How Are Office Furniture Companies Handling COVID-19?
It’s no surprise that not many people were anticipating a global pandemic. Yet, outside of the healthcare industry, there’s one other (perhaps unexpected) field that was also hit especially hard in March.
Office furniture manufacturers have always worked directly with companies to outfit offices and various workspaces. However, when the majority of the country began working from home or from the “remote office” to curb the spread of COVID-19, big furniture producers like Steelcase, Herman Miller, and others weren’t prepared for what was in store for them. Instead of furnishing entire offices, they were asked to supply just a single desk for the spare room where remote workers were setting up shop.
As a result, the COVID-19 pandemic has brought on two problems for office furniture manufacturers, and unfortunately, neither are reassuring. In this blog, we’ll discuss the challenges this industry has faced in the past 6 months and how some office furniture manufacturers have found a solution.
Problem #1: Lack of demand from companies
The first problem occurred right when the pandemic began. Companies sent all of their employees home when stay-at-home orders were put into place. While these orders had good intentions and helped to flatten the curve by slowing the spread, they also impacted the economy in various ways. For office furniture manufacturers, like Herman Miller, Steelcase, HON, Teknion and others it meant that companies no longer needed their offices outfitted. After all, why would you need to furnish an empty office or workspace environment that your employees would not use for the foreseeable future?
When this happened, there were steep losses and double-digit sales decline in March, April, and May. This occurred in multiple areas throughout the country, including Orlando and Atlanta. While office furniture companies that have experienced this have now largely recovered, it took some time. Their recovery improved when they expanded their online options and found ways to sell to individuals. This brings us to our second problem.
Problem #2: Heightened demand from individual workers
Companies sent their employees to work in home offices in March. In fact, over half of the American public reported working from home or remote work. However, that meant that the demand for where office furniture was once needed shifted. Companies no longer needed it in large quantities in their office buildings. Rather, individual workers needed one desk, one chair, etc. in their often make-shift home office.
Although companies were still largely financing this – for example, Google told employees in May that the company would reimburse up to $1,000 to outfit home offices – it still became difficult to navigate for both sides. The best options for remote workers were often sold out, and all that was left were inexpensive imports. The furniture industry was largely overwhelmed with the demand to sell their once bulk items to single individuals.
Finding a solution
Over time, office furniture manufacturers have pivoted to accommodate these challenges. We have been fortunate at Interior Contract Services Inc. to be able to service our existing customers, some of whom we have done business with since 1983. Many furniture manufacturers have put their businesses online where it can be easily accessed by remote workers. They have also shifted to a better business model for individuals. Their products can now be delivered by a service in a single box that can be easily assembled (ideally without special tools).
Pricing has also been an obstacle. While companies like Google have offered to compensate their workers for their new at-home setup, other employees are expected to pay for their office equipment out of pocket. Office furniture manufacturers have had to meet customers in the middle in order to create harmony in the industry.
While it’s unclear how long the pandemic will persist, office furniture manufacturers have been hit hard with its effects. If you’re looking for ways to incorporate new furniture into your home office setup, Interior Contract Services in Orlando, Florida and Atlanta, Georgia now has several work-from-home solutions. Visit here to learn more information.