There’s many aspects of the office environment that we just take for granted. We walk in and out, we sit, we call, we eat, we meet, we shout, we take a break and do it all over again. We do what we are supposed to do and, for good or bad, time goes by and you stop noticing what happens when you actually are in the office, using those spaces and facilities.
You’ve heard this before. You’ve told yourself exactly the same words: there’s things in life that matter more than the paycheck, and among those things, health – meaning body health – is one of them. Ask your future-self, he’ll tell you everything about it.
Awareness is the key. Being aware of what’s going on to your body while the weeks, months and years pass and you’re still enjoying the same job, routine, rhythm, boss, colleagues etc etc is possibly one of the biggest favor you can do to yourself right now. Awareness of…what exactly? We’re here to take a good look at you. Not the hard-working, problem-solver, CEO-you, but the flesh, blood and bones YOU. And to do that, we’ve got to talk about ergonomics, the science of how the body interacts with the designed world around us.
Ergonomic issues in the office environment should be at the top of any designer or architect’s priority list. If it’s not, well, you might want to find someone who does care about it. In our case, this comes down to a few advices, a few tips, a few things you might want to check the next time you punch-in and sit at your desk while an avid monitor is awaiting you for another day of ups and downs. Before checking the newly arrived 50 emails, let’s walk into a state of awareness and pay attention to the physicality of our workplace. Let’s ask a few questions.
What seat do you have? For how long do you seat every day? Sitting for long hours in the wrong chair is the number one office-health issue in many countries. So, to begin with, alternate sitting and standing hours – if necessary put an alarm clock every 2/3 hours and stand up, go to wash your face, stretch out, get a coffee and take the long way to get there, your whole body will thank you in 10 years. This provides your body (spine, legs, circulation, joints…) an opportunity to regain flow and strength. It’s a very simple, inexpensive, useful and enjoyable thing to do in order to keep your body in the best shape possible while you are in the office.
How do you seat? Check your posture: sit as close as possible to your desk, with your upper arms parallel to your spine and your hands rested on the work surface. Elbows and knees should be at a 90 degrees angle and try to maintain this ideal sitting posture for as long as possible. Make sure your chair isn’t too high or else you will experience ankles swell and general legs circulation issues. The depth of your seat is also important: buy a cushion in order to support your lower back at all times and try to push yourself against the backrest while working at your desk.
How’s the lighting in your office? Do you experience any glare? If you’re sitting at your desk, you’ll be highly effected by the quality of the light in your office environment, so the next time you go to work, you might want to do a test. Glare is a result of poorly designed environments and can have a big impact on the quality of our working hours. Reflective surfaces and screens produce glare which is a major ergonomic factor. When you sit at your desk, is there any light-source distracting you? Shade your eyes with your hand (or wear a baseball hat), are you experiencing any difference? Place a mirror in front of you (or on your working surface), do you see any reflected light source? If you answered YES to any of those questions, you’re most likely going under a lot of glare-stress.
There’s a lot of design choices that you just have to swallow when you walk into a new job, we all do that. It would be great to re-design our offices with the health of the employees in mind, but there’s a bunch of person who should be doing just that, and they do have a name: interior designers and architects.
Everything around us, since we wake up in the morning, has been designed by somebody for somebody. That is, unless your job is literally walking around forests or beaches. At this is increasingly true in the cities where we live, eat, sleep and experience a great deal of stress cause by bad design. Why that has to be the case?
I believe you can and should do something about it. We are talking about 8, 10, 14 hours of your life per day. In other words, this should be number one priority for the simple fact you’ve invested so much of your time and health in it. Those advices are there for you to follow or ignore them. Awareness, ergonomics and a bit of habit adjustment will do you no harm…in the worse case scenario you’ll end up liking your job.