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Advantages

The advent of computers has revolutionized many industries, with office work being
no exception. Computers have helped to improve the efficiency and accuracy of
office workers by providing different software and communication functions to help
execute work tasks. Computers are now a part of nearly every office, with most
workplaces now unable to function without the use of computers.

Communication
Internal and external communication is much easier with the use of e-mail
and internal messaging systems on computers. Office staff are able to pass
information throughout the office quickly and effectively, as most office
setups have an alert system on individual computers when a message or e-
mail is received. The Internet also greatly enhances communication
options, with Skype and other such messaging and communication
programs allowing national or transnational video and call conferencing
with ease and less expense.
Data Storage
The data storage and retrieval capacity of computers is only getting greater
and more advanced as technology improves. Files are easily retrievable
through search functions, and hard drives can hold unprecedented volumes
of files and data. For offices with large databases, such as governments,
charities or other member-based associations, this data storage and
retrieval function provides unparalleled advantages over traditional paper
file storage, such as the ease and speed of information retrieval, the ease of
changing data records and the ease of tracking changes made to customer,
member or citizenry records.
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Networking
According to the Spam Laws Web site, file sharing is one of the key benefits
of networking computers in an office environment. Office networking, or
the creation of an office intranet, means that a common database of files is
accessible to all users. This also applies to software and management of
computers, which significantly reduces costs for offices, as they can
purchase one networkable software product instead of having to purchase
multiple copies for individual computers. Networking also provides
communal access to printers, fax machines and copiers.
Productivity
Computers in the office environment significantly enhance productivity.
According to the Reference for Business Web site, computers in the office
increase productivity not only in areas such as word processing, data
management and information access, but also in information creation,
collation and ultimately storage. The amount of time most office workers
spend at the computer has, however, given rise to a number of repetitive
strain health problems on eyes, wrists and hands.


What makes a modern office different from the
traditional one?
Office design, since the introduction of typewriter in the early 1900's up
until mid- to late 1970's remained virtually unchanged. Dedicated word
processing systems such as WANG, for example, started being used in
mid-seventies. This was the beginning of a period of rapid changes in
office technology. PCs that from early eighties become the main tool for
office workers, continue transforming offices at an ever increasing pace.
And it's not over yet.
All changes in the office environment were and still are driven by
advances in technology. The overwhelming impact of computers on office
work has resulted in redesigning the office around, if not for, the
computer. In many instances the computers have changed not only the
shape of the office and the way office work is done, but it has also
affected even the lifestyle of office workers.



Do computers contribute to health problems
among their users?
Like many other innovations, computers generated a great deal of
resistance at first. People raised concerns about the effects of radiation on
everything from their eyes, to their neck, shoulders, arms and back, even
to their reproductive fertility and pregnancy outcome. Headaches,
eyestrain, muscular tension, and suspicious clusters of miscarriages were
widely reported. However, studies which have addressed these concerns
have failed to prove that any measurable radiation, no matter how
minimal, has been responsible for any of the adverse effects reported.
Nevertheless, one cannot discount the increasing numbers of dissatisfied
and/or injured office workers: their discomfort and health problems are
very real. There is very little doubt that working with computers (with
emphasis on the actual work and not the computers themselves) causes
or heavily contributes to these problems.
Why ergonomics for the computer users became so
important?
The number of people working with computers is ever growing: some
estimate that soon they will account for more than half of the working
population, creating the biggest challenge for occupational health and
safety. What is even more alarming is the high number of complaints
about discomforts and injuries. And, against all expectations, the wider
application of ergonomic principles is not dramatically alleviating the
problems. This creates a new challenge to convince computer operators
and, as a matter of fact, all working people that their own health and
well-being depends as much, if not more, upon their own actions rather
than upon the institutionalized health care system. Prevention through
participation may be the right approach. In other words, "the involvement
of people in planning and controlling a significant amount of their own
work activities, with sufficient knowledge and power to influence both
processes and outcomes in order to achieve desirable goals".
Other documents listed in the Office Ergonomics Section of OSH Answers
will discuss the hazards of working in computerized offices as well as how
to prevent the resulting discomfort and injury.