Paramount Interiors is an office design and fit out company based in both London and Cardiff. They help businesses of all sizes across the UK optimise their workspace and create effective, innovative working environments.
We asked Helen Bartlett, Design Manager at Paramount, to give us her thoughts on how the design, layout and modern office furniture in a workplace can improve the health and wellbeing of staff; with a special focus on the importance of posture.
October 16th is World Spine Day. It’s an opportunity for people from around the world to raise awareness of the fact that poor posture and inactivity can contribute to the development of back pain and other spinal disorders.
The theme for 2015 is “Your Back at Work”, focusing on the importance of good spinal health and preventing injuries in the workplace.
Ensuring that the offices we design promote health and wellbeing is becoming more and more important to businesses, and there are a number of ways in which we can do this. Since we’re talking about posture, it seems appropriate to start with the thing that you’re probably sat on while you’re reading this; the humble office chair.
Are you sitting comfortably?
We asked this question in one of the first blogs we wrote, about a specific piece of furniture; the Gesture chair. We partner with the worldwide office manufacturer, Steelcase, who conducted a global survey to find the perfect posture. 2,000 people from 11 countries, including the UK, were asked about how they use current technology in the workplace and what effect they felt that this was having on their posture.
They found that new technologies demanded new ways of moving and working, which led to the discovery of nine new postures which, if not addressed by current seating, could lead to pain and discomfort.
9 New Postures – Image from Steelcase
The Draw: People pull back from their desks and recline, bringing their elbows into the body to draw a mobile device closer.
The Multi-Device: Holding a mobile in one hand and working on a laptop with the other, resulting in the individual leaning forwards.
The Text: Arms are brought in close to the body with the device supported by the user’s arms and hands.
The Cocoon: This is all about short-term comfort, bringing feet up and reclining draws the device closer.
The Swipe: Operating the device with one hand, users lean over it and position their head to face downwards.
The Smart Lean: Having received a personal message, a person’s posture will change, leaning to the side in order to shield the content from others.
The Trance: In deep concentration an individual will strain their neck forward, lean into their desk, use a hand to support their head and place their feet on the chair base.
The Take It In: This posture supports contemplation of digital information on large displays, consuming information and content rather than generating it.
The Strunch: Short for the ‘stretched-out-hunch’, when people use a laptop they push it further away, reaching out and often using an arm to prop themselves up.
Steelcase’s solution to these nine new postures, and the problems associated with them, was the creation of the Gesture chair; designed to mimic the movement of the human body, it offered a flexibility and freedom of movement that recognised people’s changing postures relating to mobile technology.
But seating is merely one aspect of perfect posture and wellbeing in the workplace.
Stretch your legs.
Statistics show that people are now spending more time working than anything else, including sleeping. So staying active while you’re in the office is more important than ever!
At Paramount we’re lucky enough to have our own gym in the office, but if that’s not a realistic option there are other ways to encourage a bit more movement in the workplace.
Simply reconfiguring the layout of the office can give staff more opportunity to move around.
Make it clear that it’s okay for staff to take regular breaks from viewing their screen and stretch their legs around or outside the office. Something that’s made an appearance in the media recently is the treadmill desk, which combines the gym with the workplace in one piece of furniture!
(The WalkStation – image from Steelcase)
Take a stand against bad posture.
Another option is to take meetings whilst standing up. This is especially relevant since recent research is starting to highlight the importance of breaking up your day into periods of sitting and standing.
Official health guidelines suggest that workers should stand for at least 2 hours a day in the office.
As a result, more and more businesses are looking at the latest trend for sit/stand desks, which adjust to your height. The other office furniture manufacturer that we partner with, Kinnarps, are based in Sweden, where height-adjustable desks have been a feature of Scandinavian offices for decades. They’re now trying to get more businesses to join the sit/stand revolution by promoting the health, productivity and creativity benefits they can bring.
(Series P Sit/Stand Desk – Image from Kinnarps)
At the very least, hopefully I’ve made you sit up a little straighter while reading this, or even get up and have a stroll, because breaking up the day with a bit of movement is good for both our spines and our minds!
For more information about the offices that Paramount have designed for their clients, visit http://paramountinteriors.com/ or follow them on Twitter.
Check out our workplace health series for more inspirations for creating happier, healthier and more productive teams. To discover which areas of health are affecting productivity in your organisation, try Nudjed Insights today.