Interior Concepts - ContactCenterWorld.com Blog
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When you walk through your call center, do you hear the happy buzz of agents having friendly conversations? Or is it more like a frantic roar? If it’s the latter, that doesn’t necessarily mean it’s time for staffing changes.
If your customer service agents are frazzled, it may not be their fault.
The truth is, it can be mentally and emotionally exhausting to field concerns and complaints all day. And this drain can have a major impact on employee morale. The most dangerous thing about poor morale is that bad attitudes are contagious. You can bet that when your workers feel it, your customers do as well. So, it’s important to do what you can to keep your call center staff calm and content.
Redesigning your call center layout is one thing you can do that will have a major impact.
Make the Space Attractive and Inviting
Where we work makes a difference in how we work. It’s a proven fact that we work better in more aesthetically pleasing environments. So although it’s tempting to try to cram as many cubicles into a space as you can, more employees per square inch may not give you the return you expect.
The key is to find a design that is appealing to everyone. And the answer lies with nature.
Let’s start with the color green. Just a glance at this color can boost creativity and motivation. On a deeper level, green reminds us of nourishment, as it’s the color of lush food-bearing vegetation.
Just a two-second glance at the shade of green found in nature may help your employees find more creative solutions to problems. This could result in happier customers and happier agents.
TAKEAWAY: Do what you can to expose your call center staff to natural or natural-like greenery. Keeping the call center near windows may help. If this isn’t an option, consider adding green accents to your design and/or well-placed landscape pictures.
Focus on Ergonomics
It may seem counterintuitive to encourage your workers to relax when you want to increase productivity, but these changes can have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Let’s look at an example. Bob the customer service representative has the perfect temperament for the job and a laugh that is downright infectious. He handles irate customers with the utmost patience and understanding, so everyone sends the “challenges” his way.
You wouldn’t know it, but Bob isn’t as calm on the inside as he appears. With each screaming customer, Bob’s muscles tighten and his teeth clench. On the surface, Bob is calm and collected. But beneath the surface, a musculoskeletal disorder is brewing. This is a common hazard of the job. Constant stress and tensing muscles can take a toll on anyone.
Why should you care? Well, Bob’s discomfort can have an impact on his behavior and patience. Just think about how you react to something when you’re feeling well versus when you’re under the weather. There’s a noticeable difference. And you can trust that customers will be less satisfied with the outcome.
Bob can be any or every customer service representative on your team. And while you can’t exactly change customer attitudes to help the Bobs of your organization, you can soften the impact by helping your employees feel more comfortable at work.
TAKEAWAY: Comfort can have long and short-term effects on employee happiness. Provide ergonomic and adjustable seating and workspaces with footrests, so call center employees can find a healthy, comfortable position while fielding calls and working on their computers.
Create Communal Areas
Communal areas are popular for collaborative work, but they are often dismissed by call centers. Customer service representatives don’t necessarily need to collaborate with each other, but they could definitely benefit from intermittent breaks in these spaces.
Modern managers and office workers agree that breaks play an important role in productivity, according to a Staples Advantage poll. The downtime fosters a better work attitude by allowing healthy mental breaks and an opportunity to refuel with casual conversation.
An interesting MIT study shows that call center employees with stronger social groups at work are more productive. Researchers tested giving more breaks and encouraging social interaction and found that productivity improved as a result.
TAKEAWAY: You can benefit from providing communal break areas in or near a call center. Just be sure the break areas are far enough from workstations, so noise doesn’t become a distraction for anyone who may be on a call.
Streamline Hardware and Technology
The call center workstation has evolved a great deal in the past 10 years, thanks in part to technology. Each workstation requires less space than ever before, and this can leave room to create a more open area for agents to make their space their own.
Physical clutter can impact your ability to focus and process information, according to a study published in the Journal of Neuroscience.
Another benefit to the extra space is that you can give workers room to add personal effects, which has been shown to have positive effects for both the employee and the employer.
TAKEAWAY: Give your employees more space to spread out without taking up more space in the room with newer technologies. Replace traditional phones with VOIP headsets, use thin flat screen monitors instead of old bulky units and keep your files on a secure remote server instead of burying workers in paperwork. Encourage employees to fill the space (within reason) with personal effects.
How Does This Help Retain Customers?
Keeping your staff happy has obvious benefits on customer satisfaction. Because just like Bob’s laugh, happiness is contagious.
Think about it this way. Are you more likely to go somewhere if you like the people there? Or have you ever switched providers because you received poor customer service? These things happen all the time, but they don’t have to happen in your business.
By taking these suggestions into account when you work on your call center design, you can give your employees the support they need to keep customers coming back time and time again. If you’re moving or expanding, Interior Concepts is here to help with your call center layout and furnishing needs. Fill out the Request a Quote form or call us at 800-678-5550.
Publish Date: January 3, 2017 5:00 AM
If learning was meant to be in isolation, we wouldn’t have schools at all. We would all learn from our own textbooks at home without human interaction or input. But that’s not the way things work. Actually, we learn best when we work in groups, sharing, creating and influencing – together. This is why you’ll often find makerspaces with flexible furniture in learning environments, including schools, libraries, and media centers.
What Furniture Works Well in Makerspaces?
Providing collaborative and flexible furniture in your makerspace area gives people a place to sit and interact together. Furniture can be arranged to provide spaces for larger groups, small groups, and even create individual workspaces where people can work on their own.
How Does Furniture Impact Makerspace Collaboration?
Can you have a makerspace without flexible furniture? Sure. But it’s kind of like getting through an area that has roadblocks. It’s possible, but it may take longer to get to your destination. Also, the final product may suffer. When people are encouraged to collaborate in groups, amazing things happen. Makerspaces with collaborative furniture help to foster an environment of collaboration and allows people to work together in the most efficient way possible. Schools, libraries, and research laboratories all have their own versions of flexible furniture that works for their space to foster collaboration among like-minded individuals who are trying to achieve a common goal.
How to Integrate Design in Your Makerspace
The centerpiece should have at least one large work area with lots of comfortable seating. This should be a place people want to hang out, converse and create. Always keep tools of the trade (things like art or craft supplies, drafting tools, etc.) accessible from this space. Idea or suggestion boxes are great additions here as is a showcase of previous work.
