Creating Ergonomic Workstations for Office Well-Being and Productivity

Creating Ergonomic Workstations for Office Well-Being and Productivity

Creating and designing an ergonomic workplace with ergonomic workstations isn’t just a passing fad. Here’s why.

You’ve known plenty of dedicated employees who struggle with maladies such as carpal tunnel syndrome, back strain, or spend hours squinting at the computer screen. In the break room or in social settings, how many times have you heard co-workers or friends moan and say they’re getting older?

What do you think?

Do you know the impact that the right desk, chair and lighting can have on office well-being and productivity?

Find out how ergonomics came about so you get a good understanding of not just how to create ergonomic workstations but why it’s important.


Photo: HON Empower Height Adjustable Tables

What is Ergonomics

Ergonomics is the study of how employees interact with their work surroundings. The purpose is creating an environment to meet the needs of workers instead of making employees fit into the work setting.

Can you identify with this familiar situation?

A person types away hours every day on a keyboard and strains the wrist. Who hasn’t heard of carpal tunnel syndrome? The employee has to take time off to get treatments or can’t work as productively.

Keyboards, chairs and desks are now designed to support good posture instead of making workers potentially suffer more problems. The equipment is designed to help people do their tasks well and reduce the risk of injuries.

Ergonomics, also known as human factors, creates efficiencies while minimizing problems that come from doing repetitive tasks. The discipline is appropriate for both white collar workstations and factory floors.

How Ergonomics Came About

An Italian physician in the late 1600s noticed how metal mining workers suffered poor health. Respiratory illnesses were prevalent but also their bodies were affected by awkward working positions.

They forced their bodies to meet the demands of the working environment and paid a price in poor health.

Skip ahead to 1857 when a Polish biologist is credited for creating the word ergonomics based on the Greek words ergon (work) and nomos (natural laws).

Now head into the late 20th century and into Southern California where local universities like UCLA started to improve working conditions through ergonomics. Since 1987, UCLA’s Labor Occupational Safety and Health Program has “trained thousands of workers and supervisors in office ergonomics.”

A company of any size can design a work environment to adapt to the needs of its people. Let’s see how this is done by looking at something as simple as the office chair.

What Ergonomic Stations Reduce or Prevent

In the late 1800s, the growth of railroads in the U.S. made it possible for businesses to reach customers across the country. A heavy emphasis was placed on office administration to track orders.

Bookkeepers, secretaries and other support staff needed something to sit on. Wooden office chairs were a one-size fits all solution. End of story.

The chairs were sturdy and you didn’t have to worry about them breaking or falling apart. They were completely stationary. If you had to bend and take paper from a desk drawer your hips and back had to pivot since the chair was built to stay in one place.

If your hips or lower back got sore, then you’d take anti-inflammatories to temporarily reduce the pain.

Along came executive chairs that looked fancier and had wheels. Now you could glide to the nearby filing cabinet or to the phone. By the 1970s, more executive chairs were designed to support a person’s body.

Executive office chairs were more comfortable, but they still didn’t address two underlying maladies facing the modern office worker:

  • Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs)
  • Repetitive Strain Injuries

This is more than just bad backs. MSDs affect nerves, ligaments, blood vessels and tendons as noted on a write-up of ergonomics on the OSHA website.

When a person does the same work constantly at a desk or chair that’s at an improper height and they have poor posture, they’re at risk for repetitive strain injuries. MSDs lead to frequent absences from work.

Employee absenteeism became widespread and serious studies evolved on how workers interacted with the workplace. That’s the focus of ergonomics.

Flip the calendar back to the early 1900s and you’ll find in-depth work appearing on ergonomics. The growth and use of aviation in the world wars that followed made the U.S. military see how they could make crew members better able to handle their duties. Engineers studied the intersection of airplane design and the limitations of the human body.

Now, back to the office.

Here’s where this extensive research has taken us—to high quality solutions that are readily available.


Photo: 9 to 5 Seating Ergonomic Chairs

You work in an office every day but can you name the basics element of a workstation?

If not, no problem. It’s listed below.

Principles of Ergonomic Workstations

What makes up a workstation?

