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 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

WDMheader2016-04 (1)

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


Choosing Specialist Chairs for Individuals in the Workplace

July 5, 2015

I have addressed the choice of a work chair for yourself or for whole teams elsewhere.

This article assumes you have already ordered a suitable quantity of general chairs – or already have them – and now need a procedure to address the needs of those who find the standard option unsuitable, uncomfortable or inadequate. This may be due to dimensional issues (too big/too small/ too wide/too narrow), musculo-skeletal problems (such as back or neck issues, upper limb disorders) or because of disabilities (spinal curvature or limb amputation perhaps).

To ensure consistency of approach, it is most important to establish a procedure for exception management. If it is not clearly defined and strictly observed, there is a real risk that the exception may start to become the norm or that those who shout loudest (not necessarily the most deserving) get the most attention.

Whilst there will be obvious individuals who will not fit the general chair for dimensional reasons, there will be others with less obvious musculo-skeletal or health conditions. The approach should be the same for all of these situations and the most likely triggers for exception management will be:

  1. Escalation as a result of a workstation assessment
  2. Recommendations from a medical professional such as a GP or physiotherapist
  3. Self-reporting

To elaborate on these,

  1. The workstation assessment is the most reliable trigger and it is important to have a robust procedure in place. There are many computer-based systems and the best will provide much of the reporting and escalation structure. Where a manual system is used, it is essential to review assessment reports promptly. Employers producing assessments and failing to act on the outcomes are simply creating evidence to be used against themselves in the event of litigation!
  2. Whilst any report from a medical practitioner should be taken seriously, it should be reviewed carefully if the practitioner proposes any physical or product interventions but does not have an Occupational Health background. GPs, physiotherapists, osteopaths, chiropractors and others have been known to recommend a specific chair model or, perhaps, a ‘swiss ball’. However, they are not usually product specialists and any suggestion will almost certainly be simply a personal preference or based on literature they have read, rather than a holistic approach to the individual’s workplace needs. Their suggestions may not even comply with appropriate legislative requirements! If you have your own in-house occupational health facility, its personnel will almost certainly be in contact with one or more ‘ergo suppliers’ and will therefore have a much better understanding of what products are available and appropriate.
  3. Whilst self reporting should be an option available to all, your procedures should always validate the justification for any escalation. It is therefore most likely that the initial discussion will lead back to 1. or 2. (or both) before any further escalation is approved.

Once you have identified the need for specialist seating through one or more of these three methods, your process needs to manage the escalation and ensure an appropriate outcome. The next stages, and the parties involved, vary from country to country so, for the purposes of this article, the guidance will follow UK best practice.

The individual will now require a one-to-one advanced assessment which will pick up on the information already acquired. If the source of the escalation includes comprehensive data from the workstation assessment (1.) process, a telephonic assessment may be sufficient. If, however, reliable background, anthropometric and relevant medical information are not available, the one-to-one should be on-site in person. There will also be occasions when telephonic assessments become manifestly inappropriate and an on-site appointment becomes inevitable.

Approaches to the escalated assessment process (whether telephonic or in person) vary from employer to employer. The essential ingredient is to ensure that all the knowledge required for an effective outcome is available. The key knowledge requirements are:

  • Understanding the contributory factor(s).
    • This simply means having a good understanding of all the ergonomics and human factors considerations affecting the individual’s work and productivity. The physical considerations will be the most obvious but psycho-social factors will have significant impact so consideration should be given to how the individual enjoys their job, whether they feel supported by their manager and whether they feel in control of their workload as well as environmental factors such as heat, light, air quality and noise.
  • Understanding what needs to be done to address these factors
    • Typically, a medical professional will have this knowledge but may not be familiar with the nature of the work. Competent assessors will have been trained to be fully conversant with the necessary actions and will also have a network of advisers and contacts they can call upon for assistance and guidance where the specific requirements of the assessment are beyond their knowledge or experience.
  • Knowledge of suitable physical and non-physical interventions. This is the most important contributor to a satisfactory outcome.
    • Physical interventions will need a substantial knowledge of the various chair manufacturers and models available as well as the dimensions and features of these chairs and the adaptations available. Many manufacturers offer alternative chair sizes but a much smaller proportion offer a range of interchangeable seatpan and back height sizes, along with other modifications such as coccyx cut-outs, adjustable thoracic supports, massage modules, locking bases, etc. Assessors need to be familiar with these or be in close contact with someone who is. Research* shows that specialist ‘ergo’ suppliers are often the most qualified to provide such knowledge. These offer much more than traditional office furniture suppliers and will have a portfolio of specialist or adaptable products.
    • Non-physical interventions typically take the form of changes in work practice and may involve variations in job role, hours, work location and mix of activities. They will almost always involve consultation with the line manager and/or HR.

