Wednesday, March 4, 2009

the office as a tool 1.7 - more surprises

In our last entry in this series summarizing Michael Brill's short booklet The Office as a Tool he was reviewing surprising results of the research into the workplace. If you remember they found that enclosure was beneficial to productivity, and even to communication. Lets continue looking at some of these surprises and see what other assumptions we can overturn.

The next surprise is that windows are not that important. While most people will express a strong preference for windows, the findings show that a window does not have a great impact on productivity or job satisfaction. The reasons people like windows has to do with sunlight, seeing the weather, feeling not closed in - strangely in conflict with enclosure being preferred! But status falls low on the list of reasons. Brill indicates that this may be a good reason to layout the workplace with windows in common spaces and circulation spaces rather than the private offices. This way all benefit from encountering the windows during their day at the office, rather than being only in private offices of more senior staff.

Another surprising finding had to do with ergonomics, or lack there of. Usually there is an emphasis on proper ergonomics for workers that have intensive use of the computer or other equipment. Repetitive use and motions are more likely to cause injury. And this was borne out by Brill's research. But the surprise was that a majority of other workers outside of intensive computer users also suffered from pain or discomfort brought on by the workplace. In the end it appeared that all workers justified the ergonomic focus. This is indicative of a common old school office paradigm. Clerical staff may get an advanced task chair, meanwhile the manager sits in an old fashioned wing chair with brass tacks styled "Managerial" seat. This kind of seating is meant more to convey status than it is to bring comfort. Thankfully that paradigm seems to be passing. If not so for you, then ditch the arm chair along with the Fox Hunt scene and get yourself a decent task chair.

More surprises in our next installment.

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