How Does Fab Lab Design Compare to a Makerspace?
A Fab Lab embodies the collaborative spirit, much like a Makerspace. It takes the concept of working together in a collaborative space and brings it global. A Fab Lab is a Makerspace that is equipped with specific tools and with access to programs that can be used to create almost anything. Fab Labs make use of collaborative furniture, much like a Makerspace. Though they may need additional furniture that supports robotics and computer equipment.
School and other Fab Labs are meant to be collaborative with one another, meaning that something that is created in one can be reproduced in another Fab Lab around the globe. In contrast to our society that is so reliant on mass production and products distributed by large corporations, the Fab Lab program explores how things can be produced from ideas on a small scale. In theory, such concepts may also be mass produced, but we have yet to see a mass produced product come from a Fab Lab. The concept came from a popular class at MIT, How to Make (Almost) Anything.
Fab Labs give students a reason to think outside the box and want to create something innovative and useful. Not only do Fab Labs foster creativity, but they can also get students thinking like entrepreneurs. And we all know that these are the students that will be equipped to change the world.
(2015) Worlds of Making: Best Practices for Establishing a Makerspace for Your School. Laura Fleming.
Makerspace in Action
Video credit: Diana Rendina | www.renovatedlearning.com | Twiiter – @DianaLRendina
Publish Date: February 1, 2016 5:00 AM
“We begin to change the world when we stimulate long-term prosperity using technology. There is not a problem that’s large enough that innovation and entrepreneurship can’t solve.” – Naveen Jain
This quote wasn’t written specifically about Fab Labs, but it could have been. Entrepreneurship, innovation and technology are all at the heart of any Fabrication Lab.
What are Fab Labs? (aka Fabrication Lab)
The Fab Lab concept began at MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms (CBA), which is part of its digital fabrication and computation research. Although this is still an early concept, there are Fab Labs around the world. These are workstations and platforms for innovation. These are places to create, play, learn and invent. All Fab Labs are similar and they must share common tools and processes. The idea is that if something can be produced in a Fab Lab in New York, the same thing should be able to be reproduced in a Fab Lab in London. Fab Labs connects a global community of educators, researchers, innovators and students. Fab Labs share more than just common tools, though. They share knowledge and findings. Consider it a global laboratory that spans 30 countries and 24 time zones.
Why Have a School Fab Lab?
Instead of relying on a fixed curriculum, in a Fab Lab, learning is authentic, engaging and imaginative. Its creativity knows no bounds. Fab Labs give students the freedom they need to create the box, and then think outside of it. There is nothing quite like collaborating to create something bigger than yourself. Fab Labs help nurture tomorrow’s leaders, entrepreneurs and innovators.
The picture above is from St. Stephen’s Episcopal Day School located in Florida. St. Stephen’s engages both younger and older students. They have a Jr. Fab Lab, and a Fab Lab for Grades 3-5 that engages students in longer projects than Jr. Fab Lab projects. They use their Fab Lab to drive STEM education with individual exploration and classroom collaboration driven by problem solving and discovery.
How to Start a School Fab Lab?
To get started creating your own FAB Lab outline a vision for your lab. Get input from students on what they would like to build and see in the lab. And if you need help with furniture to support your Fab Lab design – Interior Concepts can help you with just what you need for your space.
Before you get started with building your Fab Lab, it’s best to send word of your intent to the Fab Foundation. They can help you get started and find funding, if necessary. After you have connected with the Fab Foundation, consider checking out Professor Neil Gershenfeld’s book: FAB: The Coming Revolution on Your Desktop – from Personal Computers to Personal Fabrication.
Create a team of qualified and trustworthy individuals to help you set up your Fab Lab. If you need help finding someone, the Fab Foundation may be able to help. They have access to a network of experienced innovators and the Fab Academy, which provides support and resources for teachers and educators. Working in a Fab Lab is not an individual task, nor is creating one.
Publish Date: January 5, 2016 5:00 AM
Not So Wireless
Imagine you have 3% battery remaining on your smartphone and only one extra outlet on the other side of the room. It’s almost torture to listen to text messages or email alerts ring aloud as you sit comfortably perched upon the desk from a distance. To check or not to check, that is the question. As trivial as this scenario may sound, the struggle is real, and has greater implications in other contexts, such as learning or working environments, where you wouldn’t want people tripping over extension cords or forced to plant themselves near an outlet. As a whole, we have become co-dependent on our portable devices, addicted to technology and all its wonders. That is all fine and well, empowering, in fact…. until your reduced power mode alert pops up, and you are once again enslaved by wires, in order to operate your wireless devices… a bit ironic, don’t you think?
The solution to this not so wireless conundrum? Introducing EnerGEE! by Interior Concepts, a battery system that allows you to turn an Interior Concepts table into a wireless charging station. This portable battery power accessory is packed with some serious punch- lasting up to 8 hours on a single charge, while juicing up to 10 smartphone or 5 tablets on a single cycle. Connect any USB enabled device to charge without the mess or hazard of extension cords. The EnerGEE! battery system enables you to create a mobile battery powered charging station which gives you greater flexibility when creating work and learning environments.
The EnerGEE! battery system features a lithium iron phosphate battery which boasts several advantages over other lithium ion batteries.
- SAFETY: Lithium iron phosphates are much more thermally and chemically stable than lithium cobalt oxide commonly used in many consumer product batteries, which means there is less risk of a battery igniting when mishandled or overcharged. In addition, the non-toxic chemicals are safer than the hazardous cobalt dioxide which can cause irritation to the eyes, skin or respiratory tract, and can cause serious damage if ingested.
- ECO-FRIENDLY: phosphates used in LFP batteries are non-toxic chemicals that do not pose the same threat as cobalt dioxide does if it enters into water supplies or soil when improperly disposed of. Lithium cobalt dioxide is considered extremely carcinogenic. Pulmonary, neurological, and respiratory problems have also been connected to cobalt exposure.
