<h3>It is becoming painfully clear that sitting with limited movement throughout a 9 hour working day is terrible for one’s health and is a lethal activity.</h3> It is becoming painfully clear that sitting with limited movement throughout a 9 hour working day is terrible for one’s health and is a lethal activity. Companies abroad are taking a stand by adopting new work methods and office furniture to promote different postures. And now, according to Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office, South Africa is beginning to follow the same approach. Health studies conclude that people should sit less, and be more active and mobile. After one hour of sitting, the production of enzymes that burn fat declines by as much as 90 percent. Extended sitting slows the body’s metabolism affecting vitals such as HDL levels (good cholesterol) in our bodies. The death rate associated with obesity in the US is now 35 million. The New York Times reported last year that for each additional hour of television a person sat and watched per day, the risk of dying rose by 11 percent. The alarming obesity rate coupled with prolonged hours of sitting and little movement, especially in the workplace, is a global health concern. Andrews says that movement throughout our working day is critical to maintaining employee wellness - from sitting, to walking or standing, it is key to alleviating the concerns caused from sitting. “By simply providing our workforce with a variety of postures and different places, it lets workers change positions, keeping them engaged, productive and well”. Interestingly, Andrews says that when one looks at the need for movement and different postures in the office, the first place to identify this is with cigarette smokers, “If you speak to staff, it’s the change of posture and scenery, coupled with movement they are really after, often as a direct result of physical discomfort, even more so than just a nicotine fix”. In response to the sitting dilemma, many companies, including a number of local South African organisations, are turning to active desks — from trendy standing workspaces to, in the most progressive environments, even treadmill desks. By offering workers a flexible work environment the benefits are significantly obvious and include: <ul> <li>High-quality, task-specific, seating options reduce employee fatigue and repetitive motion injuries;</li> <li>Reduced fatigue means more time on the job, improved job performance and lower healthcare costs;</li> <li>Allowing employees to walk or stand while working reduces the need to leave the office, keeping them on task boosting productivity.</li> </ul> “When one turns to international examples, ‘sit, stand, walk’ is a specific philosophy that global office furniture brand, Steelcase, uses to keep workers moving”, says Andrews. While in the United Kingdom, the people behind ‘Get Britain Standing’ have partnered with the British Heart Foundation for the ‘On Your Feet’ campaign. He says the initiative aims to raise awareness by encouraging people to stand for as much of the working day as possible. In closing, Andrews says that employers need to be aware that once workspace solutions are provided to avoid prolonged hours of sitting, staff then need to be educated on the available choices, and how to make the right ones. “Technology and new-age furniture designs might have freed us from the cubicle, but one can still sit poorly at an improperly adjusted work surface. Workers also need to be more aware of the options available to them and, as they move, they must learn how to choose their postures and work places wisely in order to avoid sitting for lengthy hours and encountering the long term negative health effects. As employers, we have a duty of care to our staff and should provide a palette of places, postures and presence to make the work environment healthier and that much more productive”.
<h3>More than adjusting one’s workstation or chair to reduce risk of injury, ergonomics is a strategic business initiative with financial, managerial, technical and human elements that yields a high return and increases overall productivity.</h3> More than adjusting one’s workstation or chair to reduce risk of injury, ergonomics is a strategic business initiative with financial, managerial, technical and human elements that yields a high return and increases overall productivity. The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics recently reported that more than 650,000 work-related musculoskeletal disorders result in costs over 20 billion dollars to employers each year. These costs include Worker's Compensation and medical expenses, the latter of which are increasing 2.5 times faster than benefit costs. Today's connected worker continually interfaces between a laptop, a tablet, a phone, or a combination of the three, and sometimes more, simultaneously. The challenge, however, is that many organisations have not updated their workspace requirements to meet these demands. According to the Steelcase Workspace Futures global study which focused on 2000 people in 11 different countries, a well-designed workspace can increase employee efficiency by 36%. Richard Andrews, Managing Director of Inspiration Office comments, “there is a direct association between the ergonomics and economics of a business. If you speak to CEOs, they will tell you that around 80% of their budget goes to their people while 7% is spent on the physical space in which they work. If they were to double their spend on space to 14%, and it only produced a 10% return in efficiency on their largest expense (their employees), they would actually be investing 7% in money terms for an 8% return in efficiency.” In addition to increasing employee efficiency, of the 30 different postures that Steelcase researchers observed during the global study, nine were entirely new. Andrews explains further by saying that much of today’s seating was designed to support the traditional one-task, one-technology, one-posture experience. With our new age multiple devices, our bodies are forced to respond to these small technologies, leaving us unsupported. Work is an inherent social process that requires people to rapidly shift between individual, focused tasks and creative collaboration and that each new activity causes us to change postures. Since today’s worker sits in nine different posture positions than those of yesteryear, technology has changed the game and employees no longer work a 9 to 5 in one chair, doing one task. Productivity is increased if employees' work areas are arranged to suit them and the type of work being done. Appropriate ergonomic adaptations have also been found to effectively reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders symptoms. “The space in a like-for-like company really is the deciding factor in attracting and retaining the best talent,” says Andrews. “Issues in today's office environment which cost businesses money in lost production include, for example, time off work due to back ache problems and presenteeism – when an ill and absent employee reports for work but is in fact inefficient.” Probably one to the most underutilized words in today's business vocabulary, ergonomics is not the easiest to measure and not the first option employers’ link to increasing profitability. Here, Andrews provides four reasons to make ergonomic changes to the work environment: <ul> <li>1. Ergonomics improves the safety and health of workers</li> <li>2. It reduces a company’s costs</li> <li>3. It addresses productivity and quality issues</li> <li>4. It also responds to regulatory concerns.</li> </ul> In closing, Andrews says that ergonomics has a real and direct impact on productivity, “It can affect an entire business by enhancing the most important business component - the ability to let workers do their work. “Often, office furniture and floor planning fall to the bottom of the budget list, but thanks to clever furniture leasing options which come with a number of benefits – the budget plea can be addressed immediately. Stylish, comfortable and supportive; task chairs and ergonomic work stations are investments that can pay dividends in both employee health and comfort”.
