Office Ergonomics – why all the fuss?
With increasing focus on how the traditional office environment affects our mental and physical health, 'employee wellbeing' has become the new buzzword for many employers - and with it, office ergonomics. From creating a homely workspace to allowing employees the choice to stand as well as sit at their desks, designing the office environment around the person rather than expecting the person to adapt to the constraints of the furniture is seeing positive results for employers - and is an area well worth investing in for manufacturers and suppliers.
Loughborough University's year-long study on NHS employees backs up the positive effects of ergonomic furniture - it revealed that the staff tested 'felt less tired and more engaged when using height-adjustable workstations, while also reporting improvements in musculoskeletal problems.' Furthermore, 'by having the option to stand at their desk, time spent sitting down was reduced by more than an hour a day compared with their colleagues.'
The Open Access Government even claim that furniture like the sit-stand desk reduces the risk of aches, injuries and cardiovascular disease by up to 40%, and say that an employee's muscle activity is almost 2.5 times higher when standing at work, which further reduces the risk of sustaining a workplace injury.
And it's not just being more active at the desk which is thought to boost productivity and physical health. Ergonomics also covers the wider space in the office - from using plants to improve aesthetics (and act as a bit of a sound barrier) to creating 'break out' spaces with comfy sofas, the way an office feels can help employees to feel happier and more creative in their environment. In fact, a study by Nursery & Garden Industry found that staff with plants in their offices showed a 37% reduction in anxiety, a 38% reduction in fatigue, a 44% reduction in anger and a 58% reduction in depression.
With its increasing popularity and positive results on employee wellbeing, office ergonomics is definitely worth our attention as an industry. Whether you're a manufacturer or supplier, and whether you're thinking about what would sell with your own customers or how to improve your own office environment, here are some questions to help you think through where to start if you haven't already...
- Allowing staff to have an outside workspace is a rising ergonomic trend - do you have the products to suit, from outdoor furniture and plants to power points?
- Some offices will be designing their ergonomics from scratch while others will be making smaller adaptations - some sit/stand desks can be added to the top of an existing desk, for example, while others involve buying a brand new desk. Is your current range of sit/stand desks, chairs and equipment wide and varied enough to suit a range of tastes, spaces and budgets?
- Could you supply more products to improve office aesthetics? Leafy plants, wall hangings, ambient lighting?
- While open space and collaboration can be great, too much noise in the office has a negative effect on mood and concentration. Are there any products you could consider supplying to create a quieter space? From carpet and rugs to acoustic wall panels, or noise-masking background music such as 'sounds of the rainforest', there are a range of possibilities out there.
- Cluttered workstations are said to have a negative impact on our mental wellbeing - Do you have enough products for employees to keep their workstation clean and clutter free?
- Many offices will want their ergonomics to be on-brand - do you have the variety of shapes, styles and colours needed to appeal to your customers?