The Power of Ergonomics to Increase Productivity in the Workplace

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Ergonomics is all about efficiency, less downtime, and better performance, which leads to increased productivity. Isn’t that what all businesses want? Technology has created a variety of tools for the workplace, computers, laptops, tablets and smartphones changing how we work.  Each tool presents new opportunities, as well as challenges for workers. Addressing ergonomic issues affects staff emotionally as well as physically, because it expresses the company’s core values to employees that their health and wellbeing matter.

Most ergonomic injuries happen slowly over time, so they may not be initially detected. It may seem like things are going fine in your business, but gradually poor ergonomics will become more apparent in workers from eye strain, to issues like carpal tunnel, and  back and neck strain slowing productivity. Simple things can be done to design a workplace that minimizes fatigue, stress and injuries to workers that keeps business running smoothly. Many companies are creating tools that can be easily implemented into your business.

Photo of Knoll Remix Chair, Courtesy of Knoll
Photo of Knoll Remix Chair, Courtesy of Knoll

Knoll takes an approach called “holistic ergonomics” in the development of products that address ergonomic concerns.  As the company states in a research paper produced by Knoll, called “Holistic Ergonomics™ – A New Approach”, “Thus, holistic ergonomics is all about creating products and workspaces that support how people think and move.”

Knoll’s popular Remix Chair™ is a prime example of this approach. The chair is designed for performance, as well as comfort.  “Inspired by the idea of bringing pre-existing elements together to make something entirely new, Remix pairs upholstered comfort with innovative Flex Net Matrix™ technology for active, all day support. Remix delivers unexpected performance in a familiar form. By combining traditional and innovative elements, Remix infuses movement into a traditionally static upholstered chair,” according to Knoll.

remic_01Knoll’s popular Remix Chair™ is a prime example of this approach. The chair is designed for performance, as well as comfort.  “Inspired by the idea of bringing pre-existing elements together to make something entirely new, Remix pairs upholstered comfort with innovative Flex Net Matrix™ technology for active, all day support. Remix delivers unexpected performance in a familiar form. By combining traditional and innovative elements, Remix infuses movement into a traditionally static upholstered chair,” according to Knoll.

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Photo of Kimball Joya Chair™courtesy of Kimball

Kimball Office is also committed to creating ergonomic workplace solutions.  According to Kimball, the Kimball Joya™ Chair is designed with advanced ergonomics in mind that perfectly fits all body types and offers back support and fits any workspace.  Advanced ergonomics and material technology give the Joya its smooth-flowing movement. Thoughtfully scaled seat and back components support a wide range of body types comfortably encouraging healthy postures and reducing physical stress. Optional sliding seats modify thigh and back support for people with long legs while an adjustable lumbar option personalizes lower back comfort.

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Both sitting all day and standing all day can be tough on the body. The Humanscale workstation standing desk makes it easy to create some balance. The QuickStand height-adjustable workstation is easy to operate.

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Photo by Humanscale

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National’s ergonomic keyboard kit includes a keyboard mechanism with a tray that adjusts from -15° to +15°, 360° swivel, and arm tilt that moves up and down. The mouse tray can be moved to support right or left-handed users. The keyboard kit also includes high density polyethylene tray platform, foam gel wrist pad, and thermoplastic mouse tray.

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Photo courtesy of National Office

 

9 Furniture Questions That Designers Ask. So You Should Too.

 

 

“Design is a matter of translating technology into things that people can use.” ~ Paola Antonelli, Senior Curator of Architecture and Design at the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA)

An experienced architect and/or designer are critical to achieving a beautiful, functional and modernized office. They understand that an impression is made every time someone steps into a room. And they grasp the necessary interaction between all of the many components to make sure it is a good one.

As the company liaison, you are the connecting link between their talent and your company’s needs. To “talk their talk” not only speeds the process, but also deepens their understanding of what you are seeking.

Below are the top nine questions designers will consider when suggesting furniture. It’s helpful if you are thinking about them as well.

1. Is it functional? A chair is NOT a chair is NOT a chair and features don’t always mean function. Consider everything from the long-term factors such as height adjustability and back support to the basic needs of necessary space to store files and work.

2. Is it comfortable? People come in different shapes and sizes. So does furniture. You can quickly make your team and visitors feel welcome by making this a priority.

