|FAQ, Industry Resource Information
Why install office cubicles? Cubicles solve some common business problems. They offer you a way to divide large, noisy office spaces into private work areas without building permanent walls. Thanks to their flexibility and modularity, you can mix and match a wide range of layouts and extras to provide all your employees with the workspace they need. Why me? Many people who are tasked with buying office cubicles ask themselves this question. Your company must feel they can trust you. However, many of the people charged with locating, evaluating, and choosing cubicles are unfamiliar with the options and process -- after all, it's not the type of purchase you make every day. And, because it's there are so many options, it's not the kind of item you can easily choose from a catalog. Instead, you'll be better off working with a project manager who can help you to design a system appropriate for your space, business, and employees. What types are available? There are two main designs: panel-mounted and freestanding. Most cubicles today are panel-mounted: the wall panels are the basis of the system, and components such as desks and file cabinets are mounted directly onto the panels. Freestanding components use separate panels that are placed around furniture. Each design has its advantages. Panel-based systems offer greater design flexibility, can be equipped with internal power options, and can be a bit taller to provide greater privacy and noise reduction. The main advantage of freestanding systems is that they can be easily installed and reconfigured. This makes them more convenient for firms that will often rearrange or move office space. What features should I look for? Look into the flexibility a given system offers. If you move your office two years down the road, will the cubicles be reconfigurable to fit a different type of space? Can you arrange cubes in traditional rows, "bullpen" style where several co-workers share a larger enclosed space, or in single runs or clustered layouts? Also check the system's durability. Modular furniture is designed to last many years -- the warranties included can provide a good indication of the expected life span. Because you'll be using it for years, you should also make sure the dealer you choose is committed to carrying this line, ensuring the availability and of parts and service. What sizes are available? The most common sizes -- familiar to office workers across the country -- are 6' x 6', 6' x 8', and 8' x 8'. These provide enough room for a computer or two, desk space for paperwork, and perhaps a single chair for visitors. They can be as small as a 4' x 2' call center workstation or as large as a 12' x 12' manager's cube that includes space for several people to meet. Along with the size, you'll need to decide on a height for the walls. Heights range from 42" to 82" -- the choice depends quite a bit on how your employees like to work. Many people like being able to stand up and talk to co-workers, but have privacy when they're seated. 42" to 50" walls are a good height for that type of interaction. 66" to 82" walls create more privacy at all times, but can reduce light and make collaboration more difficult; 42" walls make it easier for employees to work together but provide little privacy. Floor to ceiling applications are also available for private offices and conference rooms. How can I minimize noise? A common reason companies opt for cubicles is to reduce noise, and the right type of system can do exactly that. It's important to remember, though, that no system will eliminate noise completely and that some design choices will make your system even less efficient at blocking sound. Lower panels and glass surfaces can make for a more stylish look, but they both reduce noise absorption. What about looks? Aesthetics are important. Leading cubicle furniture manufacturers provide a range of colors and patterns for fabrics and work surfaces, allowing you to choose a look that's right for you. Standard finishes can be okay -- and can save you some money -- but nicer fabrics can benefit your business image. On the other hand, if looks really aren't that important to you, you may be able to save money by choosing standard colors or fabrics. Currently, 247 Workspace offers 30 standard fabrics, 18 laminates, 10 paint colors and 7 glass options. What about power and other connections? In most cases, you'll need electric power and data network connections run through a row of cubes. You'll be able to choose "base feed" (power that comes from a wall outlet) or "top feed" (where wires are dropped down from the ceiling). However, electrifying a set of cubes makes a big difference on the cost. If your cubes are next to walls or existing overhead power sources, you may be able to save some money by simply adding wall outlets or "utility poles" (non-structural columns that conceal wiring). What accessories are available? Various storage options are available with cubicles, including filing drawers, wheeled pedestals, wall shelving or cabinets, and free-standing bookshelves, many of which have the option to include locks. Sometimes these are configurable by your employees, allowing each person to set up their cube the way they see fit. For computer-intensive tasks, keyboard trays are a welcome addition. Some systems go a step further by allowing the entire work surface to be raised or lowered. Other common add-ons include whiteboards, windows, built-in task lighting, coat hangers, and tack boards. Your vendor can give you more details on what extras are available, and in most cases you'll be able to add them later with little or no extra expense. How important is it to buy all my cubicles from the same source? Many people evaluating office cubicles don't understand the scope of the purchasing decision they're making. It may not seem like choosing a few cubicles will have far-reaching implications, but that may be the case. Buying office workstations isn't like buying furniture at an office supply store. For one thing, cubicles from leading manufacturers are built to last for decades. Therefore, it is very important to stick with one brand. While many brands may look similar, they use completely different hardware and panels and are almost never interchangeable. This means that as your business grows, all your additional modular office furniture purchases will be based on the first