How COVID-19 Is Reshaping the Office Furniture Industry
The impact of the coronavirus outbreak has touched almost every company in every industry in some way or another. A few lucky companies have boosted their sales, while others have had economic troubles that are out of their hands. Most companies have had to change the way their teams work, and those effects, in particular, have also dramatically changed the furniture industry. Let’s take a closer look at how office furniture companies are adjusting to the COVID-19 pandemic and what office furniture industry trends will emerge in 2021.
The Effect of Coronavirus on the Commercial Office Furniture Industry
The pandemic has changed almost every industry. Federal and local guidelines now dictate how employees must work and sometimes require remote work. Meanwhile, consumer behavior has changed dramatically. Sales for products providing at-home entertainment like board games and musical instruments are going up, while sales in the travel and leisure industries are declining.
Hanging over all of this is an economic downturn, which has hurt companies and individuals alike. The furniture industry is no different. How has the COVID-19 pandemic affected the office furniture industry? Before the pandemic, economists projected office furniture manufacturers would see a modest 0.2% revenue increase in 2020. Current predictions, adjusted for the impact of the COVID-19 outbreak, forecast a 29.4% revenue decline in 2020.
The mass migration to remote work has put a damper on most office renovation plans. Many companies who would’ve been expanding or building new offices now have second thoughts. Exactly how long the pandemic will keep people working from home remains unclear. While many companies aren’t ready to invest in new office furniture quite yet, some are. Notably, Amazon plans to build six new office spaces outside its Seattle headquarters. As one of the world’s biggest companies plans its triumphant return to the physical office, others may soon follow, if a bit cautiously.
Purchasing Decisions Are Shifting
For now, the office furniture industry is changing. The sudden shift to the work-from-home model hasn’t changed the amount of office furniture needed. As soon as remote work arrangements became long term, workers began decking out their home offices. Working at the dining room table isn’t great for productivity or comfort, which drives sales for desks and ergonomic office chairs.
What does this mean for the office furniture industry? For one thing, sourcing is now in every office workers’ hands. Before, offices may have bought furniture via a small committee. This group would have included a handful of facilities managers, architects, human resources professionals and finance department representatives.
The committee balanced creating an attractive, uniform look along with comfort and budget. Furnishing an office from floor to ceiling was a months-long project. Once the committee approved the decision, an office furniture manufacturer would produce desks and chairs by the hundreds. When it was time to install, the furniture arrived alongside a professional installation crew.
With employees now buying their own furniture, different factors weigh on their decision. They’re also concerned with comfort, and perhaps more so than the traditional buyers. Beyond that, they also consider:
Style and taste: Employees want to match their sense of style and current home décor. With this consideration playing a more prominent role, furniture manufacturers aren’t mass producing furniture to the corporate aesthetic. The desks and office chairs employees choose for themselves have a lot more variety.
Delivery speed: The decision process for new furniture has been dramatically condensed. Customers want new office furniture now. And, current conditions mean they want to do it without leaving the house. As a result, one of the major office furniture industry trends of 2020 was a surge in online shopping.
Ease of setup: Office furniture used to come with a professional installation crew. Now, when it arrives at people’s doorsteps, workers are on their own. They’re buying office furniture aimed at regular consumers. These products come with pre-drilled holes, instruction manuals and plastic pouches with the exact amount of screws needed. Some contract office furniture manufacturers aren’t yet equipped to accommodate this new need. They might not have a call center to walk customers through assembly or replace missing components.
The Centralized Office Is Getting a Makeover
For offices that plan to return as soon as it is safe or are already back, the layout and furniture may look quite different. The new guidelines on social distancing mean workstations must be further apart. The open office, once a hub for social activity and close collaboration, must be spaced out. For offices that don’t have the square footage to spare, or want to provide added protection, desks are getting divider panels.
Redesigning the office to prevent the spread of germs can also have lasting business benefits. Even after the COVID-19 pandemic is behind us, an office that keeps employees healthier is good for everyone. Healthier employees will be happier and more productive — and will likely need to take fewer sick days.
In the long term, companies will need to invest in larger office spaces that allow for effective social distancing. And, office cubicles will likely make a huge comeback, this time with taller walls.
