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A Buyer's Guide to buyers guide

Office cubicles are a major factor in office culture, costs, and productivity. Choosing the materials and layout to create workable cubicle space for employees is one of the biggest decisions in setting up or reconfiguring an office area. Despite their reputation, cubicles can encourage a functional, creative, and efficient atmosphere for every employee. There isn't one *perfect* way to choose cubicles for your office, so learn more about the factors that will influence your choice and allow your cubicles to have a positive impact on your company's workflow. Here are the top 8 factors to consider when buying cubicles for your office

1. Space needs and availability

The first step in configuring a space with new cubicles is to know how much space you actually have. How many desks and partitions do you want? How much space is open to hold your cubicles? This means measuring your floor plan and accounting for any ADA requirements for door and desk clearance. Mock up several configurations of cubicles to make sure you will have enough workspaces with realistic areas for movement between and around each cubicle. Remember that it's not enough to cram the maximum number of desks into the room if you won't be able to accommodate trash cans, copiers, or other equipment into your plan.

2. Employee comfort

If you want your employees to be comfortable and productive in the space where they will spend the majority of their time, consider their comfort in your purchase. If you intend to purchase cubicles of a uniform size, make sure they can accommodate employees of all heights and weights. Shorter or heavier individuals may have trouble working in an area designed for someone twice, or half their size. If you expect to retain your employees over time, it may be worth investing in more customized cubicle arrangements to meet their individual needs.

Also consider the type of work that will be completed within each cubicle. If your workers need to spread out files or use multiple computer screens, make sure you are providing adequate space for them to stay organized and productive, even if that requires larger or more expensive cubicle configurations.

3. Cost

After you have determined the number and size of cubicles you will need, the next step is looking at your budget. It is preferable to keep the focus on having adequate space and practical comforts and finding other ways to meet your budget limits. For example, you may be able to maximize a small budget by purchasing used cubicles from a reputable dealer without sacrificing the size requirements that will keep your employees happy. If you have some extra funds available, you can shop around for styles and colors that will add atmosphere to your office space and set a more upscale tone for your thriving company.

4. Privacy concerns

Everyone likes a little privacy at certain points during the work day, but some professions require more private work spaces than others. If your team will be doing detail oriented data entry, analysis, or writing that requires a quiet space for concentration, you may need higher walls and more enclosed spaces to reduce noise and interruptions. If sensitive information will need to be protected within a cubicle, make sure you'll have adequate space for a lockable file cabinet and workspaces that won't be visible to clients if they pass through.

If your team spends a lot of time in collaborative conversation or physically using common tools and materials, open space cubicles that facilitate connections will be more appropriate. Look for lower walled cubicles, larger workspace configurations, or group areas that can serve as break outs from individual cubicles.

5. Find a good dealer

There are many places to buy office furniture and not all of them will treat you fairly. If you've gone to the trouble to plan your ideal cubicles, work with a reputable furniture dealer who can help you make that plan into reality. Research dealers by looking for recent online reviews, or contact office managers from other offices in your area to ask for a recommendation. Once you find a dealer, it's absolutely appropriate to conduct a short interview to learn more about their process and the securities they can offer you before you make a purchase.

You may want to ask some or all of these questions:
  • Are there warranties available for used cubicles?
  • What kind of shipping times and fees can I expect?
  • What does the warranty cover and what is the process to replace any damaged items?
  • Do you have the product I want in stock?
  • What discounts are available for bulk purchases?
  • How much will this product cost and are there any more affordable alternatives you suggest?
  • Are there delivery and set up options available directly through you?

6. Buy local

Shipping can be a major cost for a bulky object like a cubicle. In addition, if you're considering used cubicles, it can be frustrating to coordinate lots of available product from more than one location to get enough matching cubicles. Shopping local can reduce the hassle of transporting your cubicles, and you may be able to choose used products based on current or recent availability to ensure you get what you need on a faster timeline.

7. Comparison shop

Just because you find one reputable dealer doesn't mean they're the only or best option. Take the quote they provide along with the terms of their services and compare to what other local and regional suppliers can offer. You will know you've maximized your budget, obtained the best cubicles for your employees, and secured the best possible service.

Even if you don't discover a huge discount from another dealer, this process will help you understand the details of your final purchase agreement and provide a rationale for the budget to your financial officer and reporting line if you were forced to make a compromise between budget and product at some point.

8. Pay attention to detail

Large office purchases such as cubicles should always be made carefully, with attention to details and fine print. A dealer should never rush or hassle you into an agreement without a written quote and reasonable time to understand the terms. Ask questions, and request written clarifications if you're unsure and don't sign a purchase order until you feel confident about your understanding. Double check the total numbers and measurements for your order, both on your end and the supplier's. Especially if the process has taken a few weeks, don't be shy to ask if alternative styles or materials have become available to better match your preferred specifications.

If you are able, try to work directly with your dealer to reduce confusion and open the lines of communication. Not only will it cost less than paying up-charges for a negotiator, it can also help the dealer work with your essential needs and budget to ensure you get exactly what you want.

Office cubicles are a major purchase that will impact your company's budget and your employee's productivity. Navigating those competing requirements can be tough, and but knowing your needs and working with the right furniture dealer can streamline the process and help you achieve your goals. Shop around for a deal you trust that will offer high quality products and service.