Integrating Intelligent Ergonomics

HLW places a high value on researched-based design, in which rigorous empirical evidence informs our client deliverables. Given the increasing focus on workplace health and wellness, a flurry of new information and research has emerged regarding sitting, standing, walking, running – even surfing. As a result, it is easy to get caught up with the latest products and trends regardless of their effectiveness. We recently synthesized some of the latest and most relevant findings from the myriad of available articles, reports, and publications to help clear up the confusion for both clients and designers alike. To help differentiate between the hype and the facts, we briefly summarize below what we learned.

“THE TRUTH IS, SITTING ISN’T KILLING US”

  • “But...sitting in poor postures for long periods with little movement and few breaks for standing or walking can impact our health and reduce our productivity.” STEELCASE, Movement in the Workplace
  • Research is available to show you what has been proven and dis-proven about ergonomics. It is important to find the optimal solution, not just the newest product.
  • In addition to height adjustability, thoughtful workplace design incorporates height variation among different spaces, so that employees can use appropriate surfaces as well as be encouraged to shift from space to space throughout the day while remaining productive.

THE PERILS OF REMAINING IN A SITTING POSTURE

  • “The perils of remaining in a sitting posture for long periods, day after day, are clear. The benefits of changing postures—including improved focus, engagement and wellness—are also clear.” STEELCASE, Movement in the Workplace
  • In developed countries, people on average sit 3-8 hours a day
  • Prolonged sitting can cause injury, heart disease, and fatigue
  • Experts recommend standing 5-20 minutes each hour
  • Height adjustable furniture can reduce sitting time by up to 60% HERMAN MILLER, Sit, Stand, Move, Repeat 

DON’T SACRIFICE PRODUCTIVITY

  • Studies show that the type of ergonomic solution implemented as well as proper training on utilization have a range of impacts on employees. 
  • “Standing desk use does not elicit the same physiological impact as the treadmill desk but does result in the least change in productivity and motor abilities. Of the standing desks, a sit–stand desk seems to provide the most benefit allowing the employee to adjust their desks throughout the day. The standing-only desk could potentially result in additional complications with musculoskeletal conditions and feelings of fatigue and discomfort.” ELSEVIER, A Systematic Review of Standing and Treadmill Desks in the Workplace 
  • “Merely providing adjustable furniture may not prevent... injury. A significant decrease in MSDs [musculoskeletal disorders] has been observed when workers were given an adjustable/flexible work environment, coupled with a systematically designed ergonomics training workshop.” ELSEVIER, Applied Ergonomics
  • “In one study, non-standers took an average of 47% more work breaks than standers and the duration of work breaks was 56% longer for non-standers than that of standers.” HUMANSCALE, Height-Adjustable Tables

 THE COST OF POOR ERGONOMICS

  • “Studies have found the development of MSDs by computer users to be partially explained by user posture, workstation ergonomics, repeated work measurements, and keyboard and monitor positioning.” HAWORTH, Preventative Measures for Common Musculoskeletal Disorders Found in the Office Environment
  • “Thriving employees realize 35% lower turnover costs compared with struggling employees and 52% lower cost than suffering employees” GALLUP CONSULTING, The Economics of Wellbeing
  • “MSDs cost businesses $15 - $20 billion dollars in worker’s comp each year” HAWORTH, Preventative Measures for Common Musculoskeletal Disorders Found in the Office Environment