The Hidden Costs of Slow Computers

Do you use a computer at work? If so read on.

When a company buys a clutch of machines for its employees, it’s quite often perceived as one of the largest single outlays it will have, and because of this, there will be a temptation to cut costs. What I hope to show in this article is the futility of doing this, and highlight the return on investment that buying top quality equipment will bring.

This idea started years ago at a previous employer, who made me write a justification the purchase for £30 worth of RAM. I spent an hour doing this. It probably cost the company more to pay me to write the justification than it did to buy the memory (which they did in the end).

So, let’s dive straight into some figures. Let’s take a look at a standard employee who:

Earns: £30000 a year

Works for 46 weeks (52 minus 6 weeks holiday), or 230 days a year.

Daily rate: £130 .

Let’s assume that a slow machine costs this employee just 1 minute of productivity per day.

Minutes Lost Per Year: 230.

Yearly Cost of Lost Minutes: £73.72 .

This sets the scene. I’m now going to make two more assumptions:

Machine Lifespan: 5 years

Daily Minutes Lost: 10 minutes

I base the first assumption on personal experience and observation. The second is a substantial understatement based on straw polls I’ve conducted around my colleagues.

So, based on our machine that wastes 10 minutes a day for 5 years for an employee earning £30,000:

£3700 Per Employee

Think of the kit you could get for £3700! Or even half that.

Let’s start scaling across all employees. An organisation with 100 employees, wasting 10 minutes per day per employee for 5 years racks up a cost of nearly £370,000.

And 100 employees isn’t even that big. I work for a company with roughly 2000 employees which given the above might translate to £7.4 million.


But that’s not all. We’re just measuring interrupted time. We’re assuming that a worker is at full-pelt either side of the interruption. In reality, there will be a time to “get back up to speed” after the interruption, which will vary by employee, role, and task.

There is a somewhat clichéd analogy that says that likens computers to cars, and staff to racing drivers. The argument goes along the lines of “If you want your driver [employee] to perform their best then give them the best car [machine].” Although one could pick substantial holes in this, the broad tenet of the idea holds true.

Enough? Well, no. An employee earning £30000 a year will actually cost more to the company. Consider:

  • Employer National Insurance contributions
  • Employer pension contributions (soon to be mandatory for every employer in the UK),
  • Benefits,
  • Office space costs,
  • Utility bills,
  • Network traffic,
  • HR overhead.

In reality, the costs may be double the headline figures.

Aside from the costs of the individual employee, what about the costs associated with their role? Employees involved in a customer-facing role will want to be able to process customer requests quickly, to (1) aid customer satisfaction, and (2) get onto the next customer quickly. Substandard equipment can detract from the customer experience, as they take longer to be served and could spend more time in a call centre queue. A company investment in equipment could be a boast:  “We equip our staff with the finest equipment, and this pays dividends.”

In addition to this, people are often excited about tech. That’s why we love our i[Device Name Here], or our 99″ 3D televisions, or our high-spec uber-powered games consoles. A decent bit of tech on their desk will often enthuse employees to come to work and use it.

Consider also, that workstations are part of the office environment, high quality of equipment contributes to a high quality environment. Why spend a quarter of a million of your favourite currency revamping an office space only to fill it with substandard equipment? A company spending money creating a productive environment must also consider this.

The largest cost for a company is hosting an employee in the building and paying their salary. Most company costs are directly related to employing staff and providing the environment for them to work. The cost of a high-powered machine is negligible – a pittance, and will provide the highest tangible and intangible return on investment that any company could possibly make.

So if this resonates, please share it. I firmly believe that each unit of currency invested in equipment (up to a sensible threshold) will yield triple-figure percentage returns. Do the math yourself, based on your organisation and show it to someone who pays the bills.

One thought on “The Hidden Costs of Slow Computers

  1. Here, here. There’s nothing worse than being asked to do your best with one arm tied behind your back.

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