Wow Your Coworkers: The Trendiest Workplace Items for 2016

Is your desk a unique collection of Lego figures as individual as your personality?

Or is it a clean minimalist oasis of beautiful materials and bright, open spaces?

Whether your personal desk décor preferences lie at one extreme or the other, we can all agree that we care about the office spaces we occupy.

After all, the average American worker is going to spend 40 to 60 hours in that space per week, and the number of hours is climbing.

Given that these hours take up the most active and vibrant parts of our day, many of us spend more productive time in the office than our own homes! It’s little surprise, then, that many people like to customize their work spaces to fit their needs and personalities.

With so many different knick-knacks vying for desk space, we’ve compiled a list of the trendiest things you didn’t know your work space needed in 2016.

Related Article: Smarter, Not Harder: Tools That Help Your Business to Be More Efficient

Some of them are sure to surprise you.

1. Fidget Finger Massager

Picture of the Figit Finger on a hand

All of that typing and clicking can lead to cramped hands. Take a break with this relaxing little contraption that releases tension in your fingers. A Slinky for your finger, the Figit Finger Massager is the definition of novelty office knick-knack.

At $2.50 each, they’re ridiculously affordable and work well for people who are very tactile, think of the software engineers flipping pens around in their fingers or the executive assistant who rolls her scrunchy around her hand like rubber bands. And if you think this product was on our list just to make a Goldeneye GIF reference, well, you’re not entirely wrong.

2. Indoor Rock Climbing Wall

This one comes from the tech world where studies have proven that taking a physical break and challenging your body is just as important as taking a mental break. And is there a better way to inspire mental focus than having just proved to yourself you can scale a wall? You can do anything. Channel that inner Spiderman, both the athletic side and the world class scientist side. Office rock climbing gyms are very much a niche thing, but they’re catching on.

Rock climbing well in an office setting

3. Sleeping Pods

Unable to suppress that third yawn in the past half hour as your eyes slowly attempt focus on your computer screen in that primo nap time range after lunch? You’re not alone. More than a mere excuse to rack up some Zzzzs on the company clock, there are numerous studies and empirical evidence that tout the benefits of sleeping breaks throughout the day.

And, to get your boss’s buy-in on purchasing a napping station, simply refer them to this list of some of the most productive and valuable companies in the world who’ve already implemented progressive napping policies. Headliners include Google, Capital One, and even Ben and Jerry’s ice cream. The addition of a napping pod will definitely turn your office into the next dotcom darling overnight.

There are several styles of napping pods to choose from to fit your needs, but many have a standard set of features including a darkened or enclosed space to block out ambient light and noise (sometimes called a “privacy visor” and a long space to stretch out.

Most of the designs feature elevation points meant to enhance blood circulation and reduce stress on pressure points. That Nap Shell looks awfully inviting, though the MetroNaps Energy Pod clearly took some design cues from Alan Rickman’s robot character Marvin.

Picture of a pod with a person inside
Become one of the pod people.

If you’re short on money (the MetroNaps pods start around $13,000) but have dignity to spare, consider the Ostrich Pillow from Studio Banana Things. Best described as a fabric squid that consumes your head, the name’s awkwardness is only the appetizer to this three course feast on your self-esteem, as this is the portable head-engulfing nap solution you never knew you needed. You’re welcome. 

Picture of a woman and child asleep on a couch with the ostrich pillow on their heads
“You get a head squid, and you get a head squid, everyone gets a head squid!”

4.  The Standing Desk: Autonomous.ai and Varidesk

Moving from the quirky and expensive to the practical and (relatively) affordable, the next item on our list is the VariDesk Standing Desk. While new studies are claiming that sitting for long periods of time is not bad for your health, prevailing wisdom and our collective lower backs agree: standing throughout the day is better than long stretches of sitting for eight to nine hours.

If you’re a typical office worker, you’re stuck at your desk in a sitting position nearly all day, which can definitely lead to back pain and increased weight gain around the mid-section. Fortunately, there are products available to combat those negative effects of sitting. Enter the standing desk.

Picture of the varidesk pro plus with computers on top.

While there have been standing desk products on the market for years, they’ve typically been too expensive and unwieldy for most workers to adopt. There are now two good solutions to counter these obstacles: a sub-$300 motorized adjustable standing desk from Autonomous.ai and VARIDESK’s “desktop converter”, which transforms existing desktops into standing-ready workstations.

