Sit-Stand-Perch – Exploring the Third Option

August 9, 2017

WDMheader2016-04It is ironical that perching, the ‘third way’ in the sit-stand conversation, first became topical a few decades ago during discussions about standing too much!

Historically, there have been many logical applications for perching in manufacturing environments as a way to reduce the standing time for machine operators and process personnel without the productivity loss which can arise from frequent changes between sitting and standing. You will also see perching stools in galleries and museums so that attendants do not have to stand for their entire shift. The principal benefits of perching in such situations are an open pelvic angle for better spinal posture; reduced risk of slouching thereby encouraging better breathing; quicker and easier transition to standing height which can impact productivity and, in customer-facing applications, better eye-contact with others who are standing.

There are several ways of achieving a perching posture in an office application and chair designers and manufacturers have created many innovative approaches to the topic – with varying degrees of success! This article will not be an analysis of these different approaches but I will use three office-focused designs to illustrate the diversity available and help you to make your own decisions or, at least, ask the right questions. It is quite possible that other chair promoters and manufacturers will respond with ‘why mine is best’ comments below! As always, my advice is to beware of advertising disguised as advice.

muvmanFor a modern approach to the traditional ‘bus stop’ perch, the Muvman provides a simple, comfortable seat with a spring in the height-adjustable stem and a patented movable joint in the base. This allows a dynamic sitting posture with natural movement which most people find ‘surprisingly comfortable’. The only adjustment is for gas-stem height and, for stability, the base has no castors and is quite heavy.


twizzy_saddle_seatThe saddle stool concept is widely available in a range of shapes and sizes. This sort of seating is popular with dentists, podiatrists and in some manufacturing environments but less common in offices. The saddle posture allows the user to sit at, typically, 50-70% of standing height but it is important to specify a gas stem that will go high enough (this may not be the default option). For anatomical reasons, an adjustable forward tilt will usually be desirable for male users. It is also important to note that it is not easy to judge what shape saddle any individual will prefer. Over the years, we have experimented on the basis or male/female pelvis shape, buttock width and thigh girth – without arriving at any reliable conclusions! If you are purchasing for an individual, be sure to carry out a trial first and if you are buying for multiple users, choose a mixture of models. Be aware, also, that some users simply cannot live with the saddle concept.

HAG Capisco back-to-backThe Capisco has been established for many years and takes a very different approach. With a suitably high gas stem, this chair offers traditional sitting, saddle-style sitting and reverse sitting (with the chair back supporting the sternum).  Some employers also use these with fixed-height high desks, adding a foot ring to allow a traditional sitting posture at height. For employers who want dynamic sitting and a stylish, unique look, Capisco can be used as a single solution to the sit-perch-stand approach.

Other models, each with their own story, can be viewed on our web site here.

It is also worth considering how such models can be deployed. Many may require both a traditional chair and a perching stool/chair. Do you have enough space? Alternatively, can you provide sit-stand (or stand only) desks without a traditional chair and just the sit-perch option?

As always, it is essential to ensure that, whatever configuration you decide on is fully supported by quality training.

WDM Newsletter – July/August 2017

July 24, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 20/07/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Impacting engagement across multiple cultures

WDMheader2017-07This month I have been looking at health and safety legislation in multiple territories. This conversation then extended into looking at other roles with multinational responsibility and thinking about how different organisations approach cultural diversity. It is hard enough to address all the issues affecting engagement in a single country, so overlaying cultural conflicts adds an order of magnitude to the challenge. This is especially so when the parent company has a very different national culture and assumes it can simply be overlaid on every other territory worldwide! Are you and your organisation especially good at both recognising and integrating cultural diversity – or is this a problem you are currently facing? I want to explore this further and welcome any contributions, questions or ideas. In the first instance, please email me to join the conversation.

