Office Design Tips and Guidelines


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The Diamond Desk Series

The new Diamond Desk Series by Skutchi Designs is a versatile office system comprised of well-balanced elements that can be configured to meet a nearly infinite number of design challenges. Featuring elegant floating work surfaces with beveled edges and sleek modern lines, the superior design and construction of the Diamond Desk Series make it a welcome addition to any contemporary office space.dia-6

Configurable as both a desking system and conference table, the Diamond series can also be paired with the Sapphire Modular Wall System for a complete modern office solution. dia-conference-tableTo order your Diamond Desking System or to find a tailor-made modular solution to any of your office design needs, call us at 1-888-993-3757 or visit us online at

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2016 Office Design Trends

As the commercial design industry rapidly embraces new ways of thinking and more attention is shifted to employee comfort, retention and engagement than ever before, office designers are no longer only concerned with how many employees and corporate logos they can fit into a room. They are charged with attracting talent from multiple generations, improving employee wellness through thoughtful design and creating future-proof spaces that can accommodate growth and advancements in technology. These changes in workplace strategy and corporate culture have led to some of the most innovative and original designs ever brought into commercial spaces. In this article we discuss some of the most prominent trends of 2016.

Collaborative Spaces– In the last ten years, collaborative spaces have become one of the most discussed topics in office design and have seen a particular surge in popularity in 2016. With proponents such as Google and Zappos it’s easy to see why so many companies are jumping on the bandwagon and creating open offices. This isn’t to say, however, that designers are doing away with private spaces altogether. After all, trying to complete highly focused work in a room with 50 other people can be nearly impossible. As a solution, many modern offices use multi-purpose design and modular furniture to make a small space accommodate a larger number of tasks, work styles and employees than would be possible with a conventional layout. With a multi-purpose space an office can transform from an open teaming area to a series of private workspaces as needed, giving businesses maximum use of their space.

Employee Wellness– Modern office designers aren’t just thinking about how a space will look, they are also starting to take into account factors like acoustics, natural light exposure, ergonomics, air quality and ways to encourage movement in the workplace. Many office workers sit for over 9 hours a day and with studies showing how detrimental this can be to an employee’s health it should come as no surprise that strategically placed stairs, walking tracks and standing height desks are becoming more common in office buildings. Health conscious designs also benefit employers by reducing the number of sick days used by employees and increasing their level of engagement at work. Healthier employees aren’t just happier, they’re more productive and creative as well!

Green Design– Bringing the outdoors into the office has become a major theme in modern office design, this may include the addition of a “green wall” made of living plants, more windows for sunlight or the use of natural materials like stone and wood. This trend can be partly attributed to the focus on employee well-being as exposure to natural surroundings and light as opposed to a purely artificial environment has been shown to improve productivity and overall employee happiness.

Technology Integration– As businesses become more data-driven and dependent on new technologies the workplace must change to accommodate the infrastructure associated with these advancements. Integrating electrical and data wiring via hidden tracks and incorporating outlets directly into office panels and furniture gives team members more options in the way they work. This freedom of movement increases spontaneous meetings and collaboration to catalyze innovation and breakthroughs. Offices of the future will take tech integration a step further with wearable technology and advanced modular construction. Some companies are already testing devices that allow employees to work and attend meetings in virtual reality and wearables that monitor blood-pressure, breathing and body position to help designers create a more ergonomic environment.

As the way we view the workplace evolves so must office design, but through every change one fact remains the same, that successful design is based on user experience. Designing from a user-based perspective allows us to create environments that are immersive, efficient and ready for the challenges of the future. For help creating your ideal professional environment visit or call us at 1-888-993-3757 to speak with a dedicated Skutchi Designs representative and take advantage of free space-planning and design services.

