Possibly even worse than the home office is the away office when it comes to ergonomics. While the nine-to-five might be outfitted with its ergonomic chair, split keyboard, appropriate lighting and regular rest breaks, who is responsible for the traveler’s ergonomics?
Even the best intentions can go out the window on a business trip. Diets change. Sleeping habits are altered. Business travelers attempt to carry their whole office around with them, and when it is time to put the portable office down, the business traveler is at the mercy of the hotel’s concept of ergonomics, with equipment and furniture that may not quite fit the traveler’s size. Fortunately, both hotels and equipment providers are making attempts to change this, but how well they’re doing has yet to be seen.
Hotel amenities have progressed from the in-room alarm clock or the coffee maker. For the business traveler who doesn’t turn it off when the five o’clock whistle blows, hotels are touting ergonomic desks and desk chairs, and equipment rentals. From a productivity standpoint, hotels are also offering high speed Internet access, multi-line speaker phones, direct private phone lines, and even office equipment like fax machines, printers, copiers and computers upon request.
Still, even with all of these amenities, there are issues. First, ergonomics comes at a price. Hotels with the best office set-ups tend to be high ticket joints catering specifically to the business traveler and may not be in every company’s budget. Second, desks and chairs may look nice, but they may not fit everyone. One frequent business traveler noted that even though she was 5′ 8″ tall, she still had to boost the chair with a pillow to comfortably reach the desk. And third, all of the conveniences of the office equipment being within arm’s reach could make it more difficult for the business traveler to call it a night.
Taking the office on the road is ever becoming easier. Portable computers are lighter, hotels have high speed Internet connections and data ports, cell phones keep the traveler at the same phone number at all times, luggage and display units can come with wheels. Hauling the office around doesn’t always have to be painful.
First, lightweight and portable doesn’t always equal comfortable. Oftentimes, the more comfortable the item is to carry, the more difficult it is to use. Laptop computers are infamous for their poor ergonomics
This article originally appeared in The Ergonomics Report™ on 2003-06-01.