Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

The Perfect Office

Academic journal article Journal of Accountancy

The Perfect Office

Article excerpt


* THE ADVENT OF THE PC changed the basic rules governing office design. Suddenly there was a need to install a PC on a desk so that it was both convenient and comfortable to use.

* EVEN MUNDANE THINGS, such as lighting that causes screen glare, had to be addressed.

* THE BEST DESKS EXHIBIT two basic ergonomic features: They are L- or U-shaped and have an adjustable keyboard drawer slightly below the desk top. Such designs give the user convenient access. The goal is to reach things without twisting, stretching or moving too much.

* TODAY'S MINIMUM STANDARD computer setup is a 400-megahertz Pentium III with 128 megabytes of RAM; a 5-gigabyte hard drive and CD-ROM and Zip drives; a 17-inch monitor screen; Internet access; a network (even in a small office); an automated and reliable backup system: a CD-ROM recorder; and an uninterrupted power supply.

* DON'T SKIMP ON TELEPHONE equipment. Install enough extra lines so customers and clients are not put off by busy signals; consider cordless phones so you can move about the office as you talk and even headsets for hands-free conversation.

* THINK TWICE BEFORE buying one of those multifunctional machines that print, fax, copy and scan documents. They may save you money, but you may lose out on convenience.

Plan it right--from furniture to phones to lighting.

Until the early 1980s, designing an executive office was a piece of cake: All you needed was a large desk, a plush high-back chair on casters, a couple of visitors' chairs and maybe a credenza, a bookcase and a conference table. No need to provide space for a typewriter--after all, typing was done by a secretary or the typing pool, situated outside the executive's office.

In the mid-1980s, when the first hefty microcomputer was trucked in it was relegated to a space near the store-room where the nonprofessionals toiled. But by the late 1980s, micros had miniaturized into desktop PCs, and secretaries were upgraded to executive assistants and they no longer typed executives' letters. In fact, not only did executives have to make room for PCs on their desks, but they actually had to learn how to use them. The joke making the rounds at the time--out of executives' earshot, of course--was

Question: How do you know, when the managing partner is finally using his new computer?

Answer: When the screen is dabbed with WiteOut.

And once the PC became a tool required of all CPAs--even those in the executive ranks--office design had to change. Their desks had to accommodate the ubiquitous computer. Even lighting became a problem: Blinds or drapes had to be added to the prized corner office because sunlight streaming in from two sides washed out the computer screen.

Some organizations, such as the one profiled on this page, had difficulty recognizing the impact of the move to computers.


Visitors to offices of CPAs and other executives who spend considerable time at computers report that few have replaced their conventional desks with ergonomic designs. Yet lower-level employees--those who typically do the menial office work--tend to have simple but well-designed ergonomic furniture. The reason for the inconsistency is not clear; it may be related to cost and style: It's been only recently that stylish and pricey ergonomic furniture has became popular. Before that, ergonomic desks tended to be made of gray metal, and how many executives are willing to trade in an elegant teak desk for the sake of typing comfort?

Two variables complicate ergonomic design goals: People come in different shapes and sizes and they perform multiple functions. To accommodate these differences, good ergonomic furniture is designed to be easily adjustable-fitting the needs of people of various sizes and flexible enough to serve multiple activities.

The best ergonomic desks exhibit two features: They're L- or U-shaped, and mount an adjustable keyboard drawer below the desk top, looking something like the designs below. …

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