Design: Jason Lansdale

rendezvousAs offices start to look like hotel lounges and hotel lounges become work hubs, specific themes and approaches emerge. New product concepts appear and, within weeks, every manufacturer has its own interpretation of the same idea! Once that has happened, it becomes a personal choice for style, quality and function.Rendezvous is my favourite product in its niche, offering a choice of high sitting or standing in a variety of configurations. For co-working and ABW – or just somewhere for a quiet cup of coffee – it is available to accommodate 4-12 people with a choice of screen heights and finishes. If you are thinking about extending your range of standing height work areas, especially in an agile office environment, this could be the ideal alternative, or complement, to sit-stand desks (see below).

Separating fact from fiction

sit-stand-multiIn May, I mentioned the current interest in my ‘Is it true what they say about Millennials?’ presentation and, since then, there have been several enquiries about my newly updated ‘Putting things in perspective’ sit-stand presentation. It is clear that many organisations, including some who are well advanced with a sit-stand implementation programme, are unsure about the use of sit-stand desks and the messages surrounding them. As Mark Eltringham says in his recent Workplace Matters interview (see below), we all need to be aware of a ‘fallacious and distorted narrative’. I agree! If you are looking for a one-hour session (as a seminar or webinar) that puts this narrative into perspective, please contact me.

Information on the move

workplace_mattersI am a podcast enthusiast: I find they are a valuable source of both entertainment and education. My latest discovery is Workplace Matters by Ian Ellison of 3edges. Addressing an enormous variety of subjects in workplace design, culture and engagement, Ian interviews thought leaders from a variety of backgrounds. The discussions are wide ranging and stimulating with lots of valuable ideas and references. A word of warning though! As I discovered when I was driving, you will probably need to listen a second time to take notes (and that is no bad thing). Find it on iTunes or Acast.

Workplace Ergonomics – a Paris Perspective

July 11, 2017

Preventica2017My recent visit to Paris for the Preventica exhibition was an exhilarating experience but this was not because of the products on display. In the ergonomics section, I had seen them all before, either in the UK or at other international exhibitions.

The exhilaration came from the freshness and youth of the industry. I spent some time talking to one exhibitor who believes that France is 10 years behind the UK in terms of attitudes to, and understanding of, the benefits of ergonomics in the workplace. Despite this immaturity, some of the companies are already well-established: another exhibitor reminded me of a conversation we had 8 years ago when he had just set up his organisation.

I also found it entertaining to (privately) compare the exhibitors I saw with equivalent UK companies! Some come from a medical background, others are really focussed on customer service whilst others look to rapid growth and national coverage as fast as possible. This is an interesting challenge in France, which has a very similar population to the UK but more than 2.5 times the area. Others are looking to disrupt the existing occupational health workstation assessment model since this is currently very expensive for French employers.

This exhilaration reminded me that, in some areas of UK ergonomics, I think our level of development now complicates matters unnecessarily. Computer mice are a good example of this: I am quite envious of those markets where you can offer just a small selection of computer mice (which, between them, cover nearly all issues), instead of having to carry a wide portfolio of input devices to address every customer demand, belief, prejudice and expectation.

shutterstock_121706023_MAZEAt the same time, I know it is hard work to establish credibility and reputation in a new market. I am probably too long in the tooth to start that again! In a developing market, I would offer end users just one tip – beware of advertising disguised as advice!

WDM Newsletter – June 2017

June 19, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 15/06/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Exploring Smart Buildings and Smart Occupiers

WDMheader2017-06The ThinkFM Conference 2017 explored how technology impacts the role of the Facilities Manager and, indeed, the entire workforce. There is no doubt that connectivity and wireless technology in its many incarnations – the Internet of Things (IoT) – is making it easier to monitor buildings and equipment as well as anticipate faults. This improves preventative maintenance and many workplace services dramatically. Much more interesting to me was how much may be achieved by monitoring people as well! We are already familiar with occupancy monitors and wearable technology that can assess our steps, posture and heart rate. [more]

Responsible, innovative and beautiful

eva_chairThe new Eva from Orangebox places the company firmly in the premier league of international seating and furniture manufacturers. I was privileged to be part of a small focus group to see and comment on the concept in the last few weeks before its launch. It is very clear that enormous attention has been paid to every facet of its development and construction. The sleek, minimalist profile creates an elegant chair and aids its outstanding sustainability story. Simultaneously, the simple, intuitive controls combine with a wide adjustability range to maximise comfort. Contact us to experience the chair yourself.

