What is legacy furniture?
Legacy furniture includes all the furniture in the office that you currently have. Legacy furniture is often a piece that may not be the best or most effective furniture for the job, but it’s what you have. The two major types of legacy furniture I’ve come across are Sentimental Legacy furniture and Incumbent Legacy furniture.
Sentimental Legacy furniture is that sofa that a founder doesn’t want to the get rid of because it was the very first piece of furniture that was bought in their apartment where the company was hatched, and they spent the first one hundred dollars that they fundraised buying it. They spent hours on it debugging code and hashing out the business plan with the early co-founders - and it definitely looks the part. I’ve worked with a founder who had limited space but insisted on keeping an green, crushed-velvet thrift store couch, and even wanted to display it in the reception area. While it was a sweet story and represented the founding of the company, if you didn’t know it, your first impression of the office was a worn-out sofa with claw marks on one arm and a mystery stain.
Incumbent Legacy furniture is the pieces that were bought way back when the company wasn’t making plans for scaling or had a much different office space. This most often happens with workstations and desks. I’ve seen glass top kitchen tables for desks, custom made tables tops made from repurposed doors, or beautifully craftsman made workstations made from local artisans. The glass top tables were a nightmare for ergonomics, broke easily, and always looked messy no matter how well the cables were managed. The custom made desks had to be made by the CTO on weekends when they needed more desks and varied in size, and the artisan workstation took 3-6 months to build which meant that they were renting desks for months after they brought on new hires.
Whatever the type of legacy furniture you have, it’s often the bane of your existence.
Proposing the transition
Now you may have proposed this previously, and been shut down. So make sure first that you have good reason to justify the transition - this is not just a personal vendetta against a particular color chair, it’s actually shabby looking, takes up a lot of space and doesn’t go with the overall aesthetic of the current office. And if not, the next time you move, maybe it happens to fall off the truck or get broken by the movers (I’ve been asked to make that happen… more than once! Now it’s something we specialize in, but only when asked).
For example, one my clients is currently trying to transition out some older workstations. They are huge black behemoths that take half a day to put together, are impossible to move and are almost double the size of your average workstation. They were bought by the founder and his small team back in the early days when they had a huge office and not many people to fill it. So they each got huge desks for their double (and even triple) monitor setup. While they started to buy the smaller version of these desks, now that their team is starting the approach the 100 person mark, they need the space. Their OM would like to be able to have a more flexible floor plan that she can make adjustments to on her own, and add desks without having to hire a TaskRabbit for 4 hours to put together a single desk. Also, the black laminate is challenging because they show marks easily and always look kind of dirty. But for a company of almost 100, it’s going to a sizeable expense to transition to a new type of desk.
When proposing a change of this type it is best to do so with plenty of evidence to help you justify the change. If you’ve identified a replacement you can create a floor plan that shows how many more desks you can fit by switching or a cost benefit analysis to support your reasoning. If the new workstations are cheaper, show the point at which you will save money. Make sure to add the cost of the assembly to the purchase cost - most people forget to do this. Ikea is often cheaper, but not after you have to pay a TaskRabbit $79/hr to put it together!
While the cost-benefit is often hard to prove when it comes to ergonomics, you can pull data from studies or other large companies about the benefits of providing ergonomically sound workstations. And if your founder is not in their early twenties, they will definitely appreciate/understand it.
The best time to transition the furniture is during a move. This saves money with the movers and you can potentially sell off the other pieces (and make it someone else’s problem!). There’s also less downtime since your design/installation team can have all the new furniture setup while your team is still working in the old office.
If you’re not moving offices anytime soon but need to transition something like your workstations, you can do so slowly over a few week or month period and not during weekends which accrues expensive overtime for install teams. I recommend going team by team, this has the added benefit of amortizing the cost of the purchases.
Additionally, team members will have to work together to transition to the workstations which is a kind of team building exercise. As an added bonus, I have found that one of the major ways to fight entitlement is to have people pack and unpack their own box during a transition. It means they have skin in the game, and they can’t be a total diva if something on their desk is out of place or didn’t get packed.
Have any legacy furniture at your office? Send us a photo of any particularly offensive armchairs or strange office furniture, and hopefully, the story of how you got rid of it.