For most office employees, a majority of the workday is spent sitting at a desk and looking at a computer screen. We often lose track of time and, besides the occasional bathroom break, find ourselves sitting for hours on end without allowing a few minutes for our bodies to switch postures and positions. The hazardous effects of sedentary work and behavior have become increasingly evident in recent studies and employers are recognizing the consequential issue and including ergonomically-friendly furniture within workplace design choices. For those unfamiliar with office ergonomics and their role within the office, we will detail the health hazards of sedentary behavior and highlight simple workstation solutions that can boost employee health and wellness.
Shown Above: Humanscale Float
Health Hazards of Sedentary Work
According to a report from the Annals of Internal Medicine, which summarized results from 47 studies on the health effects of sedentary behavior, more than half of the average person’s waking hours are spent sitting. Whether watching television, working at a desk, driving or other physically inactive ventures, our bodies are lacking the movement and change in posture that are crucial to good health. Results of Gensler’s U.S. Workplace Survey showed over 70% of workers’ weekly activities involved sitting at a desk, with another 20% sitting in meetings. The negative impact of a desk job and long hours in front of a computer are easy to recognize. Common symptoms associated with poorly designed office and workstation furniture range from damaged joints and chronic pain in hands and wrists, back, neck and shoulders, to headaches and eyestrain. While it’s easy to look past daily aches and pains from sedentary behavior, research from a variety of sources, including the Annals of Internal Medicine and the Mayo Clinic, have found that extended periods of sitting increases the risk of asthma, diabetes, obesity, fatigue and even the risk of death from cardiovascular disease and cancer. Medical experts are now referring to prolonged periods of physical inactivity and its staggering negative results as “sitting disease.”
Negative consequences of sedentary work not only pertain to employee health and wellness, but they directly correlate to a decrease in organizational profitability. Companies face rising healthcare costs, worker absenteeism and presenteeism, as well as decreased engagement and overall productivity levels when employees lack the proper workstation support and adjustable tools to foster healthy postures and movement throughout the work day. Implementing ergonomic features within workstations and various focus and collaborative areas throughout the office can help avoid chronic illnesses and discomfort, keeping employees happy, healthy and productive.
“A multitude of benefits can be reaped when reducing ergonomic risk factors and providing a safe and positive workplace environment. Not only are costly and harmful musculoskeletal disorders preventable, but employees are more engaged and productive with proper support. Most importantly, an environment that promotes a healthy culture shows a company’s commitment to their most valuable asset, the employee.”
Jen Kilp, CDI’s Director of Design
Ergonomic Solutions for Today’s Office
Fortunately, most ergonomic solutions are simple to implement and offer a profound opportunity to positively impact employee health and wellness. Adjustable height tables and desks, chairs with a wide range of ergonomic features, keyboard trays and monitor arms are all tools which provide healthy postural variation and movement at the workstation. For those employees who have the ability to work away from their desks on mobile devices, organizations may offer ergonomically-friendly work locations throughout the office. Let’s touch on a few solutions that can yield positive results for the entire workplace.
Adjustable Height Tables & Desks
Getting employees out of their chairs and onto their feet is a simple, but significant step towards a healthy and engaging work space. A recent study from Stanford University found a reduction in back and neck pain reports from employees utilizing sit-stand desks. While prolonged periods of standing aren’t healthy for our bodies either, standing a little more each day tones muscles, improves posture, increases blood flow, boosts metabolic health and burns extra calories. Kimball offers a variety of height adjustable benches and tables that can be utilized at workstations and throughout the open office. The Xsede Height Adjust, which can be specified within any of Kimball’s systems lines, supports fluid movement and frees workers from a static position. The newly released Canopy benching line also provides discrete, height adjustment capabilities with highly customizable aesthetic features. And for those working away from their desk, Kimball’s Dock training tables come in a variety of sizes and shapes and offer powerless height adjustment as activities and work style preferences change.
Shown Above: Kimball Xsede Height Adjust (Top Images) and Canopy (Bottom Image)
Humanscale offers several height adjustable options that are extremely easy to use and seamlessly transform a static workstation into an active one. The powerless and lightweight QuickStand neatly attaches to the back of any work surface and allows users to move keyboard tray and screen independent of one another. If needed, the QuickStand can also be easily moved from one workstation to another. Humanscale’s Float offers sit-stand adjustability in powerless or electric options, giving users the ability to alternate between postures for healthy movement. Simple, single-handed weight adjustment instantly accommodates changes in tabletop weight.
