10 Office Design Myths and Misconceptions You Should Ignore

Posted on by Mike Harley

10 Office Design Myths and Misconceptions You Should Ignore

A well-designed office will lay the foundation for greater success in your professional endeavors. You’ll be able to work faster and more efficiently, resulting in increased productivity. Whether you’re designing a small home office or a large corporate office, you must use the right approach. Falling victim to any of the following office design myths and misconceptions will restrict your ability to create a comfortable and productive workspace.


#1) An Open Layout Is Better Than Cubicles

Example of an open office layout

Since the turn of the 20th century, open layouts have become increasingly common. Characterized by a large space with few or no visual partitioning elements, they are designed to encourage face-to-face communications between office workers. Without walls or other structures separating them, workers can converse freely during their day-to-day activities – at least that’s the general belief behind the open layout. The truth is that using cubicles or similar partitioning elements is more effective at boosting face-to-face communications.

In 2018, a team of researchers from Harvard Business School conducted a study to determine how open office layouts affect workers’ ability to collaborate. Researchers specifically look at two high-profile companies that switched from a traditional cubicle layout to an open office. Shortly after switching to an open layout, both companies experienced a 70% reduction in face-to-face communications between their respective workers.

If you design your office in an open layout, you may discover fewer face-to-face communications between workers. Open layouts still have their advantages, but they aren’t always better than cubicles. You should weigh the pros and cons of both design layouts, as well as a hybrid layout, to determine which one is right for your office. A hybrid layout, as you may have guessed, is a blended layout that features elements from both cubicles and open layouts.


#2) You Can Digitize All Documents

You cannot digitize all documents

You can’t expect to digitize all the paper documents used in your office. While many companies embrace a “paperless” methodology, certain documents simply can’t or shouldn’t be digitized. Original invoices and receipts, for example, should be stored in a file cabinet.

If you only keep digital versions of your business’s original invoices and receipts, you may lose them if your business experiences a data loss event. Maybe the hard drive containing your business’s digitized documents fails, or perhaps your business experiences a cyber-attack. Regardless, you may lose some of your business’s digitized documents during a data loss event.

There’s nothing wrong with using a scanner to create digital copies of your documents, but you’ll still need a file cabinet or similar solution to store your original paper documents. A simple letter-size file cabinet will allow you to neatly categorize all your business’s important paper documents. As a result, you won’t have to worry about lost records if your business experiences a data loss event. Just remember to choose a file cabinet in a color and style that matches the surrounding furniture.


#3) Furniture Should Always Be Placed Against a Wall

Furniture always being placed against walls is a myth

Many people believe that office furniture should always be placed against a wall. While this rule applies to many small offices, it holds little or no merit in larger offices. If you have a medium- or large-sized office, pushing all the furniture against a wall will create a large voided space in the center. The perimeter of your office will be filled, but the center will remain barren and open. In a medium- and large-sized office, an open center such as this will create an uninviting atmosphere that’s neither attractive nor welcoming.

Even in small offices, it’s typically best to leave some space between furniture and walls. If you’re furnishing your home office with a recliner, for instance, placing the recliner flush against the wall will prevent you from leaning back in it. The recliner may look fine, but you won’t be able to use it. Tables and desks should also be given a little bit of clearance from the walls. If they are placed directly against a wall, you may not be able to run cords or cables behind them (see below).

For a proper office design, give tables and desks at least 24 inches of clearance from walls. For recliners, create enough space so that you can recline back all the way without touching the wall.


#4) Office Workstations Don’t Support Laptops

Office Workstations Don’t Support Laptops

Because of the close proximity between their keyboards and displays, laptops are often perceived as a poor choice for modern offices. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) even explains that laptops pose “special challenges” when setting up an office workstation. Therefore, many business owners and office workers prefer using a desktop computer at their workstations.

When using a laptop, you’ll probably type using the built-in keyboard that’s directly below the display. Unfortunately, this means one of two things will likely occur: You’ll either have to look down to view the display, or you’ll have to raise your wrists to an uncomfortable height to type. With that said, there are ways to comfortably use a laptop at a workstation.

Rather than placing your laptop on a desk, you can place it on an adjustable laptop stand. Laptop stands are designed specifically for laptops, so they are comfortable and easy to use. You can adjust the height so that it doesn’t strain your neck or wrists, and some stands even allow you to tilt the laptop for optimal viewing. Another idea is to connect your laptop to an external monitor as well as a wireless keyboard and mouse. With this setup, you can place the keyboard and mouse below the monitor.


#5) All Office Chairs Are Made Equal

All office chairs are not created equal!

Not all office chairs are made equal. When designing your office, you shouldn’t choose the first chair that you come across. Depending on your job and position, you may sit for eight or more hours. If you use a low-quality or poorly constructed office chair, this could lead to back pain.

In any given year, over one in three office workers will experience back pain. The right office chair, however, will allow you to comfortably sit at your workstation while minimizing the risk of back pain in the process. High-quality office chairs are constructed with an emphasis on ergonomics, so they reduce pressure on your spine and neck. Whether you sit for one or 10 hours a day, you shouldn’t experience back pain when using a high-quality and ergonomic chair.