- CONSISTENCY: Because of the LFP battery’s relatively consistent discharge voltage, it will output the same voltage until it is almost completely exhausted, 90% of each cycle, which means your devices will charge just as fast when your EnerGEE! system is fully charged, as it will just before it needs to be recharged for the day.
- ENDURANCE: LFP cells experience a slower loss of capacity which means that after a year of shelf-life, and LFP will have the same energy density as a more powerful battery that declines more rapidly. In the long run, a lithium iron phosphate battery will outlast and out perform others.
Interior Concepts is all about custom solutions; from commercial office furniture to school furniture solutions, that is why the EnerGEE! battery system can be installed into most Interior Concepts tables. There are several ways to take advantage of portable charging capabilities in any setting.
- CLASSROOMS: Whether you are utilizing individual tables, group tables, or modular educational furniture, you can install EnerGEE! battery accessories at each, for technology integrated classrooms in which students are continuously using mobile devices and may need charging more frequently. Alternatively, you can create an interactive station for students to work at for specific projects or on rotation.
- OPEN OFFICES: So you love the open layout of your offices, the collaborative spirit in the air? But how do you power your devices at freestanding meeting tables and gathering spaces without a mess of wires and extension cords? Again, you can install EnerGEE! systems at various tables located throughout the office to create mobile charging and meeting stations that can move freely wherever you need them.
- COMPUTER LABS: Let’s face it, computer labs are already interwoven with wires, from power sources to accessory cables, who needs another wire in the way? Installing the EnerGEE! battery system in tables can give users the opportunity to charge mobile devices at charging stations while they work at computers without taking up an outlet or heaven-forbid, unplugging something else. Similarly, it allows users to connect additional devices to power when all of the computer’s USB ports are in use.
A Last Plug For the Unplugged
A few more gold stars for this super-charged superstar. The EnerGEE! accessory features water and spill resistant mounting flush with the table, a gauge to indicate charge level, and automatic shut-off to protect the battery from damage. Finally, as with all Interior Concepts furniture, the EnerGEE! battery system is made in the United States and is satisfaction guaranteed. To learn more about EnerGEE!, download the product brochure!
Publish Date: November 10, 2015 5:00 AM
For each call center, whether you are seating six or six hundred, there are many important factors to explore while considering different designs. This may seem overwhelming but with a little guidance from experts in the field, your experience should be smooth and well informed. Here at ICC we have the privilege to have Project Managers with 50 years of combined call center design experience. Based on what they have learned over the years, they have offered this advice to you!
To start, it is important to consider the way a call center agent will be interacting with their station. Their purpose at the station, which varies with each company and department, will be a main determinate in the work surface size needed. An agent with the intent to make calls alone at a paperless company will not require as much space as an agent managing paper files. A great addition to any station is an adjustable key board tray that sits under the work surface. This leaves the work surface in front of monitors open and available for use while ergonomically protecting the agent from work place injury.
Are agents on the phone while agents around them are as well? If so, a taller panel height would be helpful in keeping noise levels down. Flooring in the space you are furnishing should also be taken into consideration when it comes to sound. Carpet tends to absorb sound waves better than hard floors. In any case, acoustic panels can be added to stations to reduce sound pollution for agents. This will increase the agent’s ability to focus on their own conversations and lead to a more attentive and informative experience for the customer.
While visualizing your future call center furniture you may have considered a color palette. For some folks, coordinating colors is what they live for! This may not apply for others, and that’s okay. A general recommendation from our experts is to stay away from white and lighter colored fabrics. Over time lighter fabrics have a tendency to show natural wear and tear much faster than a neutral color. We have found that wear and tear on our furniture can also be avoided by using laminate or melamine panels below the station work surface and fabric panels above. This split not only gives the station much more dynamic but it also allows for easy removal of scuff marks that may occur over time.
Designing furniture to work with the flow of a space can make your call center much more functional. Our experts recommend having six foot isles between station rows. This space allows for agents to stand up from their station without pushing their chair into a coworker walking by. Six foot isles apply to other areas with heavier traffic including the access to break rooms and restrooms. The usage of natural light can improve a call center aesthetically. If your call center has windows try not to cover them with stations. The option to lower panels on stations against windows is always available. Allowing natural light into the space will not only make for a more productive team but it also reduces lighting costs.
Every company has a different combination of factors that works best for them. Finding the right combination for your call center can improve your company’s productivity, the mood of call center team members, and overall customer satisfaction. To work with one of our design experts today, feel free to call us at (616)844-6099 or check out our furniture on our website: www.interiorconcepts.com
We hope your time taken to consider these words of wisdom from our experts here at Interior Concepts will assist your future call center designing endeavors!
Publish Date: October 14, 2015 5:00 AM
A Hub is the Sum of Its Parts
Many of us cringe when we hear the words “call” and “center” in the same sentence. The earliest example of a modern call center dates back the 1960s in the UK. The Birmingham Press and Mail was the first documented example of a Private Automated Business Exchange (the term call center was later coined and first published in 1983). Over the decades, call centers have become synonymous with telemarketing and thus developed a bad reputation. However, the term call center is actually a blanket term for inbound, outbound, and contact service centers – a hub for any client/customer communication. While we may feel the urge to hang up on a telemarketer that calls in the middle of dinner time, aren’t you also glad that you can call a representative 24 hours a day when your internet suddenly fails minutes before a midnight deadline? The point is call centers serve a variety of functions, many of which are to the benefit of you, the consumer.
Many companies have recognized the need to invest in technological advances such as speech recognition, virtual queues, and interactive voice response, to name a few, in order to keep up with the growing demands of customer service. It’s also important to recognize that investing in the physical space through improvements and innovations is invaluable to retaining top-performing employees that provide the highest quality of service to their customers. Many call centers industry wide have high turnover rates and are difficult to keep staffed. While no perfect solution to this problem exists, uniting agents in a happier hub that serves as a comfortable and attractive workplace, can definitely help to improve these rates.
Evaluating your Hub
Redesigning your call center is an investment and should be treated as such. We’re talking more than just ergonomic keyboards and comfortable chairs – as with any investment you start with assessment. The design should be based on accurate information obtained from evaluating factors that fall into three main categories; the company as a whole, the individual employee, and the physical space.
