According to a new study from Michigan State University, just a 3 second distraction can ruin your workplace concentration. The researchers found that participants who were interrupted for just a few moments doubled their error rate on a sequence-based task. If you think it won’t hurt to take a tiny break just check your inbox or your smartphone, think again. For high concentration jobs that require a great deal of accuracy, your productivity could be seriously impacted. So, when someone asks if you “have a second” while you are trying to work on a complex task, tell them they can only have two. After that, your concentration is shot.
One of the Best of NeoCon 2013 winners in the Conference Room Furniture category is a handy little meeting booth that caught our attention. It’s the Rendezvous from Swiftspace. As the name suggests, this is a small collaborative meeting room that can be set up at a moment’s notice. It seats up to six people at a time. According to the manufacturer, it actually takes less than a minute to pop this module out to its full size. That’s a record that even beats our easy-to-install privacy panels. The booth is about 6.75’ per side when it’s open and folds down to a width of just under two feet when closed. The whole thing is set on casters so it can be easily moved into storage or from one room to the next.
Team Members Still Need Privacy
We find a couple of things interesting about this design. First, it shows that there’s yet another aspect of the open workspace that’s being adapted to fit how people really like to work. Collaborative areas that have no physical boundaries aren’t necessarily attractive to everyone. Sure, it seems like these spaces would be the vibrant hub of the office. But it is possible to get a little self-conscious when you have to brainstorm within earshot and visual inspection of every single one of your coworkers. Sometimes, having a space that’s a little more private (like a giant cubicle) lets you focus on the matter at hand – even in a team setting.
Coworkers Suffer Less Distraction Too
Of course, the meeting booth provides more than just privacy for those inside. The rest of the office may also be happy not to have their concentration interrupted by conversations that don’t include them. There’s nothing more annoying than being at your desk working on something tedious when others are involved in creative collaboration close by. Fortunately, the Rendezvous’ wall height of 60” can be increased to 72” with optional Acrylic Privacy Panels to help contain the commotion. So, even this mobile meeting room apparently needs wall height extenders from time to time. We wonder if our OBEX panels can be used to create an impromptu “conference cubicle” to host team meetings. What do you think?
Are you an office furniture or office supply dealer? Have you considered adding panel extenders and desk-mounted privacy panels to your catalogue? Here are the top 4 reasons to contact your regional distributor today and become an OBEX dealer:
Everyone Can Use Our Products
Whether your customers have traditional cubicles or a benching system with no panels at all, we have a solution that will suit their workplace. Our universal mounting brackets fit all standard panel widths and desk thicknesses. The range of sizes and materials gives them plenty of choices for an off-the-shelf solution that we can get to them with a short delivery time of just three weeks.
Businesses Know They Need Privacy Panels
There’s a wealth of information available about how distractions, noise, and lack of privacy reduce productivity. The move toward low or no cubicle walls and a completely open office has started to look like less than a brilliant idea. Employers know they need to do something about this problem. If you ask any of your customers if their employees would appreciate a work environment that increases focus and reduces stress, what do you think they will say?
We Make It Easy For You to Say “Yes!”
Does your client want custom sizes? We can do that. How about custom fabrics or paints? We can do that. Maybe the client would like some graphics that create a vibrant work environment or highlight their corporate brand? We do that too. Because we have the facilities and equipment right here to make each OBEX panel, we can help you say ‘yes’ to almost any customer request.
