Whether you call it a Task Chair, an Office Chair or a Swivel Chair it is one of the most important “tools” in your office. This is especially important for team members who spend a significant amount of their workday seated in an office. A proper task chair not only provides ergonomic comfort, but also has been proven to increase efficiency and productivity. As a commercial furniture dealer with literally hundreds of seating options available to us, we are constantly trying to determine which options are best for a particular clients needs. The concept of “value” weighs heavily in this decision making process. We try to find that “sweet spot” where price, function and appearance coincide in the right combination to satisfy our customer. When it comes to seating, appearance usually takes a back seat to function and price. That leaves function and price to duke it out for dominance. It is impossible to ignore the importance of pricing in the current economy. Unfortunately, price often overwhelms “value”. “Cheap office chairs” is a common search string on the internet. The results produced by this search will often list hundreds of sites where you can buy task chairs for less than $100. How tempting is this to a potential buyer? The first thing you need to do is to determine the final price. How much is shipping, assembly (if available), and do you need to buy an extended warranty? These items can easily add 50% to your bargain. Also keep in mind that these products are usually sent to you as they arrived in a container from their Pacific Rim country of origin, shipped in pieces that you will need to assemble. This is typically a 30-60 minute proposition, adding more cost to your “bargain”. If any of these products have a warranty, they’re usually capped out at one year. Commercial seating should have a 5 year warranty of parts as an absolute minimum. Most commercial seating manufacturers offer a limited lifetime warranty on the mechanical components of their products. The warranty, often overlooked, is a great indication of quality. If a manufacturer is willing to back its product throughout its useful life, chances are they are confident that the product will perform as expected without any breakdown. Really inexpensive chairs are essentially disposable. Cheap chairs look like any other chair when you give them a casual inspection. Closer examination reveals their flaws. As mentioned before one of the reason they can be sold so cheaply is that the buyer is expected to supply the labor to assemble it. When you break down the components that are used in assembly, you start to see major differences in material quality that will eventually lead to product failure. Often the foam used in the seating is of poor quality that compresses much more quickly than a high quality foam. The result is a hard, uncomfortable seat that results after only a few months of use. Fasteners are usually anchored into a plastic component, which eventually results in it becoming loose or separating altogether. The components such as the adjusting mechanisms and arms (if any) are the least expensive available. The result is that you have limited function and greater potential for failure. These functional limits such as the inability to adjust back height, arm position, back tension and seat depth result in a chair that is uncomfortable for the majority of today’s working population. Manufacturers recognize that they need to fit the 95 pound woman who barely breaks the 5′ height barrier and the 250 pound former athlete that “let himself go” a little. You don’t need to spend a fortune on a good task chair. It’s easy to spend $800-$1000 on a chair today. However, there are wonderful products in the $250-$400 price range that will provide comfort, longevity and will outlast 2-3 bargain chairs. They will deliver value.
When can I have it? This is one of the most asked questions that we get. Sometimes it’s the most difficult to answer. Officenter lives in the world of “contract furniture”. This basically means that we don’t keep furniture in stock. We place individual orders with our manufacturers on behalf of our customers. This obviously creates a lead time that runs counter to our brave new world of instant answers and next day delivery. While many manufacturers have a “quick ship” program available (more about this later), it will typically take at least a month for a standard transaction to be delivered after it’s ordered. The wait is worth it in almost every circumstance. Here’s why.
1. It will almost always save the customer money. First, there are a wide range of options for almost every product that we sell. Each option has its own cost. By matching these options with your real needs, we can achieve optimal pricing for you. Secondly, manufacturers usually extend their best discounting on orders that are not expedited. In fact, many will add a significant surcharge for orders that are fast tracked. Dealers like Officenter will normally pass the additional discounting through to the customer and add the quick ship surcharge. Additionally, outlets for “next day” deliveries will often have very high delivery charges that will really pump up the price.
