A Look at Some of Our Recent Office Planning Projects

Every year we continue business in Louisiana is another opportunity to help local companies find office solutions that fit their team’s workflow and bottom line.

As a result, we have a diverse project gallery we’re proud of and want to highlight some of our recent projects.

Bruno and Tervalon

Bruno & Tervalon LLP is a CPA firm based in New Orleans and is the largest minority-owned firm in the state. They’ve been in business for nearly four decades, making them a trusted name in the city.

They came to us wanting to update their headquarters by transforming their open workspace into a mixture of private offices and collaborative work areas.

We took some time to come up with a custom design that considered their desire to create private workspaces while maintaining collaborative common areas.

The result is an office that’s a great example of how a company can create a hybrid workspace with elements of traditional design and open concepts.

AMTRAK

The rail system has always been an important part of our state’s commerce and transportation and that’s why we were proud to work with Amtrak to update their offices.

They came to us with a problem that many big companies face. Their technology was up-to-date, but their office design lagged behind.

Cramped cubicles and drab colors gave off an outdated impression and they wanted to change that. Amtrak wanted new and fresh, not old and worn.

We went in and overhauled their cubicles, management offices and common areas. We chose darker wood tones and black chairs for offices and meeting rooms and light, airy colors for open-area workspaces.

Through our creative use of modular furniture and systems cubicles, we were able to provide Amtrak the modern and efficient workspace they wanted.

 LSU Healthcare Network

Louisiana State University’s healthcare system was looking for a way to add more cabinet space to one of their eye care clinics.

Because they were working with a limited budget, they couldn’t go through with plans to have built-in cabinetry solutions.

Knowing how important it was for them to update their office with additional storage, we proposed a plan that scrapped the built-in option and added more storage space by implementing systems furniture of varying heights.

However, finding a budget-appropriate solution was just part of what would make this job successful.

Because the office was a hub for necessary eye care and medical procedures, it was important to management that there wasn’t any down time or temporary workspaces that made patient care and processing more difficult.

Thankfully, we were able to provide them a comprehensive plan that included a weekend install that didn’t interfere with normal operations.

The dominant color? LSU’s famous purple.

Loyola University School of Music

Another installation we’re proud of took place at Loyola University’s School of Music, home of musician and actor Harry Connick, Jr.

The music department was building a new classroom and had some unique requirements. Each workspace needed to be ultra-functional, a space for a sound board, monitor and other sound equipment.

At the same time, the workspaces needed to be in line with modern music classroom design.

We came up with a solution that provided plenty of functional desktop space and enough room for two chairs.

We Work With You From Beginning to End

We’re proud of the projects we’ve mentioned in this post because they reflect our dedication to work with our clients from beginning to end to come up with a solution that meets their functional needs and their budget.

Our workflow starts with a consultation that includes a free space planning session. During these interactions, we lay the groundwork for a smooth installation process.

From there, we move to a more detailed analysis of how our initial planning sessions meet your needs and what should be modified to create a workspace you’ll love.

With plans finalized and decisions made, we move into the project management phase by working with you to get the best prices on furniture and cubicles, as well as finding reliable vendors who help us get the job done on-time.

If you want to learn more about who we are, head to our About Us page to learn about our team. Our president, Jerry Maxwell, has led our company since 1995 and VP Peggy Maxwell has been with us since 1979.

CEOs Are Reading These Books & So Should You

You can learn a lot about a leader by the books they read.

Many of the country’s top CEOs are voracious readers and occasionally they reveal their favorite reads. The beauty of this type of learning is that there is no secret – you or I can pick up the same books they read.

In this post, we’ll talk about four different books recommended by a well-known business leader or CEO.

The Innovator’s Dilemma: The Revolutionary Book That Will Change the Way You Do Business” by Clayton M. Christensen

Whenever a company finds success, it can be hard to switch things up, especially if you’re doing everything right. But, there comes a point where profit, Harvard’s Christensen says, can choke out the innovative sparks that lead to the long-term success you want.

“The best professional managers — doing all the right things and following all the best advice — lead their companies all the way to the top of their markets in that pursuit… only to fall straight off the edge of a cliff after getting there,” the Harvard Business Review wrote.

Steve Jobs loved Christensen’s book. The HBR says some of that adoration stems from the fact that when Jobs was removed as the CEO of Apple, his replacement, John Sculley, focused more on profit than on passion.

“My passion has been to build an enduring company where people were motivated to make great products. The products, not the profits, were the motivation,” Jobs was quoted as saying in the HBR article. “Sculley flipped these priorities to where the goal was to make money. It’s a subtle difference, but it ends up meaning everything.”

