How do cubicle panel vertical extensions make the workplace multi-purpose? They create a place in today’s open plan offices for workers who need to be able to really focus. There’s an excellent article over at Work, Learn, Play about how employers can incorporate different design features to accommodate a variety of work styles. They make a good point that not every worker’s preference is “set in stone”. Some might enjoy higher cubicle walls one day and a team workspace around a table the next. With panel extenders, it’s easy to upgrade cubicles in a hot-desking environment so that employees can pick what type of environment they prefer from day to day. If you find that employees are gravitating toward the cubes with higher walls, it’s easy to add panel extenders to other workstations to make this option available to more employees.
The research just keeps piling up against open plan offices that don’t control workplace acoustics well. The Sound Agency has an article out now stating that too much noise in the office can reduce the productivity of knowledge workers by 66%! The piece includes a link to a fantastic TED talk containing that statistic that you’ll want to watch (it’s less than 6 minutes long). In a survey conducted by the Leesman research group, almost 1 out of 4 employees stated they were dissatisfied at the lack of availability of quiet working spaces. If you don’t think these stats are acceptable, it’s time to do something about it. Cubicle wall vertical extenders can play an important role in the quest to create the ideal work environment. Just imagine how much more pleasant your office will be when you take Julian Treasure’s “sound advice” and get a handle on workplace noise!
Mike over at cubicles.com has an excellent blog post up right now about office design and collaboration. Collaboration has become a real buzz word over the last decade, but it’s not always easy to achieve a truly collaborative atmosphere in the workplace. Simply lowering cubicle panels and forcing everyone to live and work “in each other’s faces” all day isn’t the answer. Instead, work spaces should include environments that allow employees to talk freely and areas where they can have more privacy. Here are a couple of the takeaway quotes that can help you decide on the right balance:
“Sometimes an open floor space plan can actually inhibit collaboration, as employees may feel vulnerable about being overheard and overexposed.”
“Build flexibility into your design so that you can test permutations, and measure the designʼs effects.”
We agree. Flexibility is one of the best features of our panel extenders. They let you experiment freely at a very low cost. It only takes a few minutes to install, uninstall or move a panel extension to a new location. You can increase cubicle height easily in various configurations to find out what really works for increasing meaningful communication and collaboration.
Cubicle height extension gives employees more privacy and acts as a shield against noise. But it also provides a little more space for them to express themselves. They get extra room to display and organize both personal and office items. Here are a few of the things employees could add to this vertical space:
- Pin and clip style document holders for achievement awards, company memos, office cartoons, proofreading, inspirational posters, etc. The more employees get to personalize their cubicles, they more they feel a sense of pride and ownership.
- Adjustable cubicle hangers to hold accessories such as pencil cups, business card holders, post-it dispensers and shelves. Keeping the desk clear can help workers stay more organized.
- Coat hooks for jackets, bags, and other personal effects. With a higher cubicle panel, these items can be hung up without touching the ground or brushing the desktop. It also means employees don’t have to hang outerwear over the back of their chair or stuff jackets in an overhead storage bin.
- Small cork bars and whiteboards for brainstorming and note keeping. Who knows, you might end up finding out that one of your employees is the next Bill Taylor!
- Inventive and artistic cable/cord organization (see examples at Turnstone’s blog).
- Cubicle mirror so employees don’t feel like anyone is sneaking up on them. This is a good option if workers are facing away from their cubicle “door” while they work. They know that their internet surfing habits can be monitored remotely by IT. There’s no reason for them to feel like someone is literally breathing over their shoulder.
- Pictures of family in frames that are designed for cubicle panels. If you choose a fabric-covered acoustic panel extender, you can opt for Velcro backed frames (as long as you don’t mind some wear and tear on the fabric). Holders that hook over the edge of the cubicle are another option that won’t leave any marks on the panel textile.
Does your workplace have a joker who enjoys stirring up trouble by hurling desktop projectiles at coworkers? It’s time to stop the cubicle wars. The easiest way to do this is by making it more difficult for trouble-makers to take aim. Cubicle wall extensions can obstruct line of sight between cubicle snipers and their unwitting victims. Here are just a few of the tools of cubicle warfare that could be stymied by higher cubicle walls:
This is really old school, but some employees will still use a rubber band to snap a coworker to full attention. You might think there’s no harm in this practice. But it’s only fine until somebody takes one in the eye (and you know that will happen sooner or later!)