Once the assessment and recommendations have been made, it is important for the employer to act as promptly as possible to carry them out. In many organisations, the process leading to the assessment can be protracted. Once the assessment has taken place, however, it becomes clear to the individual that progress is being made and they will expect a timely conclusion.

At the time of installation, the chair (and any other specified equipment) should be set up and configured for the individual with full training provided. The training, which is absolutely crucial to a successful outcome, should explain why the products were supplied, how they will help and how they should be configured and used.

The principal context for this article was to address seating issues but it should be remembered that ergonomics is a holistic discipline and the human factors of the user’s whole environment should also be considered. For example, an assessment of a tall person will almost certainly highlight desk and monitor height issues and a very obese person may need to consider a split keyboard to be able to type comfortably.

References

* Williams, C. & Haslam, R. (2006). Ergonomics advisors – a homogeneous group?
In: Contemporary Ergonomics 2006, (Edited by P.D.Bust), Taylor & Francis: Great Britain, The Ergonomics Society Annual Conference 2006, Cambridge, UK, pp. 117-121.


Choosing Office Chairs (for the Majority)

July 3, 2015

A while ago, I wrote the article How do I choose an office chair (for myself)? At the time, I promised to follow up soon with an article about choosing a chair for a whole department or organisation. It’s taken longer than planned, but this is that article! A further blog about choosing specialist chairs for individuals in the workplace will follow in a few days.

Manufacturers of workplace seating often talk of products designed to accommodate 90% of the population: meaning everyone except the smallest 5% (5th percentile) and largest 5% (95th percentile).

In reality, this is nothing like as simple as it sounds. A 95th percentile individual is not necessarily made up of 95th percentile body segments and anthropometric (body dimension) data tells us, for example, that a 50th percentile male may be 13cm taller than a 50th percentile woman but is also 1cm narrower across the hips [Pheasant, S. (1986, 1998).  Bodyspace – Anthropometry, Ergonomics and the Design of Work]

In the modern multi-national office, different races complicate the statistics still further and, taking lateral dimensions into account, women change shape in different ways from men as their BMI (Body Mass Index) increases. As obesity becomes more of an issue, specifying a general workplace chair becomes even less straightforward.

It is, therefore, no wonder that many ergonomists believe that the majority of chairs may actually be closer to 60-70% in their accommodation!

How, then, does a conscientious Facilities or Health & Safety Manager ensure best practice?

The answer comes in two parts. First, choose your general chair carefully and, secondly, implement a procedure to provide for those who are not properly served by the general chair. This article addresses the first process.

Choosing a general chair will often involve compromise, whether because of budget constraints, corporate sourcing guidelines or perhaps just the limited knowledge of your incumbent chair supplier! It is most important, therefore, to minimise such compromise and maximise value.

diverse_groupThe following are essential:

  • Create a focus group
  • Ensure it contains male and female personnel of different shapes and sizes and, if you have them, ethnic origins. They should also be different ages and from different parts of the business with varying job roles.
  • If possible, include some users with pre-existing physical disabilities and/or MSDs (musculo-skeletal disorders).
  • Make sure you have right- and left-handers!
  • Involve your Health & Safety and Occupational Health personnel.
  • Draw up a shopping list of features your chair must include (e.g. seat slide, adjustable lumbar support, etc.).
  • Perhaps controversially, I believe that the criteria list should not include any price restriction at this stage. This should be considered later in the process.
  • Using the shopping list, identify a number of chairs from different manufacturers that all meet your criteria in full (no compromises at this stage).
  • Ensure that all the chairs on your list comply with the appropriate international (EN, ISO) standards. The supplier(s) should be able to provide this information and explain the relevance of the various standards issues.
  • Obtain at least one sample of each chair from your preferred supplier(s).
  • Ask the supplier(s) to demonstrate each chair and explain the features and benefits. As well as providing you with an understanding of the various models, this is a good opportunity to judge their knowledge and the likely level of support they will be able to provide in the selection process and subsequent customer support.
  • Design a score card so that each member of the focus group can rate each chair. As well as comfort, other factors such as ease of adjustment and range of adjustment should be included. You may also wish to score non-physical factors such as environmental considerations and whether the design reflects your corporate brand.
  • It is often a good idea to weight the scores for different elements. e.g. sustainability may be rated out of 10 points but the appearance may only be rated out of 5 points. If you decide to use weighting, make sure you do this before the assessment process begins!

If you do not have the experience or the time to operate such a process, find a good ergonomist to advise you and manage the process.

The foregoing procedure should enable you to create a shortlist of 3-4 chairs. This is the stage at which I would recommend introducing price considerations. Doing so will enable you to compare focus group scores with prices and give a more measurable indication of value. You will also be in a stronger negotiating position with your supplier(s) if they know the chair has been shortlisted!

Once you have a shortlist, it should be straightforward to select and purchase the best chair for your requirements. Since this is not an article about negotiating skills, I shall skip the rest of this process.

You can find more information at seatingexperts.uk.

My next article outlines how to implement a procedure to provide for those who are not properly served by the general chair.


How do I choose an office chair (for myself)?

January 8, 2014

When I see the question “what is the best office chair?” online, I just want to shout “wrong question” at my screen. Unfortunately, such rants are no help to anybody so this article a) raises a better question (in the title) and b) goes some way towards answering that question.

Many people outside (and within!) the office furniture industry grossly underestimate the importance of the work chair. Numerous articles  have warned us about the perils of too much sitting but the truth is that many of us still have to sit at a desk whether or not that is our preferred mode of work. Even with frequent breaks, it is essential to optimise our comfort and posture by ensuring the chair(s) we use regularly are well chosen.

ChairDetail1It is obviously not enough to go to your nearest office superstore and buy the first chair that says it’s “ergonomic” on the box. The fact that the chair (or packaging) manufacturer can spell the word is no guarantee they know what it means.

So here is an action plan for buying a work chair for your personal use. If you are looking to purchase for a department or organisation, then understanding this process will certainly assist you but the specifics of bulk purchase (“How do I choose an office chair for lots of people?”) will be addressed in a separate blog.

Assuming you are willing to commit the time and energy to “do this right”, I hope this plan will help you. If you don’t have the time to follow this process, the alternative is to find a good supplier(!) who has a real understanding of ergonomics and can help arrive at the best decision.