  • Desk or Worksurface
  • Chair
  • Monitor and Keyboard or Laptop
  • Mouse and Mouse Pad
  • Lighting


Photo: Humanscale M10 Monitor Arm

Do those last two items surprise you? They shouldn’t.

Learn why as you read along.

When setting up an ergonomics workstation, pay attention to the space design of the room, a key part of the 2010 Space Planning Strategy.

Also look at the placement of accessories and the equipment layout on the desk as noted in a detailed write up on computer workstation ergonomics by The University of Western Australia. A person’s joints shouldn’t be stressed while sitting and working.

Here’s a summary of how an ergonomic workstation keeps a person in a neutral position:

Be seated so you’re eye level with the top of the computer screen.

Use a wrist pad when not typing to rest your wrists at a neutral position. Wrist pads aren’t meant to be used while typing.

Adjust armrests so elbows are close to the side of the body and are bent at a 90 degree to 100-degree angle.

Adjust the chair so feet are sitting either comfortably flat on the floor or on a footrest.

Be aware of good posture. An article and infographic from the province of Alberta, Canada notes that your ears should be above the shoulders. Those should be over the hips. This position reduces back strain. Use a lumbar pillow or roll against the lower back for extra support.

Now, let’s look at individual items.

Desks

Here’s a tip for working comfortably at a desk. Make sure the surface has everything within easy reach so you don’t have to turn and twist unnecessarily.

How does your desk adjust to your body so you can be more productive and reduce the risk of injuries? Height adjustable desks are an ergonomic solution in many offices.

Desks that support good health can be used in private offices and serve the needs of one person or they can be used in a pod of four people or more. Each person can adjust the desk to suit their preferences so they can work using the best posture possible.

If you’re wondering what to look for in the best ergonomic desks then consider this: make sure the desk changes heights quietly and is easy to reset.

How heavy will the items be on the surface? You don’t want equipment that creates instability.

Height adjustable desks fit well in compact spaces, executive suites and open plan offices.

The equipment does more than provide a place to work. Desks that adapt promote office wellness. A 12-month workplace study from the Ichan School of Medicine at Mount Sinai found that height adjustable desks are linked to increased productivity, better concentration and improved health overall.


Photo: HON Empower Height Adjustable Worksurface

 


Photo: Humanscale QuickStand 

Office aesthetics are important, and today’s desks fit traditional office spaces and the latest floor plans.


Photo: HON Empower Worksurfaces with Privacy Screens

A private office desk like the Krug Adesso Height Adjustable Desk has a finely crafted appearance while the Hon 10500 Series Height Adjustable Desk is minimal for a compact work place and collaborative open floor plans.

Desks are a good way to improve ergonomics, but now let’s look at chairs.

Chairs

Sitting for a long period of time simply isn’t a natural position for the body. That’s why it’s important to move. Stretching every 20 minutes to a half hour and take a quick walking break every 90 minutes to two hours.

Moving gives your muscles and tendons a chance to reset.

Make sitting easier and less harmful to your body by using an ergonomic chair that supports a body’s natural movement.

Think of it this way.

You’re not sitting still on a chair. You’re reaching for files, turning to look or listen to a co-worker, and, yes, sitting with good posture, we hope, while typing up your latest report.


Photo: Humanscale Freedom Chairs with Headrests

Remember that ergonomics is meant to keep the body in a neutral position, meaning little to no strains on the joints and lower back.

If you’re looking for the best ergonomic chair, then you need a chair that has a comfortable tilt to it with good lumbar support. Make sure your knees are bent at about 90 degrees. Use a footrest if your feet don’t touch the floor.

Choosing a chair that works is subjective since no two bodies are the same. Evaluate the material, the durability, and overall comfort. Make sure the chair provides support so you’re not hunched over or leaning forward excessively.

Ergonomic Computer Accessories

Posture has a tremendous impact on overall well-being. Your head weighs as much as 12-pound to 14-pound bowling ball so you don’t want to learn forward to squint at the computer screen.

The more your head tilts forward, the more you’ll strain your muscles at the base of your neck and along your shoulders.

Keep computer screens at an eye level so you don’t have to lean forward to read the screen. Accessories like a keyboard and mouse should let the arms remain horizontal. Be careful that your wrists aren’t bent or extended upright.

Office lighting also affects your work and posture.


Photo: Humanscale Keyboard Tray Systems


Photo: Humanscale Keyboard Tray Systems

Light


Photo: Humanscale Vessel Pendant Lights

Light does more than just let you see what you’re doing. Controlling the proper amount of light flowing from windows and lights is part of an ergonomic office design.

The right amount of light in an office boosts your employees’ morale. Natural light is a proven mood booster that promotes a restful night’s sleep as well.

There are three basic types of lighting:

  • General
  • Localized-general
  • Local, also called task lighting

General lighting covers a large area such as ceiling lamps that cover a wide area.

Localized-general lights include ceiling lamps that can direct light to specific areas.

Task lighting is much more focused and lets specific users adjust light levels. Desk lamps are a good example of task lighting.

Good lighting tips include arranging light fixtures so they’re not creating glare on computer screens, but providing enough focused light so users don’t have to squint.

Light “enhances the mood and desirability” of work spaces and public places as noted by the International Association of Lighting Designers.

Now consider the various elements of an ergonomically sound workplace? Can you understand what it ultimately delivers?


Photo: Humanscale Infinity Desktop Light

The Ergonomic Workstation Solution

Sitting comfortably with good posture, being able to handle repetitive tasks with little discomfort and working with proper light are all elements of an ergonomic workstation, and healthy work environment.

How we feel physically also impacts our thinking and our emotions. Investments in the right equipment are investments in people and their health.

Make this a team effort. One person in the office doesn’t have to decide how to carry out improvements and changes. Employees typically want their voices heard.

A successful ergonomics program involves employees in worksite assessments, solution development and implementation.

Here’s the end result of an office that’s planned well.

Expect a reduction in absenteeism from ailments like carpal tunnel syndrome, aching shoulders and bad backs. Employees will be more engaged and alert with proper workstations and a supportive environment.

Give your team the opportunity to function at their optimal levels.


Photo: Friant System 2 Workstations


Photo: Humanscale Ergonomic Workspaces

Get the Expertise You Need

Get input from 2010 Office Furniture on your space planning needs and laying out an office that meets the needs of employees and departments. Call or submit your questions.

Our team has more than 45 years of experience serving corporations, universities and small businesses throughout Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.

Read Also: Designing an Office Layout for Maximum Productivity
Main Photo by: ODS / Office Design Studio
Resources & Special Thanks to: OSHA, University of Western Australia, UCLA, MyHealth.Alberta.Ca, IALD, & Respective Product Manufacturers: ODS / Office Design Studio, 9 to 5 Seating, Friant, HON, and Humanscale

Creating Your Best Work Environment to Boost Your Brand

Creating Your Best Work Environment to Boost Your Brand

Think through the times you’ve stepped into an office setting and wondered about the work environment. The warning signs were likely subtle, weren’t they?

  • How was the office planning and layout?
  • Did the furnishings seem functional and up to date—or out of date?
  • What about tension? That’s the people part.

All of these elements contribute to the quality of the workplace. This becomes part of the company culture—a daily living out of the values that your business stands for.

A positive company culture is similar to office ergonomics. In ergonomics, the work environment is designed to support and meet the needs of the workers. A healthy or positive company culture recognizes that employees have needs. Those individuals are supported to blend their talents and create great products, achieve more sales or help customers be satisfied.

They are motivated to turn the company vision into reality.

Staff and executive decisionmakers have to communicate and place trust in each other for the best possible outcomes. Details like dress codes, restrictions or freedoms on where to work, and perks like benefits create a positive or negative culture as noted in a write-up on culture in Investopedia.

If you’re wondering how to improve the office work environment, now you can read on and learn how.


Photo: HON Voi Workstation

Company Culture Impacts Personal Energy

Company cultures form from the existing needs. A start-up in fast-paced do or die moments is quite different than a mature corporation where departments are neatly laid out and each person’s work is clearly defined.

Let’s say there’s a younger company moving into Hollywood, intent on disrupting the entertainment industry. They’ll have an entrepreneurial buzz and excitement that’s missing in an older organization.

