Ergonomic office design is struggling to keep up with the demands of the modern workplace. Despite the increase in sit stand desks, ergonomic chairs and desktop accessories, there is still a long way to go.
Office design is changing. As discussed in our article Office Design Trends for 2017, the emphasis now is towards flexible working spaces rather than static desks and cubicles. Therefore, present ergonomic guidelines and products need to adapt.
In their white paper, Active Ergonomics for the Emerging Workplace, office design experts Haworth explain the new challenges we face with ergonomic design. Today, we tend to work collaboratively rather than alone. Therefore, we are more likely to be moving from one space to another.
Haworth’s white paper suggests:
“Organizations that fail to apply a “big picture” approach to office ergonomics are missing the opportunity to provide a safe and high performing workplace for their employees—regardless of the space they are using”.
Even organisations that are changing their working environment with break out spaces and more relaxed furnishings need to be wary. These spaces are not ergonomically designed to be used all day and can cause posture problems in the same way that the wrong chair or desk height can.
By incorporating “active ergonomics”, Haworth argues individual and group performance can be improved along with health and wellbeing. Three main areas are covered in this new way of thinking.
- Anthropometrics – How the body relates to its environment. This is based on the basic principles of ergonomics that we have learnt over the years.
- Ambients – Environmental factors such as light, air, noise and temperature.
- Movement – From moving from one space to another to adjusting furniture and equipment to meet the needs of the task you are working on.
It is not just office furniture and space design causing an ergonomic rethink. The current guidance for using technology in the office dates back 25 years. The European Display Screen Equipment Regulations 1992 even refers to “Working with VDUs” in the main part of its guidance for workers.
Just think, how much technology has changed since those pre-internet days?
Information is now shared via a wide range of devices: laptops, tablets, smartphones to name but a few. Subsequently these devices are used in a different way and require updated guidance to prevent bad posture, repetitive strain injuries and eye strain.
Ergonomic Office Design Can Learn from Classroom Design
Speaking about the challenges we face in ergonomic office design, Mark Eltringham writing for Workplace Insight suggests we take a lead from the classroom. Children are constantly moving, whether from one lesson to the next, or going to chat with friends and teachers. They are less likely to sit in one position for hours like adults.
In fact, children are more likely to sit still for hours when at home. They are more active during the school day and this is something we can learn from and adapt into our own working lives.