2. You get what you want. Minimal planning will not only get you great pricing, but also get you the best product solution for you. As mentioned above, there are a lot of options available with todays office furniture. You dont need to settle for an off-the-shelf solution. You will most likely be living with your product selection for a long time. You might as well get what you need. Take something simple like seating fabric as an example. Most “stock” items available over the internet, from “big box” stores and most quick ship programs allow you to choose your fabric as long as it is boring black, dull gray, blah blue, or vintage burgundy. You may not need a “wild” fabric pattern, but a little design and color will give your office a professional look. In almost every case these are also the lowest end fabrics that have the shortest life, which leads us to our next point…
3. You get the quality you deserve. Virtually every contract manufacturer that we deal with manufactures to standards established by BIFMA (Business Interior Furniture Manufacturers Assoc). BIFMA establishes testing standards for construction, safety, usage and longevity. Many of the available “next day” solutions are Pacific Rim imports that don’t adhere to these manufacturing standards. A good way to measure quality is to pay attention to an often overlooked feature, the warranty. Every quality product will have a 10 year to lifetime warranty on the physical structure of the product, with 5 years on fabric. This is typical of products that pass BIFMA standards. Lower end products usually come with 1 to 5 year warranties on their products.
4. You can be Green. Many businesses and public entities have recognized the many advantages to buying from an environmentally conscious perspective. Contract furniture manufacturers were quick to recognize this and brought products to market that answered these needs. In most cases these options need to be chosen, or “built in” to the product. Again, many of the “next day” solutions are far from environmentally friendly products since they’re made in countries that are environmental disasters.
5. You get the service you deserve. Contract dealers like us will include; delivery, assembly and inside installation and some design services with our sale. This will also include Project Management for larger installations. This bundle of services is a huge advantage for you as the customer and can be a significant cost savings. When buying quick solutions evaluate the whole package. A lot of furniture is not shippable by package services like FedEx or UPS. In some cases your “delivery included” or “delivery charges” means that a common carrier (tractor-trailer) shows up at your door. Your job then begins. You’ll need to get it off the truck, into your office, assembled and installed. Contract dealers do this for you. We even remove the trash created by the packing materials.
6. Your workspace will be more efficient and ergonomically correct. In addition to getting the product features that you want, a little advance planning will allow us to work with you to get you a workspace that fits your needs and will be ergonomically friendly. Contract manufacturers have a wide range of standard furniture components and customized “specials” in their product mix. Combining them (sometimes creatively) will give you the optimal configuration for your workflow through the office as well as efficient individual workspaces. Even manufacturers with the most aggressive quick ship programs will not make all of their components available on quick ship, just the most common ones. It also follows that good design creates good ergonomics. If a workspace is designed well, we can “design out” ergonomic pitfalls like over-reaching, stooping and lifting in addition to creating optimal sitting positions. When you’re buying commercial furniture, you’ll be literally “living with it” for several years.
Frankly, you will also be making a financial investment that can be significant. Taking time to follow a planning process that includes; product evaluation, space planning and allowances for manufacturing time and installation will always pay off. We also realize that “perfect world” settings don’t exist. That’s why they’re called “perfect”. It may be unreasonable to allow adequate time for a particular project, or even the purchase of an individual item. Quick ship programs were mentioned throughout this blog. They are becoming more prevalent, more aggressive and easier to use. They are getting better. You now have more products included; more fabric and option selections and they almost always deliver as promised. However, they are not a cure all solution. In most cases, you can cut the lead time down to about two weeks so it will help you out considerable, but may not completely solve your time crunch. It will always be a more expensive solution, usually 5-10% higher than standard lead times. You will have more product selections available than in the past, but these are still limited. In the end, you might be paying more for a solution that may not be exactly what you need, but is workable. If you have the luxury of time, use it to your advantage. Planning a commercial furniture purchase has a variety of tangible, cost effective payoffs. It’s worth the wait.
Most of our workspaces are shrinking, resulting in more people working in less space. Current design trends, encouraged by LEED standards, are reducing the height of panel based workstations. Additionally, we are migrating to a more “open plan” collaborative environment with less private spaces. All of these factors have positive economic, environmental and operational reasons for their implementation. The tradeoff? A more noisy environment, with less privacy.
