10 Mistakes to Avoid When Buying Office Furniture
Furnishing your office with the right furniture is essential to your business’s long-term success. From executive chairs and computer desks to file cabinets, end tables, partitioning walls and more, all commercial offices can benefit from high-quality furniture. By choosing the right furniture, you’ll foster a productive environment that allows employees to work more efficiently, resulting in greater success for your business. When buying office furniture, though, you should avoid making the following 10 mistakes.
#1) Choosing Mismatching Colors
The color of your office furniture won’t affect its performance, but it will affect your office’s aesthetics. If you choose furniture in an eclectic combination of multiple colors, your office will look outdated and poorly designed. Mixing brown and black furniture, for example, isn’t recommended because these two colors clash with each other. To create an attractive workspace, you should choose furniture in a matching color scheme. You don’t have to limit yourself to using furniture in a single color. Rather, choose colors that compliment each other so that it promotes an attractive working environment in your office.
Here are some popular color schemes for office furniture:
- All black
- White and black
- White and brown
- White and gray
- White and green
- Light brown and dark brown
- Blue and gray
- Blue and white
- Blue and brown
- Brown and gray
- Silver/chrome and black
#2) Overlooking the Upholstery
When buying office chairs, recliners, sofas and other forms of seating, pay attention to the upholstery. Different types of office furniture feature different kinds of upholstery. And the fabric from which the upholstery is made will affect its comfort, longevity and overall value.
Leather upholstery is a popular choice for office chairs and other forms of seating. Consisting of tanned and processed animal hide, typically cowhide, it’s uniquely soft and luxurious. The downside to leather office furniture, however, is that it tends to cost more than other fabrics. According to Better Homes and Garden (BHG), vinyl is an attractive alternative to leather that’s easy to maintain and costs less than its leather counterpart. While genuine leather is a natural, organic fabric, vinyl is classified as a synthetic fabric because it’s manmade. Therefore, it’s able to withstand moisture, dust and contaminants without succumbing to damage.
A third fabric commonly found in office chairs and other forms of seating is polyester. This synthetic fabric features many of the same characteristics as vinyl, including moisture resistance, durability and longevity. Like vinyl, polyester is a relatively inexpensive fabric, making it an attractive choice for business owners seeking to furniture their office with new furniture.
Finally, faux leather has become an increasingly popular fabric for office furniture. Also known as eco leather or bonded leather, it’s a synthetic fabric that’s designed to look and feel like real leather. But because it is manmade, faux leather is cheaper to produce and, therefore, costs less to purchase than genuine leather.
Benefits of faux leather office furniture include the following:
- Costs less than genuine leather
- Repels moisture and contaminants
- Easy to clean
- Resistant to mold and mildew
- Soft, supple texture that reduces stress
- Resistant to fading
- Doesn’t crack or otherwise damage easily
#3) Only Buying Enough Furniture for Your Current Workforce
According to a report by Forbes, U.S. businesses generating less than $5 million can expect to grow by roughly 7.8% per year. Assuming your business follows this same path, you’ll need to hire more employees to sustain its growth – and each employee whom you hire will need furniture to perform his or her job. If you only buy enough office furniture for your business’s current workforce, you may be forced to buy different, nonuniform furniture pieces for future hires.
Unfortunately, no business can predict exactly how many employees it will hire in the future. Some businesses may hire five new employees a year, whereas others may hire 50 or even 100 a year. Hopefully this doesn’t happen to your business, but there’s always a possibility of downsizing in which a business will lose employees rather than gain them.
Nonetheless, it’s best to err on the side of caution by purchasing more office furniture than what your business currently needs. Having a half-dozen or more extra workstations will allow you to accommodate the needs of any new employees whom you hire in the near future. If you currently have 20 employees working in your office, for instance, consider buying at least 26 individual workstations.
#4) Choosing Computer Desks Without a Slide-Out Tray
Not all office desks need a slide-out tray. For computer desks, though, a slide-out tray is an essential feature that shouldn’t be overlooked. Statisticsshow that up to 5.8% of the population will develop carpal tunnel syndrome (CTS). This otherwise common musculoskeletal disorder (MSD) is characterized by pain, numbness and a pins-and-needles sensation in the wrist and/or fingers. While anyone can develop CTS at any time during their life, it’s most prevalent among office employees who type using a computer keyboard for multiple hours a day.
You can protect your business’s keyboard-typing employees from CTS and other related MSDs by investing in computer desks with a slide-out tray. These desks are designed with a flat top on which you can place a computer monitor (or monitors) as well as a printer, telephone and other equipment. A few inches below this top surface, however, is a separate tray that’s designed specifically for a keyboard and mouse. It’s ergonomically designed to reduce wrist stress when typing, so employees who use them are less likely to develop CTS than their counterparts who use a traditional desk with a single, flat top.
According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – the government-run organization that’s responsible for protecting U.S. workers from on-the-job injury and illness – the slide-out keyboard tray should have a minimum height of 22 to 28.3 inches. In other words, vertical distance from the floor to the slide-out keyboard tray should be at least 22 to 28.3 inches. This is a comfortable height that promotes comfort and productivity among workers while also protecting them from CTS in the process.
