Dec 172014

What to Do When People Keep Borrowing Your Desk Chair

Missing Office Chair

People can feel incredibly proprietary when it comes to workplace items that are owned by the company, but which they nonetheless consider to be “theirs.” This is especially true of the office chair, and it may be due largely to the fact that many office chairs can be difficult to adjust. People take them, adjust them to suit their specific needs, and then return them that way – if they return them at all.
If you’re sick and tired of having to go on a mission to find and rescue your office chair time after time, there are a few things you could try. There’s no guarantee that people will stop borrowing your chair in the short term – it may take a lot of time and effort to modify their behavior. But if holding onto your own chair is essential to your happiness in your workplace, you’re going to have to try.
Here are a few suggestions:

Put it In Writing

You could try attaching a note to your chair saying “Feel free to borrow this chair, but please return it adjusted exactly as you found it.” If you’re lucky, the potential borrower will feel so intimidated at the prospect of having to re-adjust the chair when they’re done that they’ll use it the way it is, or better yet, not take it at all. Of course you can bet that eventually some self-important clod will ignore your note and do whatever he or she pleases with your beloved chair, so don’t count on this working for you.

Model the Correct Behavior

If there should be an occasion when you have to borrow another person’s chair, ask permission. Be seen and heard doing it. Then when you’re finished with the chair, bring it back and make sure that you’re seen restoring the adjustments to the way the original occupant had them. With any luck, people will look to you as the leader you no doubt are, and begin observing proper chair etiquette. You might also take this a step further, and if you should happen to see someone borrowing another’s chair without permission, politely insist that they put it back.

Seek Assistance from HR

Ask your HR department to formulate a policy on chair-borrowing that can be communicated to your co-workers. Most workplaces encourage respecting the rights and feelings of others, so it’s very possible your HR department can help.

Discourage Borrowing

Borrowing can be discouraged in a variety of ways. You might try pushing your chair in so that it’s not quite as “grabbable” as if you’d left it swung outward. You could also personalize the chair in ways that will make it less desirable to your co-workers. If your company permits such “chair modification,” you could add some stickers, or print off a sign that states your name and division. This won’t stop everyone, but it’s a start, and at the very least, if your chair is borrowed, your “search and rescue” mission might not take as long as it usually does.
You could also consider ways that will make your chair very undesirable to others – for instance, take one of the wheels off and put it in your desk drawer. No one’s going to want a wobbly chair that won’t move, and you can put the wheel back on when you get back to work.
You could also attach your chair to your desk using bungee cords, or for a practically impossible to borrow chair, use a bicycle lock. Of course, before you try out these techniques, you might want to check with your supervisor. Either you’ll be told you can’t do that, or they’ll be asking you to pick up a bicycle lock for them as well!