Buying Office Furniture? Don’t Make These Four Mistakes

Even in the most thoughtfully designed office spaces, there’s still a potential source for discomfort and heartache: the furniture.

I’m not a design expert, but, like most of you reading this, I’ve spent enough time in office spaces to notice when something is off! Desks too close to a huge drafty window in the winter months, meeting rooms where everyone can hear every word you say, no good place to take private phone calls ––we’ve all been there, right?

Yet, even in the most thoughtfully designed office spaces, there’s still a potential source for discomfort and heartache: the furniture.

From early-stage startups to multinational SMB’s in million-dollar skyscrapers, I’ve seen so many offices that share common mistakes with their choice in office furniture, no matter how expensive, or brand conscious, the fittings may be.

I appreciate how complicated designing an office space can be, given there are plenty of factors to work around. Yet, I realize just how much impact furniture choice––or lack thereof––can have on company culture and workplace productivity.


Mistake #1: Overlooking employee needs

You may assume that if you give employees desks, chairs, and break rooms, they’ll be all set to come into work and get stuff done. In a lot of cases, you’re right. But today’s modern offices and open layouts, offer distinct hurdles to productivity.

Consider open plan offices. Do you have a hard time finding a place to make phone calls? Are you frequently distracted by noise and goings-on around you? Office furniture manufacturer Steelcase has performed studies that show a lack of furniture options (to create alternate spaces around the office) can create an environment that isn’t conducive to productivity and efficiency.

Photo:Jud Mackrill, Unsplash
Photo:Jud Mackrill, YFS Magazine

If you’re selecting office furniture for your small business, make sure to consider the needs of your team including client meetings, phone calls, and quiet workspaces –– above and beyond the standard desk-and-chair layout.


Mistake #2: No plans for the future

Does your office space scale? A lack of foresight is common for many startups when they choose an office space. Too many times, companies will buy exactly as much office furniture as they need without any additional furniture for new hires, and backups (i.e., to replace chairs that break over time, etc.).

If you plan to grow your business and truly scale, it will save you a lot of trouble in the long run by having flexible office solutions and extra furniture accessible. Office Chairs Unlimited suggests keeping extras relative to how many employees you currently have on-site. For example, if your office has 20 employees, you’ll want to have at least 26 complete workstations (i.e., chairs, desks, etc.) and ensure you have enough furniture on-hand for new hires or potential replacements.


Mistake #3: Rushing the buying process

If you’re redesigning your office space or moving into a new office, you’re probably excited about the process and prefer to hurry through it so you can get back to business. However, rushing is never a wise idea — even with something like picking out office furniture (which might not be your top priority).

Photo:Jud Mackrill, Unsplash
Photo:Jud Mackrill, YFS Magazine

When picking out office furniture, office planning specialists, Right Size Facility, recommend you consider how each item will be used and how often it may be needed. Are there daily tasks that could be made easier with an improved and multi-purpose meeting room table? Could lounge furniture help create a quiet work area where team members can stay productive away from their desks? Before you purchase twenty identical office chairs and consider it a job well done, review your office layout, walk around your space, and ask yourself if there’s something you’re overlooking.


Mistake #4: Ignoring space limitations

Speaking of walking around your space, this next lesson is a little personal.

For example, I used to work in an office where our chairs were pretty uncomfortable. We were told some newer, nicer chairs from a well-known furniture manufacturer, were on the way. One day our fancy new European chairs showed up in flat-packed boxes that couldn’t fit in the elevators. As a result, the poor guys in charge of assembling our office furniture had to assemble each chair, by hand, on the first floor, and send then up (one at a time) on the elevators. Looking back, this was a problem we could’ve planned for.

Furniture company Arenson offers this advice: Do a bit of groundwork, before ordering new office furniture. Ensure your new furniture doesn’t impede traffic flow. Not only should you measure the furniture you plan on using to make sure it can fit comfortably in your workspace, you should also make sure you can easily get your new furniture inside your office.

Before you hit “Order” on a new desks or a lengthy conference table, measure a few doorways and inquire about how each piece of furniture is packed and shipped.

Even if you’re not actively shopping for office furniture, keeping these anecdotes in mind can go a long way towards preventing issues with your next office space design or overhaul. Choosing the right kind of office furniture can go a long way towards keeping your team as productive and engaged as possible.


Tim Allen is a freelance writer and content creator from Detroit, MI, with specialties ranging from business planning, business financing, architectural theory, video games, and movies. He can usually be found playing guitar in his band, grumpily learning HTML, or driving hours out of his way to try a new brewery.


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