3. How does it leverage technology? There have been many advances in manufacturing and materials in recent years. And well-designed furniture is often seen as either an improvement on old technology or an innovation that makes new technology more accessible.

4. How does it accommodate technology? Everything from wireless charging and power receptacles to cable trays and monitor arms can make the difference between functional and dated. Make sure that your furniture allows you room to grow, as the machines we use day to day grow smaller and more plentiful.

5. Does it have application-specific features? For instance, if you work in healthcare you might appreciate an antimicrobial finish or removable seat – for easy cleaning. If you work in manufacturing or are tough on your furniture, high-impact or scratch resistant finishes might be worth considering. Think specific.

6. Is it environmentally conscious? It has become both a responsibility and an expectation to make the world we live and work in as environmentally friendly as possible. Expect the same from your manufacturers.

7. Is it flexible? We can’t expect a one-size-fits-all solution, but we can expect to accommodate most people for a piece of furniture’s intended purpose. Ensure that ergonomic adjustments or reconfiguration is possible.

8. Does it communicate or make a statement? Furniture not only helps define its environment, it can also inspire the people within it – to communicate, collaborate or focus on tasks. Make sure that it properly reinforces your brand image and organizational culture you want to promote.

9. Is it complementary? Does it fit in? Choosing the right color, fit, form and materials goes a long way in making sure that your furniture is harmonious within its environment.

What do you consider when you make furniture decisions based on design?

Top 10 Things to Consider When Working With a Contract Furniture Dealer

If you’re responsible for the purchasing of new office furniture below is a list of the top ten questions you need to ask yourself about as you are choosing a contract furniture dealer.

1. Do they have industry experience?
Furniture manufacturing is a fragmented industry. It takes a lot of time and resources to keep up with the latest product trends and learn the nuances of individual manufacturers. But it is this very experience that allows a dealer to help you with options such as finish selection and planning for end-of-life.

2. Do they know your designer? Are they willing to?
It’s not only relationships with manufacturers that help orders and installations go smoothly. Contract furniture dealerships should have relationships within the Architecture and Design (A&D) community as well – especially yours. This seamless communication structure helps get your furniture in place, faster.

3. Do they have a solid grasp of the vast amount of products available?
There are thousands of furniture manufacturers, each with dozens of product lines. Wood grains and marble veins, glass counter tops and marker boards. The choices can sometimes be overwhelming to say the least. You can rely on a dealership to help you navigate the sea of options to ensure you get the perfect furniture at the right price.

4. Are they asking probing questions about scheduling and delivery dates?
Choosing the right furniture is only the first part of the process. Delivery is the part most people do not even think about until it’s too late. Factoring in delivery budgets and time constraints is one of the major headaches an experienced dealership can help alleviate to keep your project from falling behind.

5. Are they on top of things during the installation stage?
Once the furniture arrives, it’s time for the next phase – installation. This is the stage where the “unknowns” tend to surface. For example, the building may not accommodate the needs of important things like electrical floor outlets and hallway building codes the way you’re A&D firm has planned. Adjustments are often necessary and this is an area where the dealer’s experience matters and resourcefulness comes into play.

6. Do they have design support?
Some contract dealerships have started integrating space design into their list of services. This allows your A&D firm to work closely with the dealership to determine which specific pieces of furniture goes where in relationship to a layout or floor plan. Being able to “speak the same language” helps both the customer and the A&D firm manage resources more efficiently.

7. Is someone managing your project from start to finish?
All of the stages listed thus far are potential roadblocks for your project. One of the greatest advantages of working with a dealer as opposed to taking on the headache yourself is that someone else is taking the lead throughout the entire process. Be sure you are comfortable with the experience and knowledge of your project manager in charge of the furniture component. This could be the difference in a smoothly run project or a potential nightmare.

8. Are you getting the best price?
Another advantage of working with a dealer is quantity discount. This is the point of negotiation where your dealer’s relationships and yearly order volume come into play – where a contract furniture dealership has a distinct advantage. Make sure they have the leverage that can be beneficial to you.

9. Are you looking beyond the sale?
Your company will be living with this furniture for a long time. Something may break or you might want a few more chairs to match your original order, two years later. Make sure that your furniture dealer will not only be there down the road but offers customer service and satisfaction programs after the sale.

