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Comfort, right tools for job enhance productivity

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by Jan K. Allen

SBJ Contributing Writer

The work environment and the tools needed to get the job done are extremely important factors in productivity, according to Bill Abbott, owner of Springfield Office Supply Inc., Springfield Office Plus and Office Furniture USA.

Sometimes a company will pay an exorbitant price for land and a building, but skimp on something like the chairs where office workers have to sit all day.

Many business owners look at price first, but there's more to the equation, Abbott said.

Often the difference between a quality piece of furniture that really fits the need and an inferior piece of furniture is marginal.

The dependability and quality of the higher priced piece can make up the cost difference in the long haul.

Abbott buys from 27 different manufacturers and keeps up on the latest equipment available.

When outfitting a large company, sometimes these vendors will send a factory representative to demonstrate the features and show employees how to make

adjustments so the equipment fits the individual.

The first thing Abbott and his sales force do when consulting with a business about new furnishings is to talk to the employees who will be using the products. He usually finds their input invaluable.

"Who better to determine the needs than the people doing the tasks?" he said.

A number of factors link together to enhance productivity. Abbott said and one of the easiest to remedy is color.

It has been proven that some colors are more pleasing and relaxing, while others can create an uncomfortable atmosphere.

Other factors such as noise, space and cleanliness can play a role in the overall comfort of an employee, and comfort is a key issue in productivity.

"If an employee is not comfortable, he or she is not going to get much done," said David Fite, owner of Stepping Stones Distributors.

Fite said he believes the single most important thing for an office employee is the chair he or she sits in all day. A business owner may buy a cheap chair and think he's getting by, but if it results in back or leg problems that lead to an employee missing work, he hasn't gained much.

A more expensive chair, designed for maximum comfort, will not only increase productivity, but it will last longer and thus be more cost-effective, he said.

One tool that Fite uses in his business and that he highly recommends to other businesses is the telephone headset. By using a headset a worker can have both hands free to write, reach for files or do other small tasks while talking on the phone.

It greatly adds to the comfort level for people who spend a lot of time on the phone.

Arrangement of the work station is another important factor for both comfort and productivity. Wrap-around, multi-tiered workstations keep an area organized so an employee is not constantly jumping up to retrieve something from across the room.

The organized work area can greatly improve individual productivity, according to Fite.

While some people work well with things stacked around, clutter usually causes confusion.

"There is nothing so frustrating as going through piles of stuff when you need something in a hurry," he said.

The best office atmosphere is coordinated to maximize the space used and give it some continuity. The use of neutral backgrounds with a mix of pleasing colors and textures can make an office comfortable for the employee as well as visitors.

Both Abbott and Fite recommend allowing employees to personalize their office spaces, as long as it it kept within reason. A family photo or a live plant can make the workspace seem like home.

Both also advised that business owners seek professional help when building or redesigning office space.

It may be easy and cost-effective up front to run to the nearest discount store for a couple of new chairs, but if the chair doesn't fit the person who sits in it eight or more hours per day, it may not be such a good deal, they said.

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