The most important and the truly unique contribution of management in the 20th century was a 50-fold increase in the productivity of manufacturing workers, said author and management consultant Peter Drucker, and “the most important contribution management needs to make in the 21st century is to similarly increase the productivity of knowledge workers.”
What Drucker describes is the greatest challenge facing management today. It is astounding that most employers have no idea how much productivity they are losing or why. This raises the obvious questions: How can you measure productivity loss in an office environment and how do you prevent it?
The answer lies in ergonomics. It is the primary role of the ergonomist to help management identify and correct the factors which impede worker performance or put them at risk of occupational-related injuries and ailments.
Cost Components and Potential Savings
When you hire employees, you need to provide them with a place to work, furniture, equipment, supplies, software and support. The sum of these costs – direct employee costs related to recruitment and training, facilities costs (space, including common areas and operating costs) and IT costs (data and communications equipment, software, operating costs and support) – is the real cost per employee. Based on human resources costs of $70,000, facilities costs of $8,000 and IT costs of $2,000, the total cost per employee would be $80,000 per year. This means every employee who leaves and the position remains vacant, or for every position that is not filled despite increased demand, saves the employer $80,000.
Human resources obviously is the largest organizational cost and productivity is the key metric. This does not mean that offices should become sweatshops with managers timing all aspects of the job. What it means is that there are preventable and/or correctable conditions in every office that significantly impede worker productivity.
Managing Health: Ergonomics – Is It the Answer to Productivity Challenges?