The office environment is changing a lot now since the Covid pandemic. Here’s a list of what businesses are now furnishing their office space with:
- green office furniture made with recyclable, non-toxic, and organic materials
- lots of plants with living walls, vertical gardens
- a lot of natural light
- bamboo or wood floors
- stone features
- kitchens that look like a hotel minibar
- timed visits to refrigerators and table reservations
- tables that meet the socially distanced layout for Covid rules
- biophilic design (inspired by the natural world to strengthen the human-nature connection)
The goal is better and stricter sanitation procedures built into the office design. Interestingly, no one seems to be hitting one of the most important points – if the HVAC system where viruses, bacteria, and molds reside and grow is cleaned and UV lights installed, any hint of Covid would not have a chance to infect anyone. And all the other things really wouldn’t matter much.
What Will Office Furniture Look Like?
But what about office furniture itself? Desks will have higher boundaries via curtains, walls, or shields so social distancing will be adhered to. Employees won’t directly face each other in the placement of their desks, either. Bulky furniture and technology will have to be redesigned to be “dynamically flexible”, which means multi-functional, lightweight, moveable, yet ergonomic. That means easily mobile furniture, especially on wheels.
Your desk and chair maybe a piece of furniture of the past, something that goes down in the history books and put into museums. The new way of thinking projects studio drafting tables, standing desks, benching workstations, and insulated phone booths for how you’ll spend most of your time working.
What’s Missing from This New Paradigm Change
In this search for an environmentally conscious workspace, it seems that the basic tenet of wellness – how you sit for hours of the day – has not remained a top priority. Yes, the latest reports do say ergonomic furniture is important but when you look at what will be provided for employees to sit on, it’s easy to get back or neck pain just thinking about it.
Let’s be clear on one thing: if you can’t sit in a way that supports your back and body ergonomically, then you’re going to eventually develop problems. Your body is your tool and if it’s not in alignment, no matter how many wood floors and living walls and social distancing you do, you won’t stay well. Once you have structural stress from your body frame not being supported correctly, that stress signal interferes with the rest of your health, including your immunity. Read our blog on What Makes a Chair Ergonomic so you don’t go wrong in this area.
Making Ergonomic Chairs More Effective Starts with Simple Instruction
Researchers from the Netherlands proved back in 2012 that Sitting on ergonomic chairs and receiving instruction and feedback on the 40 office workers’ posture makes a difference in basic posture. They knew at the beginning of their study that office workers didn’t know how to adjust their chairs to fit themselves. The employees had an ergonomic chair to use but couldn’t optimize it.
Another study from Hong Kong showed that fatigue and neck pain could be alleviated simply by repositioning the head during sitting, especially when using the computer. If ergonomically designed chairs have this capability but employees don’t know how to use it, they could sit in these chairs without any benefit.
Don’t Fall for Standing Desks
The recent trend for sit-stand option desks in the workplace tries to avoid the sitting disease but avoids the body of research that has indicated that prolonged standing can also have detrimental effects on the human system. That’s what one post-doctoral student at Boston University reported in 2018.
She goes on to say, “It is crucial that we expand our idea of a healthy work environment to one that facilitates movement and change in position and empowers the worker to understand their role in their own musculoskeletal and physiological health and wellness, beyond the use of equipment. If we can replace the phrase, ‘sitting is the new smoking’ with the phrase ‘sedentary is the new smoking, then we can elucidate the idea of what a healthy computer-based work environment and routine would be.
Standing isn’t the answer. Bad design in chairs despite using sustainable living theory isn’t the answer.
The answer is actually simple. Use an ergonomically built chair that is lightweight and moveable and allows your core muscles to move while you sit at your desk working. In two words – Active Sitting. You get the advantages for your body, and thus wellness, and you escape the problems that occur with sitting or standing for long periods of time. It’s so simple that it’s brilliant – and becomes a no-brainer when you think about it.
Check out the Acharya chair. It could be your solution. Sometimes you have to go against the norm to really get what you want … and if it’s already designed, why not use it?
Some resources on what offices will look like: