Friday, August 20, 2010

The Cost of a Chair

The easy answer is "New, about $1000" for that model.

Though what does it actually cost, or what is it worth, that is a better question which most accountants (and typically poor managers) will interestingly ignore.

Though if it's a certain outcome you're after, i.e. healthy productivity of an individual (and team) then their physical environment can't be ignored.

As any ergonomists will tell you, and here, many do.

I find a common argument of "Oh we can't afford good equipment" or "We can crush another 10 desks in here, go to Ikea and pick up some tat and stack the programmers up" as actually absurd as it sounds.

Typically from a mindsets where creative individuals are classed as cogs in a machine, there to be spun faster. The main counter argument is going to have to be proof of difference and a financial counter argument I feel.

As is well researched it will take about 15-20 mins for a programmer to get into flow, where they are churning out pure gold (how shiny the gold is, is skill level and experience dependant of course).

This is also putting aside noise (being the #1 distraction in "cheaper is better" open plan offices) keyboard & screen ergonomics etc.

Just the chair.

So a poor chair having a comfort duration of say 1 hour, is going to allow for 45 mins of decent work before the individual has to get up, move, loose focus on work to readjust etc.

8 hour day, 15 mins to get back into flow, take out lunch, 3 periods before lunch and 4 after (given perfect conditions and no people in the office on phones or shouting at each other and being distracting, playing with nerf guns, etc).

If that's perfect, lets call it 5 periods of work being 225 mins of work a day (not accounting for pointless power point meetings with producers, management, sales reps, etc).

This also doesn't account for long term degradation of back due to posture etc.

The counter in a decent chair (my preference being the Areon) is that you can do near countless hours in one, breaking only for the call of nature or when the lights are turned off and the doors shut.

3 hours before lunch, 4 after, knock 1 off for pointless meetings, so 6 hours, 360 mins.

An extra 135 mins. Being 2~ hours a day, 10~ hours a week, 40~ a month. So an extra working week a month.

Given a hourly rate of $30 (relatively low for a programmer) that's $1200 a month, so more than the chair costs in the first month.

So how much does a good chair cost ? ....... in a month it costs minus $200 and in a year (before the employee moves on) :

Minus ..... $13,400 or you could say a bad chair cost $13,400 in lost unused wages.

So being cheap as a way of "saving money" appears the wrong way to go, let alone the long term physical health of an individual.

And next time ? ...... Pay for growing medical insurance, or pay for gym passes (or some kind of exercise, dancing, running, cycling to work, etc) and incentives people to go as part of the job.

Any other questions find @JeremyHutchings

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ownership and Responsibility

I find these are two commonly misunderstood and (some times purposefully) abused terms.


Ranges from been give it knowingly, or having it assume of one. Typically manifests itself when something goes wrong and is seen in the form of the blame game. Is usually passed down in organisations (where as it should go up) by weak management looking to "prove fault" in employees to cover up their (lack of quality) decisions.

In a healthy and honest situation responsibility can be a good starting place for defining a role and calculating suitable reward for success, when the role is able to create and effect any needed changes.

In an evolved and dynamic environment it is a shared understanding of the team functioning as a whole, a "burden shared" and all that.

Though unfortunately rare.


Tends to encompass responsibility with the added bonus of relative share of the rewards of success. Common misuses of this term are typical when employees are told "they have to take ownership" or "you really own this now" by management, when in fact all they have is slopey shoulder passed down responsibility and no actual ownership at all.

A common manipulation used by management being to associate the negative aspects of a project to individuals and account their so called "ownership" to the faults (which are actually typical managements fault) until they go away.

Once again, the blame game.

In evolved and flattened organisations, the team has no management, it has leaders who are actually people who engage in the work and share and support making decisions, it's team facilitation not top down (detached and ignorant) condescending commands.

Unfortunately again a rare, though starting to grow approach as the non team focused approaches will be taken out by the shear scale of inefficiency and employee misery.

Paul Thomas is doing some good work in the field :


1) If you are accused of not "owning" a project, when all you actually have is the responsibility of the blame from managements previous poor decisions, walk away. If they can't accept their mistakes and constantly prove their inability to change, then it's not worth the emotion & time.

2) Work for ......... a company where there is actual ownership, i.e. shared profits.

3) Start a....... a company where there is actual ownership, i.e. shared profits.

4) Don't compromise and don't accept weak approaches as the norm.