We, as hard-working people, spend hours every day at work. It is reasonable to aim to make it as comfortable and efficient as possible. The benefits can present themselves on multiple planes, such as productivity, comfort and even health and employee retention.
Ergonomic design is much more than matching your chairs with your office work desks. It is an entire field in furniture and office design used to promote all the traits that we have listed. Some of these desirable characteristics we would like to see in our office are seemingly in direct conflict with one another, like happiness and productivity. Implementing an ergonomic design into an office can be a complicated task but it is nothing to be afraid of. Let’s go over some of the tips and tricks on how to improve our working environment to work in our favour.
Let’s start with the basics. Lighting is all-present whether in natural or artificial form. Right off the bat, natural lighting is always the best kind of lighting and should be maximized whenever possible. By utilizing windows and see-through ceilings we can take advantage of natural lighting as much as we can. But that is not always a possibility. It may be winter where we are working, daylight may be in short supply or the kind of business that we are conducting has graveyard shifts. About 85% of all stimuli a person receives is through the sense of sight which relies on light. Proper lighting reduces eye strain and fatigue. Also, with the advent of the digital era, computer vision syndrome is also a thing that needs attention.
Artificial lighting can and should be optimized in any workspace. Besides brightness and color, consider the economic aspect of lighting. New, light-emitting diode (LED) lighting offers a much better choice when it comes to different variables that go into a light bulb. Colour (measured in Kelvin), brightness (Lumens) and wattage (Watts) should all be considered and optimized for your use-case scenario. For most offices, the best solution is bright lighting with colder colours that utilizes the least amount of power in order to operate. Compared to the old, incandescent lighting, it also lasts several times longer. The only drawback that discourages most uninformed people, is the greater price tag. In time, going green will pay itself off.
It goes without saying, distractions are not good for focus, concentration, and productivity. But so is not total silence. The thing is, there is no one-size-fits-all solution as people are different and react differently to stimuli. Some actually do require complete silence with no background interference, while others prefer to listen to music in order to dive down and focus on their work. The first one is actually the more complicated problem to solve as we rarely have a completely silent workspace free of loud talking and operating machinery. For others it is easier, just put on some headphones and you are set. And this is the most popular way of going on about it, if the work description allows for it, there is no reason not to permit personal music to be consumed in the workplace.
There are some commonalities that affect all equally. For instance, music with lyrics will always cause a distraction and will impede fine thinking. Therefore, it should be consumed when doing menial and repetitive tasks that are not dangerous or hazardous in any way. For those that prefer silence, noise-cancelling headphones are a godsend.
As we have said, a large portion of a day is spent at the workplace. Having an ergonomic desk to go with an ergonomic chair will go a long way in preventing muscle strain and injury-related absences. On average, most workplace injuries do not occur as a result of falls or operating heavy equipment but rather through continuous, repetitive strain. These injuries take a lot of time to develop, sometimes years. This, unfortunately, means that it usually takes a long time to treat as well. Not only do these result in significant drops in productivity but also can cost companies a lot of money in compensation payments. Other indirect costs are the lower rate of employee retention because of injury and discomfort. In short, employees that have ergonomic workstations have a sense of being cared about and appreciated. This, in turn, will result in more engagement and higher levels of efficiency, productivity and general happiness and content.
Two of the most notable pieces of furniture are the desk and chair combo. These are where everything else stems from. Desks come in various shapes and sizes, the most popular ones these days are the so-called sit-stand desks. As we are all aware from all the PSAs and good-intentioned pieces of advice, sitting for prolonged periods of time is not good for long term health. That is why desks with modular operating stances are such an invaluable piece of office furniture. Being able to change your stance from time to time can be a very comfortable asset to have when working a standard job or even extra hours. Walking desks are also a thing but are more on an exotic side of the spectrum and are more expensive.
Still, the majority of our working hours is spent sitting down. That is where we need to couple our design with ergonomic chairs. It is a chair whose parts are adjustable to fit an individual. Ordinary chairs are fixed into the position that serves the majority of people, but not thoroughly. Arm pads can be adjusted to fit an individual and his or her working requirements. So are the backrest and the headrest. These all add up to a very customizable and comfortable working position in which one can spend prolonged hours in without fears of stress, strain and injury.
From there, we can start thinking of the smaller office objects like potted plants to go on that modular desk or plastic floor protector mats to go beneath the chair in order to preserve the floor and offer an even more comfortable position for our feet. The possibilities are endless and are limited only by our imagination.
Ultimately, it does all come down to how we use our ergonomic furniture. The basic rule of thumb is to be 20” to 30” from the screen when sitting down. The screen itself should be at a 10° to 20° degree angle. The seat and the desk should be aligned in such a way that the legs are at a 90° angle in the knee. These are some rules that should always be enforced as they promote healthy sitting and working habits for long-term comfort and health.
Plants affect air quality. Another aspect that is so obvious that most of us neglect is the confined air we all breathe in every working day. Not only do plants improve the quality of it but are also known to keep a cool and calm atmosphere. They bring a sense of being more at home and in contact with nature. It is easy to get lost in today digital, buzzing, concrete office spaces and forget about the green world around us. Something a simple as a small potted plant to go onto that moving desk can make a world of difference.
Great ergonomic office design can shape a company’s culture and pave a way for high employee satisfaction, retention and productivity. A workspace is something personal that fits an individual. It needs to serve an employee as best as it can both in terms of practicality and comfort. With these basic concepts, we can be well on our way to design and fit-out our own comfortable office.
Guest article written by: Emma Williams is an Australian writer with a master‘s degree in business administration, who has a passion for anything lifestyle and design related. She spends most of her time redecorating and participating in house projects. As a great nature lover, her biggest pleasure is spending time in a small cottage by the river. https://twitter.com/EmmaWilliams204