THE COMPANY : understanding your role and goal
- What function does the call center primarily serve? Customer Support, Lead Generation, Client Retention, Sales/Fundraising, Debt Collection, etc.
- What hours will your call center operate? 24/7, 9-5, etc.
- How many agents are employed, and how many are staffed at one time?
- What is the supervisor-to-agent ratio?
THE EMPLOYEES : understanding their needs and comfort
- How long does the typical shift for an employee last?
- What equipment does the employee need in order to fulfill his/her function?
- What time of day does the employee primarily work?
- Does the employee perform tasks solely on an individual basis?
THE SPACE : Understanding your Limitations and Possibilities
- How many people must fit in the space at once?
- How much space is needed per work station?
- Are there enough supervisors?
- Where are the restrooms located?
- Is there any natural or directional light?
- How are the acoustics in the space?
- Are there any physical obstacles or irregular dimensions to work around?
A Happier Hub = Happier Agents
Fitting too many people into a space is all too common in call center layouts. The workstation should be designed to complement and support the agents’ work. Consideration should be given to the amount of computer or other equipment that an agent needs, the appropriate balance between inter-agent communication and privacy, the noise level in the center, and the extent to which supervisors require direct observation of agents. These factors will affect workstation size and design as well as placement in the room.
Beyond the functional improvements to a space, the visceral are equally important. Several studies support the idea that an attractive color scheme and ambient lighting can make agents feel positive about their workspace and subsequently improve productivity. One case study revealed that redesigning a call center with new cubicle layouts, wall color changes, and subtle lighting adjustments, reduced the center’s turnover rate from 60% to 17% following the redesign. Happy agents provide better service… end of story.
Comfortable employees are also happier employees. A call center should have ergonomic furniture to ensure agent comfort like supportive, comfortable, and adjustable chairs and adjustable keyboards. Use of the same workstations by multiple agents makes adjustable furnishings even more important. Additionally, desktops should be able to accommodate everything the agent needs to do his or her job with perhaps some extra space to allow personalization with items like a plant or a picture. The layout of the call center should allow for smooth traffic flow to any necessary common areas such as break rooms or conference rooms – there’s nothing worse than making a dash for the bathroom and having to dodge poorly spaced pods of cubicles or furniture.
Speaking of office pods, consider utilizing clusters, if your company work requires a team approach. Pods still allow for individual agent privacy, but also accessibility when the employees need to assist one and other. Pod, or cluster layouts can be beneficial for companies with specialized teams within the call center that are managed by separate supervisors or team leaders. For companies with a more traditional team-supervisor division, consider going with a classroom set-up of rows to make it easier to oversee more employees at once.
Call Center Design Solutions that Fit
Whether you feel inclined to use rows or pods, angles or curves to spice up your space, you’ll want to find a call center furniture provider that understands the importance of design and customization. Interior Concepts has specialized in providing customized call center furniture for the past 20 years. They firmly believe that cookie-cutter configurations can’t serve the majority of modern or agile work environments, and subsequently enlist design specialists to work with each client in order to provide solutions that fit every unique set of business needs. The furniture is customizable down to the inch- meaning that you get a system built just for you! And as if that isn’t impressive enough, all Interior Concepts furniture is MAS® Green Certified and built in the United States, so you can rest assured that your work environment is safe and eco-friendly, not to mention backed by a lifetime warranty. See for yourself all the ways teaming up with Interior Concepts can help build a happier team. Visit www.InteriorConcepts.com to browse products, try out online design tools, or request a design consultation. Investing in a happy and comfortable hub doesn’t have to be a burden; let the team at Interior Concepts help you transform your center today!
Publish Date: May 18, 2015 5:00 AM
there is an “i” in “office”
Designing the workplace can be as exciting as it is daunting. Most business owners understand the importance of employees enjoying their physical work environment, since it helps boost productivity and overall morale. The typical employee does, after all, spend one-third of their day in the office. Already faced multiple with constraints to consider, such as budget, space, and timeline, many soft influential factors, like corporate culture and aligning the design to the work being performed, are often overlooked. While the general nature of work being performed by the company as a whole can be a major indicator of the type of office layout to pursue, one must strongly consider the individual needs and roles of each employee or group of employees. Though there may not be an “I” in team, there certainly is in “office,” and it shouldn’t be overlooked.
“i”dentify your team
Before you dive into the physical planning and shopping, ask yourself a few basic questions about your business and about the nature of each of the roles performed within it. Are there employees that benefit from a collaborative, open workspace, such as designers or marketing strategists? Are there employees that would prefer isolated, distraction-free work stations, such as IT personnel? Are there employees that will spend a majority of the time on the phone, so they need easy access to team leaders? Do your employees work in groups, or largely individually? Do your employees meet face-to-face with clients or customers on a regular basis? Accommodating even a few of these needs may seem challenging, let alone all of them, however; you can design the best office layout for your employees when you work with experts, and the rewards will prove well worth the extra planning.
tag-teaming your design
Once you’ve tackled the big pre-planning questions, where do you turn? It’s time to recruit some design assistance. When choosing an office furniture manufacturer or supplier there are several factors you’ll want to look out for to make sure you choose the company that’s right for your team.
- CUSTOMIZATION OPTIONS : the furniture itself
As you’ve noticed above, customization is important when adapting to the various needs of a number of unique roles within a company. When combined with physical space constraints, furniture customization options will make your life much easier.
- FLEXIBILITY : the furniture configurations
Finding that perfect office Zen may take trial-and-error over time, making rearrangeable configurations an essential requirement for your new furniture.
- TURN-KEY SOLUTIONS : because you all may just be on the same page
No need to stress over installation and delivery. When you work with a one company that will organize the design, delivery, and installation of your furniture, it will save you time, money, and stress.
- DESIGN ASSISTANCE : because it’s not your job to know it all
You’re a business owner, not necessarily an interior designer, so choose a company that offers ample design assistance, whether it’s through online design or layout tools, sample layouts, design consultations, or interactive design sessions.
- WARRANTY & CUSTOMER SERVICE : investing in your team is an investment
The last thing you want is to dump all of your efforts into planning and your money into purchasing furniture that ends up falling apart on the job. Your furniture should work as hard as you do, and if it doesn’t, it should be replaced. Similarly, choose a company whose relationship extends beyond the point of sale, and will be there if problems should arise down the line.
