Live Life Well? Then Define your Workstation!
All research indicates that sedentary office work is bad for health. The computer with the backlit display is part of office life and it takes many forms from desktop to laptop to tablet to smart phone.
Most office workers, young and old, suffer from back, neck and knee pain. Doctors call this a Musculoskeletal Disorder (MSD). Some researchers attribute other diseases like diabetes, heart conditions, etc. to be a part of the sedentary work lifestyle as well.
Most guidelines for computer usage require the worker to sit properly in a 90-90-90 posture with the body erect, knees and arms horizontal, and legs vertical with feet flat on the ground. Even in a comfortable ‘ergonomic chair’, such a posture can be maintained only for a short time and this arrangement has not helped people to be free of MSD.
Since this posture has not helped, the new recommendation is for people to use height adjustable sit/stand tables where people stand and work for part of the time. However, recent European research shows that installation of sit/stand tables in offices has not been able to get people out of their chairs. Other research indicates that it is not sitting but, in fact, inactivity that is causing problems. Some ergonomists/physiotherapists recommend that people actually should carry out stretching exercises every once in a while.
We believe that an active work environment requires re-designing of work itself instead of redesigning of office furniture. Present work patterns demand long hours of passive sitting and the furniture is designed just for that. Chair design has mainly been about providing comfort when it could be about well-being. Like ‘taste’ of food – ‘comfort’ has nothing to do with long term well-being. Taste and comfort, both provide only momentary sense of pleasure.
Re-design of work requires people to move around during the course of their workday. They need to get up and walk every time the phone rings or a printout is required or if something is to be discussed with a colleague. It is good for people to walk to the office cafeteria and not keep a water bottle at their worktable. Worktables can be made smaller and more common areas can be provided to let people walk around. Short meetings should take place standing up. If possible, meetings should take place walking around in a garden, courtyard or terrace. Even visitors to the office may admire things while standing up or walking around and not sitting down in the waiting room.
We recommend a different approach to office design with fixed height (affordable) sit/stand workstations that encourage activity. Our Aktiv chairs work well with our EeTee Active Workstations and promote health and well-being with limited comfort. These chairs ensure a more open posture with 130 degrees between torso and legs and they work better without a back support.
We have implemented these design ideas in many offices, including our own, and they work! A recent survey of people who used such furniture over a long period (8 years) of time showed a 50% reduction in instances of back and neck pain.