Active desks – a step too far?

April 10, 2013

LakeDistrictViewApple crumble & custard. Morecambe & Wise. Long walks & the Lake District. Some combinations just work well together.

Other pairings may be worthy individually but less so when united. I would put driving & texting, Rachel & Joey, walking & typing, and cycling & mousing into the latter category.

Treadmill DeskRecent discussions and headline-grabbing stories about the adverse effects of long-term sitting have brought “active desks” back into the limelight. (Active desks provide the user with facilities to walk, cycle or even use a recumbent elliptical trainer when working at an appropriate height desk). I first saw these at an exhibition in the US several years ago and, despite the plausible sales pitch, I was sceptical from the outset.

My issue with these products is that, like physio balls and kneeling chairs before them, their application in the workplace can be misunderstood and, as a result, misapplied.

Walking and other forms of exercise are obviously “a good thing” but how can you combine this effectively with computer work (which is what the majority of us do at our desk most of the time)?

Passive audio/video activities (webinars, podcasts) are viable with an active workstation – after all, we can watch TV whilst exercising  in the gym. By contrast, typing and mousing require a level of accuracy best accomplished when the upper body is stationary. Productivity will therefore decline significantly. For example, users report dramatic increases in typing errors.

Like physio balls, which are highly effective in their proper context (to strengthen core stability muscles through a proper exercise programme), use in the workplace can be counter-productive or even injury-inducing.

In my view, traditional sit-stand workstations, in combination with other exercise methods, are a better solution (and not just because we sell them!). Not only are they cheaper, they also give the user the opportunity to enjoy a mix of sitting and standing activities throughout the day.  This should always be combined with training and education about other simple activities like stretching breaks, walking meetings, using the stairs, parking at the opposite end of the car park and the many other ways that individuals can improve their health and their productivity without any cost to themselves or their employer.

Car ParkPerhaps my subject should be “Active desks – What’s the point?”

I hope I can look forward to some heated debate about this topic – either online or in person!

Time to Hang Out at the Office?

April 1, 2013
Suspensis Incredulum Integrated Inverted Workstation

The Suspensis Incredulum Integrated Inverted Workstation

We would not normally announce a new product on a Bank Holiday (it’s Easter Monday in the UK) but I couldn’t wait any longer with this news. In fact I couldn’t even wait until noon today!

Working with internationally acclaimed designer & researcher, Rif Loopal, we are delighted to announce the unique Suspensis desk range and, specifically the Incredulum model pictured here.

Rif explains, “The Suspensis Incredulum Integrated Inverted Workstation evolved from my fascination with the debate about sitting and standing at work and the arrival of some radical solutions such as the walking/cycling desks now appearing in the workplace”.

The grey-headed flying fox hangs upside down all day and works night shifts without evidence of musculo-skeletal injury

The grey-headed flying fox hangs upside down all day and works night shifts without evidence of musculo-skeletal injury

He continues, “I have recently spent some time in Australia observing the Grey Headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus).  This fruit bat hangs upside down all day without any evidence of adverse effects. Indeed, I have made a number of Google searches for “musculo-skeletal injuries in work-age fruit bats” and found nothing at all. Some may argue that the very healthy fruit-based diet of this creature is a major contributor to its resilience but I would also contend that they work a lot of night shifts, so it’s not by any means an easy life. These experiences inspired me to design this product”

On the basis of his research, Rif has worked with us for several months to create the workstation illustrated here. The benefits are obvious: no slouching, no risk of spinal disk compression and no possibility of cluttering up the work area with unnecessary papers, to name just a few.

A range of accessories will followRif is already working on a range of complementary accessories.  He tells us, “The computer mouse has been the biggest issue – people keep dropping it. The simple and immediate answer (illustrated here) is to use a rollerbar mouse attached to the desk but that doesn’t suit everybody so we are working on a traditional mouse that is helium-filled.  Early field trials suggest that some users may also decide to invest in a crash helmet and some high impact rubber matting”.

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