Noise in the work environment increases stress and reduces productivity. Privacy, especially when dealing with client/patient confidentiality, can be a real source of concern and a violation of existing legislation like the HIPPA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) and GLBA (Gramm, Leach, Bliley Act). There is a fairly simple and inexpensive technological solution to solve both the privacy and environmental noise problems in a workspace. Sound masking is a fairly old concept, but recent advances in product development and technology have made it more effective as well as economical. It works the same for both privacy and environmental issues. Essentially, it is an artificial noise source that is just a bit louder than the existing environment. The outcome is that the artificial noise will “cover” the sounds of clicking keyboards, printers, faxes, humming HVAC and conversations while presenting a steady, pleasant and unobtrusive sound background. This may seem counter-intuitive, but it makes sense. Pleasant sound is created that is just slightly louder than the annoying environmental noise thereby blocking out the annoying noises and making normal speech unintelligible.
The best analogy for Sound Masking is if you are sitting on a beach and you can’t understand the conversation of the couple sitting next to you. You know they’re speaking. You may even hear some of their voices, but you can’t understand their conversation. The reason for this is that the sounds of the waves, children playing, the wind etc. are masking the speech of your neighbors. Speech privacy is becoming an essential consideration, especially in the legal, healthcare and financial environments. Floorplans for acute care facilities, clinics and financial institutions are reflecting the current trend of designing open, inviting and customer friendly spaces. Speech that is not confined behind hard walls and closed doors will be heard, unless active steps are taken to prevent it. The key to making this all work is creating a balance between high, low and middle speech frequencies that is pleasant and unnoticeable to human hearing. Most providers of sound masking produce a whiney, high pitch that will mask noise, especially in the speech ranges. However, most of these will probably be turned off eventually due to their annoying output. We have found one provider who has found the solution by developing a reasonably priced product that operates throughout the perceptible range of hearing frequencies and most importantly is comfortable to hear.
Sound Masking is not sound reduction, or sound elimination. If you have a loudmouth co-worker down the hall, sound masking will reduce his diatribes to an unintelligible blur. You’ll still know that he’s talking, but you won’t be able to actually understand his latest monologue on healthcare reform, making him much less of a distraction, and allowing you to get on with your work. The product can be included in new construction, or retrofitted into an existing location. It does not need to be installed throughout your workspace, only in those areas that need sound masking. For example, an outpatient pharmacy may only need to install it at the transaction counter and waiting area, not throughout the storage areas. A law firm may only want to apply this technology to conference areas that are accessible to clients. It is reasonably priced at $1.50 -$2.00 per square foot, which includes installation. One consideration to keep in mind, is that these units may also be used as a paging system. Most of the cost of Sound Masking may be offset by eliminating your paging system from your budget.
Implementation of the system is easy, even if it is on a retrofit. Officenter will assess the environment, and ask you for a floorplan. We will gather the information for the factory engineers who will specify the correct products and location for the product. A factory installation crew will then install it. In many cases the actual operating units may be installed above your ceiling without being seen in the workspace. The bottom line is that environmental noise and speech privacy is now a necessary design consideration, with legal implications, for both new and existing office environments. There is now a reasonable, proven, existing technology that addresses these concerns. For more information, please contact your Officenter Sales Consultant, or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org
Every business has its terminology, jargon and slang. Sometimes, there are differences in terms’ definitions that are obvious to the “insiders” of the business, but the “outsiders” (most likely customers) either don’t recognize the difference, or “fill in the blanks” so the terminology makes sense to them. Two terms in the commercial furniture industry that are often misunderstood by both the insiders and customers are chairs designed for “heavy duty” and ‘24/7” uses.
Intuitively, you would think that a chair designed as “heavy duty” would be appropriate for use around the clock, and vice versa. Nothing could be farther from reality. “Big and tall”, or “heavy duty”chairs are essentially designed for bariatric applications. Most task chairs today are typically rated for 8 Hr./day use with a maximum weight rating of 250 pounds. Almost every domestic manufacturer, now has a Big and Tall chair that resembles a standard task chair but is rated to accommodate 350 pounds, 500 pounds and even 700 pound individuals for a typical 8 Hr. shift. The weight limit is determined by the manufacturer, and will vary by model. The buyer will need to determine the weight rating that they need and ensure that the chair they are considering is appropriate for their need. These are usually wider, with extremely strong seat pans, mechanical components, bases etc. Virtually, every component from the casters to the upholstery are designed to support 2 to 5 times the weight load of a standard office chair. They are intended for a very narrow segment of our working population.