There is more to Wellbeing than fabulous furniture

wellbeing2The buzzword at CDW 2017 was Wellbeing. I am delighted to see that the designers of mainstream workplace environments are recognising the importance of Human Factors and Ergonomics (HF&E) but we know that issues to consider under the Wellbeing heading are numerous and diverse, extending way beyond the provision of comfortable, attractive furniture. We see mental health as a major cause for concern for many of our clients so it is important to address this alongside physical health and employee engagement for a successful, productive workforce. [more]

Education & training opportunities

webinarHave you looked at our event diary recently? We run regular webinars alongside periodic training and education events on topics relevant to senior managers in all organisations. Whether you are in Facilities, HR, Health & Safety or Procurement, there will be subjects that resonate with your current priorities. Recent webinar sessions include ‘Is it true what they say about Millennials?’ and ‘Zero Inbox – the Basics of Email Management’. Many events are free! Check the page regularly to see what else we have added.

IoT & Big Data – where is it leading?

June 15, 2017

smart_building250x250The ThinkFM Conference 2017 explored how technology impacts the role of the Facilities Manager and, indeed, the entire workforce. There is no doubt that connectivity and wireless technology in its many incarnations – the Internet of Things (IoT) – is making it easier to monitor buildings and equipment as well as anticipate faults. This improves preventative maintenance and many workplace services dramatically. Much more interesting to me was how much may be achieved by monitoring people as well! We are already familiar with occupancy monitors and wearable technology that can assess our steps, posture and heart rate. How much further will this go – and will we accept it?

We all recognise that Google and others simplify our lives by giving us ready access to information (although Google still can’t help when I ask it where I put my car keys!). We also understand that there is a quid pro quo of surrendering data about ourselves in order to improve the experience and information available to us. Whilst I am delighted and entertained by what technology can do for us, I am increasingly agitated by the dichotomy that exists between the benefits and the intrusion.

robotIn his opening address at ThinkFM, BIFM Chairman Stephen Roots listed the New Generation of Robots as one of the top ten trends impacting the workplace. The loss of jobs to automation is widely discussed and a genuine cause for concern in the medium term. Are we all accelerating that outcome by volunteering the data that will make it possible? Uber may not be a company we look to for management inspiration but it is certainly one to watch for technological innovation. They are actively exploring driverless vehicles, whilst their existing drivers are allocated jobs by sophisticated software. One might argue that this is already management by algorithm.

Ben Waber, the keynote speaker at ThinkFM, provided a brilliant explanation of how his company, Humanyze, uses behavioural analytics to improve productivity. The impact of interventions by Humanyze was stunning and I am certain we shall be hearing much more about his company in the future. However, whilst the rigour of their work and the robust research on which it is based look impeccable, I still find myself a little uncomfortable about the individual data being collected.

paranoid_slimI do not think I am paranoid and I am sure, to some degree, this cynicism is generational. I am not even suggesting we should be fighting against any of this technology. I just feel we should give more thought to the privacy we are surrendering! I have just read Stewart Mitchell’s article (PC Pro magazine 274/pp14-15) which explores what Amazon Echo, Google Home and others might be hearing that we are unaware of. The answer is quite a lot. Without question, the article reinforces my view that unethical applications can and have been exploited and I do not want this sort of technology in my home.

I realise that, whereas my blogs usually raise questions and suggest answers, this article simply raises a lot of questions! Am I paranoid? Do you agree? Is all this technology ultimately a force for good – or not? As always, any feedback is very welcome.


Clerkenwell Design Week 2017

June 13, 2017

clerkenwellIn comments about CDW2016, I noted that ergonomics is an essential subject for some, a relevant topic for others and a misunderstood and inconsequential distraction for the rest! In this short article, I shall be expressing my subjective observations about how this is evolving in wider workplace attitudes as reflected during CDW2017.

In 2017, there are still many who fail to really understand ergonomics. Despite that, the common theme throughout Clerkenwell was Wellbeing. Office furniture manufacturers, designers and architects have all realised that the most productive workforce is happy, healthy and engaged. Since finding, employing and retaining talent is the highest cost for any business, this makes sound commercial sense and puts human factors and ergonomics (HF&E) at the centre of good workplace design.