 “Business Adventures: Twelve Classic Tales From the World of Wall Street” by John Brooks

Two legendary business leaders say this book is a powerful tome: Bill Gates and Warren Buffet. In fact, according to Inc., it was Buffet who recommended the book to Gates.

“Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates read Business Adventures at Buffett’s recommendation and says the 1969 collection of Wall Street tales remains his favorite business book to date,” John Rampton wrote.

But be forewarned, Gates said in a 2016 CNBC article, this book isn’t a bite-sized compilation of bullet points meant to vault your company into massive success.

Quite the opposite, actually. Brooks, a former reporter at The New Yorker, digs into his stories and generates compelling narratives meant to instruct through example.

“Unlike a lot of today’s business writers, Brooks didn’t boil his work down into pat how-to lessons or simplistic explanations for success,” Gates told CNBC. “You won’t find any listicles in his work. Brooks wrote long articles that frame an issue, explore it in depth, introduce a few compelling characters, and show how things went for them.”

The Checklist Manifesto: How to Get Things Right” by Atul Gawande

This book is a favorite of Jack Dorsey, the man behind Twitter and Square.

According to Business Insider, Dorsey quotes the book often and, at the time, included it in a welcome kit for all new hires at Square.

One of his favorites? A Gawande quote about venture capitalists choosing the right startups, BI says:

“One needs a person who can take an idea from proposal to reality, work the long hours, build a team, handle the pressures and setbacks, manage technical and people problems alike, and stick with the effort for years on end without getting distracted or going insane. Such people are rare and extremely hard to spot.”

Gawande, a surgeon, wrote the book because, as Inc. points out, he believes “clearly written guides and checklists are required for completing complex tasks to the best of your ability.”

Feel like you need a solid system to help you get through the day? “The Checklist Manifesto” could be exactly what you need.

Wrapping It Up: A Few Final Thoughts

Reading these books won’t guarantee your business or professional life will magically elevate itself.

While each individual book may provide you practical ways to manage one part of your life, making reading a consistent practice in your life is what will, most likely, create the change you seek.

If you’d like a longer list of CEO’s favorite books, look at this Inc. article called “25 Books Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Other Top CEOs Recommend.”

Are Professional Groups on Their Way Out? Three Reasons Why They’re Still Worth It

Will 2017 be the year of professional groups? If you’re a Millennial, probably not; too old school.

The generation that makes up 24% of the American population has made a decisive move away from traditional professional organizations. Where are they going? To newer websites like FounderSociety, YEC and Levo; all online communities that focus their curation and capital on Millennials.

John Rampton, a businessman and contributor to Entrepreneur, was well aware of the distaste for traditional professional groups two years ago.

“The value millennials put on social capital is fueling the reemergence of younger professional organizations that bring quality to a space diluted by Facebook posts and constant, but distant, connections,” Rampton wrote.

Despite this mass migration away from suited-up conferences, many professionals young and old still swear by the manifold benefits of a good old-fashioned professional association. We’ve put together their top three reasons why these groups remain relevant.

Job Prospects

Finding the right job, as the old saying goes, is more about who you know than what you know. We’ll admit the adage isn’t applicable to remote workers who use freelance sites to win work, but when it comes to the suit-and-tie workplace, it still holds true.

Joining a professional organization, Rampton pointed out, is like signing up for the most effective job alert you can find.

“Your freshly-formed network can connect you with individuals and companies searching for someone with your specific talents or, if you’re hiring, introductions to top candidates when they begin looking for open positions,” Rampton wrote.

Levo, one of the most popular new-era professional groups, points out the websites run by professional organizations often have powerful job-search tools members can use to pinpoint the perfect job.

“Many professional organizations have websites which members can customize with their resume, career interests and location preferences. The site targets certain job openings based on the profile and sends them to members,” Levo’s Madeline Stilly wrote in 2012.

Mentoring

Most experts agree that one of the most valuable facets of a professional organization is the chance to learn from fellow professionals who have plenty of experience to share.

The real power behind these mentor relationships lies in the vast database of members most legitimate organizations have. Because groups tend to have national and even international members, there are thousands of people who are able to connect with you.

While Millennials may not buy into professional organizations, they do understand the value of mentorship.

“Mentors are a crucial aspect to career success, and these national communities build databases and communication tools for early careerists to find an experienced mentor in their area,” Stilley wrote. “Members are able to connect with others who are serious about the profession and want to build a network.”

Learning

The leading associations in your field have a tremendous amount of financial and professional resources, and, as such, they can provide access to information non-members wouldn’t be able to get without paying a considerable amount.