- GOING GREEN : because your work environment loves the environment too
While this is largely a personal or corporate preference, it’s important to consider that products that do not emit harsh chemicals are safer and healthier for your employees, and simultaneously reduce your carbon footprint. It’s worth investigating where and how the products you purchase are made.
solutions that fit
Don’t feel like doing even more homework, trying to find the right company to design with? Don’t fret, you’ve already found it! Interior Concepts has specialized in providing customized office furniture for over 20 years. They firmly believe that cookie-cutter configurations can’t serve the majority of modern or agile work environments, and subsequently enlist design specialists to work with each client in order to provide solutions that fit every unique set of business needs. The office furniture is customizable down to the inch- meaning that you get a system built just for you! And as if that isn’t impressive enough, all Interior Concepts furniture is MAS® Green Certified and built in the United States, so you can rest assured that your work environment is safe and eco-friendly, not to mention backed by a lifetime warranty. See for yourself all the ways teaming up with Interior Concepts can empower your team. Visit www.InteriorConcepts.com to browse products, try out online design tools, or request a design consultation… or get inspired by downloading this new office design guide for some great sample workspace layouts! Cultivating a productive and harmonious work environment doesn’t have to be work; let the team at Interior Concepts help you tackle the task today!
Publish Date: March 19, 2015 5:00 AM
There’s an app for that
Gone are the days of overhead projectors and dry-erase markers…. well for the most part. With ever-changing technology and its tightly woven integration into most aspects of our lives, it comes as little surprise that educational spaces are evolving as well. Technology is pervasive in our culture, when in doubt take a look at how children under 10 interact with our phones and tablets. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing; it can actually be used to drastically enhance the learning experience in several ways. Teachers are finding ways to create hybrid learning environments that marry physical group activities and individualized online engagement. Subsequently, we are beginning to see a shift in the physical design of classrooms. Say so-long to former days, when computer interactions were limited to playing The Oregon Trail once a week in the school’s only computer lab, and hello to an era of high-speed, interactive immersion in knowledge for every student, everyday.
What digital can do for you
Many teachers are embracing digital learning technology in the classroom and it has proven beneficial for students and teachers alike. To start, digital learning tools allow for greater personalization in learning and evaluation. It’s easier to offer personalized learning lessons to individuals or groups of individuals with unique learning styles, especially when students can choose lesson plan formats they find most engaging. It’s also easier to track and compare students’ results and participation, digitally, to see which teaching approach is most effective for each class, subject, or demographic. Second, digital learning tools are a great way to expand accessibility across communities. Creating digital curriculums and learning programs allows teachers and schools to easily share information, successful strategies and activities with each other. Another, more obvious benefit of technological integration is efficiency. Students are able to complete work faster and teachers can grade it faster – this leaves more room/time for follow-up discussion and questions or activities, where often a higher level of understanding is achieved. As mentioned earlier, there is no escaping technology, and if you can’t beat them, join them. Even many industries formerly considered “manual labor,” have adopted some sort of technology. By familiarizing students with digital tools now, they will be better prepared to work with them in the workforce. Finally, many studies have found that digital interactions increase students’ engagement with learning. Without even realizing they are learning, students are spending more and more time seeking information online, as opposed to the past, where such knowledge could only be found in reference books in a library or learned from the classroom. It’s the same idea as getting your kids to eat vegetables by putting it in their smoothies – no use in trying to force-feed them steamed spinach when you can just keep sneaking it in the blender.
How to adapt your space
Okay, so you get it – technology in the classroom can be your friend instead of foe, but how do you go about adapting your space? Integrating digital media and learning tools into the classroom isn’t as simple as just buying some computers and plugging them in. There are several factors to consider and questions to ask yourself before deciding how to best organize and utilize your space, so many questions that you may actually feel overwhelmed and discouraged from taking on the daunting task. Lucky for you, Interior Concepts has taken the time to create a FREE (yes, I said free) Computer Lab Planning Guide that will help you tackle the pertinent questions necessary to help you create the most effective and efficient space for your needs. The planning guide will also share some examples of popular types of learning environments and the furniture layouts best suited for them. And finally, the guide offers insightful tips and creative solutions for managing the dark side of technology – the torment of tangled wires.
Questions to consider
The Interior Concepts Computer Lab Design Planning Guide has broken up the array of questions you should consider into 4 key categories, ranging from the physical requirements and limitations of your space, to demo-graphical considerations. Here are some sample questions from each to get your brainstorming juices flowing.
- BUILDING CONSIDERATIONS : The physical space
- What is the size and shape of your new or existing learning space?
- Will power be accessed from the floor, ceiling, walls or from the furniture itself?
- CLASSROOM CONSIDERATIONS : The equipment and usage
- Will computers or technology equipment be placed on top of work spaces, or mounted below?
- Will students be encouraged to work primarily in groups or individually?
- TEACHER CONSIDERATIONS : Because teachers need their space too
- What type of desk does the instructor need?
- What type of technology will the instructor employ regularly?
- STUDENT CONSIDERATIONS : Who is the space for
- What age are the students, and what seat/desk height is most age appropriate?
- Do students have backpacks or other materials with them that will require storage?
There’s a map for that
Once you’ve done your homework with the questions outlined in the Computer Lab Planning Guide, you’ll have a better understanding of which classroom, in the layout examples section, will best work for you. This section of the guide provides images and visual maps of different types of classrooms that cater to different styles of learning. Let’s use an example, if you find that your students’ work will be predominately individualized online learning and you aim to be able to move freely around the space in order to monitor and assist students, a perimeter classroom layout may be best suited for you. The guide will highlight some of the main features of perimeter classrooms, as well as provide sample layout photos and configurations.
