Whether you’re a buyer within the city limits or outside of Omaha, office furniture shopping can be a bewildering experience. You have a number of options when selecting desks, tables, chairs, lamps, and other equipment, but the names given to each piece can be a stumbling block to deciding what you need and want.
The following list of terms is presented to help you understand the options available to you and be able to more clearly identify to sellers what you’re looking for. For you sellers in the Omaha office furniture market, this list is also a guide to help you educate buyers as to what products can best meet their needs.
All-in-one: Used to describe multi-purpose office furniture or equipment. This term is often used to describe computer printers integrated with scanners, photocopiers, and fax machines (see Printer/scanner/copier).
Architect’s table: See drafting table.
Balanced-arm lamp: Also called a floating-arm lamp, a balanced-arm desk lamp has an adjustable folding arm that allows the lamp to be repositioned where it is most needed. Most balanced-arm lamps have bases, although some are designed to be clamped onto a table or desk. Balanced-arm and gooseneck lamps (see gooseneck lamps) are often used to provide light when drawing on a drafting table (see drafting table).
Big and tall chair: An office chair designed for someone who is taller, broader, or heavier than the average person for whom most office chairs are designed. Depending on the brand, big and tall chairs may be able to accommodate users up to 7 feet tall or weighing as much as 500 pounds, and feature adjustable back and armrest heights, broader seat widths, and adjustable seat depths. Check the specifics for a given big and tall chair if you’re considering buying one.
Boardroom table: See conference table.
Bulletin board: Also called a pinboard or notice board, a bulletin board is intended for posting printed notices in places where they can be seen by others or reminders to one’s self of tasks to perform. Most bulletin boards feature a cork surface into which pins can be pushed, but some bulletin boards now have metal surfaces that allow messages to be held in place with small magnets.
Bureau: See writing desk.
Computer desk: A desk designed for use with a personal computer. The simplest form of computer desk is a height-adjustable table designed to raise the computer monitor to a height comfortable to the eyes. More sophisticated computer desks include pullout or adjustable keyboard trays, and shelf and storage space for disks (now less needed today) and portable external hard drives or flash drives, the desktop computer tower, a printer, a scanner, or all-in-one, and frequently consulted reference materials. Some computer desks also include breakouts for running connecting cables through, although this is somewhat less necessary with the advent of wireless keyboards and mice. (However, some wireless sensors come with cables to allow them to be connected to a less-accessible computer port while being placed in a location more visible to the wireless device accessing it.)
Conference table: Also called boardoom tables, conference tables are long, rectangular or elliptical tables designed for holding discussions and meetings. Conference tables are usually placed in large rectangular rooms devoted for the purpose of discussing matters of policy and strategy. The longer the table, the more chairs it can accommodate. Chairs used at a conference table are usually either mid-back or high-back chairs, although the chair used by the conference leader, the person who sits at the head of the table, may be an executive high-back chair better appointed than the other chairs to show the leader’s rank.
Cubicle: Cubicles are individual workspaces within a large office room; the cubicle was introduced in 1967 by the Herman Miller Research Corporation. Cubicles are created by erecting partitions to create spaces of the same size or various sizes according to the function of the workspace or the seniority of the person assigned to it. Similarly, partitions are available in various heights and designs to afford the employees within them suitable levels of privacy or protection from distraction or to recognize seniority.
Cubicles are an option when individual walled offices are not practical for all but the most senior-level employees, if at all. However, a number of startup companies are choosing to abandon the use of cubicles and just place employees’ desks side-by-side, similar to the setup of a newspaper city room.
Drafting table: Also called drawing boards, drawing tables, or architect’s tables, drafting tables are tables whose surfaces can be adjusted at an angle to make it easier to draw on the paper placed on them. They are used by architects, detailers, draftsmen, graphic designers, and other visual artists. Drafting tables are available in various lengths, but the person using one will likely require an amount of free space around the table to avoid feeling cramped and a suitable comfortable, height-adjustable chair to sit in while working.
Drawing board: See drafting table.
Drawing table: See drafting table.
Ergonomic chair: An office chair designed according to ergonomic principles. (See ergonomics.)
Ergonomics: Ergonomics is the science and practice of studying how people interact with their products, processes, and systems. It draws on such discplines as biomechanics, industrial engineering and design, physiology, and cognitive and organizational psychology to produce products and systems that allow people to work in comfort and be more productive while working. Office furniture that is designed to minimize wasted movement while allowing people to work for longer periods of time in greater comfort is called “ergonomic” furniture.
Executive chair: Also called a high-back chair, an executive chair is an office chair with a backrest designed to reach to and support the upper back, as well as the middle and lower back. Executive chairs may also be equipped with a head rest; more expensive models may feature dual casters and various comfort controls.
Executive desk: A free-standing pedestal desk intended for use in an executive’s office. Executive desks are usually made of wood and appointed with stylish touches to make the executive sitting at them appear wealthy and successful.