You Get More Satisfied Customers
If you need just a little more incentive to start offering our products, here’s a typical response we get for our products:
“I would like to take a moment to thank the staff of OBEX and let you know what a great product the OBEX panel extenders are. We are very pleased with the product and with the customer focus we received from OBEX. The entire process of order to installation was seamless. The OBEX panel extenders are versatile and extremely cost effective and will be used for a multitude of applications in our work environment. I would highly recommend this product to anyone that needs a quick and affordable means of adding privacy, sound reduction or even aesthetics to existing panel systems furniture without the hassle of having to purchase and install new panels. Thanks again OBEX!” Howard O’Kelly – LPL Financial, AVP Real Estate & Facilities
When you become an OBEX dealer, these satisfied clients could be yours…
You know a product is a winner when the person who invented it can explain all of the following in less than 60 seconds:
- What the product is
- How it works
- The benefits to the customer
- What makes the product unique
- The standard and custom options available
Watch Mark Canavarro, the owner of OBEX Panel Extenders give his “elevator speech” in a short, 46 second clip on YouTube. This really is a product whose time has come. It fixes a problem that employers know they have. They just may not it is so easy to correct for such an affordable price.
According to a “Science Tech” article on the DailyMail site, there are two major threats to productivity in the workplace:
- Open plan offices
- Uniformity in workstations
The article cites a number of studies demonstrating the effect of constant interruptions, high noise levels, and lack of privacy endemic in open offices. We’ve covered a lot of these studies before, but it never hurts to get a refresher course. A neuroscientist who helped conduct one study that actually measured a subject’s brainwaves in an open plan office said employees may not realize the disruption to their thought processes. “Even though you are not aware at the time, the brain responds to distractions.” He believes that these open offices don’t actually improve either creativity or problem solving. Having 50 people in a room doesn’t increase the available brain power if no one is actually able to think.
A psychologist interviewed for the same article revealed another finding from the study. Employee productivity goes up by 15% when workers are allowed to decorate their space with their own belongings. Instead of being a distraction, these familiar objects actually make workers feel more relaxed and focused. So, giving employees the option to have private workspaces with more personalization could really pay off.
What do industry analysts and office furniture companies see as the big office furniture trends for 2013? Here’s a roundup of some popular concepts this season.
Since facility managers work closely with business decision makers and procurement specialists to outfit offices, we pay close attention to their predictions. TFM sees a number of current industry trends that are driven by a need for greater efficiency and flexibility. While they mention a rise in collaborative spaces, they also note that many of these “huddle” areas require a certain amount of separation from the rest of the office. Instead of having several large conference rooms, a company might choose to set up half a dozen teaming spaces surrounded by architectural walls or other space dividers.
Mobile workers and an age-diverse workforce bring new urgency to the need for flexible workspaces. There is no one preferred work mode or workstation style for all of today’s employees. Instead, workstations must adapt to a wide range of users. We’ve certainly noticed that a preference for panel dividers and cubicle wall heights varies among different employees by factors such as personality and assigned tasks. Often, having high panels around a workstation for concentration and the freedom to physically move to a work/lounge area for collaboration is ideal.
This office furniture supplier also notes the complexities of furnishing an office for four generations of workers. However, they place more emphasis on the company culture and understanding what it takes to keep employees engaged. Comfort and choice serve as the foundation for worker satisfaction. Employees do expect to have ergonomic equipment to reduce back pain and fatigue. This often means pairing an adjustable chair with an adjustable desk.
The BYOD (bring your own device) trend is also changing office furniture. Easy access to recharging technology is one key feature of today’s designs. In fact, there were a few wireless charging stations featured at NeoCon 2013. With these pieces of furniture, employees don’t even have to dock their device. They can simply set it down on a desk or side table to charge while they work. We expect to see tech built in to many more types of office furniture over the next few years. Pretty soon, you’ll see smart desks and smart chairs to go along with employees’ smart phones.
NeoCon 2013 was the place to be to enjoy some really knockout office furnishings. As manufacturers of space dividers, we appreciate the structures that separate space as much as the items that fill it. One particularly noteworthy collection of architectural dividers was presented by Seeyond (those who see beyond the mundane and into the fantastic). This company won a Gold award for its movable walls that create collaborative spaces and Silver for its decorative lighted wall facings. In our opinion, the whole gallery on this firm’s website is pretty jaw-dropping – especially the cloud wall/ceiling transition sculptures. These dividers would be an amazing way to make interior areas of a building glow. They are certainly much more inviting than the glaring overhead fluorescent lights found in most office environments. All this radiance kind of makes us wish our desk mounted panels could light up too. For now, you’ll just have to string some Christmas lights around them…
Last week, we looked at some sofa-style lounge offerings that incorporate privacy panels. But the Coalesse collection takes things even further with the new “Work-Lounge” that can be equipped with a felt canopy. This design looks like something you might see in a beauty salon. Only, instead of drying and setting your hair, the giant cone over your head works to block out noise and other distractions. You can see a 2 minute animated video showing all the cool features of this chair right here.
