Don't overlook the importance of proper ergonomics in your training rooms

Schoun Regan tells you how poorly designed workstations, cheap chairs, and bad lighting can spoil the training experience.

Okay, I realize this may seem a bit trivial, but have you examined your seat today? More importantly, have you examined your students’ seats? What about the monitors and the lighting in the training room? While you don’t have to create a classroom Shangri-La, you should pay attention to ergonomics.

Carpal tunnel vision
Ergonomics are serious business. Enterprises spend thousands and insurance companies spend millions of dollars on ergonomics and problems stemming from employee complaints related to workstations that aren’t ergonomically correct. Screens, mice, desks, room lighting, and chairs can help—or hinder—an employee trying to use a computer day in and day out.

Go ahead, ask yourself, what does this have to do with me? After all, the students do not set up permanent shop in your classrooms. The longest stretch for one student at one station is usually a week. Why should you worry about ergonomics? You should take every step possible to make your trainers and their students comfortable with every aspect of the learning experience—including their surroundings.

What, me worry?
As a training manager, you may not have a direct voice in the furniture your employer purchases—but you should. Your trainers teach every day and they usually receive an evaluation on their methods from the students. If the students are uncomfortable, they will not be in the best mood come evaluation time. Their discomfort will affect their evaluation and thus affect the trainer, which in turn affects you.

Don’t put your students in the cheap seats
Cheap chairs stink. You can't adjust their height. They have no armrests and no wheels—or wheels that roll poorly. After a few hundred students sit in cheap chairs, the back support gives out.

Sacrificing comfort to save a few bucks on furniture is a bad idea. Uncomfortable students are unhappy students and are a threat to your job. Treat furniture purchases that way. If you have problems convincing your boss, ask him or her to spend a week in the same chair that students use. See if this works.

You screen, I screen, we all screen for a good monitor
What about the monitor? Again, an attempt to save a few bucks by buying cheap monitors can result in headaches, complaints, and possibly a request for a refund. If you teach any graphics classes, that’s all the more reason to purchase quality monitors. (While PCs have no system-level color calibration software, Macs do. When I’m teaching graphics classes, I prefer to use calibrated monitors to enhance the learning experience for the graphics student.)

Lighting strikes
Make sure that the lighting in each room is designed for minimal glare, and that blinds are covering windows when necessary. I've seen a student wear a visor AND sunglasses in class because the lighting was terrible. Another tip for graphics classes: Lights should be low and glare nonexistent, for the benefit of both the instructor and the students.

It’s all up to you
Bottom line: As a training manager, you owe it to your trainers to provide them with every advantage available. As I've always said, the customer comes first, period. Your job is to convince your managers (the ones who sign off on your budgets) that the investment in good ergonomics is worth it.

Schoun Regan, a consultant to training firms, crosses the continent conducting numerous classes for Complete Mac Seminars. Follow this link to write to Schoun .

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