Available starting at $395, Varidesk’s “Pro Plus 36” is a great solution for office workers who have restrictions on removing existing office furniture or have a layout they already prefer. Resting on your existing desk, it allows you to raise your workspace up to 36 inches so you can continue to work while standing.

More compelling is Autonomous.ai’s Smart Standing Desk, available at a remarkably cheap $299. The next cheapest product is the very similar BEKANT from IKEA, at nearly $200 more. The BEKANT was the previous record holder for low prices, with the Ergo Depot Jarvis Bamboo coming in at around $750, and some other manufacturers’ products going up $1,500.

That $299 price tag suddenly looks very tempting, doesn’t it? Spring for the artificial intelligence-equipped deluxe edition and it’ll even integrate with your home’s HVAC systems, dim the lights, and order you food delivery. The future is here, and I, for one, welcome our new robot standing desk overlords.

5. The Treadmill Desk

Take the positive attributes of the standing desk solutions above, add some low impact, high calorie burning walking throughout the day, and you’ve got the treadmill desk. A quote from treadmill desk maker TrekDesk’s site underscores the growing issues of sedentary lifestyles at work and home that are leading to record obesity levels in America.

“America is facing a growing obesity epidemic in large part due to the sedentary nature of employment and recreation. The average total time spent online is now 30 hours per week (all activities, source: newmediatrendwatch.com). Adults in the 18 to 29 age bracket spend more than 40 hours a week online, essentially the same amount of time as a full time job.”

According to several different experts and reports, even healthy people who workout regularly cannot always counterbalance the negative effects of extended sitting.

Just how effective is a treadmill desk at combatting the negative health effects of traditional seated lifestyles? One user, Paris, from YouTube channel Epic Reviews Tech says that his treadmill desk has helped him lose 40 pounds over the past year. This is actually well known to many online gamers, as many players who’ve enjoyed the addictive World of Warcraft online game have been using treadmill desks since as early as 2005 or 2006.

By merely enjoying the time they were already spending online with a low impact treadmill, many users have lost dozens of pounds each. One user lost almost 100 pounds, cured his sleep apnea, and even developed an exercise routine.

Picture of a treadmill - work while walking

This beauty will change your life. Have a cup of coffee: you just walked yourself a quarter mile.  Brush up talking points before that meeting: you’re up to half mile. Finish up that task you have been putting off: oh look, you walked another mile. Feel those endorphins. Embrace that productivity.

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Industry news and reviews site Work While Walking has a guide to the best integrated treadmill workstations and separate reviews for non-integrated ones as well. Be aware that most of these desks are separate components, the treadmill bases specially designed to work in an office environment (low noise, high durability) and the specialized motorized desktops (design changes made to accommodate the treadmill) so they start at a relatively high $2,000+.

And for those of us on a budget, the cheaper Target version is a good option, costing little more than a standard treadmill.

6.  The Desktop Punching Ball

Whether you want to be like Mike or have always dreamed of entering the ring as Rocky, this next gizmo’s for you. When the stress ball that has been in your drawer for years just isn’t enough, it’s time to upgrade to the Desktop Punching Ball. A scaled down boxing gym punching speed ball on a spring and suction cup, this is just what ol’ Mickey would order to get you into peak corporate ladder-climbing condition.

The product description says that it is durable enough to “withstand any amount of executive venting”, so come to think of it, buying this for your boss may be the smartest business move you make all year.

7.  Minimal Care Gardens

Airplane plants, also called spider plants or St. Bernard’s lily, are beautiful vibrant green broad-leafed flowering perennial herbs. Native to South America, they are super easy to grow inside and thrive in minimal light and water environments making them the perfect tropical touch to your workspace. This little touch of tropical paradise is just the thing to keep you focused on hitting your goals to earn that next vacation.

Airplane plants can be grown in a variety of enclosures and they don’t need soil to grow, so you can fit them in among your other desk items very easily. Pottery Barn’s tillandsia terrarium has a pretty aerated glass sphere and a beachy vibe making it the perfect desktop companion for spring and summer. 