Kelly A. Cherwin, director of editorial strategy for HigherEdJobs, provided a taste of which educational materials are available to members of professional associations.

“Most associations provide an enormous amount of access to resource information such as: case studies, articles, white papers and books written by experts in your field or area of interest,” Cherwin wrote. “Also, major journal, magazine and newsletter access is provided as a part of your membership privileges.”

Along with this onslaught of digital information are in-real-life conferences where thought leaders delve into the industry’s most relevant and current nuances.

“Millennials who join a professional organization gain access to educational resources like industry research, newsletters, seminars, courses and events where leading industry thought-leaders share insight into the latest trends, innovations, technology and best practices,” Rampton wrote. “Members further their careers by staying ahead of their competitors.”

The Verdict: Professional Organizations Are Worth Every Penny

The benefits of professional organizations are undisputed, but they often fall flat when professionals see the cost of joining. Many of the premier professional associations charge members hundreds of dollars per year. The American Institute of CPAs, for example, starts their regular yearly membership dues at $255.

Is it worth the cost for cash-strapped Millennials or industry vets? We think the answer is clear. Yes, the education, networking and job opportunities professional organizations offer are well worth the dues you pay to stay in the group.

Organization Apps

apps_labeled for usageIt’s February and that resolution you made about enjoying an organized 2017 is a literal mess.

Your office is spotted with scraps of paper and a mound of to-be-completed invoices. The floor is pockmarked with coffee spills and a random napkin or two. This past week you were late to a couple of meetings because you got lost in other tasks.

You may have given up on yourself already, but we haven’t.

You’ve still got 11 months left to nail your New Year’s resolution and we’ve found four apps that will help you get it done.

Dropbox (Browser and app)

If you haven’t started using this beauty of a cloud storage solution, drop what you’re doing and sign up for Dropbox right now.

There are those who will scoff at DB and hail the virtues of Google Drive. We have no complaints there, but we will say this:  Dropbox gets the upper hand because you don’t have to be logged into your Google account to access your files.

If you’ve ever had to deal with Google’s crazy log-in/log-out process to get from one account’s Drive to another, then you know what we’re talking about.

Dropbox gives you drag-and-drop capabilities and allows you to share documents and folders with just one click. This solution may not worked in a highly-regulated office environment, but it’s a godsend for startups or freelancers.

Basecamp (Browser and app) 

There are plenty of great team-management tools out there – Asana and Basecamp are at the top of the list in terms of function and fanfare.

We give Basecamp the edge because its browser interface is easier to navigate. New tasks can be created instantly and are fully customizable, thanks to Basecamp’s stripped down functionality.

Team members are added with ease and project updates can be sent out as soon as they happen, every couple of hours, every day and more.

If you’re running a team of developers or writers, Basecamp provides that simple solution you’ve been wanting. Asana has an aesthetic edge, but we believe Basecamp’s functionality makes it the best way to manage a team, set tasks and create deadlines.

24me (App only)

If you’re looking for a magic wand to organize your non-work life, 24me is about as close as you’re going to get.

The app combines task management and calendar functions to give you an all-in-one virtual personal assistant whose functionality is just as elegant as its UX.

“Receive billing, event, and birthday reminders, or have the app pay your bills and send gifts to friends. The app even lets you know what time you should leave for your meeting based on current traffic,” PopSugar wrote in a January 2017 article.

Sound like the perfect match? We agree.

LastPass (Browser and app)

Do you ever get that frantic feeling when you’re in desperate need of a certain app, but you can’t remember your password and it’s making a searing ball of stress rise up in  your chest?

LastPass is your solution for that tense personal moment. The app stores passwords for every single app on your phone. And it gets better: LastPass works on your browser, too.

In the realm of free password storage, this app reigns supreme. PC Mag gave LastPass a 5 out of 5 and nearly 100,000 in the Google Play store give it 4.5 stars.

This past November the app’s developers released an update that made the LastPass experience an even better one.

“The breadth of features in this free password manager is amazing,” PC Mag’s Neil J. Rubenking wrote. “LastPass 4.0 remains an Editor’s Choice for free password managers.”

clean office LFRA Few Other Tips

Can we talk about your cubicle for a minute? It’s one of the only things in your office that an app can’t fix.

So, let’s start with your work desk. Take five minutes at the end of the day to tidy things up. Trust us; a little housecleaning at 5 p.m. is worth the slight delay getting home.

On Fridays, devote 10 minutes to your cleaning routine. Do the usual tidying up for five minutes, and then crack open a tube of Clorox disinfectant wipes. Give your desktop, keyboard and computer screen a quick scrub. Dump out your trash and perform a final inspection before charging off into the weekend.

