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.


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!


Stockholm Furniture & Light Fair 2017

February 16, 2017

See all my photographs from this year’s exhibition on our Pinterest page.

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The 2m lampshade

One of the joys of this event is the diversity of products available in one location. Whether you are looking for domestic, workplace or hospitality applications, the variety is enormous and most of it comes with that extra ingredient of ‘Scandi Design’ flair.

Starting amongst the numerous lighting exhibitors, I was reminded of the dramatic progress in the development of low energy lamps, LEDs and their associated applications in recent years. The selection of lighting products for both domestic and commercial use was a delight. I was particularly impressed by the many designs merging traditional materials with the new technology. However, I was there to look at workplace furniture and, although it would be easy to spend my time creating a wishlist of products for my own home, there was work to be done!

nordic_deskInevitably, sit-stand desks are a mainstay of the workplace part of this event. The conspicuous difference from the UK is that they are no longer a novelty. This concept is over twenty years old in Scandinavia and, in Denmark, it is now mandatory to offer sit-stand desks to employees. In a mature market, every manufacturer’s portfolio includes sit-stand and differentiating themselves from competitors can be difficult. The current focus is therefore on aesthetics and many companies are hiding most of the essential steel components by encasing them in wood. I thought it was significant that I saw no evidence of the gimmicks such as illuminated desktops and hands-free height adjustment that are gaining ground in the USA. There is also no discussion about whether or not people use adjustable desks (a preoccupation in the UK): sit-stand is part of the regional culture.

Amongst the furniture manufacturers were several balance/wobble board variations to encourage exercise and movement whilst standing at the desk. These included everything from the most basic plastic device to an elaborate mini-surfboard. In the age of crowd-funding, even the most bizarre and unviable designs can at least get to pre-production stage if they have a funky health message and a clever video!

sofi_mesh2Scandinavia has been in the vanguard of workplace seating design for many years and the key regional manufacturers were all represented. Task chairs continue to evolve, offering greater comfort, more intuitive adjustment and improved aesthetics. A strong sustainability story is no longer topical since that too is now ‘business as usual’. As Aleksander Borgenhov, one of the designers, summed up the development process, the objective is to create ‘a beautiful object from something that is, in fact, a highly advanced machine’.

Beyond the task chairs, there was, as you would expect, lots of soft seating and other breakout furniture. These days, I believe the ranges available in the UK from our domestic manufacturers are as innovative, elegant and functional as any in the world. Some of the British manufacturers were also exhibiting and they certainly ‘hold their own’ in an international market. The line between workplace and hospitality products is now blurred to the point of extinction and it is easy to imagine products for offices in hotel lobbies or seating for canteens in bars and cafes.

sequesterAcoustics is one discipline where the design of decor and furniture merge. ‘Sound ergonomics’, as I like to think of it, is a fascinating topic. Many high back sofas, huddles and pods for varying work areas incorporate acoustic benefits into the design and its importance is now widely recognised as we grow to understand more about the links between wellbeing and productivity. One of my favourite furniture products addressing these issues is the cocoon-like Sequester (as it is known in the UK) which was being displayed by its Swedish designers.

Many acoustics specialists were also exhibiting. Acoustic panels and components continue to appear in a variety of shapes and sizes and using them as a design feature rather than burying them in partitions and behind images can be highly effective, especially since so many of them are very tactile.

In previous years, I have also spent time exploring the bathroom fittings and accessories, as well as other non-core activities, but there was no time this year and, in any case, such matters are probably of little interest to my audience!

In conclusion, it was an excellent event with lots to see. In terms of new products, I would say the theme was one of evolution rather than revolution. For me, such occasions are also a fabulous opportunity to catch up with old friends from around the world.

rebel_wallsMy favourite product? Actually my second favourite product (see below) but, completely randomly, I spotted the Rebel Walls stand when I stopped for sushi at lunch time. Their 3D trompe l’oeil wallpaper is stunning and the scope for bespoke designs is very clever. I shall be visiting their UK website when we move house later this year!

My one regret? The most exciting product I saw was not on show but in an exhibitor’s hotel room. It is still at the prototype stage and I am unable to tell you about it until later in the year! If you want to be one of the first to hear about it, you can subscribe to my monthly newsletter!

See all my photographs from this year’s exhibition on our Pinterest page


Has the UK sit-stand market finally grown up?

September 9, 2016

er60nomIt is nearly twenty years since we sold our first sit-stand desk but the real growth in interest amongst UK employers has arisen since early in 2014.

