Purchasing of Office Furniture | Basic Consideration | Types of Furniture

Purchasing of Office furniture

Office work is mostly deskwork. The office staff should sit in the office for hours together and concentrate on their job. Moreover, office work is mostly routine and monotonous in nature. Therefore, suitable and comfortable furniture should be provided to them so that they may remain seated comfortably for doing their work effectively and speedily.

Purchasing of Office furniture

Purchasing of Office furniture – Important Considerations, Types of furniture

Modern and better quality furniture improves the general efficiency of the office employees and adds prestige to the firm. The arrangement of furniture inside the office provides good appearance to office and increases the goodwill of the firm in the minds of visitors. Thus, in short, modem office is greatly dependent on the furniture provided to office staff for its proper functioning.

Office furniture are purchased for long-term use. They are viewed as a long-term investment. After they are purchased and installed, it is very difficult to replace them. Moreover, a wide variety of Office Machines, equipment and furniture are available in the market. Hence, the major problem before the Office Manager is to provide the right type of items depending upon their requirements, to each individual working in the office. As such, it is needless to stress the importance of proper selection and use of office furniture.

Basic Considerations before Selecting Office Furniture

Certain basic considerations while buying office furniture are given below.

1. Design

The design i.e. the size of the top, height, number of drawers etc. should be suitable for the purpose.

2. Capital Outlay

Cost is an important factor to be considered while buying office furniture. Since investment in furniture is considered as a long-term investment, more money should not be spent for this purpose. However, convenience and suitability should not be sacrificed at the expense of cost.

3. Durability

Office furniture should be durable. Its life should be sufficiently long because frequent replacement will result in a loss to the company.

4. Savings in Space

Office furniture should not require more space than actually available. Modular or system furniture are specially designed to save floor space. They can be utilized wherever the space available is very small in office.

5. Fire Risk

The fire risk of the furniture should be the least. Steel and fiberglass furniture are much less inflammable than wood.

6. Weight

Very often furniture are moved around the office to modify the layout and arrangement of the furniture etc. more suitable to the flow of work. Hence the weight of the furniture should be very light. Fiberglass furniture can effectively serve this purpose.

7. Hygiene

Office furniture should be easily cleaned. There should also be sufficient space underneath for cleaning the floor.

8. Appearance

Office furniture should be nice looking and attractive. Appearance of the furniture adds prestige to the firm and also to the employees, in the minds of the visitors. Particularly, its impact is very high in case of open plan offices.

9. Safety

Safety is another factor, which needs a careful consideration while purchasing office furniture. In case of tables, rounded comers are preferable than square corners. Plate glass tops are not safe in use. Besides, such glass tops may also create glare and cause eyestrain.

10. Comfort and Labour Saving

The furniture provided to the office staff should offer a high level of comfort. Such comfort makes the work likely to be performed with less distraction. Moreover, some furniture has built-in file units. They can save walking about by the clerk and save their time.

Types of Furniture

Many types of furniture are used in offices. The basic office furniture are desks and chairs. Office employees at various levels operate from their desks and sit on their chairs. Besides tables, safes are also used in offices.

1. Desks

The desk is the workbench of an office employee. Provision of a proper working desk is important in more than one respect. Since it is the base of the operations of a worker, he is identified psychologically with it. It is his seat. Its proper size and design influences much of his efficiency. Its size is also important from another point of view viz., rent.

Even in India, office space is highly priced in metropolitan cities like Chennai, Mumbai, Kolkata etc. The primary function of any office desk is to provide a suitable surface for writing, checking, sorting, examining and conferring. All other functions are subordinates to these principal functions. It is also a place for keeping office machines in a prier position.

An office desk also provides more or less a permanent storage space for the supplies required by the person using the desk. The desk is also used as a temporary storage place for the papers being worked on. However, this use may be unwise, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the papers.

Different Types of Desk

All office work is not alike. As such, we cannot expect that all staff members can do their work in the best possible manner on the same type of desk. Therefore, the desk should be according to the requirements of the work done by the employees of the office. All employees are not also of the same status. Hence, different types of desk have been developed to suit the status and nature of the work of the employees in the office.

J.C. Denyer classifies office desk into five different kinds viz., executive, special, built in, general clerical and modular.

1. Executive Desks

Prestige and image are the primary factors for top-level executives. Hence, this type of desk depends on the taste of the executive. The purposes of such desks are:

  1. to impress the visitors through their appearance, and
  2. to exhibit the importance of the executive in the management hierarchy.

Usually the desk contains 3 or 4 drawers on the side the executive sits. The desktop is generally covered with linoleum glass or sun mica. However, the design and style of such furniture is left entirely to the choice of the executive.

2. Special Purpose Desks

These desks are designed for special use in the office. This type desk includes calculating machine desks, collating desks and so on. The typist desk is the most common and perhaps the most important among the special purpose category. For the Secretary or Typist who has general/clerical work to do as well as typing, a desk giving surface of two heights should be provided. This can be a “L” shaped desk with the smaller side at a slightly lower height than the longer side.