Start-up offices and mature ones impact people and their energy. Any work setting can help someone thrive or suck the energy out of them and the room.

Not every person wants to work in a frenetic, high-stakes office unless stability and profitability are in sight. Working in a tried-and-true cubicle environment, in an area like the Mid-Wilshire District, where the most exciting event is the second hand ticking away on the clock isn’t a career dream, either.

Tricky, isn’t it?

Now let’s look at how two basic office layouts impact workers.


Photo: OFS LeanTo Lounge Seating

Consider these two layouts and their challenges:

  • Open Offices — can dilute the energy that people bring to their positions
  • Walled, Private Spaces — can make employees wonder what secrets are shared behind closed doors


Photo: HON Empower Open Plan Benching


Photo: Krug Artemis Height Adjustable Executive Desk

How do you make sense of it all?

Realize that you can plan and design an office to have different environments.

The open office should utilize modular furniture to create private areas. Employees can take phone calls, type on their laptops and have small group discussions without disturbing others.

Providing a range of workspaces helps create a positive work culture.

Give team members freedom to work from a part of the office that best suits their need. If someone wants to step away from the desk and work in a lounge chair, then let them. Infuse an entrepreneurial spirit into the office and let people take responsibility for how they work.

This doesn’t mean the office space becomes like one giant recess time Monday through Friday. Instead, you’re respecting the qualifications of each employee and trusting them to handle their tasks. After all, if they earned undergraduate or graduate degrees and are responsible for their families why not trust them on the job?

Trust and working together toward a clearly defined goal boosts morale and that keeps the energy vibrant.

Make sure the physical space supports the work with the proper layout and equipment. Here’s how to create an office that supports everyone’s work.

Start with knowing what you want to and need to achieve. Don’t just rely on architects or interior designers to do it for you.

The 2010 Space Planning Strategy weighs:

  • Your company’s goals
  • How your team interacts to reach those goals
  • How their personalities affect their work habits

Doing this creates a relationship between your company’s brand identity and the workplace. Customizing your plan takes you to the next step in creating the best possible work environment.


Photo: Global Swap Tables, FreeFit Workstations & SAS Seating

Proper Space Planning Creates Identity

Here’s a tip to improve the office environment: focus on space planning.

Office space planning provides a plan for workflow and balances that with the needs of employees.

Done well, can you predict what happens?

Your staff will develop a connection to the space.

This personal tie, one that’s internalized, is an important step in creating the best work environment for your company. It’s a principle that transcends industries.

Whether you have an engineering firm in El Segundo or a growing, small business in the Inland Empire, be deliberate in how the space is laid out. An article in the Harvard Business Review, How to Make Sure People Won’t Hate Your New Open Office Plan, describes a concept called “place identity.”

If employees believe the space “aligns with their self-image and enhances their sense of belonging” then this is typically what happens:

  • They’ll become more engaged
  • They’ll build their personal brand
  • They’ll be more likely to cultivate a positive work environment


Photo: OFS Brands Dallas Showroom

This is where leadership has to channel the energy by sharing the vision for the office space, being enthusiastic about it and letting people adapt the space to their needs.

Use these principles to guide your planning:

  • Determine which employees have to talk with each other on a daily basis
  • Count how many employees need extended hours to focus on projects
  • Know which employees need to sit close to printers and copiers
  • Note how often small group huddles or large group meetings are needed
  • Do clients visit often now or will they visit more often in the future? If so, is there adequate space to host them if inter-office meetings are happening?
  • What growth and changes does the company project? Will this include using temporary workers when demand is high?

Planning for change creates a positive office workspace while reacting to circumstances eventually makes people tired, creates uncertainty and leads to a negative workplace culture.

Now that you have a map of interoffice communication and workflow you can supply your great work environment with the right furnishings.

A Welcoming Space Helps Form a Positive Work Culture

Every morning when your team walks through the front door what’s the vibe that they’re bringing in and what’s the vibe that will greet them?

Once they leave the work setting at night and walk in the next morning you’ll have no control over their personal lives. People will experience some type of family crisis like the death of a relative while others are bragging about their kids’ sports achievements.