OK, the special effects in this video are a little over the top – people don’t really explode from being hit with a foam bullet. However, guns of any kind are usually a bad idea in the workplace. It’s fine to take coworkers out for a bonding event at the local laser tag center. Just make sure they get rid of all their weapons before they reach the office door.
If your office is really trying to “go green”, the last thing you need is people using paper for making pointless (yet surprisingly pointy) stuff to throw at each other. Higher cubicle panels make launching a strategic air strike more difficult.
The Air Strike Catapult
ThinkGeek is all agog over this classic Roman style siege device. They admit that the primary purpose (really, the only purpose) of this kind of toy is to annoy one’s coworkers. Technically, this weapon might have enough power to lob a spiky foam cannonball over a tall cubicle divider. But the chances of actually hitting someone go way down when you can’t see what you’re aiming at.
When employees can’t get what they need out of their workstation, they have 3 options:
- Try to live with an unlivable situation
- Request or requisition the tools they need to be more productive
- Come up with their own solutions that seem better than nothing
This actually happens with inadequate cubicle walls more often than you think. Workers who have to sit in noisy areas will go to extraordinary lengths to create panel accessories that cut down on distractions. Here’s one example of an employee who discovered she could no longer concentrate when she was moved to a new cubicle:
“It is very loud where I sit because employees for whatever reason like to stand in this area and chit-chat. Oh, did I mention the “message center” is directly across from me? This is the area where emergency phone calls come in, so it’s pretty busy. Anyhow, I’ve noticed on different floors that some employees have made their own cubicle wall extensions – I’m not sure of the exact name, but basically it’s an additional panel you add to your cubicle wall. I’m thinking I could get some thick cardboard and then wrap it in pretty fabric then figure out a way to attach it to my existing cubicle wall.”
As you can imagine, having a workspace full of cubicles that are each outfitted with different pieces of fabric-covered cardboard isn’t going to appear very professional. It would look like a shanty town where workers have to scrounge for scraps to build cubicles that actually help them be productive. Not exactly the kind of image you want for your office environment! In contrast, OBEX panel extenders allow workers to cut the level of noise they contend with while maintaining a uniform appearance from one workstation to the next. There’s no reason for any employee to be “stuck” in the cubicle no one wants. Instead, you can make every cubicle fully functional with panel extensions.
There are two basic types of cubicle wall stack on tile. The first is the kind you get from the manufacturer of tile based systems. These are common in some of the high-end, ultra-thick panel designs. You can add or take off tiles to increase or decrease the height of cubicle walls as needed. The other kind is a universal tile or panel extender that works on most cubicles regardless of brand and up to 3” thick. Which one makes the most sense for your company?
Stackable tile systems that you get from a major manufacturer like Maxon certainly look good. Plus, they can be reconfigured throughout the lifespan of the cubicles. What you might not take into consideration is how much work goes into specifying what components you need. You don’t necessarily know for sure up front which workstations need higher walls and which ones are OK with lower walls. So, you’re basically guessing when you place an order. Plus, reconfiguring may sound easy, but it can entail a lot of disruption to actually accomplish with a traditional stacking tile system. Finally, those extra tiles can be pretty pricey!
In contrast, panel extenders can easily be added or removed at any time in just a few minutes. There’s no need for disassembly of existing walls or rerouting of cables and wiring. They are much more cost effective than traditional stack on tiles and easier to specify. You can even have yours customized with fabrics that match or complement your existing cubicle panels. There’s no downside!
Have you ever seen someone working in a cubicle without sufficient privacy? Do you feel sorry for them? One tender-hearted Twitterer posted a picture showing a Jackson Hewitt tax advisor stuck in a cube at the local Wal-Mart. His caption reads “Talk about a crappy cubicle location!”
The poor worker has far too little protection from the rush of shoppers and the bustle of the store. It’s hard to imagine someone doing something as complicated as taxes in this kind of setting. It must be tough to concentrate! The location of the cubicle is only half the problem. She could use at least one more cubicle wall and cubicle wall extenders on the existing panels to limit distraction.
Besides not providing enough acoustic protection for the worker, this setup doesn’t offer any privacy for customers. I’d feel more comfortable discussing my personal finances in a setting where passersby didn’t get to listen in or peek over my shoulder. What do you think? Would you get your taxes done right out in the open like this?