<h3>Fact: there are 37.2 million adults in South Africa and 97% of them have a cell phone. It’s not surprising that texting is a popular form of communication for us as a nation, which contributes to global statistics of more than one billion text messages sent every month.</h3> Fact: there are 37.2 million adults in South Africa and 97% of them have a cell phone. It’s not surprising that texting is a popular form of communication for us as a nation, which contributes to global statistics of more than one billion text messages sent every month. Although today’s digital age comes with many benefits and different ways of working, it also brings a new set of health issues. An example of this is ‘Text Neck’, a relatively recent concern which affects millions of people across the globe and is now making its way to South Africa shores as technology becomes more readily available. With 6 billion people in the world and more than 4 billion of them using mobile phones, today’s phone user now spends four hours a day reading mails, sending texts and checking social media sites. This equates to 1,400 hours per year people are putting stress on their spines. Since so much of our time is spent using electronic devices at work, Text Neck is gaining fast attention in the workplace as employers seek to identify wellbeing options and solutions to help staff. “Text neck is the result of the axial skeleton and associated structures (muscle, ligaments, nerves, fascia etc) being exposed to extended period of abnormal and undue mechanical and positional stress caused by electronic devices used in ergonomically compromising positions”, comments Jonathan Blake, a renowned Johannesburg physio who has seen the condition far too many times at his Sandton practice. “Personally I feel that the global term ‘Text Neck’ is too categorical – it implies that the postural problems caused by poor ergonomics are related to texting only. A more encompassing term is clearly needed so that these postural problems can be related to all forms of electronic communication; from screens, to keyboards, to notebooks, laptops and tablets etc”. Blake continues to say that frequent Text Neck positions cause changes to the cervical spine, supporting ligaments, tendons, and musculature, and bony segments, commonly causing postural change. It has also been linked to headaches and neurological issues, depression and heart disease. What’s worse is that if left untreated, the condition can result in permanent damage including: flattening of the spinal curve, onset of early arthritis, spinal degeneration, loss of lung volume capacity and gastrointestinal problems. Although Text Neck is fairly new to South African shores and most statistics are extrapolated from overseas, it’s a health condition which the sales team at Inspiration Office are familiar with. The national showroom which stocks a range of international and local ergonomic office furniture brands is inundated with queries and concerns about how to prevent and address this increasing workplace issue. Managing Director for Inspiration Office, Richard Andrews, has the following tips to alleviate and avoid Text Neck: <ul> <li>1. The obvious and first step would be to take cognisance of your posture, and if you can’t, a range of gadgets have been introduced to help workers identify when they are slouching;</li> <li>2. Try to limit your time spent in compromising positions, take a break and escape lengthy periods of being deskbound;</li> <li>3. Instead of bending your neck, try looking down at your device with only your eyes;</li> <li>4. Simple exercises such as standing in a doorway with your arms extended and pushing your chest forward to strengthen “the muscles of good posture” help alleviate pain;</li> <li>5. Find an office chair that is built to support your work. By investing in an ergonomically designed chair you can provide support to both the back and neck which provides comfort during long workdays. Look for features like adjustable armrests that let you move around and change positions throughout the day. South African office furniture manufacturer, AngelShack, has recently introduced the Perfect Operating Position (POP) Chair to the local market. It offers nine ergonomic positions and would be a perfect example of locally made furniture which counteracts Text Neck.</li> </ul> Andrews continues by saying that as mobile devices become more widespread at work, people are beginning to work in different ways and seating postures – postures that were not included in office furniture design until recent, and that mostly likely the chairs we currently sit on had never seen or heard of this workplace concern. Today’s high quality ergonomic office chairs have adjustable arms which cater to your posture and technology needs. Instead of placing your iPad or iPhone on your lap, the chair (and its arms) will move accordingly to your posture. Often, office furniture falls at the bottom of the importance list, but a nice, supportive task chair and ergonomic work stations are investments that can pay dividends in employee health and comfort