How Office Furniture Companies Have Adjusted Amid the Pandemic
No doubt, COVID-19 has had an impact on the office furniture industry. Through all the changes, office furniture companies have done what they do best. Like always, they have innovated solutions that make the workplace better. While workplace health used to mean ergonomic chairs and sitting and standing desks, now it also encompasses social distancing. Office furniture manufacturers and suppliers now offer products and services like:
In recent years, many workplaces have done away with cubicles in favor of open, collaborative environments. The benching system, where employees work next to and across from one another, was the cubicle’s highly celebrated replacement. Benches certainly provide elegance, easy access to coworkers and space efficiency. However, a benching system without dividers or privacy panels can allow germs to spread.
In a post-pandemic office space, cubicles are back in style. They provide more distance between coworkers, and their privacy panels block pathogens from traveling freely around the room. Today’s cubicles come in 6-foot by 6-foot and larger options, allowing for correct social distancing in the workplace. Furniture companies are also innovating new solutions, like full-office privacy cubicles with taller walls and even doors.
Desk Dividers and Sneeze Guards
Next on the list, offices need ways to convert their current furniture into safer alternatives. Many offices with open plans have collaboration ingrained into their company culture. They don’t want to separate teams and may not have enough space to move desks as far apart as guidelines recommend. Furniture companies have delivered with desk panels, benching system dividers and sneeze guards.
Panels create barriers starting at the floor and install permanently to desks and workstations. They come in many designs to enhance your interior and provide separation without sacrificing collaboration. Temporary dividers attach to existing furniture without disassembly. The barrier begins at the height of the desk rather than the floor. The transparent acrylic variety has earned the nickname “sneeze guard.” They come in many other options, including opaque privacy panels that also absorb sound. They’re an excellent temporary solution for offices that plan on upgrading to new furniture soon.
Room dividers are nothing new in commercial spaces. They’re versatile solutions that allow businesses to customize their space for different purposes. Hotels use them to break up ballrooms into multiple rooms. Schools use them to accommodate different sized classes. They’re an easy way to turn any space into a private room with the exact square footage you need.
These features make them excellent for breaking up large, warehouse-style open office spaces into private offices. Traditional room dividers feature tall floor-to-ceiling panels covered in fabric. They fold accordion style and have swivel casters for easy setup and removal.
These fabric room dividers aren’t your only option. If you want to divide up your space without making things feel cramped, consider glass high-wall room dividers that let natural light shine into every office. These are an excellent solution because they provide the safety barriers you need without sacrificing the sense of style you and your workers love. Considering that natural light and modern office designs have such a massive impact on workers’ productivity and satisfaction, these room dividers are an excellent innovation.
New Space Designs
Besides the new products entering the market, furniture companies must respond to corporations’ changing office design needs. The coronavirus is changing the way America’s most prominent companies invest in commercial real estate. These decisions will have a lasting impact on the furniture industry. The new office buildings built today will remain standing for decades.
A few office real estate trends to look out for include:
Incorporating more outdoor meeting areas and workspaces.
Investing in bigger buildings with more square footage per employee.
Cutting back on centralized hubs in favor of many satellite offices to support hybrid workers.
Moving offices outside of large cities and into areas with cheaper real estate and lower costs of living.
As can be expected, changes in the office real estate industry translate into office furniture market trends. Any venue change requires some experienced office designers, which is where furniture companies come in. Companies like Arnold’s Office Furniture specialize in providing workstation interior design services alongside quality furniture.
As the coronavirus continues to shape the way we lay out desks and buy real estate, office furniture companies have adapted their designs. Now, they make new recommendations for spacing out rooms and furniture. They’ll also help their clients incorporate innovative safety and space-saving solutions into bigger offices and smaller satellite locations alike.
Privacy Lounge Furniture
Workstations aren’t the only office furniture that need dividers and panels. Lounge furniture in the main lobby or the break room is also getting a little safety upgrade with partitions around the edges. They’re soft and sound-absorbing, providing the comfort expected of lounge furniture. To make them even safer, they’re made from easy-to-clean polyurethane. Facilities departments can clean and disinfect these privacy lounge chairs as often as protocol requires.
