Office Ergonomics-Emerging Focus for Architects & Designers

Alastair Stubbs

Today’s modern workplace is dominated by an increasing presence of technology. Employees spend much of their time answering emails, writing reports, and participating in web conferences—all of which require prolonged periods of computer use. For the average worker, this has led to an increase in musculoskeletal complaints such as eyestrain, lower back pain and wrist discomfort.

There has been a growing number of work-related issues stemming from prolonged computer use. More and more organisations are beginning to see the link between worker discomfort, lost productive time and cost. Proactively addressing discomfort levels therefore becomes an important business strategy.

Engaging key stakeholders (especially Architects & Designers, Building Project Managers etc) is a critical first step in the development of an ergonomics program. It is important to elevate awareness of ergonomic concerns and understand what the common physical problems are that modern computer users face.

SIT/STAND-A revolutionary approach to Workplace Ergonomics

For years, traditional seated desks were the office standard. It wasn’t unusual for employees to work straight through the day while barely getting up for a lunch break. Yet over time, research continued to show how harmful sedentary behaviour is to our long-term health.

Adults spend an average of 8 to 10 hours a day in sedentary behaviours that can contribute to diabetes and cardiovascular disease — the leading cause of death in the country. Even more troubling, moderate exercise doesn’t cancel out the negative impact of the time we spend not moving at all.

As an alternative, many people are switching to standing desks, but standing all day isn’t the answer, either! Research has linked health risks with both sitting and standing for prolonged periods.

Switching between seated and standing postures throughout the day is not only good for energy and productivity, but for overall health. Studies have shown that incorporating periods of standing can burn calories, have a positive impact on well-being and prevent diseases such as heart disease, obesity and high blood pressure.

The ideal sit/stand workstation offers intuitive functionality (that won’t interrupt workflow), cable management capabilities, a sleek aesthetic that easily integrates into any office space, and a design that supports modern office tools and collaboration.

The Business Case For Ergonomics

Ergonomics is often viewed as a required component of an occupational health and safety (OHS) program, rather than a component of an effective business strategy. In some regions, legislation associates the field of ergonomics with terms such as ‘compliance’, ‘regulation’ and ‘policy’. Unfortunately, these terms do not inspire the minds of business leaders. As a result, the application of Ergonomics is often regarded as a ‘must’ for an organisation rather than a ‘want’. And progress is slowed. Rather than relying heavily on legislation to form the backbone of an ergonomics program, practitioners should instead work to embed ergonomics within an organization’s existing business strategy. This approach will help ergonomics become a ‘want’ for businesses and help drive organizations to make better investments in the health and wellness of their employees.

By applying ergonomics to their work environments, companies can experience a ripple effect of the benefits. When a company takes a proactive approach to employee safety and well-being, employees take notice of this active stance on their wellness. They report higher levels of job satisfaction and show higher commitment levels. Employees’ positive reaction to this demonstrated care for their health yields a variety of benefits, such as decreased turnover rates and better work quality, as well as improved output, engagement and morale.  When employees are more committed to a company, they are more productive and even display more initiative and effort in the tasks performed.  As a result of higher employee engagement, satisfaction and productivity, the company projects an improved corporate image, which may lead to better community relationships and a more impactful brand.

(The writer is Alastair Stubbs, Country Manager India of Humanscale, the pioneer and leader in Office Ergonomics )

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