Collaborative work spaces and ergonomics

photo courtesy of: Dimitry Shirnosov/shutterstock.com

August 27th, 2015

A few things to remember…..

>Well I sit here at my desk and ponder if it is time for an office refit and a chance to really look at the way that we do our day to day work. Our office space is – well traditional but our workers are evolving in the way they do their office based work.

So much of what we do now is cloud based and we can do that work anywhere. This has got me thinking……………….

Most of us have the conventional one-worker-one-desk arrangement but we are all starting the see the benefits of collaborative or flexible work spaces. This concept is not new; some of the design firms, Google and Apple have been working like this for years. Some have clever features such as pods for quiet concentration, tables that float away after hours to make room for events, a ball pit etc etc. Of course, these examples are at the extreme end of collaborative work spaces and are too far-fetched for many of us to implement into our workplaces. However, we can certainly adopt some of these principles.

These changes are being driven by innovation in technology. Even as recently as five years ago, we didn’t think we would have available to us fully cloud based payroll system. These systems now give us the capacity to do our work when we aren’t even in our offices to review invoices, check reports. We can do it this work from our phone. Using our Surface, we can pull up reports at meetings! Amazing…….
Sadly though, even with all of these systems available, we still visit both collaborative work spaces and conventional offices spaces and see the same things – everyone sitting, or standing hunched over their laptop or keyboard! What we are starting to see is a growth or employers who have abandoned ergonomics in the pursuit of innovative work spaces.
What we need to see in the design of work spaces is a careful review of the tasks being carried out and then we need to teach staff how to use the new space and how to use their digital devices within it. An example would be for the employee who spends a lot of each day undertaking a lot of heavy mouse work; they need spaces that are set up so that they can do the work as safely as possible. In this example, desktop workstations would be the safest whether it is a sit to stand option or a conventional desk with a good quality ergonomic chair. When they are performing other tasks, they can move to a less ergonomic set up, say working on a conventional table of chair or at a work bench.

Ideally, new work spaces should provide a mix of seated workstations; sit to stand opportunities, benches, meeting areas and breakout areas. Some of our clients have even gone so far as to provide spaces for phone use.

At SRC Solutions, we talk to our clients about the basics about good desktop workstation set up and show them how to apply it – whatever desk, table, countertop, etc. they find themselves working at – with whatever digital device they happen to be using. It is important that the worker has the knowledge to set up the space they are using as safely as possible and continue to do so every time they change location.

We remind them that it is not necessary to buy every piece of equipment for every person as all of it can be shared as the user moves around occupying different spaces throughout the day. It is important that equipment be made available and the workers need to be trained in how to use all of it, including how to readjust shared workstations, chairs and other equipment so that it meets their own individual needs.

It is also time to remind the reader that chairs do need to comply with Australian Standards including an adjustable backrest and seat base (preferably adjusting independently of one another), have a stable base with five legs with rotating castors and be height adjustable.

Hopefully, our updated work spaces will encourage us to move more during that day as moving rather than just sitting/standing because moving is the key to safer and healthier work places and better work practices.