Moderate the personal highs and lows by creating a comfortable place that provides positive energy and channels conversations. Little things matter.

Present a welcoming atmosphere beginning with the office reception desk. An inviting and stylish design versus a boxy, bulky fortress can reinforce your company’s brand.

Open office plans have plenty of critics but some of the positives include not feeling boxed in. Let as much natural light as possible flow throughout the work setting. Make sure there’s adequate storage space at each workstation and for each department.

Bring in cozy and comfortable accessories to define space like attractive bookcases with embroidered pillows on the shelves and soothing artwork on the walls.

Here’s an example of how this works. Do you know why real estate agents stage homes for sale instead of simply showing an empty shell of a house?

Staging gives the potential buyer an understanding of the home’s potential. Furnishing the office helps your team members experience the potential of working together to achieve the goals that are set before them.

Creating a nice look in an office can be done in a budget-friendly manner. No one has to feel like the office is being decorated at the expense of their salaries or bonuses.

Attitudes brought in from the outside can mesh into a work atmosphere that’s pleasant and supportive. People will feel valued instead of feeling like they’re forced into a survival mode so they don’t get fired.

Furnishings set the stage for a positive workplace. You also create brand equity in people.

Remember, your employees are dedicating themselves to the company. Yes, they need a job that pays the bills and lets them enjoy a decent quality of life.

They also interact with the brand promise every day. They see what happens on the inside and can tell if your company does or doesn’t live up to what you tell customers.

A well-designed office setting positively reinforces the brand among your team. The result is achieving the best and most positive work environment possible.


Photo: DeskMakers Overture Reception Desk

Define Key Areas

Use workstations that help people do their best work. Modular furniture is a strategic purchase since it’s easy to re-configure spaces as changes take place.

Evaluate what works best for the work that needs done and the personalities of your employees. Work surfaces that accommodate several people, known as open plan benching, has one type of functionality while cubicles provide another type of function and form a certain atmosphere.

Your team’s introverts will thank you for the private break areas so they can withdraw as needed to get refreshed.

Meeting spaces are important and architectural walls create clean, well-defined areas for trainings and larger groups. These can be clear ceiling-to-floor walls or a cubicle-style room for small group huddles.

Now that you’ve designed the space for positive productivity, take it a step further to encourage healthy living and reduce absenteeism as much as possible.

Make Office Wellness a Priority

A healthy workplace includes how our bodies react physically to the surroundings and our emotional well-being. Productivity and positive energy face setbacks when people are struggling with bad backs and aching joints.

Here are two ways to take care of the body:

Ergonomic office furniture adapts to a worker’s body and physical needs. Height-adjustable desks help people set the work surface to a position where they can work comfortably and maintain good posture.

Quality ergonomic chairs allow feet to be flat on the floor and keep the knees relaxed. Ergonomic chairs will swivel easily based on a person’s natural movements. Arm rests reduce strain on elbows and shoulders while the chair provides proper lumbar support. Leading manufacturers of ergonomic chairs include 9 to 5 Seating, SitOnIt and Friant.

Computer keyboards and monitors should be at a height where wrists don’t have to be bent to type. Adequate lighting and screen protectors reduce eyestrain from computer monitors.

Encourage your employees to stretch or get up and take a brief walk every 90 minutes to two hours. The purpose isn’t to burn calories but to keep blood circulating well. That reduces foggy brain syndrome by getting oxygen flowing to the brain.

Care for emotional states by providing break areas with healthy snacks. Decorate with plants to bring nature indoors and create a positive ambiance.

You may have a manufacturing facility, legal office or direct a program at a university. Your core strength is turning out a quality product or service, but you should also offer resources for employees who are in a personal crisis.

Ask local gyms if they’ll offer group discounts. Provide chair massages once or twice a month during lunchtime.

Check on counseling and mental health services if you offer insurance. Your local city in Los Angeles County, Orange County or the Inland Empire may have a local college, university or faith community where graduate students need clinical hours for a degree like a Marriage and Family Therapist. Counseling services can be accessed for low costs.

Put it Together for a Positive Workplace and Culture

All of this shows employees that you value them and you’re dedicated to their well-being. This is an important way to keep them engaged on a day-in, day-out basis.