As for your home life, consider taking the first 10 minutes of the day to meditate on what you’d like to see happen at home and at work. Doing this mental checklist before the craziness begins will work wonders on your ability to stay focused and, more importantly, stay organized.

Office Chairs: A Two-Part Series on What Makes Them Tick

office chair 3Office chairs are a curious thing, aren’t they?

We rely on them every day, but you rarely think about how they’re constructed until something goes wrong.

That annoying pneumatic lift breaks and you sit about a foot lower than you should. Or maybe there’s an endless string of squeaks and creaks every time you lean back or move from side to side. The old saying, “Out of sight, out of mind,” is definitely appropriate here.

Serving as an office chair in the workplace is a thankless job, and perhaps it’s in the name of these faithful pieces of furniture that we decided to learn more about how they’re built, how they work and which ones are best suited for your specific work situation.

The Pneumatic Lift: How It Keeps You Propped Up From 8-5

You can thank compressed air for the way your chair rises and falls when you reach down and adjust your seat height.

Just like drills and nail guns hooked up to an air compressor, your chair relies on highly pressurized air to alter the height of your seat.

The cylinder that connects your chair’s star-shaped wheel structure and the bottom of your seat is where most of the compressed-air magic takes place.

That cylinder is filled with the compressed air, and the lever you use to raise and lower yourself activates a piston that moves up and down in the cylinder. When you want to move your seat up and you push the lever a few times, you increase the pressure in the chamber. As that pressure increases, it forces your seat upward.

If you’re up a little too high and you want to low the chair, you move the lever in the opposite direction. In this situation, you’re easing off the piston in the cylinder, which means the air inside is less pressurized and the seat falls. Simple stuff, right?

How an Office Chair Supports Your Back

We’ve all felt the ache of sitting in our office chair after a long, 10-12-hour day at work. When you stand up, there’s that familiar tight feeling near the base of your spine and it takes about 20 or 30 seconds of walking for things to warm up and loosen.

Spine-Health.com says if your goal is to keep your back comfortable, your office chair should have two important features: lumbar support and a solid backrest.

Lumbar Support

Don’t get your backrest and lumbar support confused. The backrest is the main structure you lean back on when you sit, and the lumbar support is that bump at the bottom of the backrest that supports the base of your spine when you sit down.

“An ergonomic chair should have a lumbar adjustment (both height and depth) so each user can get the proper fit to support the inward curve of the lower back,” chiropractor Rodney K. Lefler wrote for Spine Health.

If you don’t find a chair with good lumbar support, your tendency to slouch in your chair will put stress on your lower spine and flatten out structures in your back that should be curved.

Back Rest

There are two important factors here: seat width and adjustability. Your backrest should be between 12 and 19 inches in width, Spine Health says. In other words, the seat’s backrest should span the width of your back so it can provide a full support profile.

Second, the chair needs to have a way for you to adjust the angle and height of the backrest. Having this ability means you can customize your back rest to the unique angles and structures of your back. This is usually a feature you’ll find in chairs that have a separate seat and back rest.

If the seat and backrest are connected, Spine Health says, “the backrest should be adjustable in forward and back angles, with a locking mechanism to secure it from going too far backward once the user has determined the appropriate angle.”

 

Looking Ahead: How to Decipher Office Chair Levers and Ratings

 

While most of us have a pretty good sense of what our office chair needs in the way of back support, all those little levers as well as ratings given by office-supply stores can be confusing.

 

In our second post of this series, we’ve examined some of the popular levers and what they do, as well as unpacked chair ratings and what they mean for your particular situation.

 

Creating a Better Professional You, Part 2

A more productive you tends to be a more successful you, especially in the workplace.

Bosses notice when employees are high achievers, which leads many of us to try and push hard, at least for a season, in order to catch a manager’s eye and  parlay our productivity into a raise.

employee 1

How do you negotiate on your behalf when you step into your manager’s office for the big ask? It’s a tough question to answer because nearly every workplace is different. Despite these differences, though, there are some general principles you can adopt to give yourself the best chance of getting the raise you’ve wanted.

We’re going to give you four tips: two things you should always do and two things you should never do.

 

#1: ALWAYS Determine How Much You’re Worth

While quick thinking and rehearsed monologues may help you close a raise, they’ll be meaningless if you haven’t done anything over the course of the year worthy of a raise. Our guess is you’ve put in the effort, or you wouldn’t be reading this.

So, how do you go about determining how much you’re worth to your company? Give equal weight to your achievements and the national average for your position, says Shannon Gausepohl, a contributor for Business News Daily.

