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This chapter is from the book

This chapter is from the book

Organizing Your Office

In this section, you learn how to find the right products and arrange your office for maximum efficiency.

Your Desk and Chair

The right furniture and filing systems can have a significant organizational impact on your productivity. Don't make the mistake of taking them for granted.


According to the feng shui theory, a high-back chair at your desk encourages decision-making because you have the leisurely feeling of leaning back while contemplating.

Your desk is most likely the center of your business activity. As such, all the necessary daily tools of your profession should be positioned in and around that desk for easy access. Recall the times that you often have to get up and retrieve an item two or three times a day.

Simple repositioning for easy reach can trim time and frustration. Key items include the telephone, the answering machine, writing utensils, note pads, in/out file trays, your favorite worry beads, and more. An L-shaped desk can offer additional positioning of your computer and printer.

The Science of Ergonomics

If you spend a lot of time behind the desk, you need a chair that is not only comfortable, but that also is ergonomically designed to reduce or eliminate any damage to your posture. No tool, however, will take the place of frequent breaks, if you spend considerable time working on your computer. Rest, exercise, and moderation can all help you avoid problems caused by repetitive motion.

Sitting for prolonged periods of time is also very stressful on the lower back and neck, according to Dr. William J. Murphy, a chiropractic physician practicing in South Florida. He has several ideas to take care of your "working body."

  • Talk on the phone while standing, not sitting.

  • Invest in a stand-up desk, originally invented by Thomas Jefferson.

  • Keep your shoulders and chin back to combat the damage done over time by the posture you assume attending to tasks in front of you.

  • Buy a clock that chimes every half-hour to remind you to take a stretch break.

Mini stretch breaks at regular intervals throughout the day can help improve circulation and comfort, and can reduce fatigue that can lead to repetitive stress injuries.

The following basic stretches are recommended by the University of Virginia Office of Environmental Health and Safety. Take a few minutes and work out your body. Just remember to start off easy, stretch regularly, and see your doctor if you have pain.

Whole body stretches:

  1. Stand up with your arms at your sides, and then inhale and reach up with both arms. Hold this pose for five seconds.

  2. Repeat three to five times.

Back stretches:

  1. While seated or standing, clasp your hands behind your head. Press your elbows back, squeezing your shoulder blades together.

  2. Relax and repeat three to five times.

  3. While standing, place your hands on your hips and bend backward gently.

  4. While sitting, bend forward slowly and touch the floor, if you can. Grasp your leg at your shin, and slowly pull your leg up to your chest. Repeat with your other leg.

Arm, wrist, and hand stretches:

  1. With your arms and hands outstretched, slowly circle your wrists outward five times; then reverse the direction.

  2. With your arms outstretched and your palms facing down, flex your wrists up to the ceiling. Hold for five seconds, and then reverse direction, with your wrists flexed to the floor. Hold for five seconds and then relax. Repeat two or three times each.

  3. Flex your fingers and hands by opening and closing your fists five to ten times.

  4. Interlace your fingers with the palms facing away from you. Straighten your arms and lift them toward the ceiling.

Neck stretches:

  1. Tuck your chin to your chest. Tilt your head to one shoulder and then to the other. Repeat two or three times.

  2. With your head upright, turn your head slowly from side to side, looking over your shoulder each time. Relax and repeat.

  3. Remember to keep your head and neck aligned with your body. Do not jut your head forward while working at your desk.

Costing from $200 to more than $1,200, ergonomic chairs are known to eliminate back pain, fatigue, and increase productivity.

Plain English

Ergonomics Also known as human engineering, the science of designing and arranging things that people use for safe and efficient interaction.


A study done by Yale University revealed that persons who sit for more than half the day at work have a 60 to 70 percent greater risk of slipping a disk than their mobile co-workers.


Chose portable desks that can be expanded. Permanent, built-in desk systems limit space arrangements and growth. Other considerations are to do the following:

  • Allow sufficient room for papers and desk accessories.

  • Place printers within easy reach.

  • Allow leg clearance under the desk to stretch your legs.