Creating a positive workplace doesn’t just happen and it’s not the result of having a charismatic company president or entrepreneurial founder. Those personalities set the tone, but it’s the setting, furnishings and small perks that show people that they’re important.

This will encourage buy-in from them and that makes it easier to retain top talent. Engaged employees who want to do their best leads to a tremendous competitive advantage in the marketplace.

What creates a great office varies from one industry to another and from culture to culture. This leads to a feeling of “We’re in this together” and the forms cohesive units.

Studies by the organization Great Places to Work reports that a sense of community is the biggest driver of employee engagement in the United States and Canada.


Photo: Trendway Semi-Private Workstations

Several companies in California made the Great Places to Work’s list of small to medium-sized companies including Network Capital in Irvine; WestPac Wealth Partners in La Jolla; and Invoca in Santa Barbara.

In Europe, fairness is critical and “psychological safety” is prized in Latin America. Workplaces in Asia and the Middle East were shown to be the unhappiest work environments.


Photo: Trendway Workspaces

Get Expert Input

The 2010 Space Planning Strategy helps you prioritize and create a positive work environment.

Get input from 2010 Office Furniture on your space planning needs. Call or submit your questions.

Our team has more than 45 years of experience serving corporations, universities and small businesses throughout Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.

Read Also: Creating Ergonomic Workstations for Office Well-Being and Productivity
Main Photo by: Trendway
Resources & Special Thanks to: Investopedia, Harvard Business Review, Great Places to Work & Respective Product Manufacturers: Trendway, DeskMakers, Global, HON, Krug and OFS

Using Cubicles for a Competitive Advantage in Your Workplace

Using Cubicles for a Competitive Advantage in Your Workplace

Walking into an office cubicle has the same reputation as being forced below deck on an ancient Roman ship. Sit down, grab an oar and row. In other words, do your work or else.

Cubicles in popular culture are seen as creativity killers and depression inducers. The partitioned office layout is supposed to take the potential for a competitive advantage and crush it into conformity.

Meanwhile, an open office supports collaboration and productivity, right?

Wait. Not so fast. Workers want privacy in order to focus. Cubicles are a type of modular furniture that define personal space and can adapt to a changing office environment.

Look at the many benefits of modular furniture.

What is Modular Office Furniture

Modular office furniture is pre-made and either ready to assemble or easily moved together or apart. Workstations can be customized for different office space requirements and for the personal preferences of employees.

The components make it possible to have a desking solution for one or two people and then easily add more workstations as needed.

Reasons to Use Modular Office Furniture

Modular office furniture is a perfect solution for companies of all sizes.

Start-up companies can purchase a minimum number of units to get operations underway. As sales and cash flow in, more units can be purchased on an as-needed basis.

Established small businesses and corporations can use modular furniture for freelance and seasonal workers who need workstations on an as-needed basis. This style of office furniture lends itself well to creating collaborative workspaces.

Employees typically want a say in their surroundings. They can easily personalize cubicles, desks and modular shelving.

Businesses that have a lease and will likely move to new surroundings within a few years can buy modular furniture that’s easy to disassemble and store.

Open office floor plans can install modular partitions and architectural walls to create private areas that reduce noise and define individual and department work spaces.

Types of Modular Office Furniture

Look around an office and notice how many items have a modular solution like seating and shelving. Pull modular lounge chairs together quickly and easily for informal meetings. Push them apart when personal space is needed.

Let’s look at one of the most popular types of office equipment—cubicles.

Cubicles can be configured for varying degrees of privacy and collaboration. They work for individuals who want their own well-defined space, and cubicles can be used for individuals or teams who need to work cooperatively.

The components like walls, work surfaces, drawers and shelving can be set up according to workflow demands. Cubicles can have doors and clear partitions so workers don’t feel walled out. Different color options make cubicles attractive so they blend in well with a company’s brand.


Photo: Trendway Snap Workspace

Here’s a fact you likely don’t know:

The cubicle versus open office tug-of-war heated up decades ago.

