Cable management is the organisation and tidying up of electrical, optical and other cables in your workplace. This includes heavy industry sites, warehouses and factories. But in those environments the health & safety implications of cable management (should!) already be high on the agenda. So here we’re going to concentrate on cable management in the office-related environment.
Cable management comes in many different forms. Most modern desks come with built-in cable management capabilities. For example, portholes in the desk or cable covers that let you quickly and tidily run cable down inside the legs of the desk. And for those of you who can’t bear to part with Grandad’s wonderful old bureau, you can make use of a wide variety of inexpensive cable management accessories that keep cables around your desk tidy and out of harm’s way.
But why exactly is cable management so important?
Why cable management is important for your workplace
Here are 5 major reasons why cable management shouldn’t be seen just as some nice-to-have option that makes the place look a little neater:
Poor cable management = an accident waiting to happen: Without cable management, your cables quickly become entangled (so-called ‘cable spaghetti’) or hang exposed to passing office-worker traffic. Sometimes (often for years at a time) this has no downside. Sure, it looks a little ugly; but otherwise, so what, right…?
Wrong, actually. Because tangled cables are basically an accident waiting to happen. And sooner or later, bingo! Someone trips on a wire or yanks on a cable that won’t reach its port because it’s knotted up with another cable. And then that cable, or multiple cables, get pulled. With 3 possible outcomes (none of them pretty):
The cable and/or port it’s connected to are damaged and may at some later point malfunction. Maybe when the cable’s connected to an expensive and sensitive device.
The cable disconnects from its device, maybe causing it to crash.
The cable doesn’t free itself but hauls the device, for example your laptop, off the work surface and it crashes — in the old-skool, non-digital sense of the word — to the ground!
Cable management makes for a more efficient work environment: We’ve all been there. Someone (accidentally) unplugs a computer, your speakers, whatever. You crawl under the desk to reconnect it and…. are confronted by a mass of wires and no idea where to begin. The only thing you do know is that Murphy’s Law says that if you unplug another cable, it will be the very one that should never, under any circumstances be unplugged. So cable spaghetti means stress, time-wasting, dirty trousers… and who needs all that?
On the positive side, a good cable management system ensures that when you want to upgrade your cables or replace devices, it’s a smooth operation with no connectivity ‘glitches’.
Cable management makes your office look better: Let’s face it. While cable management isn’t primarily about making the place look nice, it does do that, too. And that’s more important than it might seem:
What impression are you making on your clients: When companies spend a fortune on interior design to impress clients, it’s pretty dumb to then undermine all that for the sake of a few euros spent, dollars or pounds on a decent cable management system. It not only ruins the look & feel of your reception area, shared spaces and meeting rooms. Poor cable management creates the conscious or sub-conscious impression with your stakeholders that you’re a disorganised and/or sloppy business. That may not be fair, but there it is.
Impact on your employees: The very same points go for cable management in creating a pleasant work environment for your workforce. Which links to another key issue:
Cable management aids cognitive ergonomics: Most people are familiar with physical ergonomics, which is concerned with making the physical environment more conducive to your work through the use of ergonomic products, such as ergonomically efficient desks, chairs, monitor stands, keyboards, mice, mouse pads, monitor arms and laptop risers. But there are also the relatively young fields of Organisational Ergonomics and Cognitive Ergonomics. This last focuses on areas such as reducing work stress and mental well-being at work.
Obviously negative stress from your work itself is bad news. But increasingly, research is pointing to the negative impact of an unrestful environment on a worker’s sense of well-being. Alongside elements such as plants and art in the workplace, don’t underestimate the soothing effect of a tidy workplace. And cable management plays no small role in creating that restful environment.
Poor cable management could cost you a court fine or your reputation as an employer: Any employer who know nothing about the dangers of poor Health & Safety practices has frankly been living in a box. And it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that dangling cables, unmanaged electricity sources and the like are not a great idea. Nor are they easy to defend in a Health & Safety Tribunal. But maybe more significantly, what does it tell your staff about how you value them, if you can’t even be bothered to tidy away all these potential hazards to their health?
The key components of good cable management
Cable protectors and cable waves; cable loop ties and cable mounting clips; cable spirals, cable eaters and cable worms… — there’s a myriad of cable management products (and wacky names!) out there. So what do they all do?
Cable protectors: A great cable management solution to the unavoidable fact that cables sometimes have to cross areas where people walk. When looking for a high-quality cable protector consider whether it has:
A non-slip surface and underside so you can step on it safely.
It can accommodate all the thicknesses of cable you will be using.
You can easily access your cables without pulling up the whole cable management system.
Cable waves: neatly tidy cables running under a desk top.
Cable loop ties: No, gaffer tape is not OK! A good quality cable loop tie is tough and reusable.
Cable eaters: Apart from a great name, cable eaters are an unmissable part of any decent cable management system. Simply bundle the cables in your hand, feed the cables through the cable eater using the special tool, and you’re done!
Cable mounting clips: Once your cable eater has bundled the cables together neatly, use cable mounting clips to fix the cable eater to any surface: job’s a good ’un, as they say in Manchester.
Cable worms: Basically the same idea as a cable eater (and also with a great name!), the cable worm specialises in tidying cable between desk top and floor. The very place where cables most often hang loose to form a particularly treacherous trip hazard.
Postponing cable management: don’t tempt fate!
It may not be the sexiest area of office design, but cable management is certainly one of the most vital. And putting it off is only tempting fate. Dataflex has a range of high-quality cable management products, and cable management has also been taken into account in the design of many of our other products.