Tag Archives: office furniture

Height-Adjustable Desks Are Easy To Love

May 16, 2018 by

The “act of sitting” is bad. It’s not just about how poor posture can lead to chronic pain; it can reduce life expectancy.

According to a study by the National Institute of Health, the average American spends 7.7 hours a day sitting in front of the computer, in the car, or on the couch. That equals about 55 percent of one’s waking time. 

More shocking were the findings of a study by the Annals of Internal Medicine. This study suggested that the amount of time a person sits during the day is associated with a higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, cancer, and death, regardless of regular exercise.

That last part surprised me. The study suggests that even those who go to the gym after a long day of sitting in front of the computer are going to suffer the ill effects of sitting.

Height-adjustable desks are a great way to help augment a healthier lifestyle. Because of that, these desks have been gaining popularity in households and professional workplaces. Here are some reasons to love height-adjustable desks.

Better Posture

A height-adjustable desk naturally improves posture and strengthens the spine when upright. It’s a lot harder to slouch and hunch over the computer when standing up. This means fewer backaches and pains.

Increased Energy

With better posture comes better breathing. Sitting at the computer for a long period of time can be exhausting and even painful. Think about a typical day at work: after 30 to 45 minutes of staying in the same seated position, muscles can cramp, and blood flow slows, leaving a person feeling restless and uncomfortable. Standing helps increase blood flow and even helps tone muscles. This lets employees remain alert and increases their energy while working. They become more focused, and in turn, more productive.

Longer Life

This may sound dramatic, but it is no joke: a height-adjustable desk could literally add years to a person’s life. Studies by the NIH and Centers for Disease Control, among others, have described prolonged sitting as “the new smoking.” Sedentary habits can lead to increased risk of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity. These studies show that reducing the amount of time spent seated can help reduce the risk of these diseases.

More Calories Burned

A height-adjustable desk can help avoid the health pitfalls of sitting all day and burn calories at the same time, as standing burns more calories than sitting. Studies show that about 50 calories are burned per hour when simply standing, but standing encourages people to move even more, often burning significantly more calories.

Those who are not quite ready to stand up and work should note that it is still important to get up and move…your life may depend on it!

This column was printed in the June/July 2018 edition of B2B.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

The “Resi-Mercial” Movement

March 23, 2018 by
Photography by Bill Sitzmann

The office furniture industry is seeking balance between residential and commercial pieces. Achieving “resi-mercial” style is quickly becoming the norm.

This trend began as workplaces dedicated more room to common spaces. Large corporations used these amenities to attract and retain employees.  Now it’s an industry standard to provide areas for relaxation and collaboration, aligning closer to a hospitality setting with residential comfort.

Contract furniture manufacturers took cues from crafted hospitality and residential furniture. The makers movement influenced clients seeking unique pieces. Conversely, commercial furniture has long been more substantial to satisfy the functional requirements of high use.

Corporate clients seek entry spaces and collaborative zones more like living rooms to encourage a level of comfort largely absent. A decline of the traditional 9-to-5 workday has employers actively seeking ways to make employees more comfortable for longer periods of time.

What should be considered when looking at residential furnishings for commercial use? Integrity and durability. Residential furniture is not made for multiple people sitting on it for long periods of time. It shows wear and tear earlier than its commercial counterparts.

Residential furniture also doesn’t carry the same warranties, weight capacity, flammability testing, or stain and wear resistance as commercial furniture. This results in more costly replacements and repairs, and additional coordination time by facilities teams for warranty issues with manufacturers.

It’s important to understand where and how residential-grade furniture can blend with commercial quality to meet the company’s functional and aesthetic goals. Many manufacturers have done a great job producing furniture that looks more artisanal, while still being functional and durable. The availability of decorative, yet functional, pieces at various price points has allowed designers far more freedom and flexibility in creating interesting spaces than ever before.

When blending residential and commercial aesthetics, soft seating in subdued colors, such as browns and grays, works well. The darker palette then offers the ‘homey’ contrast to the sterile white of many corporate interiors. Table lamps and personal lighting further create that comfortable atmosphere. Low lounge seating using warmer, unexpected materials and finishes all contribute to making the space feel more intimate and less institutional.

