The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
Email This Page
Keep things at hand and stress at bay

Last week, we discussed how computers and their components like monitor, mouse and keyboards should be positioned. This week, we take a look at other office equipment.


The telephone should be placed within your reach. This enables the user to operate the telephone without the need to move his/her trunk. Place the telephone on either side according to your preference, comfort and other equipment.

When making a lot of calls, it may be best to place the telephone on the same side as the dominant hand (for most of us, the right hand).

Learn and utilise the functions of your phone, such as redial and storage of commonly used numbers, to improve efficiency.

People in offices use telephones in differing degrees. Where there is high usage or dedicated telephone work, specific equipment such as a headset or a hands-free phone may be required.

Where a hands-free phone is used or a teleconference is on, an enclosed area will be needed. Where there is frequent use of the phone, reducing the distance and frequency of handling the receiver (for example, by using a speakerphone) should be considered.


This is the ultimate ubiquitous office equipment, and also the one that is probably the most disregarded. Staplers are designed to be used on a bench. With occasional use, they do not present a hazard. If thick documents are to be stapled, a stapler appropriate for the task should be used.

If a stapler is used repeatedly for a prolonged period, it may be fatiguing for some people, particularly if they perform the task while seated, or the table or bench is at an unsuitable height, requiring them to elevate their shoulders. High usage of a stapler may also result in excessive compression forces to the palm. Go for electric staplers in such situations. But ensure its design includes guards against fingers being injured during use.

If the use of stapler is assessed as a risk, control options such as alternative attachment devices (for example, binding) could be considered.

Staple removers

For occasional removal of staples, a small pincer type of staple remover is commonly used in offices. Where this task is identified as a risk, such as during highly repetitive staple removing, a lever-operated device should be considered.

Letter openers

The use of letter openers usually doesn’t present a problem in offices until the level of use increases beyond that used to process personal mail. The slim handle of the typical knife-like letter opener can be difficult to grasp. A larger handle enables a more solid grip. Repeated handling of mail and the forceful movement required to open mail can be well avoided by opting for mechanical letter openers.

Hole punches

A range of hole punches is available — from small lever- operated ones to large electric drill types — and their use should be matched to the thickness of the documents being processed. Longer-lever manual punches require less force. Because the work is forceful, it is preferable to use hole punches while standing.


The overall increased use of the keyboard in the office has surely reduced the degree to which people use the pen. But let’s face it, this equipment is very much here to stay, for a wide range of writing tasks exist and shall continue to exist in offices.

The standard ballpoint pen is suitable for infrequent general use; however, easy ink-flow pens (fountain pens) usually require less force to grip and write. Writing for long periods might result in hand or forearm soreness, and if this occurs, people should take a break from writing.

Some attachments are available for pens, such as triangular tubing that is placed over the shaft. This provides a better gripping surface and can reduce the overall force required to grip the pen. The use of these attachments should, however, be determined by individual preference.

When reviewing the use of writing implements, it may be beneficial to check the postures and movements associated with writing, the type of writing performed and how much the individual is required to write.

An angle board can improve neck comfort where a job involves a lot of handwriting (and reading). This should be placed immediately in front of the user on top of the desk.

(The author is an interior design consultant, specialising in the design of corporate and residential interiors. As a senior faculty member at a Calcutta institute, she has delivered lectures, guided research and conducted projects in the field of Housing & Interior Design for over two decades. She can be contacted at

Email This Page