“Take stock of what you’ve done,” Shannon wrote, “and research how much people in the same field are making before you present the numbers to your boss during your conversation.”

 

#2 NEVER Threaten to Go Elsewhere

Sure, this works in the movies all the time. A hard-worker grinds away and saves the company money while the boss seems totally unaware of her achievements. When it comes time to ask for a raise, the boss is dismissive. The employee threatens to leave to a competitor and then, magically, she has the boss’ attention.

Unfortunately, Harvard Business Review said in a 2015 article, that’s not how things work in real life. If you threaten your boss, he or she will go on the defensive, which, as you’ve probably guessed, isn’t the best way to get them to pay you more.

Think about what will happen if your threat doesn’t work.

“At best, you’ll turn the conversation adversarial; at worse, you’ll paint yourself into a corner if you don’t get the raise,” HBR’s Carolyn O’Hara wrote.

 

boss notes

 #3 ALWAYS Plan Your Request According to Your Boss’ Personality Type

Bosses – and everyone, for the most part — usually fall into two personality types: direct and not direct. You should plan your raise request based on which one best describes your boss.

If she’s a direct person who doesn’t tip-toe through small talk, then don’t waste time with small talk. Send her an email or call her and tell her you want to meet to discuss increasing your salary based on the work you’ve done since your last raise.

If they’re more of an indirect person, it may be best to bring it up during a regular, scheduled event.

“Others might prefer a more nuanced approach,” Fast Company’s Molly Triffin wrote in 2014, “where you broach the salary question in the context of another conversation, like a weekly status meeting.”

 

#4 NEVER Disparage Coworkers or Compare Yourself to Them 

If you were a boss and an employee came in and spent 10 minutes talking about how much better they were than the person on the other side of the cubicle wall, what would you think?

We’re guessing “arrogant” and “jealous” come to mind, two qualities that definitely hurt your chances of getting a raise.

“Avoid comparing yourself to colleagues or complaining that you make less; stay positive and focus instead on how much you contribute,” O’Hara wrote.

The whole concept of asking for a raise is about you touting your own worthiness, not discrediting or disparaging your colleagues.

 

A Few Other Tips…

Aside from what we’ve mentioned above, remember that you should prepare for your ask. Don’t walk in and go with your heart – that’s when things go wrong. Know what you’re going to say and be nimble if your boss tries to knock you off-balance.

Also, be prepared for a “No,” O’Hara wrote. While not getting a raise won’t necessarily help your monthly budget, it can be an opportunity to learn what you can do over the next 365 days to increase your chances of getting a “Yes.”

The new year presents an opportunity for you to tally up new experiences at work. If you plan on asking for a raise, use the principles we talked about here and do additional research on what works and what doesn’t work. If this is your first time asking for a raise at your current job, be confident and calm.

 

In the meantime, come back to our blog for more tips on how to have a more productive 2017!

Creating a Better Professional You, Part 1: Dealing With a Dirty Desk

Will 2017 be your year?

If you’ve committed yourself to personal development and excellence, you’re already on track to accomplish things in your professional life that you’ve always wanted to. However, you’re setting yourself up for failure if you think simply saying or writing a resolution will make it happen. You need a plan to go with your proclamation.

office desk 2

We’ve devoted a series of four blog posts to unearthing the practical principles you can use in the workplace to get ahead, build relationships and stand out as opposed to sticking out. We want you to break the self-imposed ceiling you have and ask for the raise you deserve and do the excellent work you know you can do.

Meeting those expectations is a matter of the practical and the mental. If you want to impress your boss, start with your workspace. Is it clean and organized, or is it regularly mistaken for a natural-disaster site? Do you dress with intentionality, or is your office outfit the leftovers of a beleaguered closet?

From a mental standpoint, what do you do when you face adversity at work? Crumble, or rise up? What goes on in your mind has a lot to do with how these pressure-packed scenarios play out. Do you take time every day to process the day ahead, or are you purely reacting to the unexpected?

As you can see, the path to personal and professional development takes on several difference aspects at multiple levels.

Your Desk Says Everything About Who You Are

Let’s be honest – messy desks used to be frowned upon, and even though they still carry an air of poor taste, creative types have convinced us that a messy desk is part of the creative process.

office desk 1

Creative or not, if you’re looking to get ahead in your job this year, you need to change what your desk says about you. Clutter equals disorganize and irresponsible. Clean equals reliable and trustworthy.

Plan Out Your Cleaning Schedule

Your first step is to cleanliness is to create a plan for cleaning your desk every week. Just like your resolution to get ahead, a resolution to have a clean desk doesn’t happen on its own. You need a plan.

