WDM Newsletter – February 2018

February 20, 2018

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 15/02/2018. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

A panoptic approach

WDMheader2018-02I have mentioned  Ian Ellison of 3edges previously in this newsletter. As you may already be aware, he has been working with his colleague James Pinder, and Neil Usher of Workessence on A Workplace Leadership Manifesto. It was first published piecemeal through social media from the beginning of 2018 and is now available as a single document. This is a classic example of the ‘less is more’ principle, condensing some deep and wide-ranging thought into a handful of thought-provoking statements and explanations. The more we understand the nature of work, workplace and performance, the more we can achieve. This document provides a foundation for that thinking.

Throwing down the gauntlet

facing_the_challengeHot on the heels of the Leadership Manifesto publication comes an article from Mark Eltringham entitled Luther, Marx, Engels and a nailed-on manifesto for workplace change. I have also mentioned Mark before and I enjoy his writing. He frequently challenges the status quo and often points to where we should be looking. This article references the Leadership Manifesto and, in my simplistic terms, says ‘Come on FM industry (and others), what are you going to do about it?’. As always, there are threats and opportunities. Those who embrace this challenge have an outstanding opportunity. Be assured, however: this is absolutely not a time to sit back and see what happens!

Truth or sales pitch?

Businessman drawing Myths or Facts on blackboardOn a rather more mundane note, we continue to be asked all sorts of questions about sit-stand desks in particular and the ‘less sitting’ issue in general. Many people find the information available to be rather bewildering and the majority of the office furniture industry does not seem to be particularly well informed. We are concerned that there is still very little training being provided for users and, as a result, some of those who choose to stand more are starting to manifest other health issues. There is also the comparatively common matter of sit-stand desks being purchased but hardly used. As usual, this sort of widespread confusion prompts me to start writing and you can find my response –a sort of combined history lesson and ‘how to’ guide – in this blog.

Multi-purpose high table

alto_benchHigh tables and benches of all sorts are becoming increasingly popular in the workplace. One of the reasons is their obvious versatility. They can be used as individual desks, work benches, collaboration tables, canteen surfaces and general touchdown areas in many environments. Users can also stand or sit on a high seat or bar stool. Alto addresses all these applications and incorporates a modern look with multiple finish options. The standard depth and height are 1200mm and 1050mm respectively with widths from 2200 to 2800mm. Complementary smaller benches are available with surface areas from 1400mm x 900mm upwards. For further information, please contact the Customer Service team.


subscribeI expect, like me, you are tired of hearing about GDPR. My apologies for raising it yet again but we still have lots of people who have not resubscribed. I know we shall lose some recipients but I hope you will not be one of them! It will only take a couple of minutes to register here and, as an extra inducement, we shall be holding a prize draw for all registrants on April 30th with a 128Gb iPad 9.7 as the prize. There will also be a monthly prize of a Contour Unimouse. (Last month’s Unimouse winner was Vicky Henderson of Grimsby). Don’t worry if you have already resubscribed: you will still be in the draws! The reregistration submission will send you a confirmation email to complete the process. Please check your spam/junk directories if you do not receive it.

Osmond Ergonomics eBulletin February 2018

February 19, 2018

This article was originally emailed as our monthly eBulletin at 11:30 on 14/02/2018. You can view older eBulletins here and register to receive them monthly.


HeaderImage02-2018We shall be exhibiting again at the NEC in March. We have changed location this year since we found our position by the entrance was easy to locate but too much of a thoroughfare. Find us at our new location on Stand 75. As well as key new products, we shall be discussing our latest IIRSM-approved training offers and free regional roadshows. We shall also have our new brand extension to discuss and how that fits with our plans for the future.


roadshow_mapThe first three dates and locations – Leicester, Southampton and London (Barbican) – are now in the diary. More will follow in due course. All venues are close to train/motorway connections. On the first day at each venue, we shall be offering a free Product Showcase. This will give visitors the opportunity to handle and compare the latest innovations alongside established best-sellers. To accommodate as many people as possible in each region, the Showcase will be available from 2pm until 8pm. On the second day in each region, we shall provide two half day training sessions. The training will include practical workshop sessions. Discounts are also available for members of various professional bodies. Full details at ergonomics.events.