The Original Need for Cubicles

The legendary architect Frank Lloyd Wright designed an open office layout for Johnson and Johnson in the 1930s. That standard held until the mid-1960s when a designer with office furniture maker Herman Miller created an active office. The layout promoted personal space and focus.

Thus, the cubicle.

In the 2000s, up and coming tech start-ups embraced the open office concept once again.

What about now?

More options exist for cubicles than ever before.

Read on and see how to make decisions based on your company goals and the 2010 Space Planning Strategy.


Photo: Friant Novo Workstations

Understanding Cubicles

Gray carpeting on cheap aluminum partitions are gone. Instead, cubicles have color combinations that can reflect any company’s brand colors. Arrange the many different styles to support personal focus, communication within departments and company-wide collaboration.

Project teams that need back and forth dialogue on the client-challenge-of-the-month can use one type of layout while the finance department can use another style.

According to this description from the website Dimensions.Guide cubicles:

  • Offer Privacy
  • Buffer Noise
  • Reduce Visual Distractions


Photo: HON Accelerate Workstations

Companies that have an open office floor plan can use cubicles to create a hybrid office plan where some space is open and other work areas are partitioned and designated for individuals or small teams.

Cubicles no longer fit one stereotype. Some products are similar to long tables with workers sitting across from each other. Privacy screens several inches or higher form a personal workspace.

Other cubicles look like small private offices with partitions that create a three-sided setting by blocking workers to the right and left.

Cubicles can also be in a fan-shaped style and act as pods to fit three or four workers in the same department.

Now see how you can make this well-known office accessory benefit your workplace.

Know How You Want Your Cubicle to Function

Match the style of cubicles to the needed function. Standard cubicles typically allow from 6 feet 6 inches of individual workspace to 6 feet 8 inches. Cubicles for managers can be designed with a larger footprint.

An administrative cubicle for bookkeeping or human resources can have a desk with modular storage on one end and a place at the other end to handle computer work or in person meetings. The Friant System 2 and the HON Accelerate Workstations are good examples.


Photo: Friant System 2 Workstations


Photo: HON Accelerate Workstations

There can be enough space to include a chair for someone to stop in and have a conversation.

Benching cubicles are made for utility tasks like data entry while allowing for personal space and modular storage. Look into a model like the ODS Crossroads Workstation.

You can evaluate who needs what cubicle style by knowing:

  • How much repetitive work an employee has to do
  • How often that person needs to interact with others
  • The use of phone calls with customers.

Choose specific cubicle layouts to support your different office functions.

Clear company goals, supported with clearly defined workspaces and roles, create efficiency and help people work productively.

Competitive advantage: A cubicle can lead to a highly productive work environment.


Photo: ODS / Office Design Studio Crossroads Workstations

Cubicles Can Boost a Company’s Brand Internally

Appearances matter in the workplace—not showy and ostentatious—but neat, functional and inviting styles in furnishings give employees a sense of pride and belonging in the workplace.

Partition colors and clean lines look professional without being overbearing and stifling.

High end cubicles can house executive desks and cubicle workstations can fit easily within an open office layout. Workstations are flexible and space can easily be added as the company expands and new hires are made.

People see the investment made when they settle at their workstations and can buy in to the brand promise being made to the outside world.

Competitive Advantage: Cubicles are flexible and can lend to collaboration or privacy as needed.


Photo: ODS / Office Design Studio Crossroads Workstations

Cubicles Can Channel Workflow

Direct the workflow of individuals into a complete whole with well-defined cubicle pods, cubicle benches and products like architectural walls.

If you have a few people who are making outbound sales calls, they can have one style of cubicle with partitions in an area of the office. Further set the space apart in a green and pleasing manner using indoor plants and crafted bookcases.

A project team can have their own style of workstation where they can focus on their own work individually, yet easily turn around and communicate with others.

Set apart a meeting space using floor to ceiling walls that are clear and that easily install with no construction mess.

Competitive Advantage: Clarity reduces office stress when people know what’s expected of them and how their work reaches the company’s goals.


