Changing and emerging office trends means that there’s always a hot, new piece of office furniture being touted as a must-have accessory for all workplaces. Some of these new furniture ideas will truly make a positive difference to the way we work, but many of them are simply passing trends that offer no real health or productivity benefits, despite their impressive claims.
Today I’m looking at 7 pieces of office furniture that have achieved varying levels of popularity, but which you should avoid specifying for your clients.
1) Treadmill Desks
The treadmill desk is touted as the cure-all for the health problems caused by the many hours (more than 5 a day) we spend seated at work. The idea is that you can set it at a low speed and walk at a gentle pace while performing routine work tasks – such as sending emails or making phone calls.
While in theory this is a great idea, in practice it’s less practical: trying to do even something as simple as replying to an email becomes much more difficult while you’re moving, so your productivity levels suffer as a result. Additionally, treadmill desks take up a huge amount of space, so workers may end up in the position where that’s the only desk available to them that day, meaning they’re unable to sit down for tasks that require greater concentration levels.
2) Standing Desks
Standing desks are another way furniture designers are trying to combat the sitting epidemic. But with a standing desk you swap out sitting all day for standing all day. This runs the risk of injury as your muscles won’t be used to the strain.
The best alternative for a healthier workplace is an adjustable-height desk, designed for sit-to-stand working. These allow employees to transition between sitting and standing throughout the day, and it’s this additional movement that offers the greatest health benefits for them.
Beanbags are a popular choice in office breakout spaces, as they are an easy way to create a ‘relaxed’ feel. However, for the majority of companies, beanbags simply don’t fit with their office culture, or the design aesthetic of the rest of their office.
If your client has a ‘startup’ feel, complete with pool table or similar, you can probably get away with specifying beanbags for their breakout space. Otherwise, steer clear.
Bench seating is very popular for companies that have shared desks, as they can accommodate more employees in the same space, compared with individual chairs. However, benches aren’t designed to be sat on for long periods of time – they have no padding and offer no back support, and as such are bad for employee health and wellness.
5) Exercise Balls
Exercise balls are part of the trend of improving employee fitness levels while at work. But much like the treadmill desk, using an exercise ball in place of a conventional chair will be a distraction for the employee (as they try to keep their balance). As such, their productivity will suffer.
6) Standing Mats
Standing mats are great for standing working, offering underfoot comfort and support. However, they’re obstructive for seated working: you can’t wheel chairs on and off easily, meaning that employees will need to spend time moving their chairs and mats around as they want to change their working posture throughout the day.
If your clients want to implement sit-to-stand working in their office, you should avoid specifying standing mats, as they pose a barrier to the adoption of this new working practice.
7) Cubicles and Opaque Dividers
Natural light has a huge impact on employee wellness and performance. Installing opaque dividers blocks light from travelling through a space, as well as hindering team collaboration and communication.
Open offices don’t work for everyone, so if you are specifying space dividers for your clients, you may want to recommend translucent or transparent dividers, rather than opaque ones, to let natural light travel as far into their office space as possible.