How To Choose Office Furniture

U-shaped desks or L-shaped? Vertical cabinets or lateral? Bankers lamps or torchieres? When you’re outfitting an office, the furniture choices can seem endless.

But before you start throwing items in your online or in-store shopping cart, industry experts recommend that you consider several main issues, including budgeting, space allocation and business image.

* Determine how much you can realistically spend on furniture, then research places with the best prices and selections. Furniture dealers, office supply stores and online catalogs are obvious stops. If you order online or through catalogs make sure you’re familiar with the product and check the return policy in case the furniture doesn’t meet your expectations. Also check to see if the dealers will install your furniture.

For those on a tight budget, don’t discount government and university surplus sales. Call your county or state administration office for sale dates and procedures. Sometimes the items are already priced; otherwise, they may be sold by sealed bids. You will be required to arrange for the items to be moved.

* Consider the number of hours you and your employees plan to spend in the office. For example, if your work is primarily outside sales, you may be able to forgo expensive or ergonomically designed pieces. But if your job is computer-centric, such as accounting or programming, appropriate lighting, ample desk space and a comfortable chair are essential.

* Industry experts also advise that you calculate the size of your office, and figure how the furniture will accommodate the employees – including future workers as your business grows æ and the anticipated number of visitors.

* Think about the image your business is trying to project and buy furniture and artwork to match. An upstart paralegal service will likely use more conventional pieces and corporate photography or art, while a graphic design shop is expected to look funkier, with modern paintings, even sculpture. In either case, local artists looking for exposure to a wider audience might be eager to hang their work in your office for free.

Now you’re ready to shop. Take an inventory of essential items – desks, chairs, lamps, filing cabinets and bookshelves – before spending money on frills. While the brushed steel lamp may seem irresistible, consider going with chrome and funnel the savings into items that can affect the quality of your work environment, such as an ergonomic computer keyboard or deluxe desk chair.

Don’t overlook communal furniture such as conference and breakroom tables and reception chairs, and remember to include small items like trash cans, fire extinguishers, desk organizers, coat racks and bulletin boards.

If you’ve ever spent eight hours sitting in a wobbly, low-back chair, keyboarding at a dimly lit table – and have the carpal tunnel to show for it – you know the most important components of an office are chairs, desks and lighting. The chair seat should be 16 to 20 inches high and be deep enough so that it doesn’t hit the back of your lower legs. Make sure the chair is adjustable, has tilt tension, armrests and offers lower and upper back support.

When you sit in the chair, there should be 1 inch of space on either side of your body.

To avoid eyestrain, appropriate lighting is essential. Ambient light should shine from the side of your computer. Don’t put a light in front of your eyes or place your computer in front of a window. A desk lamp can help illuminate your work, but don’t let light shine onto the computer screen. If glare is still a problem, consider purchasing an anti-glare screen for your monitor.

With your personal comfort taken care of, it’s time to buy items that will help keep the workplace organized. When choosing bookshelves, Vishal Rao, editor of the Homebased Opportunity Web site advises buying wooden or metal. Fiberboard will often warp or sag. The shelves should not be more than 6-feet high because they can tip over, particularly if you have a home office with small children who can climb. If your budget allows, buy fireproof cabinets.

A computer credenza can become messy, with a tangle of cords spilling onto the desktop. Instead, purchase a desk or credenza that allows you to hide the wires, including those for printers, scanners, external hard drives and other accessories. If your computer has a separate CPU, you might want to buy a trolley so you can roll it beneath your desk. When selecting a computer desk, be sure your keyboard fits the shelf. Some keyboards, particularly ergonomic models, can be too large.

Herminia Hudson