Most importantly, with commercial furniture, every piece tends to have a set function in the space. When you introduce rustic materials, such as wood, a conference table can now be used as a casual dining table. Residential furniture offers freedom and flexibility, but those dual purposes must fit with the intent of the space. Employees in all industries want to be comfortable at work, and the “resi-mercial” style offers a workable option.

Doug Schuring is director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

This article was printed in the April/May 2018 edition of B2B.

Women in the 21st Century Workforce

November 22, 2017 by

Women represent one of the largest groups in the workplace today. Interestingly, traditional workplace policies and practices are not winning over the most talented women.

New research reveals creating flexible work policies and fostering a culture of transparency and collaboration can improve workplace satisfaction and performance.

Adaptable Work Policies

Flexibility is important to working parents, especially working mothers. Formalized policies, which remove uncertainty around flexible work conditions, are a great benefit. Too often, employers approach flexibility, parental leave, and communication expectations on a case-by-case basis. This results in employees fearing they will be slighted in some way by their managers or peers for choosing this route.

Companies should create procedures for employees to notify their managers and team of their core hours… the time they’re in the office or when they will be available. This system aligns employee and manager expectations of how to best ask for and adopt flexible procedures. Core hours/days are the framework for flexibility options. Ultimately, company cultures should value employees’ work output over time spent in the office.

Honesty and Collaboration

Women are also empowered by organizations that value collaboration and communication. Studies have shown that women, when taking time to listen to others, are often viewed as having a weak leadership style. Alternately, men who make decisions individually are viewed as being more decisive and competent.

Companies are showing that they value collaboration and communication by how they are arranging their workspaces. Panels are shorter, workstations are smaller, and open areas are growing in both size and number in the space. Gone are the maze of tall panels and oversized boardrooms. Workstations now adjust in height, have tables that can be grouped together for large group meetings or separated for small discussions, and training sessions to work on collaboration.

The Desired Workplace

Policies, places, and practices are changing to align with today’s new way of working. The leading companies today are creating improved workspaces and implementing more flexible practices that promote honesty and open communication. The best companies of tomorrow will understand how to empower the largest segment of their workforce, retain their talent, and most importantly—grow their bottom line.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

This article appeared in the Winter 2018 issue of B2B.

Open Offices—A Thing of the Past?

August 23, 2017 by

Since the height of the “cube“ in the 1990s, many companies have lowered panel heights to create more open, collaborative spaces. The added benefits, for the company, are that they conserve space, reduce costs, and improve communications. By the early 20-teens, workers were situated in attractively cavernous rooms without walls. It remains open to discussion whether employees can function effectively in these layouts.

Now the backlash against open offices has begun. Major systems furniture manufacturers are developing products enclosing spaces for the introverts and the departments that need privacy. Some tech companies are rethinking their open plans. Few are ready to give up on the open office completely.

Early on, the open office style appealed to tech companies, especially start-ups. This arrangement then spread to larger companies. In hot real-estate markets, it makes good economic sense. There’s a big difference in the cost of office space by going from 250-square-feet per person to 110-square-feet, or fewer, per person.

While open offices may have other advantages—improved communication and creating a sense of a team—it is hard to concentrate for long periods of time. For many, the difficulty lies in adjusting to an open office when you are used to having privacy. That’s where the backlash comes in.

Gen Xers and baby boomers in conventional roles are struggling with the increased noise and visual distractions these spaces generate. For many, the workspace has become polluted with limitless sounds and sights.

What does the new breed of office look like? It’s a reasonable compromise between open and enclosed spaces. Furniture manufacturers today are developing products that fit in phone booth-sized rooms for quiet work time. Not to be used all day, they are accessible when a certain project or task requires it. For group work, many companies today have multiple, smaller conference rooms rather than the one large boardroom. These are more efficient, functional, and appropriate for how work is done today.

Different groups in an office have diverse expectations. Engineers might seek focused, quiet spaces, while sales and marketing employees may thrive in shared settings. Balance is key.

Don’t expect low panels and open plan systems to go away completely. They are appropriate for how many companies conduct their business. Successful businesses will keep adapting to find that appropriate balance of open-plan and private spaces that work for them.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

Where Do You Work? Everywhere!

May 18, 2017 by

People share documents, manage projects, offer advice, and develop relationships without sitting across from each other in the office.