The simplest solution is to spend five minutes after work doing a quick clean Monday through Thursday, then do a deeper clean on Friday before you head home for the weekend.

Clorox and 3M Are Your Best Friends

Keep a tube of Clorox cleaning wipes handy to tidy up any spills or stains that befall your desk during working hours, and for the deep clean on Friday. 3M has a great desk cleaner that works on a variety of surfaces. The quicker you clean up stains, the better.

The longer any liquid or sauce stays on your desk, the more time it has to collect dust and other embarrassing matter that tells passing co-workers you’re sloppy and absent-minded. In other words, your reputation suffers.

You Trash Can is a Mess Savior

Also, make sure your trash can is within reach of where you sit. There aren’t any stats out there on how much of the stuff on your desk is trash, but we’re guessing it would be around 50%. A trash can within arm’s length means you can throw something away as soon as your done with it.

This little trick will cut down on the clutter and give your arms and hands some room to breathe. Not only that, less clutter on your desk means there’s less of a chance you’ll knock over a cup or bottle and spill liquid on your keyboard.

What Will Your Desk Say About You?

You may not be at work 24 hours a day, but your desk is. If you cut out early to pick up the kids from school, your desk will still be at work perpetuating a narrative about your attention to detail and your reliability.

You have the ability to change this narrative, but it will take planning. Pick out specific daily times for light cleaning, and then designate a day (preferably Friday) when you can do a deep clean. It’s not fun staying a few minutes after work to tidy up, but you get a two-fold reward out of it.

First, you get to return from work on Monday with a sparkling clean desk, which can do wonders for you as you start the week anew. Second, your desk is promoting your best qualities while you’re at home with your family or friends.

When your boss passes by and happens to take a look at your workspace, she’ll most certainly be pleased, and that never hurts.

Common Workplace Fixes: How to Remedy a Squeaky Office Chair

Nobody wants to be that coworker.

You know, the one whose chair creates an ear-shattering squeal every time you lean back to down those last few Doritos crumbs. Yes, that coworker … the one with the squeaky office chair.

Fortunately, the squeaks and creaks you hear every day aren’t symptoms of a chronic condition. While no one treatment for your office chair is guaranteed to fix all its ailments, there are some basic principles we’ve found that can cure most of your problems.

office-chair-2

Fixing Your Squeaky Office Chair: The Basics

Every office chair is made up of a collection of individual pieces that are screwed together. Most of those pieces, especially those underneath the chair, go through a ton of movement and weight-bearing over the course of the chair’s lifetime.

As you lean forward, back and swivel from side to side, parts wear down, screws and bolts loosen and your chair gives off some pretty annoying sounds.

In most cases, those annoying sounds are the result of moving parts rubbing against each other because the screws that hold them are loose, or because factory lubrication in certain joints has worn off.

Loose Screws and Bolts

There’s a good chance you didn’t put your office chair together, which may be a good thing if you’re not mechanically inclined. However, the fact that you didn’t put your chair together means you weren’t around to make sure everything was screwed together nice and tight.

When you examine your chair for loose screws and bolts, it’s best to do it with the chair flipped upside down. The easiest way to do this is stack catalogs or books up to the height of your seat when it’s turned upside down. Turn over your chair and place the seat on the stack. Make sure it’s secure; you don’t want it wobbling or tipping over.

office-chair-1

From there, use your fingers to wiggle each screw or bolt. Hand-tightening is acceptable, but isn’t a good solution if you want a long-term fix.

Once you identify the loose parts, use a crescent wrench or a screwdriver (flathead or Phillips, depending on the screw) to tighten up each screw or bolt.

After tightening everything, flip your chair over and go through your normal motions. Still squeaking? Flip the chair back over and double-check that you tightened every screw or bolt – sometimes you’ll find them in weird places you didn’t see the first time you looked over the chair.

If you’ve still got a squeak, the problem is most likely found inside of a joint or moving part.

Squeaky Joints or Moving Parts

Once you’ve given the screws and bolts a good tightening, there’s still a chance you’re going to get a squeak or two.

At this point, you need to identify where the squeak is coming from. So, have a colleague sit in your chair and move around while you look underneath and listen for specific sound points.

If you can identify where the sound is coming from, use a can of WD-40 to give the area a good spray. Keep a few paper towels around and place them on the floor to catch any excess lubricant that falls to the ground.

One of the main culprits of a squeaky chair is the springs which cushion your chair as you lean back. These springs are known as seat-tension springs.