10. Do you have peace of mind?
This is actually the single most important question you need to ask yourself when working with a contract furniture dealer.  If you are wringing your hands at night with all of the details listed previously, you need to think about making a change.

What do you look for in a contract furniture dealer?

Top 10 Tips: How To Avoid Pitfalls When Buying Office Furniture

Whether you’re opening a new office, expanding an auditorium or adding a new wing to your facility, the following checklist can help you avoid common pitfalls when purchasing new contract office furniture.

SPACE PLANNING
Keep in mind: you can’t use what you can’t fit. So plan ahead. Hire an independent space planner, or make sure your furniture dealer has this capability to ensure the furniture you buy can accommodate people in the space it’s afforded. Getting your space planner involved as early as possible in the process will save time and money.

BUDGET
Get your budget in line ahead of time and try to get approval for at least 20% above the expected cost. We always recommend you do everything possible to minimize mistakes, but having funds in reserve will actually save you money in the long run should you need them.

TIMING
Scheduling details is critical to the overall success of your furniture purchase, delivery and installation. Something as simple as someone not thinking about or forgetting to call the fire marshal before modular walls can be moved can be devastating to your deadlines. Make sure you have a knowledgeable furniture partner to help you forecast problems and minimize delays.

STORING OF OLD FURNITURE
What do you plan to do with the furniture you are replacing? There are plenty of charitable organizations that could benefit from your old furniture and most offer tax deductions. But, if you want to hang onto your surplus or old furniture, you need a plan for local or remote storage options. Some dealerships maintain warehouses to manage office migrations, providing an affordable way to keep inventory off-site.

TECHNOLOGY
Technology changes so rapidly, that it’s difficult to keep up with the way people work. Although you can’t let technology alone dictate how you do business, you can’t ignore how these technologies might play into your new office design. So, stay on top of trends and affordable options to integrate technology into workstations, minimize clutter and maximize your furniture’s adaptability.

PREDICT POTENTIAL CHANGES
When things go wrong during a furniture order or install, it’s often because something changes at the last minute. Knowing that uncertainties exist, discuss future expansion options with your team members and trusted advisors. Together, try to imagine all the things that could go wrong and put people or timelines in place to help you guard against them. For example, decide how using a room for unintended purposes or future technologies, could impact the use of a particular space.

CONSIDER ADA AND SAFETY CODES
Codes are in place for a reason whether imposed by the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), or other building codes that concern accessibility or life safety. Ignoring them can lead to an entire room requiring redesign, but consideration should especially be given to these codes before moving cubicle walls, or other modular furniture that can impede traffic flow down corridors or hallways. It happens too many times: an installer or contractor moves furniture around without having an inspector sign off. And it never ends well.

PUNCH LIST
A properly executed punch list will help make sure you get what you paid for and that you won’t waste any time making up for damaged goods. Check items upon delivery as well as once it is installed and assembled. Discovering missing, wrong or even damaged items as soon as possible can have a significant impact on the timeline of your project.

PLANNING FOR EOL
Sadly, yet inevitably, your furniture will wear out over time. Some contract jobs with local or state government even require a limited lifetime of use. Regardless of your use, choosing a dealer you can trust to repair or replace your furniture 5-10 years later, is just as important as making the right choice of furniture the first time around.

TAKE YOUR TIME
“Haste makes waste” and that saying could not be more true than here. Purchasing furniture for your business or institution is an important and sizable responsibility. A rushed decision could mean having to send back 300 chairs or the re-cutting of an expensive conference table, both of which are not only costly but can throw an installation timeline completely off track. So, take your time when making decisions.

Have we left anything out? Please let us know in the comments below.

Benching Systems – The Advantages of Open Office Plans

 

Today’s modern workforce has different expectations for their office environments. From benching to bleachers, open office planning has become a popular way for employers to maximize space and take advantage of mobility trends that are defining a new generation of employees.

The walls are coming down (both literally and figuratively) as people have less need for separation, and employers have more need to efficiently manage office space.

New benching systems augment these popular “open office” concepts by allowing people to sit together on the same row, and often, across from each other. This requires a new way of thinking about productivity and how your office works together.

