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The Ergonomic Office Is business a pain in the neck? It wouldn't be if your office were ergonomic.

Once considered some trendy European way to make business ownersspend a lot of money, ergonomics has gained respect in recentyears. Simply put, this term refers to designing and arrangingfurnishings and space to fit the natural movements of the humanbody. Ergonomics can help you and your employees avoid repetitivestress injuries from typing or bending, and can prevent commonproblems like back pain, which often sideline entrepreneurs andtheir employees.

Noise pollution is one of the biggest problems in many offices.One good way to decrease noise is to cover computer printers withsound shields. Covering a printer can cut noise by more than 90percent . . . and increases concentration accordingly.

Buy adjustable chairs. A good chair allows the user to adjustthe seat height and the tension of the backrest. The seat shouldangle forward slightly to keep from cutting off your circulation.Boost the benefits of a good chair by providing footrests.Elevating the feet slightly while typing or sitting at a deskreduces lower back strain and improves circulation, keeping youmore alert.

Make sure the desk and chair arrangement you choose allows youto keep the tops of your knuckles and tops of your wrists, and yourforearms all in a straight line as you work on your computer. Yourcomputer monitor should be at or below eye level. Use under-deskkeyboard trays and monitor stands, if necessary, to get everythingin line.

Another often-ignored problem in offices is lighting. Too muchor too little lighting causes eye strain and tiredness, decreasingproductivity. To cut down on glare, put filters on computerscreens. Use individual lamps to illuminate desk work and help eyesadjust from overlit computer screens to underlit paper. Installminiblinds to let each employee control the amount of light tomatch the task at hand and time of day.

You can find office furniture touted as ergonomic at a varietyof sources, from office supply superstores to traditional officefurniture retailers. Just because something claims to be ergonomic,however, doesn't mean it's right for you. Always testfurnishings before you buy. Sit in the chair and make sure it'scomfortable; sit at the desk and make sure it's the rightheight. Make sure your desk and chair work together and that thereis plenty of legroom under the desk.

When buying furniture, look for solid construction, particularlyin desks. The ready-to-assemble desks available at home or officesuperstores are often poor quality. Most are made of particleboard,which won't stand up to heavy use. A better option for those ona budget is to buy used office furniture.

More and more furniture dealers these days sell used (alsocalled "reconditioned") office furniture. You can findeverything from a single desk and chair to a full fleet of cubiclesfor your staff. Typically, furniture has been repaired andrepainted where necessary. In some cases, savings can be up to 70percent over the cost of the same items new.

You can find used furniture sources in the Yellow Pages, or lookin your local newspaper's classified ad section for individualsselling used pieces. Flea markets, auctions and estate sales can beother sources of used items.

Excerpted from Start Your Own Business: The Only Start-UpBook You'll Ever Need, by Rieva Lesonsky and the Staff ofEntrepreneur Magazine, © 1998 Entrepreneur Press

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