Photo: HON Abound Workstations

Cubicles Support People

An office has equipment and furnishings, but the reality is talented people need support in their work. The right layout leads to effective planning and communication. Don’t use cubicles just to house workers, but:

  • Respect their space
  • Involve them in layout and needs discussions
  • Implement a solution that’s satisfactory

Partitioned office spaces have another benefit: Wellness

A Sage Journals’ abstract of a study on healthiest office environments showed that the “Best health was among employees in cell offices and flex offices. Workers in these types of offices and in shared room offices also rated the highest job satisfaction.”

Competitive Advantage: An engaged workforce with people who take a personal stake in the outcome.


Photo: HON Workspace Solutions

Using Modular Desks

Modularity means being flexible and adapting to different needs. A modular desk will start with one piece such as a rectangular surface and fit one person. Add rounded sections and the desk can enlarge to serve two employees.

The concept has been used in homes for decades with dining tables that can be enlarged by adding a “leaf.”

Height adjustable desks are a form of modularity, giving employees the freedom to have the desk fit their personal need.

Modular Seating Options and Tables

Keep your office up to date with modular lounge furniture. The pieces are useful for reception areas where they lend to a cohesive design versus randomly placed chairs that are uncomfortable.

Modular lounge furniture is useful for break areas and for employees who want to pick up their laptops and work away from their normal office setting. You have options of using single, freestanding pieces or bringing the furniture together as a group.

Each solution has a clean, contemporary design, fits a variety of interiors and can be arranged at a moment’s notice.

The Encore Dabble Modular Lounge has straight and curved benches.

Need power ports? Those can be added to products made by Krug Zola where the components link together using brackets. The power connections can be mounted flush on the side or under the seat.

A unique seating option is the Encore Particles Modular Lounge. Pieces taper inward or outward and “nest” against each other for the fit you want.

Modular furniture lends itself to creating a comfortable and pleasant environment, a trend that will continue in office design.

Now what happens when meeting and presentation needs change?

The solution is using modular tables.

Products like the Krug V2 Modular Table has cabinets that can handle flat screen televisions weighing up to 200 pounds. There are 12 modular shapes for the tops and additional shapes for corners.

Instead of worrying about change, modular office solutions help you prepare for it.

Modular Furniture is Designed for Long Term Use

You may wonder how sturdy modular furniture is. Foundational parts and connections are made from steel and aluminum. Quality products are sturdy and built to last even though they’re flexible and one person can assemble many of the available products.

It’s not just the materials that are built to last. Trends in office design and functionality matter, too.

Modular workstations and accessories like sofas are highly functional in many different settings and will continue growing in popularity. Some of the trends include making pieces that cross-over from a work environment into public spaces like museums and homes, as noted in dezeen magazine.

Italian designer Luca Nichetto’s approach is to create pieces that are “universal” to “suit various environments.” One sofa is designed to fit in a corporate lounge, art gallery and a homeowner’s living room.

Public spaces and work settings continue to have elements that were once found only in homes.

Today’s furniture reflects changes taking place throughout society and in every industry. Even healthcare office space can benefit from modular furniture. Patients receive consultations and treatments in one-room clinics, mixed-use commercial buildings and community centers.

Furniture is available to fit all settings and to have a welcoming presentation.

Modular Office Furniture is Ergonomically Sound

Ergonomics is the study of people in their working environment as noted in this definition of ergonomics from the University of North Carolina. The goal is fitting the environment to fit the employee’s needs so they can be healthy and avoid physical strains when working.

Sitting in a cubicle isn’t a passive activity. We’re bending to reach for files, leaning to see the computer screen or turning our necks to cradle a phone.

Modular furniture supports a person’s natural movements and allows for good posture when sitting or standing.

Get the Expertise You Need

Make cubicles work for you and your team. Ask 2010 Office Furniture about their space planning strategy so you can create the efficiencies you need to reach your goals.

The 2010 Office Furniture team has more than 45 years of experience serving corporations, universities and small businesses throughout Los Angeles, Orange County and the Inland Empire.

Read Also: Creating Ergonomic Workstations for Office Well-Being and Productivity
Main Photo by: Friant
Resources & Special Thanks to: Dimensions.Guide, Sage Journals, Dezeen, UNC & Respective Product Manufacturers: Friant, HON, ODS / Office Design Studio & Trendway