Updated: Jun 7, 2020
Reflections on the selection of office equipment.
The social media age has created the unique opportunity to get glimpses into others lives and businesses that we hadn't had before. People eagerly share their day to day developments and goings on. Operating a B2B company, I follow many businesses on social media. This has opened my eyes to a whole new 'problem area' that I hadn't fully appreciated before.
I have had moments of dread as I view the posts of companies proudly showing off their new office furniture, knowing that this furniture is going to create significant risk to the worker who eventually uses is. Often, the main considerations in equipment selection were aesthetics and price.
I feel terrible. Terrible for the person who has to use it, knowing they will almost certainly have significant physical discomfort (at best). Terrible for the company who has spent their money on this furniture simply because they didn't know any different. They're experts in their line of business, not in ergonomics, not in health and safety. The company is now going to risk uncomfortable employees with decreased productivity, increased turnover (because people aren't going to stick around to work in that environment) and/or all of the costs and inconveniences that come with employee absenteeism. Best case scenario, the situation is resolved before the consequences are too dire and new furniture is acquired with the only costs being that spent on the original equipment.
Recommendations for Businesses
Consult with an Ergonomic Professional before purchasing office furniture.
Allow someone to provide you with the information you need to make a sound decision and to optimize the health of your employees. In Canada, we now have a Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Standard on Office Ergonomics (CSA Z41-17). It states that;
"The organization shall establish a process to evaluate furniture, accessories, equipment, other products, supplies, raw material and services to be procured in order to identify and eliminate potential hazards; to control risk before the items to be procured are brought into the workplace; to prevent injuries; to enhance user health, safety, and well-being; and to optimize system performance."
This is to ensure that equipment is not acquired that places users at risk.
Invest in the right Equipment - Invest in your Employees
Yes, we all know that the cost of office furniture is not necessarily a feel good expense. It's a necessity that we want to spend the least possible amount on. As a business, new or established, you'd rather be investing your money into any number of other things.
At the end of the day, however, you have an employee who needs that space to conduct their work and the work they're doing is important to your business (or you wouldn't have created that position). If you aspire to optimize your business processes, this is an important piece of the puzzle. Ultimately, your employees are your single greatest resources. Without them doing the things you need them doing, what do you have?
The amount of money a business can cost themselves by saving a few hundred or a couple of thousand of dollars, will multiply exponentially when the consequences unfold.
Ensure workstation is a suitable fit for the individual user
It's insufficient to simply buy good quality ergonomic furniture and equipment for your facility and call it a day. Once you have users in the space, you need to ensure that the individual is able to use it optimally. This requires;
Training - train your employees on ergonomic best practices,in general, and train them specifically on how to use the equipment you've provided.
Individual Evaluation - ensure that the equipment is, in fact, a suitable fit to the individual user. Good equipment may be suitable for the majority, but there may be some individuals for whom it is not. If you hire a consultant to discuss potential equipment, they should be able to identify if there are any staff who may need something different before purchase.
The dollars and sense
A good chair can be purchased for $600 (maybe even less). That chair will probably have a 10 year warranty, That breaks down to $60/year for a good chair. $5 a month.
That's the value of less than 20 minutes of work per month.
Please. Consult with someone knowledgeable before purchasing office furniture and equipment.
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