Buying office furniture tips

Nowadays when you buy office furniture from a showroom or a dealer, many of them will claim to know something about ergonomics.  Now this may be the case or it may not, but it’s important that you only take advice from someone who is certified to practice ergonomics (see my post “Make sure your ergonomic consultant is certified” in May 2010)  The problem with taking advice from someone who is not certified, is that they have not been tested on their knowledge of how office equipment needs to fit each and every employee perfectly.  Without a perfect fit, employees run the risk of getting injured.  For example, if you are sold a chair with too large of a seat pan depth for employees with shorter legs, those employees will perch or sit forward in their chair to avoid the front of the seat pan from causing pain in their knees.  This will increase their potential for neck and back problems.  If you are sold a desk that is not height adjustable or does not have room for a keyboard and mouse tray, you will have to replace these desks to avoid injuries associated with the neck, back, arms, and wrists.

So here are some ways to avoid purchasing the wrong equipment:

–           Make sure you hire a certified ergonomic consultant to assess your office needs and to make recommendations for fully adjustable equipment.

–           Question your consultant about their recommendations and their choice of company for purchasing.  It’s important that the consultant is impartial to which company the equipment is purchased from.

–           Have your consultant work closely with the office supply company to make sure that every detail is taken care of.  Something as small as ¼” difference in height or width can render a piece of equipment unusable.

–           Consider doing a trial on equipment.  Pick several employees or a whole department to try out new equipment for a month.  They will be able to comment on likes and dislikes which can be taken care of before purchasing equipment for the whole office.

–           Research warranty and return policies and make sure that your satisfaction is 100% guaranteed.  There is nothing worse than buying equipment that breaks down within a few months or even years.  Good quality chairs should last up to 10 years.

–           Once the equipment is installed, make sure is training provided to each employee so they know how to adjust their equipment to fit their body.  You will not reap the benefits of ergonomic office equipment if it is not adjusted properly for each employee.

–           Do a follow up survey after a few months to identify issues that may have arisen and to make sure that employees are happy.  Many thanks and smiles will probably arise – there is nothing better than a comfortable workstation!


Reactive and Proactive Ergonomic Evaluations

Most of the time my ergonomic evaluations involve assessing existing workstations with the intent of reducing risk factors in the most affordable and effective way.  This is termed a “reactive” evaluation.  Sometimes there are no recommendations for equipment – just recommendations for procedures such as taking mini-breaks every hour, sitting against the office chair backrest, keeping wrists straight while keyboarding, etc.  When I make recommendations for equipment during these evaluations, it usually doesn’t involve making large purchases like desks, but may involve purchases such as a keyboard and mouse tray or a monitor riser.

On occasion, companies looking to buy new office furniture enlist my help to have them choose the right equipment before they buy.  This is called a “proactive” ergonomic evaluation and it’s a very smart and forward-thinking way to purchase furniture and equipment for the least amount of money and the most effective ergonomics.  If furniture and equipment are purchased without ergonomics in mind, there is a much greater chance for workplace injuries to occur.

Ideally all companies would have proactive ergonomic evaluations done before they purchase their office furniture and equipment.  This would eliminate the problem of office chairs that aren’t adjustable, desks that don’t have keyboard and mouse trays, monitors that aren’t height adjustable, and improper task lighting, to name a few.  It would also reduce smaller scale problems like keyboard and mouse trays that aren’t fully adjustable, keyboards that are too big, and mice that don’t fit all hands.  These companies purchase with intent of never having to buy new equipment due to non-adjustability and most importantly, never having any employee go off work due to a work-related injury.

But why wouldn’t you just go to an office furniture supply store and trust their judgment about ergonomics?  Stay tuned for the next post to find out why this will result in buyer’s remorse and what you can do to avoid it.