sit-standMany of you will know that I am both an advocate of sit-stand desks (with proper training) and a critic of some of the publicity surrounding them. Our friends at Cardinus asked me to write an article about this for the Winter/Spring edition of their Connect magazine. This gave me the opportunity to explore the history of the current interest in sit-stand and suggest ways employers can help to improve wellbeing with or without them. The article is now available as a blog.


rebrand250pxThe design of our new website will be central to our future marketing. The development has been a long and demanding process because it has included a strategic review of the current business and our future direction. As a result, we shall be announcing a further extension of our brand over the coming weeks. This is an exciting development for us, encapsulating what we have always done, focussing what we have already started to do and creating a platform for what we plan to do. If you are not attending Health & Wellbeing, expect full details in the next eBulletin – our 100th issue!


subscribe250pxI expect, like me, you are tired of hearing about GDPR. My apologies for raising it yet again but we still have lots of people who have not resubscribed. I know we shall lose some recipients but I hope you will not be one of them! It will only take a couple of minutes to register here and, as an extra inducement, we shall be holding a prize draw for all registrants on April 30th with a 128Gb iPad 9.7 as the prize. There will also be a monthly prize of a Contour Unimouse. (Last month’s Unimouse winner was SP of North London). Don’t worry if you have already resubscribed: you will still be in the draws! The reregistration submission will send you a confirmation email to complete the process. Please check your spam/junk directories if you do not receive it.

Sit-Stand Desks – Truth or Sales Pitch?

February 13, 2018

Businessman drawing Myths or Facts on blackboardMuch has been said and written about sit-stand desks. And quite a lot of it has been (and still is) nonsense!

Sit-stand desks have been available in various forms (primarily crank-adjustment, counter-balanced or electric and, more recently, desktop adaptors) for over twenty years. However, it is only within the last few years that they have received so much attention.

Before I continue I should state that I have been selling sit-stand desks for nearly twenty years and wholeheartedly recommend their use. I strongly support their implementation as part of a wider health and productivity regime with proper training and clearly defined purpose. What I question is the way in which many people in the workplace furniture industry have misappropriated the sit-stand desk as some sort of panacea to avoid a range of health conditions and avert early death! In the next few hundred words I hope to explode a few myths and clarify some misunderstandings.

It appears that the recent fuss all started in 2014 when one or two aspiring desk salesmen latched onto the 2012 systematic review and meta-analysis concerning prolonged seating by Wilmot, Edwardson, Achana et al. This looked at 18 studies with, collectively, nearly 800,000 participants. Fifteen of these studies were deemed moderate to high quality. As a result of their analysis, the researchers concluded that ‘Sedentary time is associated with an increased risk of diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular and all-cause mortality; the strength of the association is most consistent for diabetes’.

business woman working in the officeSoon after the research was published, someone recognised that the possible outcomes of prolonged sitting are comparable with those associated with smoking and the expression ‘Sitting is the new smoking’ was born. In the age of social media, 24 hour news and tabloid newspapers, this was, of course, Soundbite Heaven. The expression soon began to appear frequently, often quoted by people who had no idea of the origin, context or the true meaning.

With scare stories appearing in the media, the time was ripe for the publication in 2015 of a Consensus Statement (not a research paper) entitled ‘The sedentary office: a growing case for change towards better health and productivity’. This appeared under the banner of Public Health England and was published on the web site of the British Journal of Sports Medicine. With such apparent credibility, this statement recommended (amongst other outcomes) ‘standing and light activity’ for between two and four hours per day and that ‘seated-based work should be regularly broken up with standing-based work, the use of sit–stand desks, or the taking of short active standing breaks’.

At the time of publication, there was some controversy about an undeclared conflict of interest because one of the authors also owns a sit-stand desk company. However, nearly 80 news outlets picked up the story and the conflict of interest was lost in the media flurry that followed.