Chairs designed for “24/7” have a completely different purpose. These are typically designed for a multi-shift operation like 911 centers, power plant operation centers and nursing stations. It’s assumed that a “normal” weight load will be placed in the chair for up to 24 hours in a day. This chair is designed for constant use, not heavy use. The 24/7 chair is designed to withstand repetitive motions over an extended period of time. Additionally, it typically allows a significant amount of adjustments to accommodate a wide range of body types, within the “normal” range of body weights. Adjustments must be able to safely and comfortably support a thinly built woman on the first shift as well as a large man on the third shift.
There are heavy duty, 24/7 chairs that combine the two features allowing for increased weight capacity and constant use. Generally, these should only be used by larger people only on each shift that it is used. Smaller individuals may not fit comfortably in these hybrid chairs due to the fact that it can’t be adjusted properly to accommodate a smaller person.
Good communication between the buyer and the seller is essential to get the proper chair for the application. Don’t rely on broad descriptions like, “I need a heavy duty chair for our Ops Center.” Ask “Why?”. The first questions should be directed toward the need for “heavy duty”. Is it for weight, or duration? Once this line of communication is open, it will allow both buyer and seller to home in on the optimal product to meet the customer’s need. Like most purchasing decisions, time spent up-front to search for the right product will eventually result in a more cost effective purchase. Special application seating is generally much more expensive than a “normal” task chair.
Determining the customer’s exact application will allow you to buy only the features needed. Additionally, the warranty will be protected. Due to the nature of these products, most manufacturers’ warranties have very strict limits for claims. Buying the right product will protect any future warranty claims by keeping your actual use within the limits of the product’s intended use. There are many wonderful products on the commercial seating market designed to respond to consumer’s particular needs. These needa can only be met by clear ommunication and understanding by both seller and buyer.
“Going Green” is everywhere. Beyond being a buzzword, what does it mean? More importantly, what’s the payoff for being “Green”?
“Green” usually means conducting business in a manner that reflects a substantial commitment to environmental sustainability. How this is accomplished will vary by industry. For example, in the commercial furniture business it means selling products that are made from renewable and recycled resources. It also means reducing packaging and delivery resources. In regard to “payoffs”, currently there are no national monetary incentives for going green. There are some local initiatives to offer tax incentives to firms who meet some standards such as the US Green Building Council’s LEED program.
In the absence of a quantifiable financial payback why bother at all? What are the advantages of “going green”?
1. It’s not going away. Green is a color that is being deeply woven into the fabric of American business. Soon, it will be as ubiquitous as just-in-time inventories, email communications and overnight package deliveries. Learn about it now, start implementing and get ahead of the curve.
2. It’s the right thing to do. Let’s face it. We know the planet is in trouble, and every incremental effort to improve our environmental situation is worthwhile. Since “Earth Day” in 1970, these individual incremental improvements have resulted in significant improvements in air and water quality. We can do more, especially in the areas of reducing waste and conserving consumable resources.
3. It’s patriotic. In addition to saving Mother Earth, we are also supporting domestic manufacturing. Most American manufacturers, regardless of their industry, are making some commitment to “green” manufacturing. This can’t be said of our foreign competition. By supporting “Green” initiatives in your purchasing decisions you are in de facto support of American industry.
4. It will save you money, eventually. You may not get an immediate rebate, tax credit, or “green” incentive; but the whole purpose is to reduce resource use. This means saving money. In many businesses, energy costs are a significant expense. If these are reduced as a result of a Green initiative, savings and profits will follow.
5. It establishes your credibility in the supply chain. We are seeing that more and more buyers are requiring that their suppliers and sub-contractors commit to (and document) their environmental initiatives. In many cases, it is a pre-requisite for inclusion in the chain.
6. Your customers are asking for it. Like members of the supply chain, end users are requiring an environmental commitment from firms that sell directly to them. They may be actively pursuing LEED certification, or are positioning themselves to apply for it later.
7. It will give you a public relations advantage. If you can tell a good “green story” about your firm, you can leverage this to your advantage. When buying any item for your business, especially office furniture, consider the “green factor”. Many manufacturers such as Allsteel are making it easy for you to document your green purchases. They have established a standard report called a “Environmental Data Sheet” that documents and quantifies the “greenness” of individual products.
While there may not be strong financial incentives for adopting a “green” purchasing policy, the list above offers a strong argument for considering the implementation of one. If you need assistance in green product selection, please contact your Officenter Sales Consultant, or one of our staff Designers for suggestions. All members of our Sales and Design team are trained in products that are designed to be in compliance with current environmentally friendly design standards.
