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All organisations need to be wary of their costs, and the projected cost of new projects is no exception. The problem usually, however, lays in the challenges faced when trying to accurately calculate all costs and all benefits, then making an informed decision based on the (perceived) relative cost versus benefits metric.

This sort of conundrum for businesses is made all the more difficult because many organisational costs and benefits are non-financial (e.g., social, personal, well-being and health, and more), many are impossible to calculate with reliable accuracy, and then there is the added complication at least from a management accountant’s perspective of opportunity costs.

One such interesting situation is becoming more widespread across today’s organisations, namely the issue of ‘office space’ configuration, and especially the attempt to both maximise (cost) effectiveness and at the same time design work spaces that optimise staff productivity and personal wellbeing.

One of the major issues facing today’s bosses is that there is now substantial medical evidence which links that sitting down for long periods in an office increases the chance of poor health, especially cardiovascular-related problems and diabetes.

So, some bosses are considering reconfiguring their whole mode or working; in particular the emerging ideas comprise a greater emphasis on standing while you work. But as early-adopters are discovering, stand-up desks (especially those which can juggle between sitting and standing-mode) tend to be considerably more expensive than contemporary sit-down desks, plus there is also usually an extortionate cost to have old desks removed while new ones are brought in. Moreover, where a changeover is agreed, there may be additional costs such as office re-flooring and re-decorating; and even the costs of low staff morale formed against the changes that inevitably not everyone will embrace.

But then, can this be weighed up against (hard to calculate) costs of staff illness and absence; or, put another way, against the new benefits from improved health and morale? These sorts of questions, associated calculations, and subsequent analyses are incredibly complex, and they certainly draw on the expertise of management accountants to try to capture all the possible constituent parts of such problems.


Source: BBC News website, ‘Could offices change from sitting to standing?’, 15.4.14, by C. Bowlby