Picture of a plant inside of a glass ball with sand and sea shells

8. Collaborative Workspaces

Collaborative workspaces may best be identified with the Silicon Valley business trends list, but with Millennials stepping up to take the workplace reins, this environmentally friendly idea is the future. Out with cramped cubicles and in with large desks and lounge type spaces that encourage engagement with other people.

The idea was pioneered in Lockheed Martin’s famed skunkworks where engineers and designers all sat alongside the assembly operations rather than removed, so that problems and issues could immediately be identified and fixed without corporate hierarchies placing artificial barriers on problem solving.

Having people work directly surrounded by their coworkers increases brainstorming and interdepartmental exchange of ideas. While this may not work in some industries, this type of interaction is vitally critical in many “knowledge worker” industries where the rapid exchange of information and ideas is crucial for product creation, software development, and solution finding.

It’s estimated that as of 2013, advanced industries that encompass technology research and development and STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) produced nearly 17 percent of the nation’s GDP. This doesn’t even include other knowledge industries like law, health care, marketing, or software development, meaning the total is even greater. That’s a lot of people who could benefit from these open spaces.

Picture of collaborative work spaces

How much does redesigning an office for more productivity cost?  

One industry insider we spoke to said that office overhauls like this typically happen when a company is moving to a completely new location, making the process easier than retrofitting an existing space. These jobs range from $20,000 for a small office to $100,000 to $500,000 for a large office, and of course custom features like the big tech stars could cost more (napping pods at $13,000 each will eat up a big chunk of budget quickly).

9. Emoji Stuff

Everyone’s getting emoji fever. Apple recently released a whole new set of emojis for their iOS devices, and Android is set to release “dozens” of new emojis with their next software update.  Clearly, people are crazy for collections of emoji characters. Now that apparently everything digital is getting a real life analogue, it only makes sense that office workers everywhere would want to spring their emojis from their mobile devices and into the real world.

Emoji Masks, created by product development startup Need/Want, became a national Halloween craze a couple of years ago when Huffington Post, CNET, and MTV (among others) featured their debut. The most popular emoji mask? The poop one, naturally.

Picture of a couple with emoji masks on while holding beers

Emoji Beanbags by Hayes Specialties Corporation. More than the little pillows or small desktop sized beanbags we’ve already seen, these full size bean bags are perfect for stashing in open collaboration spaces, in a meeting room, or even between cubicles for impromptu meetings and a more relaxed work space.

Emoji beanbag

10. Coloring Books for Adults

Yep, this is an interesting trend that we’ve witnessed take the corporate world by storm. According to an article by CNN, and similar ones from other news outlets, coloring books for adults are seeing a surge in popularity due to the purported calming, destressing effects that coloring can produce. Heck, even Bieber is touted as being fond of using adult coloring books of a different kind to help reduce symptoms of ADHD.

On the surface, it makes sense: if we spend most of our waking hours engaged with thought-intensive activities like work concerns, family concerns, traffic problems, child care, meal preparation, bill paying, etc., having an abstract activity like coloring is a good way to let our minds wind down from the day’s stress and reset.

The immediate and obvious positive feedback of seeing definite progress may also be especially helpful to knowledge workers who may not see projects show any visible progress for weeks or months. It’s similar to painting, but far more accessible and cheaper, which may help explain its mass adoption.

Adult coloring book with coloring pencils

In an article on Inquisitr.com, art therapist Nadine Jenefsky confirms: “The drawing is already there, so you don’t have the anxiety of the blank page and you also kind of already know that it’s going to look kind of pretty when it’s done and also you don’t have to make many decisions. When we think of art therapy and structure, we think about something that is supportive, that guides you.”

Related Article: Stop Stressing: Time-Saving Tools to Help You Become More Productive

Technical and creative recruiting agency Vitamin Talent recently got into the act, providing coloring books and colored pencils to its clients. The books contain similar information about the benefits of coloring and are full of Mandala patterns topped by inspirational quotes from such figures as Ray Bradbury and Albert Einstein. The pencils are recycled products, making this a green way to relieve stress.

Adult coloring book with swear word designs

Looking for a fun way to tell the world how you really feel while reducing your tension levels? Pick up this Swear Word coloring book by novelty publisher Adult Coloring World. They actually produce many types of coloring books beyond these novelty ones as well, including animal coloring books, zombie coloring books, tattoo designs, and religious iconography coloring books.

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