Often times, clients walk into our showroom and see the wide variety of adjustable height tables, monitor arms, keyboard trays, collaborative seating areas, etc. They ask the question: “How much more productive will my employees be if I provide them with those items?”
Easy question…but difficult to answer. Productivity is an elusive measurement in the modern office. Researchers have a hard time quantifying productivity in knowledge workers. As such, ergonomists struggle to justify the expense for these ergonomic tools to budget-conscientious buyers.
Measuring productivity is a function of efficiency. To improve productivity, one must demonstrate an increase in outputs while maintaining or reducing the required inputs. Unfortunately, for many in the office environment, the inputs and outputs of our jobs are vague, varied, and hard to measure.
TROUBLE MEASURING INPUTS
While researchers have tried to measure office worker productivity for years, many of the metrics used have been unable to capture what it takes to complete a job. Likewise, none of these metrics can show us which activities are needed for us to be more successful in our careers.
Collaboration, a popular initiative, is often highly valued in the workplace. Though it can’t be evaluated with traditional productivity measurements. There’s no denying that meeting with coworkers to brainstorm can be valuable and constructive. With the lack of a true measuring tool, this activity is difficult to quantify, even more so to link with work output.
TROUBLE MEASURING OUTPUTS
While quantity is important when determining office worker output, quality is vital. Take a data entry worker who keys at a high volume. Productivity can be measured by keystrokes or logged computer time with this person showing great effort. Realistically, this high output individual may be far less productive than someone keying more slowly but with fewer mistakes. Quantity without quality becomes more visible yet hard to assess due to shifting individuals and roles.
ERGONOMICS IMPROVES THE POSSIBILITY OF PRODUCTIVITY
Although many productivity measurements are imperfect, a great deal of research suggests the benefits of workplace ergonomics go well beyond safety and health. A thoughtfully designed workplace will create the best opportunity for employees to be more productive.
When executed effectively, well designed ergonomic work environments have been shown to:
Reduce worker fatigue (mental and physical)
Improve efficiency with a practical layout
Deliver a higher workplace satisfaction
At a time where companies are attempting to do more with less, using productivity to measure the justification for ergonomic tools is risky. The late Peter Drucker, renowned management philosopher, believed employees should be considered assets and should be empowered to be responsible for their own productivity.
How much does it cost to create healthy working environments that suit the bodies, the work styles, and the work tasks of every employee? Think of this another way…how much will it cost you not to?