The light at the end of the tunnel
Once you’re feeling prepared with a pre-plan of attack, what’s the next step? You take your completed planning guide one step further, by exploring the diverse selection of furniture and free, online configurations tools offered at interiorconcepts.com, to move into the blueprinting and purchasing phase of your journey. Unlike many other educational furniture providers, Interior Concepts provides flexible solutions for virtually any need – I’m talking furniture modified by the inch! You don’t get much more customizable than that. But what about the last part of the guide? The part where the secret to keeping your wires uncrossed is revealed? No, we didn’t forget, you’ll just have to download the FREE Computer Lab Design Planning Guide to find out for yourself how Interior Concepts can help you conquer every aspect of your tech transformation!
Publish Date: February 13, 2015 5:00 AM
The Hair Nightmare
Imagine sitting in the chair of a salon for two hours, clutching tightly to the celebrity photograph you hope to find yourself transformed into. The anticipation can often transform into anxiety- sure, that haircut looks great on that celebrity, but how will it look on you, with your face shape, with your skin tones, with your lack of a 24/7 hairstylist at your disposal? What if your new do makes you look twelve again? Are bangs really a good idea? Is this cut only cute on blondes? Sounds trivial, but anyone who has ever suffered a bad haircut knows the impatience and agony of trying to recover from it. Wouldn’t this process be so much more enjoyable if you could enter with some confidence? Well, enough people agreed, and now you can type in “try a hairstyle” on Google, and find an array of virtual haircut and color makeover tools online. All you need is a photo of yourself and then you can go from Beyoncé locks to a Rihanna pixie, in seconds. Obviously these virtualized makeovers aren’t meant to guarantee the perfect haircut experience, but they certainly can help visualize your ideas in context.
Changing your hairstyle isn’t the only big decision that benefits from some visualization assistance. Changing learning and working spaces can also be quite the challenge. We can all attest to the disparity between envisioning where to place furniture and how it actually fits within the space. While stores like Ikea may boast showrooms with dimensions to show off how their furniture creatively utilizes small spaces, it doesn’t really help unless one of those spaces happens to be the same exact size and layout as my own space.
Spare the Scare
Cue Interior Concepts’ new Table Layout Tool. This tool is an online tool that does not require any sort of software to download or install, nor does it require any sort of design capabilities, which makes it easy to access and use for almost anyone. Whether you are designing your classroom or your office this tool will also save you time. No longer will you need to worry about physically figuring out which formations to use or the best way to fit them in your space. Let’s face it- furniture can be heavy to move, so doing all of your trial-and-error arranging and rearranging in advance will give you a better idea for creating a solid plan on installation day. The best part? This tool is so simple to use that you can have your space designed in minutes… literally, and without any of the headache of taking or calculating measurements.
Easy to Use Table Layout Tool
So let’s jump into how the Table Layout Tool works. As mentioned, this is an online tool, so begin by visiting www.interiorconcepts.com. Under the “Design Ideas” navigation tab, locate and click on “Table Layout Tool.” Pretty simple so far. Once the Table Layout Tool has loaded, begin by entering the dimensions of the space you wish to design – this is located just above the grid and is measured in feet. On the left-hand side of your browser you will notice a list of Interior Concepts’ diverse array of quality office tables, all designed to-scale with your grid. This is where the fun begins.
- Add as many office tables of any shape or size as you please, by simply clicking on the item from the list. Each item you click will appear on the grid to your right, where you can drag it to your desired location.
- To select a certain object on the grid, you can either click it on the gird, or select it from the lest of tables added, that will form above the list of available tables on the left side of your browser.
- To rotate a table, place your cursor on the long handle of the selected object, click, drag, and release when you’ve reached desired angle.
- To remove a table from your design, all you need to do is click on the red “-“ next to the item on your list. You can also reorder your items for a more itemized list, by clicking the up or down arrows in the “Rearrange” column of your list.
- To aid your creativity, you can group office tables together by holding the Shift key and selecting tables you’d like to include, and clicking “Group,” which is located next to the dimensions selection and zoom modules, above the grid. This will make visualization more efficient by eliminating the need to move each table separately. Groups can easily be ungrouped by clicking the “Ungroup” button directly adjacent.
- Designing formations is easy with the “Copy” function- by selecting a table or group of tables, all you need to do is click “Copy” for a duplicate to appear, ready to drag into place. Make too many? No problem, just select a table or group of table and click “Delete.”
- Once you have completed your design you can export if as an .IC file, which is a file type you will be able to import and continue working on at a later time, should you so choose. This file can be obtained by simply clicking “Export,” when you have finished working. Similarly, clicking on “Import” will allow you to reopen your file if you wish to make further changes at another time. If you would like a PNG (image) or PDF file at any point in your design process simply click on the corresponding button, located underneath your grid. This is a useful feature if you wish to present various options you’ve explored during your design process to someone, or to compare side by side.
Why to Choose Tables
Many office or workspaces are designed with the traditional notion that employees will execute their tasks in a self-sufficient manner, during regular business hours. However, the reality of most modern workplaces is that teams are more collaborative and positions are more hybrid in nature than ever. With growing demands for employees to accomplish multiple tasks that involve working with other employees, tables are a great option for flexibility and collaboration. Office tables come in an array of shapes and sizes, making them versatile for a variety of uses like small teams of individuals, or large groups as a forum for discussion or presentation. Much easier to move and reconfigure than cubicles, tables are also a good choice for offices with growing or shifting teams and needs.
Beyond the workspace, tables are growing evermore popular in educational settings. Not only are tables conducive to a community-learning approach, they also provide a flexible learning environment because of the ability to frequently change classroom layouts. With the flexibility of changing room layouts students can sit next to and interact with different students each time. Using tables to furnish the classroom also saves critical space that can otherwise be utilized for supply storage, play, or other non-seated activities. While tables may not possess as much inherent storage as desks, they promote information sharing, agility, and create enough surface area to host community storage.
Interior Concepts has been manufacturing quality Michigan-made furniture built to your exact specifications for over twenty years. When it comes to tables, the metal-to-metal connections and fully welded legs on all Interior Concepts tables will stand the test of time and make installation a breeze. In addition to superior quality and durability of construction, tables have a 1.25″ thick worksurface finished with HPL laminate to resist wear and tear. With the variety of innovative shapes, the possible combinations are seemingly endless. Still not convinced? Go ahead and try for yourself- the Interior Concepts Table Layout tool is FREE and easy to use, so you’ve got nothing to lose! Give it a try here: Table Layout Tool.
