Consider Workplace Needs When Purchasing Office Furniture

Purchasing the right office furniture can increase flexibility, productivity and effectiveness which, in turn, can lead to greater profitability for a college or university. Because this type of capital expenditure can directly relate to bottom-line results, it is important to look at the purchase as part of a larger process. It is critical to evaluate the needs of the workplace and consider how office space can work for an organization. The following suggestions can help in the process of purchasing office furniture.

1. More time should be spent planning than purchasing. Developing a comprehensive planning philosophy aids in clearly defining the individual needs of your work environment. Whether you decide to employ a traditional planning strategy or work in groups and teams and require a community-based planning strategy, determining a precise direction is essential to a successful office furniture purchasing process.

2. Have a furniture management plan in place. Recognize that a furniture purchase is part of a larger cost chain that includes all aspects of the purchase – from pre-purchasing (planning space, evaluating employees’ work styles and establishing budgets) to post-purchase (inventory, accounting and forecasting).

3. Tie the physical space and the furniture purchase to the strategic business plan. Often furniture purchases are reactive, responding to specific requests, rather than operating on a broader purchasing plan. Reactive purchasing leads to higher costs.

4. Define your furniture needs around the attributes of a work setting. In other words, what characteristics must you have in a work setting? Interior architectural elements that can support cabling and wiring needs? Mobile furniture to accommodate team meetings? The key is to purchase furniture that can adapt to change and can be reconfigured as your business strategies change.

5. You may already have what you are looking for. It is just as important to have guidelines for managing surplus furniture as it is to have guidelines for purchasing new furniture. Managing the inventory of existing furniture makes it easier to explore what you already have when a need arises.

6. Buy furniture for its function, not for its form or image. The primary objective is for furniture to fit the work styles of the people who use it. The secondary objective is aesthetically to reflect a company culture. If the furniture is not appropriate for the way people work, it becomes an obstacle rather than a facilitator of effectiveness and productivity. For example, office settings that integrate power and communication through plug-and-play products afford employees the capability to relate comfortably to their environments.

7. Consider alternatives to furniture ownership. Alternatives include leasing and rental. The changing, dynamic organization often needs the flexibility of paying for only the office furniture it needs at a given point in time. This may enable organizations to avoid the outlay of capital for an investment that will change through time.

8. Consider the health and safety of employees. Contributing to a healthier workplace for employees is both an ethical and a cost issue. Keeping in mind adjustable work surfaces and ergonomic seating, as well as lighting and acoustical issues, when purchasing office furniture helps avoid costly liability and other related expenses, such as workers’ compensation.

9. Consider an alliance or partnership. Develop it with an office furniture dealer and manufacturer who can keep costs down while maximizing your effectiveness. A partner who is familiar with today’s workplace issues and understands your particular needs can help you achieve the best results.

10. Understand and quantify the total added value received from your furniture dealer/manufacturer. The extent of knowledge, the level of service and the quality of the product offered can be measurable tools used in determining the value received.

11. Do consider physical space and office furniture as tools that an organization may use to achieve its goals. Physical space, including furniture, should be part of an integrated system along with the people, business processes and information technology within your organization. Together these parts work to leverage human capital and affect bottom-line costs.

Bob Burton is an account manager with the World Wide Alliance Group at Grand Rapids, Mich

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