#5) Not Allocating Enough Funds
Some business owners assume that they can furnish their entire office with new furniture for just a couple hundred bucks. It’s only until they start shopping for new furniture when they realize that this isn’t feasibly possible. You may be able to secure a few pieces of low-end furniture for this price. But to create multiple, high-quality workstations in your office – complete with a desk, chair, file cabinet and other furniture – you’ll need a larger budget.
According to business entrepreneur and investor David Cummins, businesses should expect to spend about $2,100 per employee for mid- to high-end office furniture. That may sound expensive, but you should view office furniture as an investment in your business’s future. It pays off in the form of increased employee satisfaction and productivity – two factors that are invaluable to your business’s success.
#6) Purchasing Oversized Furniture
Space is an invaluable commodity in a commercial office. An article published by TIME found that the average size of office cubicles in the United States has decreased from 90 square feet in 1994 to 75 square feet in 2010. As office cubicles continue to shrink, it’s important for business owners to consider the size of their furniture and whether it will fit in their respective employee workstations.
Prior to ordering new office desks and tables, get the measurements of the cubicle or area in which you plan to use them. You can then use these measurements to purchase office furniture in an appropriate size. The furniture should be smaller – both length and widthwise– than the cubicle or area in which it’s used. If it’s too big, you’ll have to completely adjust the layout of your cubicles, which requires a substantial amount of time and work.
#7) Prioritizing Style Over Ergonomics
There’s nothing wrong with choosing stylish, aesthetically pleasing office furniture, but you shouldn’t prioritize appearance over ergonomics. Ergonomics is actually more important than appearance, as it affects employees’ comfort when using the furniture. OSHA explains that ergonomics in the workplace reduces muscle fatigue, protects against MSDs (including CTS), and encourages a higher level of productivity.
How do you know if office furniture is ergonomically designed? There are certain standards for furniture that specifically focus on ergonomics, such as EN 1335:2012, EN 1728:2012, ANSI/BIFMA X 5.1 and others. With that said, most well-known, reputable brands of office furniture emphasize ergonomics in their products’ design. They design their office furniture so that it minimizes stress and increases productivity among employees.
For office chairs, some of the top reputable brands include the following:
- Work Smart
- Harwick Evolve
- Herman Miller
#8) Overlooking Employee Privacy
Unless you’re specifically trying to achieve an open office design, you should choose office furniture that promotes a private working environment for your employees. A study conducted by the Ponemon Institute in conjunction with 3M found that U.S. employees are 50% less productive when working in open spaces where they have little or no privacy. For large businesses with more 7,500 employees, the cost of this lost productivity is estimated at $1 million per year. Even if you have small business with just a handful of employees, though, lack of privacy can still take a toll on their productivity.
You increase privacy for your business’s employees by investing in the right office furniture. A workstation with tall partitioning walls, for example, allows employees to work in a private environment without coworkers or other people watching their every move. Additionally, you can install privacy filters on employees’ computers. These filters attach over a computer monitor so that only the worker who’s directly in front of the monitor can see it. Anyone who attempts to look at the monitor from the side will see a dark, tinted screen.
#9) Choosing Office Chairs With Fixed, Non-Rolling Legs
Traditional office chairs with fixed, non-rolling legs can lower employees’ productivity. Even in a small 75-square-foot cubicle, employees must still move around their workstation to access documents, tools and other equipment needed to perform their job. If an employee is forced to use a chair with fixed legs, he or she may struggle to move around their workstation. Thankfully, there are office chairs that feature multiple rolling legs on the bottom, allowing employees to easily move around in their workstation.
Charles Darwin is actually credited with inventing the modern office chair with rolling legs. One report suggests that Darwin installed rolling legs on the bottom of his chair so that he could access his research specimens more quickly. Darwin’s design become popular, with businesses throughout the United States and elsewhere incorporating them into their offices. Today, you can find a variety of high-end office chairs featuring a five-star design with five individual legs and rolling casters on the bottom.
With that said, traditional office chairs with non-rolling legs are still useful in certain areas of the office. In waiting rooms and conference rooms, for example, there’s really no need for chairs with rolling legs. But for employee workstations, office chairs with rolling legs are an important feature that can improve employees’ productivity levels.
#10) Buying Office Furniture Without a Warranty
Buying office furniture that’s not backed by a warranty is a serious mistake that should be avoided. If neither the vendor nor manufacturer offer a warranty, it’s usually because their furniture is inferior to their competitors’ furniture. They know that their furniture is likely to break, so they don’t offer any type of warranty. You may think that you are getting a good deal on an office chair or desk that’s not backed by a warranty, but you’ll quickly realize this isn’t the case when the item breaks. Without a warranty, you’ll have to pay out of your business’s pocket to repair or replace it.
To avoid this headache, only buy office furniture that’s backed by a warranty. Most reputable manufacturers of high-end office furniture guarantee that their products will be free of defect for a certain length of time. Some office furniture comes with a one-year warranty, while others may come with a six-year warranty. If the furniture breaks within this period, the manufacturer will pay to repair or replace it.