decision. What information will I need to provide? Before you start talking to cubicle suppliers, you'll need to prepare some basic information about your office and your employees. First, you'll need to know the floor plan of the space you're looking to furnish. If you can get a scale drawing of your office, great; if not, you should measure the office yourself to get a rough idea of your available space for cubicles. In most cases, you'll wind up working with a designer who will take more detailed measurements later, but knowing the general dimensions will greatly improve your initial conversations with potential cubicle suppliers. Next, consider your employees. Obviously, you need to know how many employees need office workstations. But go one step further: what do those employees do? Cubicles for a department of telemarketers are quite different from the right cubicles for a group of programmers. Talk to your employees about their needs: do they spend more time on the computer, on the phone, or doing paperwork? How important is it that they be able to easily converse with co-workers? Do they have small meetings in their cubes? These factors will influence the size, wall height, and surfaces of the workstations you choose. There are office-wide considerations, as well. Copiers, printers, and any other shared resources need to be accessible without being a distraction to employees seated nearby. Can I get design help? The systems furniture vendor you choose will provide help with all of these decisions. Most will create a computer layout of your office, allowing you to see what various cubicle setups would look like and make necessary changes. Larger companies may also want to hire their own interior designer to work with the vendor, especially if your office gets a lot of visitors. Either way, you should expect your designers to ask many questions about your office environment, your employees and their jobs, and your plans for the future. What about used workstations? The cubicle food chain starts with very large companies buying directly from manufacturers. As they go through layoffs or office moves, they sell the used office furniture back to the manufacturer or to dealers. The dealers turn around and sell the cubicles to small and mid-sized companies for as little as half their original cost. You give up the ability to choose exactly what fabrics you want, but the dealer will still clean the cubes, repair any significant damage, and can usually supply missing pieces. You'll save money this way, especially if you don't particularly care what the cubes look like or even if they match. But you won't get the same type of warranties on these cubicles, if you get any warranty at all. What should I expect to pay? The sticker price for quality office cubicles can be surprisingly high, at first. It's important to remember that it will last for decades, and that your employees will be using it all day, every day. Saving a hundred dollars per cube will have minimal impact on your business in the long run, but getting quality equipment that will keep your employees happy and efficient will make a big difference. So, how much? The answer depends on the size of your order, the configuration of the cubicles, and what accessories you choose for the workstations. For a small order (fewer than 10 cubes) of average sized cubicles, you can expect to pay around $800-$2,000 per cube, and some dealers will have as-is cubes for as little as $700. You may be able to find cubes for $300 in classified ads, but keep in mind that you'll have to pick them up and install them yourself. You'll have no guarantees whatsoever and you won't be able to integrate them with cubes you add later. For a long-lasting solution, it's worth spending a little extra to purchase from a reputable dealer. There are significant economies of scale involved: as soon as you put two cubes back-to-back, you've already saved one wall, and every additional cube means extra cost savings. Also, whether you're ordering new or remanufactured cubicles, the factory saves money producing multiple identical components. Buying ten cubes will provide some discount, while buying over 100 or so can reduce your cost by 30% or more. Bear in mind that these prices are just rough guidelines. In most cases, you won't be quoted a price per cube. Instead you can expect to get a quote for your entire setup. What about delivery and installation costs? Delivery and installation can add to the total costs, so have your vendor include those costs along with the systems themselves. Be sure you know the delivery rules in your building: union buildings will require you to use union members for unloading and delivery; other buildings may have strict rules about when you can unload. Both of these situations can dramatical ly increase delivery costs: Have your vendor account for them if applicable. How long will it take to deliver my order? Start early. Shopping for cubicles isn't a quick process: If you're buying new or pre-owned systems, you can expect an average of three to six weeks between placing the order and delivery. If you choose cubicles a dealer has in stock, it can take a week; if you place your order at a busy time, it can take as long as 10 weeks or more. What kind of warranty can I get? New cubicles should be durable and reliable, and warranties should back that up. Look for a minimum warranty of three years on parts, but expect longer. Lifetime warranties are fairly common in the industry, simply because they provide customers with a sense of security and don't cost dealers much: problems are rare and repair costs minimal. Should I buy or lease? Due to the expense of buying an office furniture system, you may want to consider leasing instead of buying. Most dealers will offer you lease information up front and, if you don't have the available capital, it can be a good idea. You may also be able to take advantage of the fact that lease payments are business expenses, taken from pre-tax income instead of after-tax profits. However most businesses still treat cubes as a capital expense. The financial advantage is that you'll own the cubes. When you're done with them, you can usually sell them back to the same company that you bought them from and recoup at least part of your costs. 247 Workspace will continue to provide related Industry Resource Information to assist our customers with their Office Furniture purchases.