Not that ergonomics was overtly discussed at Clerkenwell! As usual, there was plenty of talk about sit-stand furniture and reducing prolonged sitting, as well as lots of information about agile working, acoustics, light, product design, colour, texture and living walls. These all address HF&E issues yet there seems to be a need to ‘dress it all up’ with buzzwords and catchphrases. Clearly, ergonomics is just not interesting enough on its own!

Most workplace furniture manufacturers approach the wellbeing issue from a perspective of offering variety: give employees plenty of different ways to work, design them into bright, comfortable and inviting spaces and the talent will come – and stay. That is how the thinking goes. Your choice of supplier will dictate how much science or research is applied to this thinking and how it is described. The conversation may be about Smartworking, Creative Spaces, Future Office, Clever Workspace or another, similar, name. Activity based working (ABW) fits into much of this thinking but our own simplified approach is to break down activities and the needs of personnel into the 4Cs: Collaboration, Communication, Contemplation and Concentration.collaborationMy own view is that mental health is now a crucial consideration and workplace design is only part of the issue. As well as more open discussion about mental health, there is a growing understanding of how to manage the needs of individuals and teams where stress or depression is an issue. If we want to discuss Wellbeing, we must go beyond describing different ways of working and look at both mental and physical health to optimise individual performance.

health-wellbeing-productivityDespite the appearance of a growing number of Wellbeing Managers, there is no formal qualification nor, indeed, any particular career path. There is also plenty of debate about what we actually mean by Wellbeing. We must take care that the really important issue of keeping staff mentally and physically healthy is not hijacked by marketing buzzwords and thereby devalued.

WDM Newsletter – May/June 2017

May 22, 2017

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 18/05/2017. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

Communication – Collaboration – Concentration – Contemplation

WDMheader2017-05As mentioned in last month’s newsletter, we have participated recently in The Business Show which targets smaller employers. In doing so, we realised that this market is less familiar with the many terms we use in day-to-day conversation with our large clients. The result of this thinking was our latest jargon-free brochure. It was an exhilarating experience discussing the workplace with people who had never heard of agile working, touchdowns, co-worker spaces or activity based working arrangements although many are using such formats without realising it!

Compact comfort

luxFor our stand at the Business Show, we needed a product to represent our broader portfolio in a compact space. The Lux seating family provides an ideal mix of striking design and small footprint which met the brief exactly. As an evolution of the traditional tub chair, it is available in a choice of high and low backs and single or two-seater models. Complete with co-ordinating low tables, it is ideal for reception and breakout areas where space is limited.

Exploding some myths about Generation Y

millennialsThis is the title of a new presentation I delivered recently to a group of senior managers in the finance field. In it, I addressed some of the key issues in the context of a multi-generational workforce and explore ways to improve communications across age groups and character types. You can see the PowerPoint deck here. There were several comments from attendees about some of my ideas that they had not considered before and I already have an enquiry to present again to a leadership team. Let me know if this is a topic of interest to you and your colleagues. It can be delivered in person or by webinar.

Content update

seatedFollowing the introduction of the new work environments literature mentioned above, our seating brochure needed a facelift. The new version provides an overview of every type of seating from reception to home working and laboratories to industrial settings. We source products from a number of manufacturers in the UK and abroad to provide a comprehensive portfolio of quality products and, since it is in our DNA always to consider ergonomics, we bring a unique perspective to many seating discussions. Contact us for further information.

Last chance – or maybe too late

clerkenwellDepending when you read this, CDW is just coming or you may have just missed it! If there is still time to book, you can do so here. I shall be attending on the Tuesday and Wednesday: let me know if you want to meet up. If you are too late, I shall be providing my own observations and insights in the June/July newsletter. As I write this piece, I am looking forward to the new Eva chair launch at Orangebox (I have had a sneak preview!), Textile Fluidity from Camira, Creative Collaborations with SB Seating and street art at Edge Design, amongst many others.

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