#6) Colors Only Affect Aesthetics

While they certainly affect the aesthetics, colors can affect other aspects of your office.  It’s believed that 90% of all information processed by our brains consists of visuals. We still process text when reading books and newspapers, but most of the information we process comes from the images – including colors.

If you design your office in the wrong colors, it may have a negative impact on your mood. Cool colors, including blue and green, have been shown to induce feelings of calmness, whereas black has been shown to induce feelings of sadness. Warm colors, on the other hand, typically have an energizing effect that stimulates mental and physical activity.


#7) Standing Desks Are Better Than Traditional Desks

Standing Desks Are Not Always Better Than Traditional Desks

The use of standing desks has become a common trend in modern offices. Rather than using a traditional sit-down desk, many office workers now use a standing desk. Standing desks feature an elevated height that allows workers to type on a keyboard and view a monitor display comfortably while standing.

The general belief is that using a standing desk is better for your health since, of course, it requires you to stand. Standing places less pressure on your spine than sitting, and you’ll also burn more calories when standing. Nonetheless, standing desks aren’t necessarily better than traditional sit-down desks.

The problem with standing desks is that they expose other parts of your body to pressure. Your back may feel relaxed, for instance, but your knees may strain when standing for long periods. Studies have even shown a correlation between extended periods of standing and heart disease. If you’re going to furnish your office with a standing desk, consider using a traditional sit-down desk as well.


#8) Ergonomic Furniture Only Protects Against MSDs

Ergonomic Furniture Only Protects Against MSDs - Myth

Furnishing your office with ergonomic furniture does more than just protect against musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs); it maximizes your productivity. You’ll experience less pain and stress when using ergonomic furniture, allowing you to focus on work-related tasks.

Ergonomic furniture is meticulously designed to offer a natural experience when used. In other words, it’s easy and comfortable to use. The most important piece of ergonomic furniture to include in your office is a chair. Since you’ll probably be sitting for extended periods, you need a chair that’s comfortable and easy to use. If it fails to meet the criterium for ergonomic, you’ll be exposed to greater stress during your workdays.

Here are some of the benefits of furnishing your office with ergonomic furniture:

  • Less fatigue
  • More energy
  • No back or neck pain
  • Better mood
  • Improved posture
  • Increased productivity

#9) There’s No Way to Hide Cords and Cables

You Should Always Try to Hide Cords and Cables

Exposed cords and cables aren’t just an eyesore in offices; they are a safety hazard. Statistics show falls are the most common type of workplace injury. In 2017, over one-quarter of all nonfatal workplace injuries involved a fall accident. Falls can occur virtually anywhere in an office, but they are most likely to occur in areas with exposed cords and cables.

Whether you work alone or as part of a team, you should conceal all cords and cables in your office. It only takes a single exposed cord or cable to cause a fall accident. Thankfully, there are ways to hide cords and cables in an office. If you have a standard office desk that’s designed for computer usage, it should feature a channel through which you can run cords and cables. Known as a cable grommet, it’s a rubber or plastic ring that a cutout on the side. Just run your cords and cables through the grommet’s cutout, at which point you can insert them into a nearby wall outlet.

Keep in mind that you shouldn’t run cords or cables under rugs. All cords and cables carry electricity, including data cables. Therefore, they produce heat during operation. If you have a device or accessory plugged in, the cord will generate heat. If the cord is hidden under a rug, however, it won’t be able to release this heat. As the heat builds up, it may ignite the cord or other surrounding objects.

Ideally, you should run cords and cables through a grommet and into a nearby wall. If your desk doesn’t have a grommet, bundle all adjacent cords and cables together using either a management sleeve or twist ties. Management sleeves consist of hard and hollow tubing, whereas twist ties are traditional twist-based fasteners. You can use either of them to safely conceal cords and cables in your office.


#10) Secondhand Office Furniture Can Save You Money

Secondhand Office Furniture Doesn't Always Save You Money

You might be surprised to learn that buying new office furniture is often a smarter financial investment than buying secondhand office furniture. There are local and national suppliers that sell secondhand office furniture. When compared to new office furniture, these secondhand pieces usually have a lower upfront cost, which may lead you to believe they are a better investment.

Secondhand office furniture may have a cheaper price tag than new office furniture, but that doesn’t mean it’s a better investment. You’ll likely save money by purchasing new office furniture, instead.

Like with most secondhand products, there’s no way to predict the quality of secondhand office furniture. A secondhand office chair may show few or no signs of wear, or it could be severely worn to the point where it’s no longer functional.

Furthermore, you probably won’t receive warranty coverage if you purchase secondhand office furniture. Manufacturers typically only provide warranties to the original purchaser. Once the original purchaser sells the office chair, the manufacturer will no longer pay to repair or replace it. As a result, purchasing new office furniture is a smarter financial investment.


Author Bio HeadshotMike Harley

President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.