Our dealership has traditionally done a lot of work with government and not for profit organizations. Our work with our government clients has necessarily involved us in using either GSA schedules, or “State Contracts” as pricing and purchasing tools. As a result of our familiarity with these programs, it’s obvious to us that “non profits” are also able to utilize these contracts. This is especially true in our home state of Pennsylvania. Before we go any further, we should make a case for why anyone would want to even consider using a State Contract. The primary reason is pricing. This alone should be an incentive since it provides a deep discount from the manufacturer that you probably could not get on your own. Essentially, you are being extended the “volume discounting” that the State enjoys. Depending on the manufacturer, you will probably save 10-20% on every order. This should be the most compelling reason, but there are more. To go more in-depth on this subject visit our website by clicking here. What’s obvious to us is not always apparent to our not-for-profit customers. It seems that a week doesn’t go by where we don’t need to convince someone that, “Yes. You really, really can use the State Contract; and you won’t go to jail”. Many non profit customers assume that they are ineligible to utilize the State Contract system due to one, or both of the following reasons. The first is, “we don’t receive any State funding”. The second is, “we are a religious group”. In Pennsylvania at least, neither of these will disqualify you for using the various State Contracts. The manufacturers on these contracts welcome as many users as possible, and the State wants to extend their programs as broadly as possible. Additionally, there is no “funding” from the State which eliminates any conflict. The most popular program in Pennsylvania, for non profits is the COSTARS program. In addition to furniture, members also have access to contracts for software, computer hardware, janitorial supplies and a whole range of products and services. For eligibility information, you can access the Commonwealth’s website by clicking here for their FAQs. There is no cost for membership. We always suggest that you apply for membership to establish your eligibility. To see the range of eligible members, we suggest that you do a search by Clicking Here . Search your own county. You’ll be surprised that not only is your local government and school district a member, but also many churches, synagogues and mosques. If you’re managing a non profit, take some time to explore the option of using the State Contract system. It’s easy, and it will save you money on furniture as well as most of the products you use every day. Return to Officenter.com
I ran a consulting firm before I was involved in the Office Furniture industry. When we needed to buy new furnishings, I thought I was “smart” to avoid using a furniture dealer since I could get the same stuff at a cheaper price while avoiding delivery, design and installation charges. Besides, dealers didn’t want to be involved with “little guys” who only want the occasional chair, conference room table, or private office. Like most assumptions this proved to way off base. First, small orders are the day-to-day projects that keep the trucks rolling at dealerships. We love small orders. They keep us in contact with our customer and small businesses have the wonderful habit of growing. We like to be there from the beginning. Secondly, dealers have access to a wide variety of product that will fit anyone’s need, or budget. You don’t need to settle for what’s available on the big box store’s floor or the used furniture warehouse. You can actually buy something that will not look like “frat house chic”, and will actually come with a warranty. Lastly, price is always a factor. Going back to my “smart” choice, I assumed that we would need to pay for all of these “add ons”. In reality, most smart office furniture dealers will give up some margin to include, delivery design and installation services. There are two reasons for this. Number One is customer service. This is a way for us to be differentiated among the used product, big box stores and on-line sellers. Really smart customers, (unlike my kind of “smart”) will recognize the value of their time invested in the do-it-yourself method. Once you factor shopping time, transportation, visiting retail sites, and supervising installation, your “bargain” was just wiped out. If you add on: picking up a product, assembling it (assembly is always required) and disposing of the packing material you just paid a premium for your “bargain”. Not very smart. Reason Number Two is a secret that we’ll reveal. We want to perform delivery, design and installation services for you. It helps to keep us profitable. Controlling our delivery reduces freight related damages. Designing even a simple private office or conference room ensures that what we are proposing will actually fit in the space. This eliminates any surprises resulting in returned/rejected product (that we’ve paid for, and can’t return). To accommodate more efficient distribution, most furniture now requires some sort of field assembly. We sleep better at night knowing that we did the job correctly, used ALL of the screws, and that everything was built to specifications. As an office furniture dealer, we love small businesses. Don’t hesitate to contact us the next time you have the urge to buy furniture using the do-it-yourself method.