Office furniture affects more than just aesthetics; it plays a role in workers’ productivity, morale, health, teamwork and more. According to a survey cited by BusinessNewsDaily, however, nearly 90% of workers are not happy with their current working space. Workers cited several reasons for this dissatisfaction, the most common being lack of privacy.
Employers and office managers can overcome this challenge and regain the confidence of their workforce by upgrading their office with new furniture. Renovating your office with new furniture will allow you to address workers’ concerns, such as privacy, while also better aligning your office with your company’s culture and values.
However, there are a few do’s and don’ts you should follow when buying new office furniture…
Do Get Measurements
Trying to “wing it” with your measurements is a recipe for disaster. Whether you’re buying a new chair, desk, conference table, shelving unit, filing cabinet, etc., use a tape measurer to determine exactly how much space you have available and compare it with the product’s own dimensions (width, height and depth). Upgrading your entire office with new desks only to discover later the desks are too big is a serious headache – but thankfully it’s also something that can be avoided by taking measurements.
Additionally, you should also consider doorway and staircase measurements and whether the furniture can easily fit through. In the United States, commercial buildings are typically constructed with specific door measurements using the International Building Code (IBC). Under the IBC specifications, doors should be 32 to 48 inches wide and a height of at least 80 inches. Because of the varied door width specifications, you should measure the doorways in your office to ensure your furniture can pass through.
Keep in mind that you may be able to tilt certain furniture on its side to pass through doorways and tight spaces. Alternatively, you may be able to move the furniture through doorway while it’s still packaged and then build it once you reach the other side.
Don’t Prioritize Price Over Quality
There’s nothing wrong with trying to get a good deal on your office furniture. After all, a full-sized laminate desk with a matching hutch can cost upwards of $2,000 – and that’s only a single piece. If you’re furnishing or renovating an entire office, you can easily burn through your available budget. While saving money is great, though, you shouldn’t prioritize price over quality when buying new office furniture.
A cheap desk made of particle board, for instance, will likely wear down more quickly than a higher quality desk made of solid oak or birch wood. So, while it may cost less than its higher quality counterpart, you’ll end up spending more in the long run when you’re forced to repair or replace it. Always choose quality over cost-savings to avoid headaches such as this.
Do Consider Mobility
Office chairs typically fall under the category of being stationary or mobile, depending on whether they roll. Stationary chairs feature fixed, pole-like legs that do not move, whereas mobile chairs feature wheeled legs (known as casters) that can move.
Consider the area in which the chairs will be used and choose the type that’s best suited for your needs. Mobile office chairs are generally recommended for use in working spaces with desks and conference tables. Stationary chairs, on the other hand, are typically used in reception areas and waiting rooms where mobility is not required.
You’ll probably notice that most mobile office chairs have five wheels instead of four like their stationary counterpart. Why the nuance in leg numbers? With four legs, stationary chairs are easily stacked and can be placed flush or near flush against walls. Mobile office chairs, however, typically have five wheeled legs for the following reasons:
- It improves the chair’s stability
- Less likely to wobble and tip over
- It increases the chair’s weight
- Creates more even distribution of the chair’s load
Don’t Overlook Cost of Ownership
Consider the total cost of ownership (TCO) when shopping for new office furniture. Popularized by Gartner Group in the late 1980s, TCO refers to a financial estimate of the direct and indirect costs associated with a product. Basically, you want to estimate how much the furniture will cost you over the course of its lifetime, which is the product’s TCO.
The initial sale price of office furniture typically isn’t the total cost. If you’re upgrading your office with a large desk, you may need to hire someone to assemble it, adding to the TCO. Or if you’re buying new cubicles or walls, you’ll have to pay someone to install them, also adding to its TCO.
Repairs are another common cost associated with office furniture. If your new desk falls apart – and it isn’t under warranty – you’ll have to pay to get it fixed. Over the course of the desk’s lifetime, this can greatly add to its TOC.
There’s no way to predict exactly how much money you’ll spend on a piece of furniture throughout its lifetime. However, taking into account factors like assembly, installation and repairs can help you estimate the TOC. And remember, you can minimize repair costs and subsequently lower the TCO by choosing high-quality furniture that’s backed by the manufacturer and/or vendor.
Do Choose Ergonomic Furniture
When choosing office furniture, make sure it’s ergonomically designed to minimize stress and strain on workers who use it. This is arguably the single most important thing to consider when buying office furniture.
If your furniture isn’t ergonomically designed with the end user in mind, workers will become less productive, experience a lower morale, and it will increase their risk of injury.
According to a study conducted by researchers at Washington State’s Department of Labor and Industries, office workers’ productivity increases by 15% when ergonomic chairs and furniture are introduced. The same study also found that money spent on an ergonomic redesign was paid back in less than a year. This begs the question: how does ergonomic furniture essentially pay for itself?