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Choosing the right finish for your furniture

Whether you decide to swaddle your office in soft, recycled polyester and mesh fabric or deck it out in more leather and steel than an 1980’s heavy metal rocker, the choices you make in fabrics and finishes can affect more than just the visual impression made by your office. The comfort of your guests and clients, the efficiency of your employees and even things like Greenguard and LEED certifications which can grant certain tax breaks (cha ching) are all affected by the materials you choose. The reputation of a company affects its value to both current and prospective clients and stakeholders and with increasing focus on the health of the environment many corporations are trying to obtain higher LEED certifications to promote a more positive public appearance and they are achieving this through the use of recycled materials in chairs, desks and other pieces of office furniture as opposed to new materials, exotic woods and the hides of endangered species a la Ted Nugent. Another factor to consider in your decision should be the maintenance of the furniture itself and its desired life expectancy, some materials fade and show wear before others and may not be suited for high traffic areas while others like high pressure laminate are virtually indestructible and may very well outlast the galaxy (I’ve got my money on the laminate). Cleaning is also an inevitability that must be taken into account and some finishes can be ruined if the wrong cleaner is used on them, always check with your manufacturer for cleaning instructions and if you’re unsure of a certain cleaning agent test it on a non-visible portion of the furniture before you risk a permanent streak across the back of your favorite chair or the top of an expensive new desk. The first as well as the last thing that should be considered is style, after all your clients and prospects don’t care about whether or not a Clorox wipe will ruin your upholstery. The appearance and aesthetic impact is what will be remembered when a customer walks out of the building and making a powerful and lasting impression could be the difference between landing a return customer or sending them running from your multi-patterned, floral printed nightmare.

In conclusion, careful planning, a little research and knowledge of your resources can ensure a design that is pleasing to the eye, the environment and your budget. All of this and more can be attained with Skutchi Designs, a Skutchi designer can help you achieve the perfect balance of form and function with thousands of products to choose from and a complete line of in-house manufactured cubicles and partitions as well as modular offices. For tough jobs, make the easy call to Skutchi Designs (1-888-993-3757).

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Office Ergonomics

As you read this article you are most likely seated at your computer in an office chair, leaned at least slightly forward with your head protruding further than your chest and ignoring the fact that your chair has built-in arm rests. Was I close? This may seem like a natural, comfortable position and one that you assume automatically when you arrive at your workstation but what you may not know is that this posture, or lack thereof, is putting you at serious risk of developing a plethora of maladies some of which are life threatening health issues ranging from tendinitis to cancer and cardiovascular disease (yikes). This isn’t to say though, that you should immediately quit your office job and become a nomadic hunter/gatherer to avoid the risks associated with prolonged periods of sitting, but there are some steps you can take to improve your health and reduce your chance of physical impairment and disease.

The average person spends 50-70 percent of their day at work and with the amount of people who work in an office-type setting constantly growing it comes with little shock that many healthcare professionals are calling sitting the “new smoking.” This is because excessive sitting is shown to contribute to the development of cancer and other serious diseases. In a review of data collected from 47 studies the information linking sitting to early death was staggering, perhaps one of the most shocking findings being that those who live a sedentary lifestyle are 90% more likely to develop type-2 diabetes. The risk for cancer also rises by about 16%, for cardiovascular disease the risk goes up by 18% and the overall risk of early death from health related issues increases by 24%. These figures make a sedentary lifestyle more lethal than obesity even in a relatively healthy person.

There are many things you can do, however, to help negate the effects of long term sitting some of which are extremely simple such as getting up from your desk every 30 minutes or so and taking a short walk around the office for at least 30 seconds, this movement stimulates the muscles and helps to activate an enzyme called lipoprotein lipase that burns fat, though simply standing will change the distribution of weight in your body and aid in spinal fluid distribution as well as blood circulation. Now, you’re not alone in the battle against the effects of sitting as there are many products available to aid you in achieving healthier, more ergonomic work habits such as adjustable desks which can be raised (some with just the touch of a button) to a standing height or a “desk-cycle” which can be placed underneath a desk and used throughout the day to provide some physical activity without having to leave your work. Some companies are even opting for treadmill-desks which are exactly what they sound like, a standing desk combined with a treadmill that allows employees to walk at a leisurely pace while working.

