Aetna's Edge in Office Ergonomics

Occupational Hazards, October 1989 | Go to article overview

Aetna's Edge in Office Ergonomics


AETNA'S EDGE IN OFFICE ERGONOMICS

How will office automation impact our company?

That was the question Aetna Life & Casualty's management team asked itself in the late 1970's as the company began to rely more and more heavily on office computers.

Fred Schott, senior consultant, People Technology Services, says the company's corporate planning department in 1980 presented top management with a report called "Aetna in 1990." That report said that with Aetna's involvement in the insurance and financial services business, computer technology would be increasingly important to the company. And the report warned that this technology could be imitated by any of Aetna's competitors.

"Technology in and of itself is not going to give us a competitive advantage," Schott recalls the report saying. "The key thing will be how readily our people accept the technology. The chairman of the board at the time asked what we were going to do about that. Senior management decided that we should set up a special group to look at those issues."

Thus was born People Technology Services, a group which Schott described as acting as "catalysts and communicators" in getting different divisions and disciplines within Aetna to focus on issues such as office ergonomics and systems development and design.

Schott said this group's existence reflects Aetna's corporate culture. "We have a statement of principles. One of them says that we believe our employees are our greatest asset. That's a simple conviction that manifests itself in lots of little actions as well as in major policies. The decision to set up the People Technology group is obviously one of them."

After gaining expertise in ergonomic issues in the early 1980's, Schott and his group sought to educate the company's facilities management and planning personnel about office ergonomic issues so that they would begin to factor ergonomics into facility planning and purchasing decisions.

In some ways, Aetna proved an ideal laboratory for introducing ergonomic work concepts. Throughout the 1980's, the company was undergoing rapid growth at the same time it was being reorganized to provide more divisional autonomy. New buildings were being built or leased by the company. Existing buildings were being renovated. As more computer equipment was being brought into offices, it became clear that employees needed to be provided more working space.

Unlike some companies where management has balked at the cost of new furniture for computer work stations, Aetna has treated office furniture as a necessary element of the office automation process.

"Our group tries to present the implementation of technology as a holistic process," says Schott. "You start by focusing on your business basics. What is your business mission, and what are the critical success factors for accomplishing that mission? Where do you have gaps in your organization? What do you need to close them?

"Having done that, you move on to system development. System doesn't mean just the computer system. It means the organizational system, like a social system. You're not just designing data processing. You're designing new work processes, new organizational relationships. When you do that, you're also creating a physical working environment for the employee.

"Now step back, and you'll see that your total investment in new technology will include the equipment, software, furniture, and training. If you educate managers to understand all the different pieces that are essential for successful use of technology by employees, they'll see the value of ergonomic furniture in the equation.

Redesign

Aetna's first major ergonomic project was the selection of new seating for employees. For the most part, the company had been using a chair designed in the 1940's. While it provided some adjustability, it also had obvious drawbacks. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Aetna's Edge in Office Ergonomics
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.