The mobile workforce in the U.S. has grown from 96.2 million in 2015 to a projected 105 million by 2020, accounting for nearly 75 percent of the U.S. labor force, according to a new report from IDC, a global market intelligence firm. It’s not just millennials delivering these increases, it’s the growing number of independent contractors working alone or with other free agents. No longer just in offices, we work at home, client offices, and a variety of other places.

Employees are experiencing a much greater choice of location and work-life balance. These factors have reshaped our job as it’s always been. Work now happens at the office, home, almost anywhere!

We are choosing places with engaging, welcoming environments—accessible, convenient spots where people come together. For those really on the move, airports, train stations, planes, and trains offer the means to connect.

Many of us compensate for physical isolation by connecting with others via social media, chat rooms, and forums, while connecting to our work colleagues via the internet. Feeling connected to others is why offices, or places like coffee shops and libraries, draw us in. The past decade has seen this café environment evolve from a place to meet a friend into a vital workplace fueled by caffeine and having its own social life. Technology enabled this phenomenon for laptops and cell phones. Now it’s even better supported by cloud computing, smart phones, and applications encouraging social networking and productivity.

These locales support individual work activities, but have the added benefit of not obligating us to interact with others as in an office. Society has adjusted. Lighting and ergonomics have improved. Still not the best for private meetings because they lack security and privacy, there’s hardly a coffee shop where you won’t find someone working every hour it is open. Even basic work needs like electrical plugs and open tables remain in demand.

The next step, co-working space, is designed to be used either on a lease or drop-in basis. Individual contractors, either would-be entrepreneurs or commute-avoiding employees, embrace these facilities as a structured workspace to deliver more emotional, social, and physical support than is found at home or in cafés.

Co-working centers today are more recognized as places where work happens.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

This column was printed in the Summer 2017 edition of B2B.

Designing for Women in the Workplace

January 3, 2017 by

It’s a fact—more women are in the workplace than ever before, and this trend seems sure to continue for some time.

These days, many office furniture designers and manufacturers are developing their new products with much greater sensitivity to this evermore prominent audience.

What’s Important to Women as they Work? 

  • Furniture that is light and easy to handle. The majority of training programs are led by women. Female trainers are not only in charge of the training curriculum, they often end up setting up the room by moving heavy tables and awkward chairs into a variety of configurations.
  • A place for belongings. Women place personal bags and briefcases on the floor or hang them from their chairback for lack of a better option. Again, the same holds true at their desks, where purses may get stuffed into a file drawer or behind the CPU under their desk.
  • A chair that really fits. Many women complain of chairs with poor back support, are too big, and/or simply aren’t comfortable to sit in seven-plus hours a day. And women have a right to want a better solution—a recent study reported most women averaged 49 hours per week working, with 10 percent reporting they spent 61 hours per week in the workplace.

What Would Make Their Environment “Work” Better?

Recent new product introductions include:

  • Lightweight, easily reconfigurable training tables and chairs—making it easy and convenient for women to change a training environment on their own. They are simple to fold, move, or rearrange. The controls on the flexible tables must be easy to reach and trigger, making quick work to fold and nest for storage.
  • Storage hooks under training tables—in the “why didn’t they think of this before?” category. Provide a single hook under tables for users to hang purses and other personal items.
  • Height adjustable work surfaces—while “sitting may be the new smoking,” the need to adjust the height of one’s work surface is more important than ever.
  • Properly sized and adjustable office chairs—we all want a chair that fits “just right.” Many chairs today feature technology distributing back pressure and automatically adjusting support to match its occupant’s relative size, weight, and sitting style.

Other Factors in Satisfaction 

Based on my conversations and observations, other non-furniture-related preferences for women’s work environments include:

  • Women are more interested in the overall visual appeal of their office—including softer lighting and color.
  • Women prefer to work in collaboration with other associates. They are less interested in maintaining workplace hierarchy and are more interested in an environment which promotes creativity and collaboration.
  • One of the greatest satisfaction drivers for women—after “meaningful work” and “proper recognition”—is flexibility in the work environment.

While many of these items described are important to women, all workers can benefit from the changes described. Fortunately for us, the manufacturers in the industry today are listening.

Doug Schuring is the director of sales administration at All Makes Office Equipment Co.

This article was printed in the Winter 2017 edition of B2B.