Now some of these options may sound expensive and unnecessary but the premise behind all of them remains the same, the best way to counter extended periods of inactivity is to be active! Simple, right? You could prolong your own life and drastically reduce your risk of impairment or serious disease just by moving and walking around once in a while! Combine these tips with a healthy diet and even light regular exercise and you will be on your way to a healthier, longer and happier life.

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Building Modular

When you think of modular building you might be brought back to memories of elementary school and those drafty, smelly, trailer-style classrooms commonly dubbed “The Portables”. Usually late additions that were always bone chillingly cold or so hot that you had to peel yourself away from your plastic chair when class was over. While many people think of these wooden and sheet metal boxes when they recall modular buildings this is a dated view of what are now stylish, modern, environmentally friendly and cost effective options. Nowadays modular construction has made its way into the office with exciting and innovative ways to build a workspace that promotes collaboration and teamwork while still affording employees and management some privacy and quiet areas when needed.

                                   Modular partitions and walls have enjoyed such a quick rise to popularity because of their flexible nature, they can be moved to accommodate a change in work force or location or simply rearranged to provide an isolated area for a specific project or meeting. The fact that these units are prefabricated in an offsite facility makes them almost completely mess free during installation so there is no need for major construction, painting or cutting which produces unwanted noise, dust or fumes and can require entire portions of an office to be closed and partitioned off. In addition to the relative cleanliness of installation it is also much quicker than conventional construction and requires much less labor resulting in reduced transactions and ultimately, reduced cost. Though the initial cost of a modular system may be close to that of traditional construction (though savings of up to 40% and even 50 % are not uncommon) the longterm cost will be substantially lowered when accounting for depreciation as a modular system can be completely depreciated over seven years with a yearly write off of 14.3% (1/7th project cost) where as a conventional or traditional construction project would depreciate over a period of thirty-nine years. The reason for this is because a modular installation doesn’t qualify as an actual addition to the structure like traditional methods of wall installation would. Another advantage of modular construction is its ability to accommodate future upgrades in technology and changes in style with removable panels that manufacturers like Skutchi Designs ( offer in nearly endless colors and patterns of fabric and laminate as well as glass.

                                   The benefits of building modular are hard to ignore and as more and more offices and corporations make better use of their space, time and money it becomes clear that modular building is not just a trend or novelty but an intelligent, flexible solution to the age-old problem of space management. With a modular system you are in total control of your space with the ability to change and rearrange it to fit your style of working and grow with your brand. Visit today or call 1-888-993-3757 and speak to a Skutchi Designs representative to learn more about the exclusive Sapphire Modular Office System.

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Germs, the office and you.

It’s that time of the year again, flu season. Time to stock up on hand sanitizer, Kleenex, Lysol, vitamin C and avoid any coughing or sneezing coworkers like the plague. Having just overcome a mild malady himself, this writer feels an obligation to cover this topic and hopefully in doing so can prevent more casualties in the yearly war on sniffling, sneezing, coughing, aching, fever… you get the picture. Since the 1982-83 flu season the most active months for the illness have been recorded by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and the data shows that the peak months are February (14 seasons) and December (6 seasons) followed by January and March (5 seasons each) meaning we’re about to be in the thick of it folks, and many of us are wondering how we can avoid contracting and spreading the loathsome bug without confining ourselves to a plastic bubble until next summer. Now I’m not here to argue that the idea of sealing yourself in a germ-free, human-sized hamster ball isn’t pretty cool (because it is), but most of us can’t take time out of our busy schedules and widen all the doorways in our homes to accommodate such flights of fancy (also, could you imagine trying to get one of those things on the bus?). Luckily there are much less extreme and much more practical ways to stay healthy this winter and spring which we shall discuss.

