Ergonomics in Clerical Environments




Ergonomics is becoming one of the most important aspects of administrative management. Since the introduction of computers, offices are becoming more technologically based. Employees are spending greater amounts of time in the office and therefore must be comfortable to remain productive. Workers that feel stressed and do not like their work environments lose morale and spend more time away from the office than usual. Furniture, climate, training procedures, lighting and many more aspects are related to ergonomics in the office and clerical based environments.

Keeling and Kallaus (1996;384) says that office furniture and equipment has traditionally been manufactured and used with a view of using efficient office space and cost saving. Although these factors are vital to work within the budget, managers fails to consider the ergonomics need of the employees. Sleeth (1996;10) defines ergonomics as a study of the office environment to allows employees to work productively. Ergonomically designed work environment that takes into consideration both psychological and physical needs increases job satisfaction and prevents injuries (Hess:1996;28).

Troyer (1996;20) says that employers have become extremely concerned about potential discomforts associated with extended use of repetitive duty on computers and other office equipment. These discomforts can cause serious bodily injuries and force organisation to lose millions of dollars in loss hours of work, hospital cost and workers’ compensation claim. Organisation became aware of the high cost associated with injuries therefore ergonomic furniture and equipment became an important issue in the work place. Ergonomic furniture and equipment is an important issue that management should consider because it decreases the medical cost, insurance cost associated with injuries and also increases worker’s efficiency in the workplace (Allie;1996;20).

Keeling and Kallaus (1996;384) says that in order to consider the ergonomic furniture and equipment for the office, the manager must firstly understand the type of work being performed and the ergonomics needs of the employees. Allie (1996) argues that it is also vital to educate employees about ergonomics, provide proper adjustable furniture and equipment. Managers should also understand employees needs and ways to help them work more safely. Troyer (1996;20) states that it is difficult to really determine which furniture and equipment will provide the ergonomic needs for the employees. The author suggests that when evaluating whether certain furniture and equipment can provide the necessary ergonomic need, it is important to find out how the manufacturer design their products. It is important to consider whether the manufacturers uses ergonomics expert, is the product adjustable, does the product provide comforts for the eyes, neck, wrist and back. It is also vital to find out how the manufacturer test the claims they make for their products and the manufactures reputation for making ergonomics product.

When buying office furniture and equipment, the purchases that gets the most investigation and examination are usually the one that will last longer. Keeling and Kallaus (1996;386) suggests that when selecting office furniture the following must be taken into consideration, firstly, it should provide adequate safety and comforts to the employees. Secondly, it should be made of good quality materials, build strongly and provide ease for the work to be done. Thirdly the furniture should be adjustable and can be used for different purposes. Finally it should meet the preferences of all the employees who are going to use them.

For example when the organisation is looking for chairs for its employees, the key factors management should consider is adjustability. Marston (1996;39) mentions that an ergonomic chairs should able to be adjusted up and down according to the desired height, should have lumbar and arms support, comfortable cushioning, provide backward or forward tilt and the adjustment can be easily made by anyone using the chairs.

Beside providing ergonomically design furniture, a variety of office equipment are also required. Equipment such as photocopying, telephones, facsimile and computers. These office equipment facilitate the office task in less time and with greater accuracy (Keeling and Kallaus:1996;391). The guideline provided by Keeling and Kallaus for selecting office equipment, is firstly, the equipment should be made available to employees if it makes their job more efficient. For example in selecting between a typewriter and a computer, the computer will be more faster and efficient than the typewriter but