Office design encompasses the design of whole workspaces, of individual work stations and their components such as computers or chairs. According to the research paper “Body support in the office: sitting, seating and low back pain” of Herman Miller Inc., professional office workers spent about seventy 70% of their time sitting in their offices which caused an extremely heavy physical and mental load on them.
As the technology is advanced nowadays, communications hardware and techniques are becoming vastly more complex and critical element of the office. Fibre optics will increasingly connect computer networks and other communications hardware. As a result, there is less shared equipment and more individual workstation. The two books ‘Ergonomics in computerized offices’ and ‘Ergonomics and Health in Modern offices’ written by Grandjean gave me a good insight on how the development of individual workstation has effects negatively on officer’s health.
There are considerably differences between the traditional workstation back in the old days and visual display terminals workstation (VDT). The traditional office desk provides
employees great variety of physical and mental activities and has a large space for various body posture and movements. The worker might look for documents, take notes, use telephone, and leave the desk many times during the course of working days .
On the other hand, the VDT workstation designed for operator to work several hours or a whole day without interruption. “The worker‘s movement is restricted into a man- made machine system, attention is concentrated on the screen and the hands are linked to the keyboard, these operators are more vulnerable as they are more susceptible to constrained postures.”
There are a lot of companies produce ergonomics furniture in the market with the goal to minimize officer’s health fatigue. A great example is Herman Miller Furniture. Their performance work chairs are truly innovative products which are designed to help everyone archive healthier sitting postures by facilitating human’s body movements. This means that with an ergonomics approach, choosing the right furniture, an ergonomic work station can considerably decrease officer’s health risk. However, Ergonomics designed furniture could not entirely prevent the negative impacts on worker‘s health. The reason for that is sitting itself is a public health risk. Prolonged sitting is extremely harlmful – as harmful as smoking. The danger of sitting – human’s most common activity even outweighs the benefits we get from exercise.
As interior designers, I think we should aware of this problem and understand that “our body is built to be move about, not to hold still”. In ‘Office Ergonomics’, Karl H.E. Kroemer claimed that the key is to build movement variety into the normal workday. Designers should consider extreme body postures expected to occur and layout the interim work space for motion. This mean design for both walking and sitting. The implication for the seat should be designed for relaxed and upright sitting. Moreover, it need to be flexible for leaning backward and forward, and for getting in and out.
In terms of space planning in the office, I think it is necessary to design several workplaces in an office. One work space is sitting desk and computer workstation; the other could be an optional stand up work space. Moreover, general uses spaces such areas for group work, meeting with clients, relax spaces could be located in offices to encourage workers moving therefore decrease health‘s injuries by long period of seating position.
And that’s it for this post on physical fatigue in offices. Let me know what you think! Are you someone who aware of the risk of prolonged sitting? Do you think that the real problems behind the issue of health injury of officer were the lack of ergonomics and anthropology consideration on office design?
Have a inspiring day!