Where properly implemented, companies using furniture adaptable to the individual physical
requirements of each employee, have experienced improved productivity and efficiency.
Perhaps the best means of understanding why, is to understand working situations they had
They had found that a significant proportion of terminal time was spent correcting errors. This was
most obvious in word processing, where the mistakes were made on the keyboard, missed on the
screen, and printed, only to be caught by the originator, and sent back through the system again.
This error correction is extremely time consuming, yet understandable if the terminal operator was
experiencing headache, eyestrain or backache, which contributed to his errors.
The discomfort resulting from working at inflexible furniture has caused these inefficiencies, often
without the operators recognizing the problems they were experiencing.
The reason is that working discomfort will not necessarily cause identifiable pain. Individuals will
often experience increased tension or anxiety levels. Although this causes them to move away from their
terminal or work station, they may be unsure of the reason themselves.
This is all part of on-premises absenteeism, which is probably more costly to companies than
off-premises absenteeism and employee turnover costs combined.
At one major corporation, a departmental study showed that the full-time employees were actually
only working half the day in total.
As more employees and their unions become aware of their discomforts of terminal operation, they
are asking for as much as fifteen and twenty minute breaks every working hour.
It would be more effective to provide the operators with adaptable furniture to improve their working
And that brings up a very important point.
Furniture adjustable for people in word and data processing is more expensive than standard,
unadaptable office furniture.
But as salaries continue to be the major expense of most companies, increasing the value of
employee costs is a benefit that should not be ignored.
The cost effectiveness of the payroll can be directly related to thedegree of versatility available from
the office furniture product used, yet it is not enough to just provide employees with adaptable office
furniture. They must be taught how to use it; they must be taught about themselves.
Remember that these are people who rarely complained before about any discomfort from improper
working conditions. This includes people we have seen sitting on telephone books, using keyboards on
their laps, developing swollen legs from poor circulation, operating keyboards inside desk drawers and
"shrugging" so badly at keyboards too high for them that it seemed as though their necks had disappeared.
We have also seen employees having to bend over each time to read or work on a table made lower for
the terminal, without allowing for proper reading or working height requirements. Others have told us of
having to rest their eyes every evening after work, or soak in a hot tub to relieve cramped muscles.
Still others told of taking aspirins every afternoon, of needing to wait for hours after heavy terminal
use for their eyes to properly focus, or of simply refusing to work during the last part of the day because
of the discomfort they experience.
The problem is that serious.
The solution is individually adaptable office furniture and terminal tables. Properly designed,
implemented and monitored.
In their preliminary findings on musco-skeletal and performance differences between good and poor
VDT work stations, issued in the proceedings of the Human Factors Society 26th annual meeting in
Seattle, Washington as early as 1982 they stated:
"An experimental simulation of a VDT entry task was conducted during five 3-hour test sessions in
which subjects worked under ergonomic conditions alternating between good and poor features as
defined by adjustments of working and seating surfaces, lighting and glare.
Performance measures were taken during each session and a battery of psychophysical/physiological
measures and subjective complaints were taken before and after each work session.
Preliminary results indicated a 24.5% improvement in performance as well as a decrease in
Musco-skeletal complaints attributed to good ergonomic design characteristics."
The Workers' Compensation Board in Edmonton came to similar conclusions and in an internal report
states that a work stations costing C$1,650.00 would pay for itself in less than 5 months on only the
payroll-cost efficiency factor alone.
It is - simply - logic applied to a place of work, and by allowing people to be comfortable - to increase
their efficiency. Or as Dr. Nigel Corlett, Professor of Applied Ergonomics at the University of Nottingham.
England states: "Ergonomics is a game where all win!"