Fixing these springs is fairly easy. There’s usually a knob you turn to ease up or tighten the tension.  Here’s a quick rundown from Wikihow on how to lubricate this spring:

“To fix this, apply oil to the seat tension spring located inside the turn-knob housing. Simply loosen the seat tension turn-knob and remove the turn-knob to spray oil inside the housing.”

A Quick Wheel Check

You’re going to come across a variety of wheels, but standard wheels are inserted into the body of the chair via a metal post fixed to the top of the wheel. Over time, those metal posts can wear down and become loose and the wheel axles can suffer from squeak-inducing friction.

So, flip your chair over and try to remove the wheels. If you can, lay them down on paper towels and squirt them with some silicone spray. Give the metal posts a good squirt, too, making sure to spray inside the post housing.

Chairs, Keyboards and More…

The tips we’ve given here are designed to be simple and time-friendly. You’ll need a screwdriver, a few wrenches and a can of WD-40. If you’re looking for a more in-depth tutorial on how to fix your office chair, we recommend a YouTube tutorial we found by handyman Todd Harrison.  It’s a great video if you’re too impatient to wait for a company handyman to fix your chair.

In the meantime, look at our post on how to fix a sticky keyboard. We give you some quick, easy tips for what to use to remove your keys, what you need to clean them and more.

Common Workplace Fixes: A Series on How to Correct Those Annoying Sticky Keys, Squeaks and More

Office life has a way of luring us into a daily rhythm.

 

We come in, set our things down at our desk, head to the coffee pot, swirl around chunks of powdered creamer and then head back to start our day.

You sit down at your chair and it gives its customary ear-splitting creak. You start typing out your first email of the day and your shift key keeps sticking. A few minutes later, the fluorescent light above your desk begins its hourly flickering session.

 

 

You open your desk to find your stapler, only to be mired in a sea of staples, sticky notes and spare change.

 

 

Little Things Become Big Problems Under the Right Circumstances

Here’s the funny thing – you don’t really notice any of those quirks. Like we said, office life has a way of luring us into a daily rhythm.

Over time though, it only takes a few bad days or a developing sense of frustration to turn those once unnoticed annoyances into full-blown  daily harassments.

We’re going to use the next couple of posts on our blog to talk about some of these workplace quirks, identify what could be wrong and then give you some simple ways to fix the problem.

Our First Tip: Unsticking the Sticky Keyboard

You’ve most likely suffered from this annoyance. One day you spill a few drops of Starbucks on your keyboard and, a week later, your “a” key seems to be quite precocious. Halfway through a memo you realize that valuable vowels seem to have disappeared.

keyboad-2

In this scenario, a mix of espresso, milk and sugar have most likely built up under that key and cause it to stick when you press down on the key.

However, if you haven’t spilled any coffee on your keyboard in a while, there plenty of other explanations. In most cases, the culprit will be a mix of crumbs, hair and random fuzz that collects under your key and dulls the impact of your key pressing down on the sensor beneath.

 

Whatever the cause, you’re going to need the right tools and about 15 minutes. Here’s what Instructables.com recommends for your go-to keyboard tool kit:fix-it

  • A cup
  • Rubbing alcohol
  • Dish soap
  • Paper towels
  • A flathead screwdriver

Before you start pulling off colons and arrows, make sure you take a photo of your keyboard so you can remember the layout.

To remove your keys, lift one corner of the key slowly. As Instructables writes, “Your keys were basically snapped onto your keyboard at the factory … therefore they can be unsnapped.”

This is probably the most important part of the process because this is where you can break things if you rush it. Though your keys can be snapped off without breaking anything, they are made of plastic and breaking off the anchors on your keys is a real (and frustrating) possibility.

If a key is giving you trouble, slide a flathead screwdriver under it and gently wiggle it back and forth.

Once you have the key off, the real work begins. Take your Q-Tip and dip it in the rubbing alcohol. Then, wipe around the base of the key carrier until your Q-Tip comes out clean.

Meanwhile, fill your cup up with water and swirl around some of your dish soap. Drop the key into the solution and let it soak for a few seconds. Pull it out and give it a thorough wipe-down with your paper towels.

Once everything is cleaned and dried, snap your key back on and everything should work as well as it did the first day you used your keyboard.

Looking Ahead: The Squeaky Office Chair

We’d say that the sticky keyboard – or at least the dirty keyboard – is the most common office-equipment quirk we’ve seen.

A good way to avoid this is to buy a can of pressurized air and spray out your keys every Friday before you go home. Also, this Lifehacker thread suggests wiping down your keys every week with baby wipes.

