Studies Show False Economy of Cheap Office Furniture

Studies Show False Economy of Cheap Office Furniture

There has been increasing attention in research towards how the work environment affects productivity, health, creativity, and stress.  Each study has found that office furniture, space, and comfort all have a direct bearing on productivity.  Other studies have found that the same factors can affect recruitment and staff retention, and even job satisfaction.

I don't want to focus on the obvious elements such as ergonomics affecting health and safety.  I want to highlight the more interesting and significant aspect of recent research - the effect on psychology, job satisfaction, and performance.  A range of studies from universities all around the world have all concluded that office environment, and office furniture, have a significant effect on productivity, stress, and staff retention.

Of course, we have to be realistic.  For a great many businesses, one of the major drivers for their purchasing decisions in office space and office furniture is pricing.  The shocking part of the research of course, is that cheap office furniture is a very false economy.  In terms of overall operating expenditure, office furniture is very small, while wages, recruitment costs, and productivity levels are far, far more significant to the profits.  There needs to be a smarter balance.

Individuals and businesses alike are far more image-conscious today than in past decades.  Brand consultants and talk of brand and image seem to dominate so much of business-focused social media.  Yet on the flip-side of that we have an increased focus on bootstrapping and economy.  How do businesses balance the pressure to maximise their brand and image, with the advice to avoid excesses and be efficient?

Obviously, the fact you are here at Rainbow Zebra shows you have already managed some of that balancing of great style and economical pricing.  However, there are still businesses that buy almost entirely on price, without thinking about the fact they are, quite effectively, branding themselves as cheap, minimum viable, towards the people who matter the most to their business – their staff.

Whether making sales calls, answering customer enquiries, or simply talking about their work with friends, your staff are always the people who know what a company truly is, and where its core values really lie.  You already know this yourself, that what you hear about a company through the open channels is often outweighed greatly by the credence we give an insider.

Your staff know if your office furniture is cheap, poorly finished, or uncomfortable.  That awareness is always in the back of their mind when assessing how valued they feel, or where their employer’s commitment really goes.  And it even ties to research done on performance, where staff who feel they are paid or treated better than deserved work far harder and far more diligently.  Treat your staff like they are an elite team and they actually try to live up to it.

We all know that ergonomics matters, and that productivity is significantly increased where a worker can concentrate on their work without discomfort.  But it is only in recent years that research has started to look at the more psychological and social effects of furniture and office space, rather than the directly physical.

2016-08-30_1550Image: Wave Mesh Orthopaedic Chair

Give your staff comfortable, stylish furniture to use, and they get a positive uplift in how they feel about their work, and their value.  Simply put, the work environment directly affects the way you feel about your job and role.  If you feel well-treated, rewarded, and pretty lucky, that reflects in everything you do.  But if you feel uncomfortable, under-funded, or cheap, that too will be reflected in how your attitude and mindset towards every task.

Treating yourself to good office furniture isn’t a luxury, but an actual productivity enhancement, and thus is actually the better economical choice.  Buying cheap may very probably and realistically cost you dearly.  Meanwhile, buying furniture that is better than the employees expect (or than you yourself would ‘settle’ for), may actually enhance productivity to a degree that far, far surpasses the extra expense.

Cherry Crescent Desk

Cherry Crescent Desk

Top Tips for Real Economic Decisions from the experts:

Offices with curves, rounded corners, etc. in their office furniture were significantly rated as both more desirable and more creative in scientific studies.  If two companies offer the same wage for the same job, applicants will almost universally prefer the option with the curves and round corners.  The straight edge furniture office would have to pay more to attract the same staff.

Office comfort and environment is a strong factor in job satisfaction according to several studies.  People working in an office that is comfortable, enjoyable and pleasant are far more productive, and far less likely to leave for other jobs.

Even in India and Pakistan, several studies noted that it is far cheaper to boost productivity by changing the workplace environment than to employ extra staff or have poor staff retention.  Considering what we think about the relative labour costs in those regions, this can only be a lot more significant still in the case of workers and workplaces in Western Europe and the UK.

For our tips on how to put this research into immediate use to help boost the productivity in your office, read our next article.

Some of the studies referenced in this article research:

Posted by Paul Randall
25th May 2017

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