Publish Date: January 12, 2015 5:00 AM
The functions of computer labs have changed over the years from general computer instruction to technology labs with intensive program-specific software. While classes were once taught in computer labs to instruct students in the use of basic computing tasks such as word and data processing, computer labs are now used by students for program-specific software for technology driven applications.
Some of these programs include animation, graphic design, programming, architectural drafting, and industrial design. The list of available programs and their range of functions has also greatly increased over the past few years and computer labs are now often used by students for their powerful and expensive program-specific software.
Because of the increased diversity in terms of their functions, computer labs in schools may no longer be referred to as simply computer labs. Computer labs may employ new titles to describe the specific functions of each lab, such as a graphics or animation Lab, as different labs are directed towards accomplishing particular purposes.
Computer labs are rooms that feature a number of physical computers that are available for various or specified uses, and often have other hardware like printers that users may need. Computer labs are more akin to classrooms in terms of how they are set up, but labs may or may not be independent of any actual classes, meaning that classes are not necessarily held in a computer lab.
Computer lab design is a key feature for these kinds of labs. Four popular designs are rows, perimeter, back-to-back, and u-shaped layouts. Rows consist of computers being placed in a line with all of the students facing the front of the room, while a perimeter layout lines the wall of the lab with workstations. In a perimeter layout often tables are placed in the center of the room for a group meeting space.
Two other popular designs are back-to-back workstations and a U-shaped design. One benefit of a back-to-back layout is that these stations center panels, power access, and cable management, so they are a cost efficient design. The U-Shaped layout can maximize room space.
Interior Concepts has over twenty years of experiencing designing space-efficient workstations that smoothly integrate technology for the greatest number of students. IT departments also appreciate the Chase™ Wire Management System because of its ability to help simplify equipment connections and hide wires and cables. If you are designing a computer lab, contact Interior Concepts for a free, no-obligation quote.
Publish Date: November 24, 2014 5:00 AM
The STEM lab design that you see in your dream may not be a reality for your school. The budget for a complete STEM lab renovation could be hefty if all new technology, curriculum, and furniture must all be upgraded at once. If a complete renovation isn’t an option, you still have options. There are many teaching resources free from the Internet, and when it comes to the furnishings and layout, you can make small changes over time to upgrade your STEM lab.
#1: White Board Tables
One way to upgrade part of your lab is adding several tables with a whiteboard top. A popular design option is the Motion Collaboration/Sprocket Table with a whiteboard top. When you use tables that have whiteboard top, students can map their designs or solve problems on the table for easy sharing. This makes it easy for students to collaborate and solve problems effectively as a group. A white board top allows students to show the teachers their ideas and then transfer solutions to a sketch book or computer once they are satisfied with their work. If you don’t have the budget for new tables, try to refinish current tables with a white board paint.
#2: Flexible Teaching Space
Another way to make a STEM lab more functional on a budget is to upgrade the teacher’s podium. Instructors need to be lecturing and working from a podium that offers maximum flexibility. One option is the Influence Eclipse Podium, which is on casters and height adjustable, giving teacher’s flexibility. Functional furniture allows teacher’s to give an active lecture and then use the podium as workspace to a place meet with students, or wheel up to work groups.
#3: The File Sharing Network
One of the tenants of the STEM education is the sharing of information. It must be easy to share information with students and students must be able to easily share information with instructors. A file sharing platform, like Google Drive, is often free up to a certain storage limit. A system like this will allow files to be transferred back and forth with ease.
By slowly making a few changes to the technology and furniture, schools can upgrade their STEM labs and classrooms a little at a time to give students the education they deserve without spending a large sum of money at one time.
Publish Date: November 10, 2014 5:00 AM
Classroom design plays a big role in the ability of students to absorb information. Studies suggest that the colors that are included in a classroom have an impact on a student’s academic performance.
The fact that color has such a significant impact on the learning experience may seem like a minor contribution to a student’s performance, but there is scientific evidence that suggests that this notion is true. A study published by Building and the Environment revealed the importance of six design parameters including color:
- Color – Applies to the uses of visual stimulation.
- Choice – Reflects the quality of school furniture; which includes “interesting” furniture that promoted ergonomic chairs and tables.
- Complexity – Applies to the uses of visual stimulation.
- Flexibility – Concerns space, storage and organization plus the ability of school furniture to adapt/change to the needs of students and teachers.
- Light – The amount of natural lighting (e.g. window positioning and the use of window shades, blinds, and shutters) and the quality of electrical lighting.
- Connection – The connection between all the five elements above.
This study determined approximately 25 percent of a student’s performance within an academic year was influenced by the classroom design and environment.
On the topic of color, bright and warm colors are conducive to the academic performance of preschoolers. A paper published through the University of Rochester and the University of Munich underlines the impact that red has in the classroom. Children who are in grade school are more likely to thrive with a cool color scheme, and it is recommended that the hallways of a school be colorful to give the building a personality. Children who attend a school that adds color to common areas are more likely to identify themselves as part of a productive learning group.
Top Five Colors For Better Grades
Research has proved that colors have an impact on academic productivity and classrooms that use the right color scheme can be conducive to learning. The following are five colors that enable students to do their best in classrooms:
- Blue – A stimulating color that promotes students to form ideas.
- Green – A relaxing color that can help students deal with test anxiety to achieve better grades.
- White – May be a neutral color, but it is known to inspire optimism. Students who are surrounded by bright white design elements are often able to perform better because they feel better about their academic abilities.
- Red – An intense color that is often associated with anger, but red tones are actually able to draw attention. Red is an ideal color for the front of a classroom.
- Yellow – Beneficial for concentration. Pastel shades tend to work best for the purpose of improving concentration.
The Negative Impact of a Dismal Classroom
On the flip side, schools that are monotone using dull colors like grays and browns can actually cause students to perform worse. The traditional idea behind using dismal and mute colors was to prevent students from being distracted. However, being surrounded by dull colors throughout the day can actually cause students to feel depressed and uninspired.