According to a report published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the average worker who sustains a work-related musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) loses about seven days of work for every MSD incident. If a worker suffers from severe lower back pain caused by prolonged sitting on a non-ergonomic chair, for instance, he or she may take seven days off work. Or if a worker develops carpal tunnel syndrome (CPS) while using a poorly designed desk, he or she may also take a week off work.
This absenteeism places a heavy financial toll on employers. A separate study found that health-related absenteeism at work costs U.S. employers more than $260 billion every year. When a worker takes time off, the employer must exhaust additional time, energy and resources to find a replacement.
Furthermore, employers must cover worker’s compensation expenses when a worker is injured, and statistics show that $1 of every $3 spend on worker’s compensation goes towards MSD-related injuries like lower back pain and CPS.
Here are some qualities of an ergonomic office chair:
- Adjustable height, allowing workers to achieve an eye-level position with the top of their computer monitor while also keeping both feet planted on the floor
- Adjustable armrests so workers can rest their arms when using the computer or writing
- Proper lumbar support
- Tilt lock feature
- Sturdy, high-quality construction that doesn’t bend, flex or otherwise change shape through regular usage
- Doesn’t pinch or dig into the worker
Don’t Buy from the Wrong Company
Of course, you should buy your office furniture from the right company. Hopefully, nothing happens to your new furniture, but if a problem arises – either during or after the purchase – you want a company that’s eager to help.
Not all furniture companies stand by their products. Some use a bait-and-switch tactic where they promise to deliver an exceptional-quality piece of furniture, but once it arrives the customer realizes that it’s a lower quality piece. Unless the company offers returns, the customer may be forced to keep his or her subpar furniture.
You should also beware of hidden fees and charges when shopping for office furniture. Just because a product is listed for a certain price doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s the final price. Granted, there’s nothing with charging for shipping, but furniture companies should be upfront and transparent with these and other associated costs.
So, choose a company with an iron-clad return policy and transparent pricing when shopping for office furniture.
Do Choose a Timeless Style
Office décor and design trends change on a regular basis. A design that’s popular today may be outdated and obsolete next year. Unless you plan on replacing your office furniture annually, you should choose a timeless style.
Avoid bold and bright-colored furniture styles and instead stick with a more basic, modern style that will withstand the hands of time. A black mesh-back adjustable chair for instance, is an excellent choice for desks. Leather executive chairs are also a timeless style. You can still choose sleek, aesthetically pleasing furniture, but it shouldn’t be over the top.
Here are some characteristics of timeless office furniture:
- Clean lines
- Basic colors (either single or two-tone)
- Natural wood tones
- Symmetric design
- Efficient use of space
Don’t Buy Used Furniture
Buying used office furniture may sound like a great way to save money, but it may backfire by costing you more money in the long run. First and foremost, used furniture typically isn’t backed by the manufacturer with a warranty. Warranties either expire or don’t transfer after the transaction. So, if something happens to your new furniture, you’ll be left with a damaged product that you must pay to fit.
Another problem with used furniture is the potential for hidden damage. You really don’t know who used the furniture, for how long they used it or what they did to it. As such, buying used office furniture is a gamble. You may get lucky and find a great deal on a high-quality, gently used piece. However, you may also end up with a product that has serious underlying damage that you were unaware of.
Let’s face it, used office furniture typically looks worn and aged. Even if there’s no structural or other serious damage, it may have scuffs, blemishes, fade marks and other imperfections. Do you really want to “upgrade” your office with visibly worn furniture? (hint: you don’t)
For the reasons and others, avoid buying used office furniture and stick with new pieces instead. The piece of mind knowing that it’s backed by the vendor and warranty makes it well worth the cost. You might also be surprised to learn just how nominal the price difference is between used and new office furniture.
Do Choose Furniture That Supports Future Growth
In addition to a timeless style, you should also choose office furniture that supports future growth. Growth is a fundamental metric of a company’s success. Successful companies are continuously increasing their revenue, expanding their reach and tapping into new markets.
And with this growth comes the need for office updates and improvements. If you hire new employees, for instance, you may need to rearrange your furniture to accommodate them. This means shuffling desks and file cabinets so you can create an additional workspace for the new employee. If you have large, bulky office furniture that’s difficult to move, you may have trouble achieving this goal.
To support future growth, your office furniture should also accommodate technology. Today, most computer desks are designed with hidden cable runners in the back. Power cords, USB cables, printer cables, etc. run through this area, essentially concealing them from plain sight. Given that computers are essential in the modern workplace, this simple feature should be a requirement for all office desks.
Upgrading your office with new furniture is a smart decision that will pay off in multiple ways. It promotes higher productivity levels, higher worker morale, and it allows you to reinforce your company’s culture. Just remember to follow the tips outlined here to ensure you get the best deal for your money.
President at Office Chairs Unlimited – I have been in the furniture industry for over 20 years, and I’m an expert (just ask me) on all things furniture. I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two.