Above: Adjustable desks like this one from Knoll have become increasingly popular, especially with so many people working from home because of the pandemic.
BY STEVE DINNEN
To be fair, the whole work-at-home thing started long before the pandemic. Once personal computers got reliable, and their use became widespread, telecommuting bounded out of nowhere and people started forgoing the office cubicle for some work time at home.
Enter COVID-19. Entire office buildings emptied overnight across the country and the more or less voluntary nature of telecommuting morphed into orders to stay at home—but keep working. Research from Stanford University in June estimated that 42% of the nation’s workforce is now working full time from home. And signs point to the staying at home for a good long while—into 2021 or even beyond.
But are those 42% comfortable? Have they just set up a card table in the guest bedroom and dragged in an extra chair from the dining room? Studies suggest otherwise–that many have upgraded the furniture, cabinetry and printer stands they have. But there is always room for improvement, which also suggests an opportunity for the office furniture industry to make some inroads that could be considerable given the size of the population involved in this shift.
Michelle Bonnema, sales and marketing manager at Saxton Inc., said her downtown Des Moines commercial interior design firm has fielded inquiries from firms and individuals that have expressed an interest in upgrading their home offices. No one has yet signed a deal, but she already has taken one personal step they can easily follow—installing an ergonomically attuned chair that will keep them comfortable for hours on end.
Kitting out your home office can be surprisingly affordable. In a review of chairs, done in July by CNN, it rated a $388 chair from Steelcase, the Series 1, as the best overall. It flexes with your body, helping you change postures while sitting. High marks also went to Herman Miller’s Aeron chair, at $1,395, and the Iowa-produced Ignition chair, from HON, at $309.
In the desk category, the Mayline Medina will give you 72 inches of desktop area to spread your stuff out, in gray, mocha or mahogany, at $449. The Ford Executive Modern has filing cabinets and a price tag of $1,748. The VariDesk Pro Plus is adjustable in height and comes in lengths of 30, 36 and 48 inches, with prices of $295 to $495; electric options cost more.
Soft white lighting from a desk lamp is always useful. One lamp that stood out is the Tao Tronics LED, which is dimmable and has seven brightness levels and a USB charging port. Seems like a deal at $39.99.
All these prices are online. Check locally with office furniture providers such as Saxton, Pigott (which is a Herman Miller dealer) or Storey Kenworthy. Saxton works with Knoll for furniture and accessories, and its website for working remotely has some ideas that may inspire you.
Researchers who polled full-time employees throughout the country recently found that working from home not only benefited them by eliminating their daily commutes, but it also increased productivity and led to healthier lifestyles. Proper furniture will help maintain this outcome.