0845 094 1255

Wellbeing in the workplace is now all about taking a stand and moving on

Posted on February 14, 2018 by Charles Marks


Although the idea has been around for a long time, workplace ergonomics first came to prominence in the wake of the intensive growth in the use of computers. That wasn’t really all that long ago, maybe 25 years, but its legacy is already a fairly fixed and traditional idea of the ideal workstation and the ideal posture.What we learned about ergonomics in the past is still valid but the world of work has changed dramatically over the last quarter of a century with people no longer restricted to their own workstation to work on a PC. We are largely free to work how we choose and we have the products and workplace design models we need to make those choices a reality.

So as the world of work evolves, we have the chance to address the fundamentals of ergonomics and not merely to prevent or mitigate harm. Good ergonomic practice is about individual wellbeing, productivity and organisational performance. And, as offices, shift their focus towards more collaborative and dynamic forms of working we even have models from other types of buildings that can inform the choices we make.

For example, in schools and colleges, children and young people routinely move through the building, vary their posture, take proper breaks, use different type of furniture and equipment, work in some places while standing, sometimes working alone and sometimes with others. They prove that good ergonomics is about movement and not just posture. Who remembers when the complaint was that they just wouldn’t sit still

According to the HSE, many of us would benefit from varying the position in which we work throughout the day, even working standing up for some periods. In fact this is already commonplace in many European offices thanks to their greater use of sit-stand workstations and dates back hundreds of years. The best modern office chairs also encourage movement rather than rigid posture. And, at the very least, regular breaks should be taken to stretch and walk about, to avoid all the aches and pains associated with inactivity.

Ergonomics is an issue that is about the entire workspace, not just the individual’s workstation. There’s a need to encourage people to get up and wander about the office – without having to resort to the favoured idler’s method of walking around cultivating the illusion of activity simply by carrying a blank document. The options are plentiful, from providing adaptable personal workstations to break-out spaces, encounter points, private booths, cafes and kitchens.

Many of the UK’s most progressive office furniture designers are reflecting this new emphasis on choice in the range of products they offer, not only by creating great break-out spaces and meeting rooms but with intuitive choices about whether to work while sitting or standing. The solutions are increasingly plentiful, including the award winning Humanscale Float workstation pictured above.

The solutions are cultural as well as about office design, albeit that good design should always reflect culture. Several companies have introduced ‘no email’ days, with the dual advantages of getting bums off seats and encouraging informal encounters between colleagues. You could learn and exchange valuable information of the type that simply wouldn’t be mentioned in emails. Remember, in cyberspace no-one can hear you gossip. Again, the kids are way ahead of us – a school playtime is a 20-minute maelstrom of talking and fun.

What schools enjoy is a holistic solution based on the needs of a mobile and active user. It is not based solely on an ‘ergonomic’ product but on giving people choices, based on an appreciation of the relationship between people, the way they work, the place they do it in and the stuff with which they surround themselves.