of the time. This was actually pretty consistent across 7 different work sites (the numbers ranged from 36-45%). The rest of the time, the workstations were temporarily unoccupied or just sitting empty.
The Missing Pieces
Where were these employees when they weren’t at their stations? Some of the time, they were trying to get work done in groups. However, they didn’t have the right facilities for this kind of team effort. GSK chose to address this problem by adding multiple conference rooms to accommodate group work throughout the day. They reduced the number of workstations and increased the number of chairs available – moving to a hot-desking system.
This is actually a configuration that can benefit greatly from the addition of panel extenders. When individuals don’t know where they will be sitting from one day to the next, they need additional protection from audible and visible interruptions. When a person works at the same station every day, they may learn to ignore things in their peripheral vision or sounds they are used to hearing. With a hoteling system where everyone is playing musical desks, that doesn’t happen. Any change or novelty in a worker’s surroundings is a distraction in itself. Having some extra height on the cubicle walls or adding privacy panels to desks in open areas is a quick, affordable way to help reduce the disruption caused by switching to a different office configuration.