The federal government spent over $3 billion on office furniture between 2020 and 2022, despite most staff working from home during that period. The spending was almost equal to pre-pandemic levels and included $237,960 for solar-powered picnic tables for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
There was also extravagant spending in the US Embassy in Islamabad, Pakistan, where officials spent $120,000 on luxury reclining chairs, and back in America, the Environmental Protection Agency shelled out more than $6 million to furnish its 300,000-square-foot office in Philadelphia. The Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation spent an eye-watering $15 million on new furniture for its 1,000 staff – the equivalent of $14,400 per employee.
The numbers were revealed in a report from the Government Accountability Office that caught the eye of similar organizations who immediately condemned the excessive spending during a time of economic hardship for many Americans.
Adam Andrzejewski, founder of the Open The Books group that monitors public spending, noted that the office furniture costs for the past two years are particularly egregious given the low use of office space across the public sector. “No major agency is at more than half capacity. Yet, for some reason, we’ve bankrolled another billion dollars in desks, chairs, couches,” he said.
Efforts to persuade Americans to return to the office have met with growing resistance since the end of the pandemic, and Pew data from 2023 suggests that the trend will continue. The survey, conducted in March this year, revealed that 35% of US workers work from home full-time. The figure peaked at 55% in October 2020 and fell to 43% by January 2022. Before the pandemic, however, only 7% of staff worked from home.
Most of those who work at home say they choose to do so because it helps them balance their work commitments with their personal and family lives. Other advantages include time saved due to lack of travel, while the primary downside is lack of connection with colleagues.