  1. First you need to understand what is “out there” and gain some understanding of the furniture industry terminology. This will ensure you are moving towards what is best for you rather than what is best for the chair salesman. To assist, you will need a list of chair features, what they do and what benefits they offer. This list is a good example.
  2. ChairDetail2Such a list will not give you all the answers. It may even raise more questions but they will be useful questions that will ensure an informed choice in due course. From the list, create a shortlist of a) essential and b) desirable (but not essential) features along with any questions that you need to ask in order to add or eliminate a feature.
  3. Now start looking for a supplier. Unfortunately, “ergonomic” is one of the most over-used, abused and misused words since the invention of Google so you have to be a little imaginative with your online searching. Try using specialist office chairs, for example, but read more than the link line of each search result. This will start to give you a feeling for the businesses available. Don’t be deterred if the business(es) that look most promising are not in your geographical area: they may well be willing to travel and, if not, will probably recommend a reputable supplier closer to you (the dedicated workplace ergonomics community is quite small and genuine specialists will be surprisingly willing to refer you to someone they trust rather than let you down).
  4. ChairDetail3aAsk your questions – this will inevitably generate further questions. The answers will help you decide if this a supplier you are comfortable with (this purchase is an important decision). Get the names of chair models that meet your criteria and ask for web links to the products. Viewing online will be better than using a catalogue because the best companies often use video on their web sites. Here are some other questions to ask prospective suppliers:
    – do you offer an installation service?
    – if so, does it include user training?
    – if so, what does the training involve?
    – do you offer a Sale or Return (or similar) trial period?
    – if so, how long is that?
    – what training do your installer(s) have?
  5. By this time, it is desirable to have decided on a preferred supplier.  You will be counting on their advice so it must be someone you feel you can trust.
  6. You also now have an idea of the sort of chairs that meet your feature requirements, so you need to check they will also fit you dimensionally. The best way to ensure the optimum physical match is take your measurements. All good suppliers will be able to offer you a form for this, either as an emailed pdf or an online version like this one.
  7. ChairDetail5With your chosen feature set and the anthropometric data (measurements) recorded on the form, your preferred supplier will now be able to provide you with specific model recommendations and you can start talking about price.
  8. To ensure you stay within budget, you will need to review whether or not you want to keep all the desirable (non-essential) features.
  9. You now have a chair shortlist so you will need to sit on at least one chair, possibly two or three. This may involve someone coming to see you or the supplier may have a showroom. A good supplier will probably suggest one chair with firm foam and one with soft or perhaps one chair with a lumbar support and one with a pelvic support so that you can compare and contrast the different feel. I would advise against trying more than 3 chairs because it can become very confusing.
  10. By now you should be able to make your decision. To be confident about the process, double-check that your new chair can be supplied on Sale or Return or there is some trial period option.
  11. Finally, ensure that someone delivers the chair, shows you how to set it up and trains you properly in its use. This process will probably take 30-60 minutes. Ensure you are shown, not just what the knobs and levers do, but why you would want to use them and what you need to achieve. You should also be given chair instructions and posture information for reference in the future. Many chairs now have animated instructions available online and an animated Posture Guide (for European set-ups) can be found here.

ChairDetail4As I said at the outset, many people underestimate the importance of the work chair and, as a result, the importance of the selection process. I hope this article demonstrates how not to underestimate it!

Do you agree with my action plan? Have I missed anything out? Do you have a (really reliable) simpler process?

Do you have the time to follow it? If not, contact one of my colleagues for assistance!

If you are also interested in how to choose an office chair for lots of people, my blog ‘Choosing Office Chairs (for the Majority)‘ provides a suggested procedure and more information is also available at seatingexperts.uk.


Office Chair Features & Benefits

January 7, 2014

Features & BenefitsI have been thinking about the best way for an individual to choose the optimum office chair and it occurs to me that it would be a good idea to start with a list of the features and benefits that are available in today’s products. I have therefore pulled together the contents of various documents we have been using for some years, then updated and consolidated them to create this list. I am sure there may be a few features I have omitted and many chair manufacturers will have their own claim to uniqueness but I think this gives a reasonable overview.

Please take a look at the list and comment, applaud or criticise it here. I shall be delighted to update or amend it in response to feedback.

To understand how to use this information, “How do I choose an office chair (for myself)?” provides a detailed action plan.


What is the best office chair?

January 6, 2014

Invisible ChairI see this question crop up from time to time in blogs and LinkedIn postings. If you are thinking about ergonomics considerations, the first response is (as usual) “it depends”.

My next observation is that anyone responding by naming a specific product is either unqualified to answer or should know better. Some might add a third category of respondent, the office chair salesman, but I would contest that they are, too often, in one or both of the first two categories!

I often draw parallels between the workplace and driving scenarios, since so many adults are drivers. Would you ask someone what is the best car? If so, you would certainly expect a barrage of further questions: What is your budget? How many seats do you need? Are you the only person to be considered or do you have family requirements? Is image important? Fuel economy? The list goes on.

Choosing a chair is a similar process so I would recommend rephrasing the question to “How do I choose an office chair? (Or study chair, or laboratory chair, or control room chair, etc.). I would then subdivide my answer again into choosing a chair for yourself and choosing a chair for your team, department or organisation.

… but that will need a few more blogs!

How do I choose an office chair (for myself)?” provides a detailed action plan.


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