But keyboards aren’t the only things that can break down over time. Office chairs can become agonizingly loud given enough hours of use. Most people ask for a new chair or just write off the squeak as impossible to fix – you don’t have to make excuses and we’ll show you why in our next post.

QWERTY, Dvorak and KALQ: The History of Keyboards and the Legends Surrounding the Original

This past week BlackBerry CEO John Chen finally announced the news that he’d been hinting at for some time. Chen said the company will no longer develop QWERTY keyboard hardware for its phone.

So long, small plastic keys. A moment of silence, please.

By joining the rest of the touch-screen keyboard world, BlackBerry’s announcement brought into focus the QWERTY keyboard. And that got us thinking: How did QWERTY come about? Who invented it? Are there competitors?

To us, it seems so peculiar that one keyboard design would dominate typewriter, computer and mobile keyboards for as long as keyboards have been around.

The Origins of the QWERTY Keyboard Go Back More Than 100 Years

Christopher Latham Sholes. Sound familiar? If it doesn’t you, aren’t alone. The inventor’s name isn’t nearly as famous as his invention – the first typewriter and its QWERTY keyboard. According to Encyclopedia Britannica, Sholes was an editor at several newspapers in Wisconsin before Abraham Lincoln hired him for a federal position at the Port of Milwaukee.

The government job allowed Sholes tons of free time, which he devoted to various inventions. His focus settled on his best project: a writing machine.

Sholes, along with two colleagues, won a patent for the typewriter in 1868. Like many startups, he was struggling for cash flow. So, four years later he sold his patent rights to the Remington Arms Company, who helped the typewriter flourish.

In fact, Mark Twain used a Remington typewriter to produce the first-ever typewritten book manuscript in America.

Sholes Chose the QWERTY Layout to Prevent Typewriter Jamming…Or Did He?

The history books are certain that Sholes was the creator of the typewriter. However, the trail goes a bit cold when experts try and pin down exactly why Sholes designed the QWERTY keyboard.

According to Smithsonian magazine, Sholes found that when common letters were placed next to each other, typewriters were jammed because keys were hit in succession too quickly. The “type bars” connecting keys to letters would get tangled up.

So, he separated popular letters to prevent any problems.

“The type bars connecting the key and the letter plate hung in a cycle beneath the paper. If a user quickly typed a succession of letters whose type bars were near each other, the delicate machinery would get jammed.” the Smithsonian wrote in a Fact or Fiction post on their site. “So, it is said, Sholes redesigned the arrangement to separate the most common sequences of letters like ‘th’ or ‘he’.”

Below is a photo of Sholes’ drawings of the first QWERTY keyboard, courtesy of Google Patents. These drawings were submitted for the QWERTY patent and were approved.

first-qwerty-patent

As tidy as this story sounds, it didn’t add up for a pair of researchers from Kyoto University.

Japanese Researchers Say QWERTY Legend Is Just That…A Legend

In 2011, Japanese researchers Koichi Yasuoka and Motoko Yasuoka presented a paper that challenged the prevailing QWERTY origin story.

They argue that Sholes didn’t invent the QWERTY keyboard to prevent jamming. They say the machine’s early adopters, Morse code technicians, needed a keyboard layout that allowed them the fastest possible typing speeds so they could keep up with the Morse messenger on the other end of the line. So, Sholes designed QWERTY to meet that need.

Here’s what the Japanese researchers wrote: “If Sholes really arranged the keyboard to slow down the operator, the operator became unable to catch up (to) the Morse sender. We don’t believe that Sholes had such a nonsense intention during his development of (the) Type-Writer.”

We doubt historians and QWERTY enthusiasts will ever dig up the true story behind the origins of the QWERTY design. However, that narrative could become obsolete if another keyboard layout takes over.

QWERTY Competitors: Dvorak and Mobile Layouts

For several decades the QWERTY design faced no legitimate challengers to the typewriting throne. However, a doctor named August Dvorak created a new layout in the 1930’s.

This new layout featured all vowels in the middle line of the keyboard, replacing the current position of the A, S, D, F and G keys.

The popular consonants R, S, T, L and N are located on the right side of the keyboard where the P, O, colon/semi-colon, L and K keys are.

The Smithsonian says early proponents of the Dvorak claimed that the keyboard was faster, but the evidence on the claim is thin and the Dvorak design never gained much traction.

More recently, the KALQ keyboard has been rumored to be the future keyboard for thumb-oriented mobile users. The keyboard takes about 8 hours to learn, and users can surpass their QWERTY typing speed in as little as 12-13 hours, a Tech Crunch article reported in 2014.

Want to give it a try? You can download the KALQ