Enhance Productivity

A Start on Office Ergonomics

Most of us have some general thoughts about ergonomics, but this information can easily be out-of-date. Fortunately for those involved with making decisions about office furniture and setup current ergonomics encourages variety and movement rather than rigid principles or an exact posture. Many employers believe that you have to spend a lot of money when buying ergonomic office furniture. This is not necessarily true, and with a little effort and preparation you can make a wise investment that will lead to a happier and healthier team. Ergonomics is not just a product characteristic. It’s a process of matching furniture to the people doing the work. The aim is to reduce the risk of injury and discomfort without reducing productivity. Consider the work that’s done by each member of your team. Different tasks require different equipment and different layouts. Consider the nature of the tasks to be done – is there a lot of keyboard work or very little? Will a mouse be used for most of the time? How much time is spent in front of the monitor? Once you’ve sorted out these details you can start planning your shopping list of furniture and equipment. What’s the best distance for a computer monitor? Current thinking says it’s as far away as possible while still being able to read it clearly. Longer distances relax the eyes. As for monitor height, the current recommendation is that eye height is the highest a monitor should be. A low monitor has been found to be more comfortable for the eyes and neck. Keyboard height doesn’t necessarily have to be at elbow height. Variation from elbow height is fine, especially in the lower-than-elbow direction. The keyboard doesn’t have to be at the front of the desk as long as the forearms are supported and the elbows aren’t resting on anything hard or sharp. If the keyboard is pushed back the work surface should be higher than elbow height. Chairs are particularly important when it comes to ergonomic considerations. It use to be thought that the chair should be at a height that allows the feet to reach the floor when the legs are bent 90 degrees at the knee. Although this is not harmful, the legs should move very often and not stay fixed in the 90-degree position. If the chair is at a good height but the keyboard height can’t be adjusted to elbow height or lower, then it’s necessary to adjust the chair upwards. In this case, a footrest is an option but footrests are not ideal because the feet only have one place to be and leg postures are limited. Now to posture. Is it really best to have an upright posture, with the hips at ninety degrees? Recent research supports the idea of a much wider hip angle with one hundred thirty degrees or so as an “optimum” angle. Sitting upright is actually less desirable than reclining. When reclining, the lower back muscles work less and the spine has to support less weight since some of the body weight is held up by the chair’s backrest. People who stand all day tend to have back problems and so do people who sit still all day. The traditional fifteen minute break every two hours or so isn’t ideal for someone who works at a keyboard all day. Very short breaks done very frequently – for example, 30-second breaks every ten minutes or so, relieve strain on the back from sitting. Having made the initial assessment, you may start looking for suitable purchases. Focus your attention on: – furniture with a range...

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Be a Better Communicator

What is communication? The dictionary definition is usually something like: “The exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior”, but it could also be characterized as “Something most of us could be a lot better at doing”. Effective communication is essential to business success. Whether it’s writing a letter to introduce yourself to a prospect or briefing your sales team, you need to communicate clearly to get your points across and motivate others. For most of us there is some room for improvement in our communication skills. Here are some pointers that can help in the different areas we might be called upon to use in business. Speaking without fear It’s interesting how most of us dread speaking in front of an audience and yet manage to speak with one or two people very easily. The secret to overcoming this reluctance is to be prepared – work out in advance what you want to say and rehearse it until it sounds natural to you. Always keep your audience in mind. They not only listen to what you say but how you say it, and your tone of voice and body language can be telling quite a different story to your words. There’s a lot more to oral communication than just words. Practice speaking clearly and let your emotions enter into what you’re saying. Emphasize important points with gestures and vocal inflections. This keeps your speech from becoming a dull monologue in which the highlights are buried. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it. If you have an important meeting coming up then be sure you’re up to speed on the topic being discussed. This will give you confidence as well as making what you say more interesting. Avoid jargon and using complicated words or sentence structures to impress others. Just speak naturally and don’t rush what you say. Always maintain eye contact with your audience – regardless of whether it’s one person or an auditorium full of people. You can learn a lot about how you speak by talking to yourself in front of a mirror. It’s the fastest way to find out whether you’re the kind of person you’d like to have a conversation with. Get it right when writing Writing is a lot like speaking. The purpose is the same – to communicate a message to other people. Although it’s not done face-to-face many of the same principles apply. You still need to organize your thoughts and put them down in such a way that readers can understand what you’re telling them. Every piece of written communication deserves the same degree of consideration whether it’s an email, a brief note or a whole volume. Write to your audience in terms they’ll understand, and don’t use terminology that might confuse them. Everyone seems to be time poor these days so get to the point as quickly as possible. You can outline the points you want to get across at the beginning of the communication, and then follow up with supporting facts and details. One all too frequent aspect of modern communications is the number of errors in spelling they contain. Since most of what you write is done on a word processor, learn how to use the spell check function and use it on everything you write. But even then, be aware that it won’t pick up everything, so you should still review your text carefully one more time after the spell check. Just as with your oral presentations, avoid using jargon and complicated words or sentence structures. Write...

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Not Another Team Meeting!

Meetings aren’t normally something to look forward to, but there can be real benefits from having a weekly team meeting at your firm – if it’s set up to do the right things. Share the big picture Most of your team members work pretty much in isolation at their own jobs and don’t see the overall ‘big picture’ of where the firm is going. It’s also highly probable they don’t really know much about or understand just what it is their colleagues are doing. A weekly meeting is a good place to share the knowledge of where the firm is going and what everybody’s working on, even in brief. Understanding priorities Everybody in the business has his or her own priorities, but unless these are related to the priorities of others in the firm conflicts can result. Fighting over scarce resources can cause any number of projects to miss their deadlines. Each week – and it’s probably best at the start of the week, give everyone in the team the chance to outline their priorities and support needs so that conflicts don’t arise and the allocation of resources is made according to the greatest need for them. Directing the traffic When people get focused on their own list projects it’s possible for them to lose track of what the business really needs them to focus on. Management can play the part of the ‘traffic cop’ at weekly meetings and direct work to where it’s going to deliver the most benefits for the firm. Everybody on the team will see what’s most important and what can be taken off the critical list until more time is available. This doesn’t mean there’s a need to trivialize anybody’s workload. When people are busy they tend to see what they’re doing as important and it’s up to you to communicate the reason why some projects are more important than others. It’s also up to you to make sure that everybody is working on things that are important to the business as a whole. Training How often does it happen that something like a new photocopier is installed and only one or two people know how to work it? The usual result is paper jams and a mad search for the one or two unfortunates with the means of getting the equipment serviceable again. If you have a regular weekly team meeting you can overcome this lack of knowledge and share information about equipment or procedures with everybody, even if it’s just how to use something correctly and general advice on what not to do. The quest for perfection Getting everybody in the firm together gives them a chance to tell you what’s in need of attention. If only one person believes there’s a problem it’s probably not all that critical, but if all the team members agree on it it’s something you needed to know! There could be one key project that’s become a roadblock for others trying to get their work done, or it might be that something’s jamming up the works that you’ve been unaware of. Bringing it up in a team session also lets you ask the group to come up with a solution. It’s always a good idea to let others help you in finding answers to a problem. Motivation Meetings that get everyone together can be motivational tools. Everybody feels better when they really feel like they’re part of a team and that others are working as hard fulfilling their responsibilities as they are. Your people will also feel motivated by the chance to participate in goal-setting by...

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