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Office Ergonomics - a Pain in the Butt?

If you or your co-workers are finding the office more of a pain than ever, it might be worthwhile to put some thought into the office’s ergonomics.

After all, it’s great to have all the latest technology and doodads, but if it’s set up in a way that’ll cost you an arm and a leg in lost productivity it doesn’t make a lot of sense.

Well, the Canadian Standards Association thinks it can help, and for a lot less money than bringing in some fancy expert to look over and pontificate about your office space. The Guideline On Office Ergonomics, which was updated as recently as Y2K, is full of relevant info structured as a step-by-step design process for optimizing stuff like office layout, environmental conditions, and workstation design.

The Guide is available as a CD ROM, Acrobat file or a print document. The CD-ROM’s probably the easiest to navigate, since they’ve built a clunky but workable interface that lets you jump all over the place at will. Unfortunately, you pay through the nose for the high tech version. It costs $295 Cdn as opposed to the $150 each for the Acrobat or print documents.

The Guideline covers stuff you might not think of, like lighting and temperature control and even electromagnetic fields, which should please the tin foil hat crowd. And it also mentions “sick building syndrome,” for those suffering from edifice complexes

The objective is to help you – or the lucky person you manage to delegate – to optimize the design of the working environment, organization, and tasks to best match their potential users.

The writing is about as dry as prairie summers of late, and it’s tempting to skip forward when things get particularly wordy but the information’s good, there are diagrams and charts – and you can print out checklists you can use to appraise your own space time continuum for any potential ergonomic nightmares.

You can’t print them right from the CD presentation, for some strange reason; instead they make you open up a Word document in another folder and print from that. Seems kind of Mickey Mouse for something that costs three hundred bucks, but what can you do?

The Guideline On Office Ergonomics is available from the CSA Web site at


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January 31, 2006