Bright colors in the classroom were once nixed as a distraction, but new studies related to color and the academic process indicate that color is a positive element in a classroom. Color used in classroom design can actually improve concentration, reduce anxiety and inspire students to focus on the teacher to facilitate the learning process. Therefore, think bright to school when designing a classroom to kick start a great academic year stimulating inspiration and productivity!
Publish Date: September 29, 2014 5:00 AM
A school makerspace serves as a gathering point for creating and exploring. These spaces aid in increasing student engagement and creating an active learning environment. Makerspaces come in all shapes and sizes. In schools, these areas are often found in the computer labs, libraries, or media centers. The idea behind the maker movement is experimental play that engages students. Makers are invited to play with new technology to inspire learning through exploration. Students might take things apart, build, or experiment with new technology.
When designing a makerspace for your school the goal is to balance social interaction with individual exploration. It’s a delicate balance to provide large work areas with individual workspaces, while keeping students close enough together so they can inspire each other with ideas.
Maker Media’s digital ebook: Makerspace Playbook: School Edition gives some suggestions for designing creative makerspace school environments:
- Design a “hang out” area with large work areas and comfortable seating
- Stock up on diverse tools and materials that involves arts, crafts, engineering, science, and technology
- Keep an idea box where members can throw in objects that may inspire others
- Showcase past projects and current projects to give students some inspiration
As Interior Concepts works with schools to design makerspaces across the country we’ve noticed several product trends that have helped schools to create a flexible and fun workspace:
- Unique table shapes with whiteboards to increase collaboration
- Mobile work areas with storage for projects and learning tools
- Adjustable height mobile podium for the teacher provides a flexible work area
- Comfortable stools and chairs
We know that learning can happen anywhere. Makerspace areas, STEM labs, and 21st century classrooms are areas that a dedicate a physical space in the school to introduce students to new technology and exploration that can help to ignite a passion for learning. Every makerspace will be different, and the important thing is just to get started. For more information on school makerspaces check out the ebook from Maker Media via the link below. If you are interested in learning more about STEM lab design download our free STEM Lab planning guide.
(2013). Makerspace Playbook: School Edition. Maker Media. Retrieved from http://makerspace.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/02/MakerspacePlaybook-Feb2013.pdf.
Publish Date: September 8, 2014 5:00 AM
Purchasing call center furniture can be a challenging process, but it doesn’t have to be. Finding the right furniture design to accommodate business goals, like increasing communication and productivity, is doable when you work with a company that specializes in customer service focused spaces, like call centers and contact centers.
Benefits of Workplace Furniture
Purchasing your office furniture from a manufacturer that focuses on call center furniture provides a number of productivity benefits to employers. For example, these manufacturers create raised office stations specifically for team leaders and call center managers. These raised height of these desks enables supervisors to observe, manage, and communicate with their employees. Experts say that the more supervisors and employees talk, the more productive a business becomes. Customized call center furniture can lead to a more productive workplace.
Selecting the Right Desk
To select the best furniture for your office, start by picking the panel height of the desks. Office workstations with a panel height between 40 inches and 42 inches give a supervisor the best view of his or her office while providing employees with some privacy. An option to add more privacy, but keep visibility, is to outfit workstations with unique acrylic panels and decorative elements. These creative embellishments bring a unique visual appeal to the office without sacrificing visibility.
Finding the Right Color
Another important thing to think about when designing your call center furniture is the color of your office cubicles and desks. Studies show that the color of a space can influences the productivity of the employees. It is often recommended to select neutral colors for the office desks, and spruce up these neutral desks with colorful chairs, paint, art, or vivid work accessories.
The dimensions and layout of your workplace furniture also impacts the productivity of the office. The most dynamic office floor plans leave adequate space for collaboration, break rooms, and training areas. An adequate floor plan also leaves plenty of aisle space for supervisors to reach their call center agents easily and efficiently. Creating several pathways to the center’s restrooms and exits are also extremely important.
Get Started Today
If you are moving for expanding, get stared on your design today. We are an industry leader in designing, manufacturing, and installing furniture for call center and office environments. Drawing from decades of experience in designing and manufacturing high quality, made in the USA commercial business furniture, we are your #1 choice for call center and office furniture. Contact us to start a free, no obligation quote at 800-678-5550, or fill out the Request A Quote form on this page.
Publish Date: July 21, 2014 5:00 AM
L shaped desks provide a lot of flexibility when it comes to creating a productive yet comfortable workspace. Having the extra surface area of l shaped desk designs can make all the difference in creating an effective work environment. Because of the many options available for personalizing l shaped desks, you should first take into consideration your needs in the workplace.
First, it’s important to consider the tasks and duties of the employee utilizing the desk. Do they meet with clients often? Will they be dealing with a large amount of paperwork on a daily basis? What kind of organization will they require? Having a strong understanding of the technology being used at the desk will also help to create a clearer sense of purpose when deciding upon the right desk. Computer towers, monitors, printers, scanners, and telephones all need space accommodations. Such tools also require power supply and cords to connect them which can create a mess unless properly tracked and hidden away. Even the sight of a tangle of cords can create stress in the work environment. Desk additions like a wire management system, modesty panels, and strategic desk placement can prevent such a distraction.
Strategic and intentional placement of the furniture is another important consideration. The layout of the office space itself will have a great effect on desk placement. Architectural structures such as columns, windows, and doorways will affect the layout of the desks. Having a clear idea of outlet and window placement is also necessary. Having a PDF or CAD production of the office floor plan will come in handy when planning. Besides the physical space, considering the organization and proximity of employees will also come into play. Grouping departments or workers with similar job duties will not only be more efficient, but will allow for a more productive work environment.
Finally, personal preferences for design and functionality can be incorporated into the desk. Standing desks are becoming more popular as studies about the effects of a sedentary work environment are becoming more prevalent. Desks with adjustable height can also improve ergonomics, even while sitting. Tackable panels, shelves, filing cabinets, and other storage and display options help to complete the desk area.
We spend a large part of our day at work. It’s important that the desk area is clean, organized, and pleasing to the senses in order to create a comfortable and productive workstation. With the countless options available and thinking through the design considerations mentioned above, this goal is easily achievable.
Publish Date: July 14, 2014 5:00 AM
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