Shown Above: Humanscale QuickStand (Top and Bottom Left Image) and Float
Monitor position plays a crucial role in bodily comfort. The top of a computer monitor should be located at eye level and be no longer than an arm’s length away, preventing strained eyes and an unnaturally craned neck. Placing monitors directly in front of the user helps to avoid frequent twists and turns that can lead to musculoskeletal pain. Humanscale has designed a wide range of monitor arms to fit the needs and preferences of today’s work environment. The M2 monitor arm provides simple height and depth adjustment in an ultra-thin design. The M2’s innovative mechanical spring technology is exceptionally durable and supplies near limitless adjustability. The M/Flex is an extremely versatile multi-monitor arm system that can go from one to six monitors in minutes, without the need for tools. And as with all of Humancale’s monitor arms, it’s sleek and easy to use design keeps workstations uncluttered while enabling employees to customize their space. Kimball’s Pairings line offers lounge chairs with a multitude of features that support the mobile worker. Lounge chairs with adjustable tablet arms, work shelves for perch seating and optional built-in power provide versatility and adjustability throughout the open office. Learn more about the Pairings collection on the CDI blog.
Clockwise From Top Left: Humanscale M2, M/Flex, Kimball Pairings
Though very important to overall comfort at the desk, proper keyboard and mouse placement often gets overlooked. Keyboards should not be placed on their kickstands, contrary to popular belief. Rather, they should be placed flat or with a slightly negative tilt, down and away from you, following the natural downward slope of your thigh and supporting straight wrists. A well-designed keyboard and mouse system protects users from carpel tunnel syndrome, neck and back pain and other musculoskeletal issues. Both Humanscale and Kimball offer keyboard solutions for modern workstations.
A crucial component of the ergonomically-friendly office, adjustable task and conference chairs provide workers with the ability to maintain a healthy, natural posture while seated. Inadequate seating solutions are a leading cause for bodily discomfort when lacking proper support and adjustable features. However, a majority of manufacturers now integrate essential controls for personalized comfort and preference, including back tension and seat position variations, height adjustable seat and arms, personalized back lumbar support and varying degrees of synchronous tilt. With a plethora of aesthetic and ergonomic options, each individual must choose for themselves the best look and feel for their body.
Image Source: JustStand.org
The Kimball Wish and Joya are both rich with aesthetic and ergonomic options and are available in standard task, sit-stand and stool heights for use throughout the entire office. Kimball’s new online configuration tool, which you can learn more about on the CDI blog, allows users to walk through all of Joya’s available upholstery, control and caster options with the click of a mouse.
Clockwise From Top Left: Kimball Joya and Wish
The Highmark Genus, Allseating’s You and Sit On It’s Torsa chair lines are all intelligently designed to support healthy postures at the desk, conference room and throughout the office. Allseating’s You chair offers U-shaped back suspension that guides your spine into the proper position. The contemporary Highmark Genus collection comes in seven different mesh or fully upholstered options and outlines good, better and best chair options with varying ergonomic features. Sit On It’s Torsa chair features a unique cable-driven synchronous mechanism which allows simple, fingertip adjustment from a seated position.
Clockwise From Top Left: Sit On It Torsa, Humanscale Freedom, AllSeating You
Humanscale seating solutions offer the highest level of functionality and ergonomic capabilities without the complicated mechanisms. Both the Liberty and Freedom chairs rely on weight sensing technology to offer each individual a personalized sit throughout a variety of postures. Developed without the often burdensome levers and tension dials that can take valuable time away from the user, Humanscale’s seating options offer a timeless and simple design.
WELL Building Standard
Ergonomic features are now included in section 73 of the International WELL Building Institute’s Standard, which explores seven core concepts of health and hundreds of design features. In an effort to improve workplace comfort and enhance overall health and wellness where we work and learn, these building requirements are broken down into four parts, including visual ergonomics, desk height flexibility, seat flexibility and standing support. Sit-stand desks are also included within the section on active furnishings, section 71. Read more about each concept and its important role within building design by following the links.
A Healthier Workplace for Tomorrow
Countless studies have been conducted and the results are undeniable. Organizations must offer their employees mobility and customizable workplace solutions in order to maintain optimal health and wellness in addition to the highest levels of productivity. Ergonomic tools like the ones outlined in this post can be easily incorporated throughout the office to promote postural variation and a healthy dose of movement. And even for those who have already made ergonomic investments, it is important to refresh ourselves with best practices and make the most of the tools at hand. In supporting a healthy, active workplace and providing employees with the tools and technologies to remain comfortable, organizations are building an energized, engaged and more profitable workforce. For additional information on office ergonomics or to schedule a consultation, contact Jen Kilp and the CDI design team.
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Corporate Design Interiors (CDI) is an industry-leading commercial furniture dealership whose award-winning product knowledge, thoughtful design coupled with strategic planning deliver functional and inspiring interiors designed to foster employee well-being, productivity and engagement. CDI’s relentless focus on delivering positive workplaces mirroring the culture and vision of companies while delivering a high value investment has earned CDI diverse clients including; established Fortune 500 companies, nonprofits/public sector and energetic startups.
As a “Select” Kimball dealer, CDI’s excellence in sales, partnership, quality improvement, community involvement and overall business best practices earned it the 2017 Kimball Premier Partner Award. CDI was selected among 52 other Kimball Select dealerships throughout the country for this industry-leading honor, earning additional praise for its company culture and enterprise practices.
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