Initially driven by publicity about the potential health impacts of sedentary behaviour, employers were bombarded with news, statistics, research and plenty of online ‘noise’ predicting dire consequences if there was not a rapid and immediate transition from traditional office environments to workplaces populated with ‘standing desks’.

Even using the term ‘standing desk’ is misleading to the uninitiated because it implies that simply replacing seated activity with standing activity is the answer. Furthermore, some of the (apparently well-researched and highly reputable) research recommended that we should all aim to stand at our desk for up to four hours per day. The problem, however, has never been about too much sitting: it has been about not enough movement. Standing undoubtedly helps but it is only part of the solution.

hedges3s

Hedge’s 3S’s Ideal Work Pattern

The ‘stand for four hours’ rationale has now been widely dismissed and many who really understand the issues will recommend a 30 minute cycle of sitting, standing and movement such as ‘Hedge’s 3S’ cycle proposed by Professor Alan Hedge .

With clearer guidance, employers can make better judgements and the sales enquiries we now receive seem to come more from a ‘good thing to do’ perspective rather than ‘do we really have to do this?’.

What is also significant is that most large employers are opting for 10 – 20% sit-stand, often putting a pair of sit-stand desks at the end of a bank of standard workstations. By contrast, more and more of our ‘mini project’ orders (typically, 10 – 40 desks) are for smaller organisations equipping all of their personnel with a sit-stand option. It seems that these smaller organisations recognise that they are doing much more than changing the furniture: they are introducing a culture change. As a result, they want to embrace that change, recognising the value of the training we provide and appreciating the importance of proper education to ensure users benefit fully from the new furniture and the behaviour opportunities it creates.sitstandtips

It may simply be that the sort of organisations who come to us do so because of our commitment to training and the added value we offer beyond the desks themselves. Or it could be that sit-stand furniture buyers are becoming more sophisticated and demanding a  more comprehensive package.

Whatever the explanation I like to think that, after nearly 20 years, the sit-stand market is finally growing up!


WDM Newsletter May/June 2016

May 20, 2016

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 19/05/2016. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

CLERKENWELL DESIGN WEEK

WDMheader2016-05

The scale and range of CDW displays and activities expands annually. This year, for the first time, I shall be attending for all three days (contact me if you want to meet up!). With so much to do and see, it is important to use time wisely so I am already planning how to make the most of the event. If you are attending, especially for the first time or only for one day, I hope you may find my action plan useful:

  • Visit the web site and research thoroughly before setting off.
  • Decide which showrooms/displays are ‘must see’ and work out a viable route between them.
  • Aim to attend timed events that are clustered geographically to avoid wasting time criss-crossing the area. Start with the ones that only occur once and then try to fit repeated sessions around them.
  • Remember that it can take 20 minutes to walk from one side of Clerkenwell to the other – and that assumes you don’t bump into someone you know on the way!

OKAMURA

okamura contessaDespite being one of the largest furniture manufacturers in the world (2015 turnover > £1.2bn), Okamura products are a comparatively well-kept secret in the UK. With models to compete head-on with iconic office chairs in terms of style, quality and ergonomics, we are delighted to include them in our portfolio. From the Zephyr Light to their provenContessa flagship product (illustrated), Okamura chairs incorporate unique styling and functional elements such as the fully height-adjustable armrests with built-in seat height and recline-lock buttons. For quality, elegance and functionality, Okamura is a brand you may never have considered. Now is the time to put that right! Contact us for more information.

THE FACILITIES SHOW

FacilitiesShow

In the limited space available, we have decided to focus on sit-stand designs at this year’s event. As always, we shall be showing a mix of proven and brand-new products. With nearly 20 years’ experience of sit-stand furniture, our three approaches will include desk, adaptor and touchdown table variants, as well as perching stools. All are instantly adjustable and supported by our full installation, setup and training service. Come to Stand M1305 (by Entrance 2) to learn how not to waste your money on sit-stand desks!

WHEN AGILE WORKING ISN’T WORKING

agile_not_workingAgile Working is a ‘hot topic’ at the moment and we hear many stories about how brilliantly employers have implemented an Agile Working Programme (AWP). Such accounts demonstrate how that success has positively impacted productivity, personnel satisfaction, wellbeing and engagement. We hear rather fewer stories about what happens when it fails but I fear that proper investigation would show that the failures outnumber the successes. [more].


Workplace Design & Management April/ May 2016

April 22, 2016

This article was originally emailed as our monthly Workplace Design & Management newsletter at 11:00 on 21/04/2016. You can view older newsletters here and register to receive them monthly.

