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One Way to Fix Your Open Office Plan

One Way to Fix Your Open Office Plan

The open office plan isn’t everything we’d hoped it would be. Once touted as the magic bullet for productivity, creativity, and collaboration, the open office plan in reality is too noisy, too public, and too distracting for heads-down workers. Rather than collaborating, employees use every tool at their disposal to claw back a tiny bit of personal space, isolating themselves with headphones and using email and texts to communicate with co-workers who are mere feet away, often at the same workbench.

Like business owners, facilities managers were initially enamored of the open office plan. Requiring fewer square feet per employee, the open office plan kept the cost of rent low, and the lack of interior walls reduced the build-out costs.

Facilities managers were among the first to hear the negative feedback around the open office concept, as staffers began requesting enclosed meeting rooms and sound-reducing measures. In an effort to achieve a balance between open areas and enclosed areas, facilities managers and designers have begun turning to a ready-made solution: the “phone booth” office pod. As reported in Fast Company, these micro-offices are fully enclosed, sound-proof, ventilated, and come complete with plug-and-play power for electronic devices. Businesses can add a string of these prefabricated offices within their existing open office space at a cost of a few thousand dollars each, without the disruption of construction.

There’s a downside, however. Although they’re small, micro-offices take up a certain amount of floor space, putting the squeeze on work space and storage space alike. Employees who are already feeling crowded are not likely to react positively to more encroachment on their work areas.

Files and supplies, on the other hand, never complain about having their storage space reduced. High density mobile shelving, rotary file cabinets, and lateral sliding files condense storage space into half the space of traditional shelves and cabinets. Moreover, these compact storage systems offer greater accessibility than old-school storage systems; search-and-retrieval times are reduced and productivity is improved.

Space-efficient storage systems provide the floor space needed to achieve the balance of open work spaces and enclosed, heads-down work spaces, preserving the overall office footprint while making room for everyone to do their best work. Businesses are learning that this balance will deliver the improvements in creativity and productivity originally promised by the open office concept.


Photo © Syda Productions / AdobeStock

5 Ways Good Storage Design Makes Your Lab Safer

5 Ways Good Storage Design Makes Your Lab Safer

Safety is always paramount in any lab. Lab designers have safety in mind whenever they are designing a new lab or retrofitting an existing one. Designers’ storage choices can improve a lab’s safety and productivity, but if storage considerations aren’t included in the early design phases, unsafe conditions can actually be “baked in” to a lab’s design.

Harvard’s School of Health has some recommendations for safe and productive lab designs that can be improved further by innovative benching and storage options.

  1. Determine the workflow needed. A lab’s end users may not have a clear idea of what they want but they always know what tasks they will be performing in a space. The materials and processes, the number of people working there, and any special requirements like ADA compliance will influence the design. A well-built modular benching system will give users flexibility to arrange the space to suit their needs.
  2. Ensure adequate room for people and processes. A crowded lab is less productive, and accidents are more likely in areas where aisles and workspaces are tight. If floor space is at a premium, various storage solutions will preserve extra floor space for people and processes.
  3. The right layout ensures good workflow. The sequence of processes helps determine a productive layout, and material-appropriate storage should be in close proximity to each process in the sequence. Electronic equipment can be stored in cabinets; chemical storage is more complex, and must be designed to match the safety requirements of each substance.
  4. Safety features aid productivity. When staff isn’t worried about how to handle an emergency, they can focus on their work. And when equipment and materials are properly stored instead of cluttering workbenches and aisles, staff can get to safety quickly if they need to.
  5. Design for change. When new technologies and processes require a change in workflow, modular casework can be reconfigured and re-purposed to fit the new workflow. Labs avoid the cost of new cabinets and benching, and the new layout can be executed with a minimum of down time, keeping the operation productive and on-budget.

We would add a sixth suggestion to this list: Talk to a design consultant who can recommend storage products or even a turnkey lab design-build company. The design process is complex and time-consuming, and lab managers have enough on their plates already. Bring in an expert, and stay focused on the lab’s primary mission of scientific excellence.


Photo © micromonkey / AdobeStock