Now, everyone knows that a flu vaccine is an important first line of defense but as office workers many of us are exposed to the virus on several fronts during the peak of flu season and extra care must be taken to avoid infection. One weapon everybody should have in their arsenal against the flu is information, knowing how the virus behaves and survives can help you limit your exposure and lower your chances of infection. The virus’ primary method of spreading is through droplets which are expelled when those that are already infected with the germ cough, sneeze or talk. These droplets can spread up to six feet away and land in (try not to vomit) other peoples’ mouths and noses or onto work surfaces, desks, food and even float suspended in the air to be inhaled into the lungs. Alright, I know this is a revolting thought but remember that bacteria are literally everywhere, including all over you…. all the time, many are actually beneficial and our immune system keeps the majority of the bad ones at bay. Unfortunately, we are not talking about a beneficial bacterium, the flu sucks. It is especially crafty and able to spread with surprising speed. In a study conducted by researchers at the University of Arizona, a bacteriophage called MS-2 which is harmless to humans but has similar properties to common cold and stomach flu viruses was used to contaminate the door of an 80-person office building and within 4 hours the virus was found on the hands of about 50% of the people in the building and 40-60% of the tested surfaces. This means that if someone carrying the flu were to be walking from their car to the front door of your office and that person happened to sneeze into their hands the entire office could be infected by the end of the day. This is of course a worst case scenario but it gives you an idea of how quickly the flu can spread in an office setting. Keyboards are particularly likely to carry viruses that may be circulating around your work environment, they’re kind of like a disgusting record of everything you’ve touched and are full of cracks and crevices perfect for the accumulation of viruses, skin cells and anything else that falls off of those hard workin’ hands. Regular cleaning of your keyboard and workstation is an effective way of reducing exposure and making it through the flu season unscathed, which is one of the key reasons why Skutchi Designs introduced their all laminate line of cubicles and workstations this past year. All panels, work surfaces and pedestals are washable and can withstand regular, intense cleaning and disinfection. This gives them a major advantage in call centers, medical facilities, cleanrooms and any environment with high occupancy or traffic levels and those with strict sanitation codes. Face masks are another effective method of prevention as they not only stop airborne viruses from being inhaled but also block the wearers face from being touched with a possibly contaminated hand. This may not seem relevant but researchers have found that the average adult touches their face approximately every 10-15 minutes (the number is much higher for children) making it a veritable expressway for germs to enter the body via the nose/mouth.

I realize this all may seem overwhelming, but like I said it’s not time to run for the doomsday vault and bubble suit yet. Here is a short list of easy preventive steps posted on the CDC website that you can take every day to stop the spread of germs.

  • Try to avoid close contact with sick people.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • If you are sick with flu-like illness, CDC recommends that you stay home for at least 24 hours after your fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. (Your fever should be gone for 24 hours without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.)
  • Cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands often with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

For easy to clean and durable laminate/medical cubicles and workstations in a nearly unlimited number of styles and finishes visit or call 1-888-993-3757 and speak to a team member who can help you take advantage of in-house design, space planning, project management and installation services.

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Office Noise

Office noise, it’s distracting, it prevents you from concentrating on your work and it seems like there is nothing that you can about it. Well, good news, there is.

Office noise levels are a major contributing factor to the productivity of a work environment, whether too high or too low if acoustics are not managed then employees and work load will suffer the consequences. Unfortunately, too often designers are so concerned with how a space will look that they never even think to ask themselves “How will it sound?”. More often than not this results in a visually appealing space that is an auditory disaster. You can hear the chatter of your neighbors, their phones ringing, the clatter of their keyboards and in some nightmarish cases even the music playing through their headphones. On top of that you have to deal with environmental noises like HVAC systems, printers and fax machines. This can create a lot of distractions and with studies showing that it can take up to 23 minutes for you to regain focus once attention is diverted it doesn’t take much to lose entire hours of productivity to auditory distractions. On top of all this distraction, high levels of workplace noise have been shown to cause higher levels of stress hormones in employees and can be linked to a higher rate of illness and sick days being used. There are many products available today, however, that not only absorb unwanted noise but also mask it with electronically generated ambient sounds. Of course you can always politely ask an especially noisy co-worker to take it down a notch, but when that isn’t enough, you may need to turn to commercially available tools like acoustic panels and noise masking systems.