Spawned by these media reports, there have been countless articles, blogs and stories of varying quality and value. Many are sales pitches thinly disguised as advice and many fail to make the fundamental observation that the whole issue is about sitting less, not about standing more.

Busy partnersPeople like a simple message. It could be tempting to approach the issue as a binary choice between sitting and standing and then try to find a way to quantify that. At a recent conference in the United States, I witnessed several delegates (in various seminars) ask the question ‘how long should we stand for?’ and, of course, the right answer is the classic ergonomist’s response: ‘It depends’. Individuals have very different comfort thresholds for standing. In addition, individual health, fitness, posture, footwear and numerous other factors need to be considered. More important still is the simple fact that sitting and standing do not make the whole equation. Movement is also an essential constituent.

During her many years at NASA, Dr Joan Vernikos concluded that a key element to health is to ensure we trigger our ‘gravity muscles’ frequently. We do this by standing up and doing everyday activities that counter gravity, such as putting things on shelves, using steps and stairs, dancing, carrying the shopping, even gardening. Her research demonstrated that the number of times you counter gravity is more important than how long you do it for. It is therefore important to ensure that you do not sit for too long and you make frequent changes of posture. Getting up every 20-30 minutes is optimal but do not simply swap sitting for standing. Move about and change posture frequently.

To put all this information into context, here are some ideas for individuals and employers to improve the health of individuals and minimise the health risks of sitting at work:

Ideas for individuals to sit less and be more healthy

  • Whether you are sitting or standing, ensure your posture is good.
  • Do not sit or stand for too long. Mix it up.
  • Drink lots of water. It is good for you and creates natural comfort breaks.
  • Have some meetings standing.
  • Try walking meetings.
  • Think about your tasks. Some are better suited to standing.
  • Stand for telephone conversations, especially if you need to be assertive. Or walk and talk.
  • Stand to sort papers and files.
  • Sending an internal email? Go and speak to the person instead.
  • Park as far away from the building as possible. Do the same when you go shopping.
  • Use the stairs, not the lift.
  • Wear a fitness tracker and track your steps. Compete with yourself to improve your average.
  • Do stretching exercises at your desk and/or on the move.
  • Enrol in health programmes.
  • If you have a sit-stand desk, raise it up too high at the end of the day. It makes life easier for cleaners and forces you to reposition it in the morning.
  • You can also raise the desk when colleagues approach to talk to you and have your conversation standing up.

Motus_ConsoleUseCloseUpFor those organisations who provide sit-stand furniture, it is essential to realise that the transition involves a culture change. Training, education and user support are essential.



Ideas for employers to optimise performance through sit-stand furniture & alternatives to sitting

  • Train users to understand how to use their sit-stand desk, when to make posture changes and what good posture feels like (sitting and standing).
  • Install “poseur tables” for short standing meetings and touch down use.
  • Consider replacing some meeting tables with standing versions.
  • Check if it is possible to slow down the lift(s) to encourage stair use.
  • In established Hot Desking areas, install a pair of sit-stand desks at the end of each set of standard desks. This will work very well provided good policies and procedures are in place (and the Hot Desking facilities are properly implemented and managed).
  • Use schemes like Global Corporate Challenge which both encourage movement and foster team building.
  • Create walking routes around your premises.
  • Label routes and staircases with calories burned using schemes like StepJockey.
  • Incorporate posture and ergonomics into your health and wellbeing programmes.
  • Gamify your workplace to encourage movement.

In summary, therefore:

  • Sit-stand desks are wonderful but not the sole solution.
  • Make sure people are trained how to adopt good sitting and standing postures. Experience tells us that this is not as obvious as it sounds!
  • Make frequent changes of posture whilst sitting and get up at least every 20-30 minutes.
  • If you do not like standing, make sure you still stand up and sit down at least every 20 minutes.
  • Do not just swap sitting for standing.
  • Create opportunities to walk and move about during your working day.
  • Be critical of what you hear! Is it true or is it just a sales pitch?

This article first appeared in the Winter/Spring 2018 edition of Connect magazine from Cardinus Risk Management.

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