Earlier this week, I discussed the first part of my training at the Haworth Headquarters: wellness. The second part of the training, which goes hand in hand with wellness, was all about ergonomics.

Ergonomics is another commonly used buzzword when talking about workplace design but many times people don’t understand what it means beyond the way you sit. It is defined as the study of your workplace in relation to the type or work you do and the tools you use, while keeping your capabilities in mind. For example, a 5’2” woman would not have the same type of desk as a 6’1” man. They have different body types meaning the way they sit and operate at a desk is completely different, which can make it difficult designing spaces for a larger company with many people. But keep in mind that better design leads to a more productive worker; poor design leads to a frustrated, uncomfortable worker, who could potential get hurt (i.e. back pain, carpal tunnel, etc.).

When discussing office ergonomics, there are a few different areas you should be evaluating and questions to ask:

  • Work Surface: Is your surface a fixed height? Do you have enough clearance underneath your desk? Where do you keep items on your desk? How are your reach zones?
  • Lighting: Is there direct and/or indirect lighting? How is the glare? Is there natural or synthetic light? Are there windows, overhead lighting, and/or task lighting?
  • Monitor: Where are you monitors located? Is your laptop elevated? Is your posture in a neutral position? Are you looking up or down?
  • Keyboard: What is the position of the tilt: positive, negative, or none? Do you change the keyboard as you sit or stand?
  • Mouse or other input device: Where is the mouse or other devices located on your desk? Are they in the appropriate reach zone? Do you have the appropriate size mouse?
  • Chair: What type of chair should you choose? How is the seat height adjustment? How is the width and depth of the actual seat of the chair? How is the armrest height? Is there lumbar support or tension adjustment?

The above list refers to the individual workstations. There are also other macro ergonomic trends to take into account when looking at your office, such as alternative work spaces and wellness trends. 47% of all work completed in offices is usually done at shared or break out spaces. The problem with this is that they are usually a “one size fits all” space, which is not the case. Creating a more customizable breakout area, such as incorporating adjustable chairs or height adjustable tables, would help eliminate this issue in these spaces.

The other macro ergonomic trend which was discussed above is wellness, but more specifically sitting verse standing. As the popularity of standing desks still on the rise, people have begun to say “sitting is the new smoking”. Yes, sitting all day is not good but also standing all day is not the best either. You need to find a happy balance in order to achieve the healthiest outcome.

Ergonomic evaluations are becoming more and more common when building out a new space. You can learn more about Office Ergonomics through the White Papers on Haworth’s website. I can say I definitely evaluated my desk and the way I operate at it once I got back from Michigan.