  • Provide a small step stool under the desk to elevate your feet and legs.

  • Train yourself on work habits that are ergonomically healthy for the body and mind.


In June 2000, the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reported that working women have a higher risk level for musculoskeletal injuries on the job, suffering 63 percent of all work-related repetitive motion injuries.

Computer Desks and Credenzas

Often, computer workstations do not accommodate space for much more than the computer and peripherals. You should use a separate chair for the main desk and computer, if you use both of them, for efficiency.


One NIOSH study showed that the use of ergonomic furniture increased worker productivity by 24 percent and increased job satisfaction by 27 percent.

Credenzas are like side tables for the office and are extremely accommodating for holding those items that you use only occasionally but that you want to have at arm's reach.

Computer Usage

Data entry and other tasks involving video-display units lead to ergonomic risks due to repetitive exertions and awkward postures. Musculoskeletal problems of the upper limbs, neck, and back, as well as eyestrain, are the result.

To avoid these problems, improve lighting and reduce glare. Pay attention to workstation design such as keyboard height and viewing distance and angle. Introduce wrist rests and detachable keyboards.


NIOSH recommends implementing a visual testing program and rest-break schedules for constant computer users.


Lighting products should save energy consumption, assist productivity, and be aesthetically pleasing. In general, you should follow these tips:

  • Take advantage of natural lighting where windows exist.

  • Use task lighting, or lamps appropriate for the purpose.

  • Maintain lighting fixtures to optimum performance.

For optimum computer screen viewing, you should do the following:

  • Decrease background lighting.

  • Arrange task lighting away from screen.

  • Adjust curtains or blinds.

  • Install a glare filter on monitors.

Good lighting is important to reduce eye fatigue. However, just as frequent exercise breaks can limit repetitive stress injuries to your body, eye exercises can reduce eyestrain. If you stare at the computer screen or documents all day, try the following exercise:

  1. Focus on an object at least 15 to 20 feet away, and then look out the window or down the hall as far as you can.

  2. Move your eyes from left to right, and then focus on other objects in the room before turning back to your screen or desk.

Remember to take frequent vision breaks throughout the day. Rearrange your task lights if you find yourself straining to focus when looking from desk to screen.


When filing, different types, color, and sizes of folders can be used to maximize the orderly placement of files.

Filing Systems

Develop a system that saves time, whether for personal, staff, or depart- ment use.

Plain English

Document management The system of converting and organizing paper-based information to make it accessible via the Web and corporate intranets. The process may include optical character- recognition (OCR) software.

Smaller filing systems can be coded by one color for each major category, with up to 11 colors available on the market today. Larger systems can use colors to subcategorize major categories.

Other points to consider include these:

  • Place files subject to constant use in hanging file folders for ease of movement and extended durability of the folder.

  • Use expanding files as working files when constantly sorting, using, and moving files for project or client use.

  • Use color-coded expanding files for quick identification when several projects are underway simultaneously.

  • Use a labeling starter/supply kit, or precut and packaged labels and a label software application, in your word processor software when tagging file folder tabs.


Never hand-write office file titles. Not everybody can read your handwriting, and the label system means orderly, easily accessed files.

Smead and Avery offer labeling systems and supplies that cost from $6 to $20 each. Smead, Pendaflex, and SCM are the more common brands of folders by size, color, and function. Prices vary widely, but per-unit cost of folders is reduced with bulk purchases.


Important, everyday files should be kept in a desk drawer or desktop holder.

Filing Cabinets

Implement filing cabinets and storage shelves according to the nature and type of item to be filed and stored.

Store stackable office supplies in shelving units that allow visibility and easy access. Select cabinets by need, function, and location. Use four-drawer upright or lateral units for large filing systems. Use two-drawer lateral units when space is at a premium, and use wheeled units for mobile files.

Color filing cabinet labels by type or function. Use magazine files for storing your industry publications. Label these files by name and dates of publication to be found in each file.

The 30-Second Recap

  • How you position office furniture impacts productivity.
  • Proper ergonomics promotes good health.
  • Finding the right product can make a difference.
  • A good filing system is critical to organization.

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