Users can sit back, relax, and pull the canopy down to give them privacy even in a noisy, open workspace. There’s a light inside the felt dome to provide enough illumination to work by. It also features a bracket to hold mobile devices for hands-free conferencing. When it’s time to rejoin the “meat world” and collaborate in person, the canopy can be pushed back out of the way. Although this revolutionary concept made quite a splash at NeoCon 2013, it won’t be available for purchase through Steelcase’s Coalesse division until 2014.
One Chair, Many Options
The design is by Jean-Marie Moussad who envisions the chair bridging the gap between work and life, comfort and industry, privacy and teamwork. The lounge chair can be used alone for relaxation. However, it turns into a comfortable workstation with the addition of a height adjustable swivel table affixed to one arm. This small worksurface can be brought in close to support a relaxed work posture (much like the flexibility provided by the Gesture task chair). A storage ottoman completes the set by offering a space to store documents or devices and providing a place to prop up your feet.
The swivel base of the chair has auto-return for ease of movement, the headrest has a removable pillow insert for ergonomic customization, and the base has a cord pass-through to charge devices. All in all, this piece of lounge furniture appears to be a one-stop experience for work and play. If you pull the canopy down and turn off the light, you could probably even catch a few z’s there too.
Did you know that a desk mounted panel can be installed in more than one way? If you want more private space for your face, the panel goes on top of your desk. However, you could also install it upside down on one of the many benching workstations that are so popular these days. This way, it can serve as a “modesty panel” to give workers more privacy below their worksurface. This is a good way to conceal cabling or cords that hang down. It could also help divide under-desk floor space for employees who sit directly across from each other. That’s helpful if workers use this area for impromptu storage.
Tips for this type of installation:
- Pick the right product. The edge-mounted desktop privacy panel is the one to choose for installation on a flat surface.
- The translucent polycarbonate tiles are a subtle and unobtrusive material option for this type of installation. They go with any color scheme.
- Choose a 12” panel height for a basic modesty panel. Go with a 24” panel if you want to partially shield components placed under the desk from view and reduce the appearance of clutter.
- Measure and double-check the underside of the worksurface to ensure the legs and other features won’t get in the way of the universal brackets. The brackets can be installed at any point along the length of the panel, so be aware that there’s a lot of flexibility. They also aren’t very deep (just the right length to hold the panel firmly in place). But a lip that sticks down on the underside of the tabletop an inch or two from the edge could interfere with installation in the standard or upside down position.
- Realize that the brackets will stick up a little bit on the edge of the desk if they are installed upside down. Use strategically placed objects on the worksurface to distract from the brackets. An inbox, a picture frame, or a small potted plant will do just fine. Or, some employees might want to put tiny Lego action figures atop the brackets – you never know!
Menshealth.com recommends setting a company policy to have all employees switch their cell phones to vibrate during the workday. According to a Washington University in St. Louis study, ring tones deeply impact our ability to focus. The more familiar the song used for the ringtone, the more distracting it tends to be. In the study, cognitive function such as recall and decision-making performance were affected more substantially and for a longer period after students’ concentration was broken by hearing their college’s “fight song” for half a minute vs. hearing a standard ringtone.
Would the same thing happen at work? Perhaps not. According to the researchers, phones ringing all the time, every day in an office is the kind of thing you can get used to. So, setting phones to vibrate would lower the overall noise level, but might not make that big of a difference in concentration. Of course, sometimes it’s the loud conversation that happens after the coworker answers the phone that really gets under your skin….