MOTUS SIT-STAND DESK

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As the demand for sit-stand desks continues, we are proud to offer a product that provides two-stage height adjustment (625mm – 1245mm) and a four-memory controller at a price that competes with a well-known Scandinavian furniture store! We have already completed many successful installations and the product is available directly from our warehouse with a range of worktop sizes and finishes. A three leg version for cockpit-shaped worktops will also be available soon. We also offer a comprehensive installation, set-up and user training service. Find out more and view our Motus video here.

FACILITIES SHOW

facilities_showWe have just booked our space for this year’s event so you will be able to find us on Stand M1305 which is just inside entrance 2. We like to keep our exhibition options open as late as possible so we shall decide what to display nearer the time. You can expect to see products that illustrate the latest thinking in Agile Working and Workplace Design together with information about the many support services and resources we offer to complement the furniture. Make a diary note if you haven’t already!

CLERKENWELL DESIGN WEEK

clerkenwell

Now in its 7th year, this international event has grown into a significant showcase of the best products and ideas available. The mix of open-house showrooms, exhibitions, presentations and events provides an outstanding opportunity to see and hear the latest thinking in the world of workplace design. We shall be there each day so let us know if you want to meet up to discuss ideas or look at specific products.

ISO27500:2016

ISOThe commercial and productivity arguments for good staff health and wellbeing are now manifest and dynamic employers have this at the centre of their business thinking. This new international standard provides guidance for executive board members and policy makers within organisations of all sizes and types. It considers essential values and beliefs and explains the seven principles which characterise a human-centred employer.

DOING GREAT WORK WELL – OPTIMA-LIFE

optima-lifeOptima-life works with organisations that want to help their employees achieve more, both at and away from work. Their salutogenic approach aims to keep people energised and resilient, as they seek to engage and educate people. Using a blend of technology, coaching/training and support tools, the team provides bespoke offerings tailored to an organisation’s needs. The result is a culture where performance and purpose are increased and the risks of organisational stress, fatigue, and burnout are reduced.
www.optima-life.com


THE HUMAN-CENTRED ORGANIZATION

April 15, 2016

This article was originally emailed as our monthly eBulletin at 11:30 on 13/04/2016. You can view older eBulletins here and register to receive them monthly.

THE HUMAN-CENTRED ORGANIZATION

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The new ISO27500:2016 standard has just been published and addresses human wellbeing as an important economic measure. Unusually for an ISO standard, this document is aimed directly at executive board members and provides seven key measures of human-centredness. For those of us involved in ergonomics and human factors, this represents a quantum leap by drawing together health, safety and wellbeing, accessibility, individuality, inclusivity and social responsibility into a single document as guiding principles in the design of products, services and processes both within and beyond an organisation.

HFE IN PRACTICE

book250px‘Human Factors and Ergonomics in Practice: Improving Wellbeing and Performance in the Real World’ is a new book about HFE as it is actually applied in day-to-day life. It is edited by Steven Shorrock and Claire Williams and contains an impressive list of international authors. Amidst the distilled knowledge of this august and international body of professionals is a chapter by me! The book is due to be published in Summer 2016 but you can find much more information in the extensive blog or through #HFEinPractice on Twitter.

WEBINARS

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We have just scheduled another series of events running through until August. These popular sessions provide an ideal way to extend your knowledge or refresh your memory in a focused session of less than an hour. The current timetable includes modules by our Training Manager, Stuart Entwistle, but I have three speaking engagements scheduled over the next couple of months so I shall be developing new themes to be added soon. All our webinars are free. Take a look at www.ergonomics.events.

NATIONAL BACK EXCHANGE

nbe250pxWe have just booked our space again for the NBE conference and exhibition in September. This year’s theme is ‘Erasing Boundaries’. As well as displaying new products, we also plan to deliver one of the exhibitor workshops. Our session title this year is ‘Coping Strategies in a Rapidly Changing Workplace’.  There are many issues facing managers today and the pace of change makes juggling priorities even more difficult. Obviously, I have no idea what the content will be yet but I plan to make it both informative and entertaining!

GET BRITAIN SLEEPING CAMPAIGN

sleeping250pxDid you see our April Fools’ Day email, blog or web site? With new, and often conflicting, research appearing almost daily, it is hard for business managers to know what guidance to follow. To confuse everyone further, we announced a new recommendation that ‘Work routines should be broken at least once an hour with a short sleep of 3-7 minutes’. In the end, nobody asked us for more information about the ‘sleep walking treadmill desk’ and we spent far more time on this nonsense than we should have, but it was fun! If you missed it, take a look at getbritainsleeping.com.


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