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As small business owners across America continue to search for creative ways to minimize expenses, they may be overlooking one of their largest expenses: worker absences and dips in productivity due to injury from office furniture, work chairs, and improperly set up workstations causes billions in losses to private businesses each year. Recent studies indicate that if business owners replaced aging office furnishings with contemporary office furniture, they could stand to boost worker productivity by more than 15% every year. Even companies that have made the investment in ergonomic, commercial office furniture may find that they can minimize worker absence due to neck and back pain by teaching their employees the proper way to adjust their office chairs.

Every single year, across the United States, thousands of companies switch to modern office desks and chairs: more than 16 million chairs and 3 million desks are purchased each year from more than 3,500 office furniture manufacturers. Americans spend almost 2,000 hours sitting at work each year, and although some small businesses have shifted to new “standing desks,” the toll on workers’ necks and backs remains considerable. Having the right office furniture can help small business owners ensure that their employees remain productive and competitive.

Americans who telecommute are also finding that they need to invest in computer desks and other furniture for their home offices. Although working from the comfort of one’s bed or sofa is an appealing idea at first, having proper lumbar support is essential for home-based employees who may work more than a 40-hour week. Studies show that over the course of a lifetime, the average American worker will spend more than 90,000 hours at work. Factoring in commuting times, that lifetime figure jumps to more than 100,000 hours that we spend sitting down at work or stuck in traffic.

While the market for office cubicles, desks, and other furnishings remains strong — more than $20 billion in profits yearly — the market for work chairs has declined by 3% in the last five years. Experts wonder whether this decline can be attributed to the rise of home-based, telecommuting workers, or whether the quality of newer office chairs is strong enough that they do not have to be replaced as often as older chairs. Whatever the reason, the market for office cubicles remains strong throughout the country.

One of the newest developments for home-based workers is the widespread sale of portable offices, specifically the use of metal shipping containers for office space. Companies that need to expand temporarily may purchase several shipping containers or other freestanding, portable structures and wire them for the internet and telephone. If owners’ business expansions are successful, they can then focus on renovating their existing office space. Shipping containers can easily be outfitted with windows, doors, and insulation, and companies that manufacture office cubicles are seeing a small uptick in demand for unusual office design elements.

Telecommuting employees who work from home can also order custom office furnishings, and the market for ergonomic computer desks and chairs remains strong. Although there are currently only about 3 million American workers who spend more than 40 hours per week working from their home offices, the demand for custom office furnishings and office cubicles should grow. Americans who work from home consistently report that while they find themselves more productive and creative at home, they tend to miss having the filing space and workspace they have grown accustomed to at their jobs.

While most small business owners find that they save more than $10,000 each year per home-based worker, they may find that having regular meetings on-site can help build teamwork among co-workers. Telecommuting employees are more productive, but there is no substitute for regular meetings and in-person communication among team members. Striking the proper balance between enhancing worker productivity and building productive teams can take time, but business owners are willing to experiment in a rapidly evolving retail marketplace.


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June 2024