Sound absorption is the most common form of sound management and works, to put it simply, by placing barriers made of materials that absorb rather than reflect sound around a source of noise or between it and the area it affects. Imagine throwing a baseball down a hallway with several panes of glass between you and the far end, the ball will pass through the panes (like a soundwave passing through absorbent materials) but will be slowed down by each one and if it makes it to the far end it will have much less force than when it hit the first sheet of glass because the subsequent panes will have absorbed most of the energy. Not all sound absorbing materials are created equal however which is why most come with an NRC (Noise Reduction Coefficient) rating between 0 (Perfect reflection) and 1 (Perfect absorption). NRC is tested at four frequencies 250Hz, 500Hz, 1000Hz and 2000Hz which is a perfectly acceptable range for human speech but if rated at only these levels products may not perform as well when used to mitigate especially low or high frequencies (music, phones ringing, HVAC etc.). Also note that the NRC rating is an average that is rounded to the nearest 0.05 meaning that two materials with the same NRC might not have exactly the same sound absorbing ability, so research is encouraged when shopping for acoustic panels (Note that any upholstered or “soft” materials and furniture will provide some degree of sound absorption). Sound masking is another option that is becoming quite popular when it comes to sound management. Sound masking raises the level of the ambient background noise which lowers the dynamic range of sound in the room (the difference between the lowest sound and the highest sound) this effectively “masks” other “incidental” sounds such as conversation and when properly installed these systems can reduce the radius of distraction from the source of noise to 10ft-15ft (the average being 30ft-60ft). Sound can also be blocked by placing noise-reflective panels or surfaces between the source of the sound and the area that it affects. This is usually achieved with cubicles, workstations or specially made panels and dividers that have an NRC closer to 0.

Of course there are many other factors that affect the acoustics of a room like ceiling height, parallelity of walls, building materials and even the amount of people that will be occupying the space. Remember, though, that noise is completely subjective and what may be soothing to one person may seem as annoying and distracting as nails on a chalkboard to another. The best way to tackle your acoustical problems is to first identify the different sources of the distractions and handle each one independently. For a variety of furniture and panels visit or call 1-888-993-3757 and one of our friendly, knowledgeable team members will work with you to create an office environment that looks and sounds ideal and grows you, your team and your brand.

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Cubicle Care

Work Surfaces:

Skutchi Designs manufactures work surfaces with high pressure laminate, a very durable and resilient material made from layered pieces of resin-treated paper that are fused together during production and applied to a solid core. They are low maintenance and long-lasting due to their resistance to heat, impact, scratching and stains associated with regular use. However, there are steps you can take along with regular cleaning to prolong the life of your cubicles and keep them looking their best for many years to come.

Care and maintenance:

  • For regular/everyday cleaning, wipe the surface with a clean, damp cloth and mild household detergent then lightly rinse and wipe with a soft, dry cloth.Tip- A Magic Eraser can be used to wipe down the surface to remove grease and pen/pencil marks without causing scratches or dulling the finish.
  • For tough, stubborn stains, use an all-purpose cleaning solvent and a clean cloth to wipe stain away then rinse with warm water and dry with a soft, clean cloth. If the stain persists, naphtha can be used to clean area but should be handled with caution because of its flammable nature and toxic fumes. Extra care should be taken to remove all residue.
  • Avoid any abrasive cleaners like Ajax powder or Oven Cleaner and strong acids as these can permanently damage the work surface. Scouring pads, metal wool and sand paper can cause scratching or dulling and should never be used to clean laminate surfaces.
  • Sources of extreme heat such as hot plates, Bunsen Burners and space heaters should never make contact with the surface as they can cause the laminate top to separate from the substrate causing a rippling or bubbling effect or scorch marks.

Note: When using any cleaning solvent or commercial cleaning chemical it is a good idea to test it on the underside of the work surface to ensure it is not damaging to the finish.


Panels are offered in three high grade materials, High Pressure Laminate (HPL), tempered glass and polyester fabric. These panels can provide privacy and acoustical conditioning for your office or work area and come in a virtually unlimited number of colors and patterns.