3. Built in Furniture

Office space is now becoming very costly and uneasy to procure. Hence, the buildings are often constructed in a clear, space saving manner and the space is conserved in various rooms by the use of built-in furniture and collapsible furniture.

4. General Clerical Desks

The size and design of clerical desks should be suitable to the work performed on it. But it is not always possible to procure different types of desk, suitable for different purposes. The standard two-drawer desk meets the average requirements of the clerical staff at a reasonable cost. These are mostly single pedestal desks of 120 cms by 75 cms. In some offices, double pedestal desks are provided to clerical staff.

5. Modular or System Furniture

Modular furniture has become very popular in U.S.A. Greater desk area using the minimum floor space can be obtained by using this type of furniture. This type of furniture provides up to 25% more desk area and saves up to 33% in the floor space.

Desk units can be combined with storage units for files, records, cards etc. However, this system furniture has one great limitation viz., clerks sitting on various sides can talk together more easily and hence concentration shall become difficult. Moreover, the movements of other staff member will also distract their attention.

2. Tables

At the outset we would like to discuss about the difference between a desk and table. In the common man’s usage, desk refers to a table with a sloping top. But it is a false notion. A table has only four legs whereas the desk may be single pedestal or double pedestals. It is already stated that the table may contain one or two drawers only. A desk, on the other hand, has a number of drawers. Hence, storing a number of items like papers, forms etc. is possible in case of desks.

Anyhow, the word desks and tables are used often even by authorities synonymously. In most of the Government offices, tables are still popular. Tables are generally used for sorting the mail, despatch temporary housing of files and file trays, storage of papers, registers etc. By providing one or two drawers, tables can be made useful for more than one purpose.

A large sized table may be provided in a conference room where executives meet as a committee and take decisions sitting together. However, a table cannot be considered as an effective substitute for desk.

3. Chairs

The office chair is a crucial piece of office furniture. The office employees should remain in the office for the best part of the day and so they should be made to feel comfortable. Otherwise, they will not show any interest in their work and do it with devotion. Comfortable seating not only reduce fatigue but also maintains the health of the employees.

G. Mills and O. Standingford suggest two types of chairs – one for the executive and the other for the secretaries and clerks. These two chairs are adjustable both as to height and as to the position of the backrest, so that they can be readily suited to the need of the individuals.

Standingford says,

Wherever adjustable chairs are used, the office manager should take steps to see that the adjustments are properly carried out for each clerk. Once a chair is correctly set, it should be labelled with the clerk’s name. These precautions are of very important, since if a chair is transferred from one clerk tp another without being readjusted it may well do more harm than good .

Proper cushioning also tends to reduce fatigue, and increase productivity. Rexene, Venyl and other man made fibers are adequate for the clerical staff and junior and middle level executive chairs, while for the top management executive chairs, leather would be the most prestigious.

4. The Safe

The safe is perhaps one of the oldest indispensable equipment in an office. It is used not only for storing cash over night until it is banked in the next morning, but also for protection of valuable documents against fire etc.

5. Fittings and Accessories

Office fittings include coat stands, racks, desk lamps, waste paper baskets, telephone stand etc. Some other furniture and equipment may also be required by some employees performing special work. These equipment include sorting trays, index cabinets, boxes, filing cabinets and folders.

Similarly, a cash clerk may require a cash box and also a safe. While selecting such items, the use to which they are to be put should be first considered. The colour of the equipment should be pleasing and suitable to the atmosphere of the office.

Structural Materials of the Furniture

Wood, aluminium, steel and fiberglass are the major structural materials used in the making of office furniture. Wood has a definite advantage over other structural materials.

Merits of Wooden Furniture

Wooden furniture offers the following advantages over steel furniture.

1. Wooden furniture can be shaped and designed according to our requirement.

2. Wooden furniture gives a feeling of warmth both to the eye and to the touch.

3. With its polished surfaces and its dense look, Wooden furniture is more costly and creates a feeling of greater comfort.

4. Wooden furniture can be repolished at less cost.

Merits of the Steel Furniture

In spite of the traditional merits of wooden furniture, steel furniture are becoming very popular in our country. It has the following advantages over wooden furniture.

1. Steel furniture is safe against fire.

2. Steel furniture is durable than wooden furniture and cannot be soiled or damaged easily.

3. A large variety of steel furniture is light in weight and can easily be moved in case of need.

4. Steel furniture does not shrink or swell or warp or crack.

5. Steel drawers are safe against insects; mice and rats.

6. Steel furniture can be made to harmonize with any surroundings.


Wooden furniture are still popular in our country. Its place is however being garbed by steel furniture. Fiberglass furniture are also appearing in some offices. But majority still prefers only wood or steel furniture. Whatever may be structural material the main consideration being their cost and suitability. Factors like individual needs and comparative weight should also be considered while selecting the furniture for the office.