The Essex Students’ Union (SU) has spent £40,000 on new office equipment and furniture for its offices. The equipment, which includes desks, chairs and storage, has been bought to replace “outdated gear” that was “no longer fit for purpose”.
The decision was made by the Students’ Union after the old furniture was deemed to be posing health and safety risks and dampening staff morale. These were issues determined to be preventing staff from being fully effective, and so it was decided they would be addressed.
Health and safety risks in the office included a lack of ergonomic chairs (which are recommended by the University and national guidelines as standard equipment) and old desks styled in a way that resulted in staff being closer to PC screens than recommended. There were also a number of trip hazards, from stray cables to boxes and equipment on office floors – the latter caused by the lack of storage.
A number of staff surveys in the past few years showed a consistent dissatisfaction with the quality of facilities that staff have. Specific concerns were with regards to desks, chairs, office layout, cramped conditions and lack of storage. This was particularly in comparison to the equipment provided to university staff.
For the £40,000, the SU bought:
- New, consistently sized desks
- Chairs that are compliant with health and safety guidelines
- Cable trays to tidy up cables
- Privacy screens
- A vast amount of storage, ranging from cupboards, to filing cabinets, to tall wardrobes
The SU were not able to give us a full budget breakdown of the £40,000 spent, but indicative costs were of £91 per desk and chairs costing £119 each. The £40,000 included irrecoverable VAT, delivery and installation. The furniture represents 0.57% of the SU’s total annual expenditure across the Union as a whole.
It is believed that this is the first significant amount of money spent on furniture in the SU Offices in around 20 years. The investment has been described as “long overdue” by the SU’s Director of Marketing and Strategy Steve Haugh.