How We Have Adjusted to the Pandemic
The impact of the coronavirus on office furniture suppliers has also affected us here at Arnold’s Office Furniture. Like other industry players, and like most companies across industries, we’ve pivoted during the pandemic. Our approach involves innovations to our furniture lines and a brand new division of our company, Sunline Supply. Everything we’re doing now helps us improve health and safety in workplaces across the country.
New Healthier Workplace Furniture Solutions
As an office furniture supply company, our first priority was to make sure our furniture aligned with federal guidelines. We went beyond the call of duty to design solutions that fit the needs of every office. We know that some offices want to completely redesign their office to promote safety, while others want an economical solution they can implement quickly. Our commitment to a healthier workplace led us to several solutions, including:
1. Social Distancing Cubicles
If you’re looking to redesign your office layout with social distancing in mind, we’ve developed cubicles to promote safe social distancing and meet federal guidelines. Our line includes models with footprints starting at 6 square feet. For more protection and roominess, we also offer:
6-foot by 8-foot
8-foot by 8-foot
8-foot by 10-foot
9-foot by 12-foot
The best part is, our Sunline Cubicle system is perfect for the ever-changing guidelines your business must follow. As a completely modular system with fast and easy setup, they allow you to rearrange your office as needed. With more rapid assembly than traditional cubicles, you can raise your partition panels and change the layout until you find the safest and most productive solution for your workplace.
2. Permanent Workstation Panels
Our permanent workstation dividers let you take advantage of your current furniture and office layout. At 53 inches tall, these panels divide workstations from the floor up for excellent protection. While they require the disassembly of your current desks to install, they are a fast way to get lasting safety at your office. These attractive designs let you keep your collaborative, modern and inviting atmosphere while practicing safe distancing.
3. Temporary Dividers and Screens
If you plan to move to a new location or implement a more permanent solution soon, protect your workers now with temporary dividers. With even easier assembly, these 24-inch barriers make open office plans safer right away. Temporary safety screens add privacy and absorb sound for a more productive workplace. They’re also durable enough to be used as a permanent solution.
4. Full Offices
Cubicles with doors and floor-to-ceiling glass panels let you turn open offices into safe, private spaces for every employee. They’re our best recommendations for both safety and efficiency. The added privacy and ability to close the door and shut out noise lets employees perform their best. The high walls ensure the full office cubicles also provide the best protection from airborne diseases.
5. Microban Treatments
No matter what solution makes the most sense for your office, keeping your workplace clean and protected is a top priority. We can treat your furniture with Microban, a powerful antimicrobial formula that continues to kill germs after treatment. It’s effective against bacteria, fungi and mold to help keep your office clean and safe. One treatment lasts three months, allowing you to keep your furniture free from microbes with just four applications a year.
Not too long ago, at Arnold’s Office Furniture, we recognized that it would take more than new office furniture to help businesses stay safe and the country survive the COVID-19 pandemic. We also knew our unique skills and expertise could come in handy and do some good at the same time. That’s why we founded Sunline Supply, a personal protective equipment (PPE) supply company.
After more than 90 years in the furniture industry, we’ve developed a robust network of manufacturing and supply chain connections. We were in the perfect position to use this network to find approved factories manufacturing PPE and get them safely delivered to our clients in the United States.
The road to finding quality PPE has been challenging. Our nation faced severe supply shortages as the pandemic began. While those shortages have lessened, they’ve been replaced with a new concern — counterfeit PPE. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have warned of fake or unsafe respirators from unapproved factories.
We’ve used our sourcing and quality control expertise to find safe, FDA-approved PPE. To do things right, we visited our partner factories ourselves and felt their products with our own hands. We’ve verified the credentials and compared the products of dozens of manufacturers so we can live up to our clients’ expectations for safe, effective PPE.
Plan a Safer Office With Arnold’s Office Furniture
No matter what industry you’re in, the coronavirus has undoubtedly left its mark on your company. As you change your own strategies and develop new products, consider what you can do internally to combat the pandemic. New office furniture and PPE for your staff can help your business stay ahead in the months to come. Let us help you design a socially distant office space and supply you with the face masks and other tools you need to keep your team safe. Call us at (610) 272-2050 or contact us online today.
Alissa has over 25 years of experience in the office furniture industry. For many of those years, Alissa was a Senior Interior Designer. She then took her love of design and working with customers to the sales realm and has been dedicating her knowledge there ever since. Learn more about Alissa!