We now live in a collaborative world.
With changes in technology and social media specifically, we want to do things faster and share more.  An open space environment allows for working side-by-side with a colleague, thereby encouraging greater lines of communication. Studies have even shown that privacy and fixed-desk seating is less important than the ability to quickly accomplish tasks.

Further, giving employees the freedom to work from any terminal with a connection to your network, makes the office more flexible for ad-hoc project teams and needs-based relocation.

According to a three-year research project conducted by UCLA, companies who modified their business processes to encourage collaboration and moved from private spaces to collaborative environments realized performance increases (speed and accuracy of work) averaging 440%.

Research also suggests that younger workers are more interested in learning from their peers and more experienced workers than are older employees. Open space environments allow for this valued interaction. [source: Open Plan and Enclosed Private Offices (Knoll)]

While open office plans are not a one-size-fits-all solution that works well in every environment, there are valid reasons to consider it:

Open Space Accommodates for Change.
As a new generation enters the workforce, their work styles vary greatly and their technology requirements change frequently. Meaning the move to an open office plan might make sense to manage these changes, while greatly reducing the cost of change to the business.

Open Space Encourages Communication and a Sense of Community.
It might make sense to ‘tear down the walls’ where people need to interact most frequently. This allows for higher productivity and a way for everyone to feel like they are on a team working towards the same goals.

Open Space Increases Mobility and Transparency.
There is no longer a need for employees to feel tied to their desks or hidden away in a corner. As we move away from desktop computers and toward laptops, an open office plan can provide greater flexibility to work wherever it makes sense for the current project.

Open Space Support Training and Mentoring.
Along with the need for transparency comes the need to support education in the workplace. Along with enhanced communication, comes the opportunity to turn your office into an environment where employees can learn from each other more effectively.

What are your thoughts on the open office concept?

Color in the Office Can Evoke Several Emotions. Make Sure It’s The Right Ones.

 

Beautiful project by JPC Architects.

 

We know that colors conjure different feelings and symbolism. It is wise to consider this as you work with your office space. Below is a list of just a few colors and their symbolism according to incredibleart.org.

Make sure to not only communicate the look you are seeking with your designer, but the feel as well.

RED – Excitement, energy, passion, love, desire, speed, strength, power, heat, aggression, danger, fire, blood, war, violence, all things intense and passionate.

PINK – Pink symbolizes love and romance, caring, tenderness, acceptance and calm.

BEIGE – Beige and ivory symbolize unification. Ivory symbolizes quiet and pleasantness. Beige symbolizes calm and simplicity.

YELLOW – Joy, happiness, betrayal, optimism, idealism, imagination, hope, sunshine, summer, gold, philosophy, dishonesty, cowardice, jealousy, covetousness, deceit, illness, hazard and friendship.

BLUE – Peace, tranquility, cold, calm, stability, harmony, unity, trust, truth, confidence, conservatism, security, cleanliness, order, loyalty, sky, water, technology, depression, appetite suppressant.

TURQUOISE – Turquoise symbolizes calm. Teal symbolizes sophistication. Aquamarine symbolizes water. Lighter turquoise has a feminine appeal.

PURPLE – Royalty, nobility, spirituality, ceremony, mysterious, transformation, wisdom, enlightenment, cruelty, arrogance, mourning.

LAVENDAR – Lavender symbolizes femininity, grace and elegance.

ORANGE – Energy, balance, enthusiasm, warmth, vibrant, expansive, flamboyant, demanding of attention.

GREEN – Nature, environment, healthy, good luck, renewal, youth, spring, generosity, fertility, jealousy, inexperience, envy, misfortune, vigor.

BROWN – Earth, stability, hearth, home, outdoors, reliability, comfort, endurance, simplicity, and comfort.

GREY – Security, reliability, intelligence, staid, modesty, dignity, maturity, solid, conservative, practical, old age, sadness, boring. Silver symbolizes calm.

WHITE – Reverence, purity, birth, simplicity, cleanliness, peace, humility, precision, innocence, youth, winter, snow, good, sterility, marriage (Western cultures), death (Eastern cultures), cold, clinical.

BLACK – Power, sexuality, sophistication, formality, elegance, wealth, mystery, fear, evil, unhappiness, depth, style, evil, sadness, remorse, anger, anonymity, underground, good technical color, mourning, death (Western cultures).

For more information on color impact and symbolism, click here.