Filing cabinet: A place to store and retrieve physical files. Filing cabinets are available in two main styles: vertical filing cabinets, which feature from two to five drawers and store files parallel with the drawer front, and lateral filing cabinets, which feature two or three drawers and store files perpendicular to the drawer front. Vertical filing cabinets are usually wide enough for files consisting of letter-sized (8.5 x 11”) documents, while lateral filing cabinets are often designed to handle files consisting of legal-sized (8.5 x 14”) or larger documents.
Floating-arm lamp: See balanced-arm lamp.
Footprint: The amount of space a piece of office furniture or equipment takes up on a desk, table, or floor. This is usually the item’s length times its width or depth, depending on the terms used to define its horizontal dimensions. In the case of smaller pieces of equipment, the item’s footprint and its weight may dictate where in the office you can place it.
Gooseneck lamp: A desk lamp with a moveable, jointed neck to allow the light to be directed where it is needed most. Most gooseneck lamps have bases to allow them to be set on the desk, although some have clamps to allow them to be temporarily mounted to the edge of the desk.
High-back chair: See executive chair.
L-shaped desk: An office desk with a 90-degree bend, designed to fit into a corner. This kind of desk often features two flat surfaces, one of which can accommodate a computer keyboard and monitor or laptop (and may feature a hutch over that side) and the other of which can be used for writing or organizing papers.
Low-back chair: See task chair.
Mid-back chair: An office chair with enough backrest to support the middle and upper back. Mid-back chairs may have many of the features found in executive chairs, except for their lower backs.
Partners desk: A pedestal desk designed with a large, almost square work surface and drawers on either side designed to allow two people to sit opposite each other and work together. They can be useful in modern offices where there are no partitions separating workers into cubicles.
Pedestal desk: Another term for the common office desk. A pedestal desk consists of a horizontal table with pedestals on either side holding file or storage drawers and a drawer over the space for the worker’s legs. Pedestal desks designed for executive offices are called executive desks, while those designed for workers’ cubicles are called cubicle desks. Student desks are narrower versions of pedestal desks that have a pedestal on only one side.
Performance chair: An office chair designed to provide more back support and overall comfort than a task chair. The term “performance chair” can be applied to either a high-back (executive) or mid-back chair.
Pneumatic height adjustment: Means of adjusting the height of an office chair that involves having a cylinder of compressed air in the chair’s column to make it easier to raise and lower the seat.
Printer/scanner/copier (PSC): A desktop-sized inkjet or laser printer integrated with a flatbed scanner. These devices can not only scan pictures and documents into the computer and print them out, but also serve as photocopiers. Some PSCs also include fax capability, although this feature is becoming less necessary as more documents can be sent electronically. When choosing a PSC, consider the number of pages you expect to print during a month, the size of the images you plan to scan, whether you plan to scan documents as well as graphic images, and how much photocopying and faxing you plan to do. Also consider the PSC’s size, weight, and footprint against the space you currently have available to place it.
Standing desk: An office desk designed for people to work at while standing in front of it or when sitting on a high chair or stool. Although standing desks have been around since the time of Benjamin Franklin, they are becoming more popular today due to concerns about obesity and sitting for excessive periods of time.
Student desk: A variation of the pedestal desk that is narrower than the pedestal desk and has a pedestal on only one side, with two legs on the other.
Task chair: Also called a low-back chair, a task chair is an office chair designed to support the lower to middle back. Task chairs are the most common form of office chair.
Utility table: An office table with a flat surface supported by four legs whose use depends on whatever it is needed for at the time. A utility table may be part of a set of such tables of progressively larger sizes, where the shorter tables can be stored under the longest table until needed, or may have legs that fold up to allow the table to be stored elsewhere until needed.
Whiteboard: The term “whiteboard” can refer to two different pieces of office equipment. A regular whiteboard is a white-colored writing surface that can be written on with erasable marker pens, similar to writing on a blackboard with chalk. This kind of whiteboard is also called a dry-erase board, greaseboard, or markerboard.
An interactive whiteboard is a display that can be connected to a computer. First introduced in 1990, an interactive whiteboard can both display content from a computer screen and be written on with a special pen; notes made on the whiteboard or an attached tablet can be saved to the computer. Interactive whiteboards are more commonly found in educational settings, but the first interactive whiteboards were designed for use in small-group business meetings.
Workstation: Although workstation can be used to refer to a special-purpose computer system, in office furniture, a workstation refers to the place where people position themselves to work. It can be a synonym for an office desk or a cubicle, although it may include all the equipment within an office area.
Writing desk: Also called a bureau, a writing desk was originally designed for writing letters by hand. Today, the writing desk has been redesigned to allow for use with a laptop computer. If your office is primarily mobile and doesn’t require a desktop computer, you may want to consider using a writing desk to place your laptop on when working from your base location.