  • Laminate- These panels are the most durable on the market and provide excellent sound transmission loss making them highly desirable for areas where secure information is handled or where privacy is a concern. They can be cleaned and maintained with the same steps as our laminate work surfaces and should be wiped down regularly to maintain a sanitary work environment.
  • Glass- Glass panels create an open feeling and allow natural light to permeate your office which can elevate moods and increase productivity. Caring for glass panels is as easy as washing a window and requires only household window cleaner and a soft, dry cloth. Tough, stuck-on residue from stickers, glue or other adhesives can be loosened with WD-40 and wiped away but be sure to follow with regular cleaning procedures to remove any greasy spots left behind.
  • Fabric- Skutchi Designs’ fabric panels are comprised of a multi-layer core wrapped in foam and polyester fabric. This construction gives them sound absorbing properties that can mitigate the reverberation of sound waves and help reduce office noise. Fabric panels should be vacuumed with a flat hose extension regularly to prevent dust build-up and wiped with a clean, damp cloth. Stains from ink, food and ground-in dirt can typically be removed by thoroughly mixing ¼ cup of detergent with a quart of warm water and blotting the area with a clean cloth. If you are unsure if a cleaning solution is compatible with your fabric, test it on a non-visible corner and allow it to dry before using it on a visible area. 
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Classroom Design

It really does matter…

                         School design and furniture have come a long way since the advent of the first students desk in 1881 (John Loughlins Fashion Desk). Before this the children who did receive an education did so on plain wooden benches (ouch), seated at lecture tables or at home. However, as time progressed and focus on the importance of formal education began to increase more thought was put into the design of classroom environments and how they affect a pupils ability to learn, comprehend, retain information and progress in their studies. Several comprehensive studies have been conducted in the past two decades (and some even earlier) that link the design of schools and their classrooms to a students progress, one such study performed between September 2011 and June 2012 by the University of Salford found design affecting the academic growth of students by up to 25%. With such high numbers it only makes sense to carefully and seriously consider the effects of the products we put in our classrooms. Things like lighting, desks, tables, chairs, air quality, colors and more all play a role in creating an optimal learning environment.

                        One of the most agreed upon factors concerning design in schools is lighting. Light affects nearly every aspect of our lives, and I’m not just talking about giving us that “ready for the club” tan, it tells us when to sleep and wake-up, it can affect our mood and even raise or lower a persons blood pressure, pulse and respiration rate. Classrooms with a high level of natural light generally perform better than those that rely heavily or solely on artificial light sources as natural light contains can elevate mood and productivity. This doesn’t mean artificial light is to be shunned like the kid at camp who gives everyone lice, it is necessary when natural light is not adequate enough for classroom activities. By creating a list of your lighting needs you can provide tailored solutions for classrooms, science labs, cafeterias, libraries and offices. Regardless of whether a classroom uses natural or artificial light, a well lit class will generally perform better than a dim one, remember, bright lights=bright students (just don’t overdo it).

                       Furniture may be the largest contributing factor to a pupils academic success regarding design. Choices made in furniture selection can make or break a classroom (and in some cases your back), consider how the pieces will be arranged and if they can provide every student with a clear view of their teacher (optimal viewing range is within 12 feet) and also if the pieces are age appropriate, durable enough to withstand regular classroom use, from a reputable manufacturer and of course, in budget. One attribute that has become a topic of major concern is whether or not the products are “Green” which isn’t to say you should deck out your classroom in Hulk memorabilia (though it’s not a bad idea), it means the pieces are environmentally friendly. This can be achieved by using recycled materials in their production (either post-industrial or post-consumer) or by receiving GREENGUARD® certification, this means that the product is certified by the organization which set the standard for air quality in schools and will contribute to better indoor air quality. The ability to integrate technology is also important with more and more schools using tablets, laptops, charging stations and other devices rather than a simple chalkboard or textbooks (boring). Being able to run wires and cabling through tracts and not along ceilings or floors is not only more aesthetically pleasing but much more safe and like they say in shop class “Safety first”. For examples of GREENGUARD® products and thousands of other school furniture solutions visit or call 1-888-993-3757.

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