“Workers are now taking a stand in the office and companies are being forced to act.”
Wow! That sounds pretty extreme – but is it true? We’re hearing about a growing number of studies form the US, Briton, Australia, Scandinavia, and India that affirm the long term negative effects of sitting for extended, uninterrupted periods. Many of us have heard the catch phrase “sitting is the new smoking”. Authoritative experts like Dr Levine of the Mayo Clinic are writing books and promoting ways to avoid these dangers.
Why Aren't Companies Embracing Workplace Wellbeing?
So, why aren’t companies embracing this? Why aren’t facilities managers jumping on this? Why is it that when you bring it up to your department head and ask for an EHAWS (electric height adjustable work station) you wonder if you suddenly started speaking a foreign language?
The answer is plain. The right solution isn’t accomplished with a simple inexpensive band-aide. It’s not as easy as adding something to the existing, or tweeking things and moving things around. It means changing not only how we do work, but what we work on.
How We View Office Furniture
Office furniture has always been looked upon as an expense, a necessary expense, but an expense just the same. Call it a necessary evil. Companies often hire professionals to figure out what this “expense” should look like and how it can be distributed and applied. They look at how departments function, and how they communicate with other departments and personnel. They analyze how individuals within these departments communicate with each other and how they accomplish their work – what equipment, how much surface and storage. It needs to be functional and look pleasing. Unfortunately, in North America, looking good (esthetics) often trumps function.
Until recently, outside of ergonomically designed seating and height adjustable keyboard trays, office furniture that has the ability to address the physical well-being of individual employees who use computers for the majority of their time while at work, has been almost totally ignored.
Through all the care and concern about how offices should be laid out, we haven’t, until recently, realized the long term perils caused by the sedentary lifestyle that is required of these individuals.
The Reality Is...
Existing desks can’t be made to accomplish this task and replacing them with furniture that does is a big “expense”. There is that word again. Further, there will continue to be push back from companies large and small until there is a shift in how we define office furniture and in particular, office desks. We need to realize that a desk where an individual spends 6 to 10 hours per day, is not an “expense” but an investment in the health and wellbeing of that individual. Then we need to decide what kind of an investment it’s going to be.
Will we ignore the growing evidence and stick to a big investment and risk the consequences of reduced productivity, lost work days or worst, the loss of a valued employee? Or do we invest in their health and wellbeing by providing the right desk for their needs and, in doing so, reap the corporate benefits?