The Healthy Workplace: Workstation Design – Desks

workstation ergonomic desk design

Welcome to the first in our series of posts focusing on the constituent elements that combined together create a healthy workplace, the benefits of which we at Officeworks are passionate about.

Creating an office design and layout for a healthy office space can boost employee productivity and enhance employee health and wellness – it’s all interrelated – and smart organisations understand that their primary goal is to enhance the performance of their people.

There are over 10 million office workers in the UK and the majority of them spend their daily lives sat at a computer in an unnatural position. The impact of our workplace environment has never been more important, particularly with the rise of musculoskeletal injuries often caused by our daily office routines. According to figures from the Office for National Statistics almost 31 million days of work were lost in 2013 due to back, neck and muscle problems costing the UK economy £14bn a year.

Plan an ergonomic workstation

A healthy workplace should always incorporate an ergonomic workstation design which creates optimal conditions for people to work at maximum productivity. An important element of this is looking at the ergonomics of the workstation desk, particularly when you consider that we mould ourselves to the shape of our desks – often hunched over a laptop or keyboard.

We’ve all read the articles and reports that ‘sitting is the new smoking’ and to cater for this, many manufacturers now offer a creative array of height adjustable desks which can provide a variety of sitting/standing heights.

The development of ‘sit-stand’ desks which accommodate both sitting and standing helps to increase movement throughout the day and ensures that the user isn’t sitting in one fixed posture for any long period of time.

The healthier way to work: standing vs sitting

Dr Michael Mosely a renowned BBC journalist recently conducted an experiment to see if standing at your desk for a period of time each day is good for you. In the experiment a group of estate agents were fitted with a pedometer, heart rate monitor and blood glucose monitor and stood for 3 hours a day for a week.

The results were spectacular showing that when standing up they also cleared the sugar from their blood much more quickly than when sitting down. Their heart rates were also higher which when averaged over the days, weeks and months lead to the equivalent number of calories (25-30,000) being burned as if they’d run 10 marathons a year.

So there are many benefits of a standing desk. It helps employees improve their ergonomics, their health, their mood and ultimately their productivity. Sit-stand desks are widely used in Scandinavia where over 90% of office workers enjoy the health and engagement benefits of being able to easily switch between sitting and standing. The problem is that whilst sit-stand desks are becoming more popular and accessible in a business environment in the UK, they are not standard and are often more expensive.

Set your workspace up to succeed

With the rapid changes in office technology, we’ve seen a move towards smaller workstations and flat display screens which make more efficient use of space and allow for flexible arrangements. Increasingly however, with a more mobile workforce and hot-desking environment, greater use is being made of laptops and other portable devices to provide the individual with the ability to work while out and about.

However, laptops, tablets and smart phones don’t allow for healthy working postures – who hasn’t seen the iPhone stoop or the laptop hunch? These devices should be supplemented by a separate mouse and keyboard, and ideally an additional display screen, so that heights can be adjusted appropriately and the user can feel the benefit of a relaxed working position.

Providing employees with task suitable and well-designed furniture goes hand-in-hand with an optimised office layout and well thought out workspace design for a healthier, more productive, office environment.