Redefining the Workplace

It would seem that everyone would like to work at Google. Google’s efforts to create the happiest place to work include more than complimentary gourmet meals, massages, “nap pods” and other lavish perks.  Their efforts center around a different way of looking at the workplace with a focus on my specialty, ergonomics.  

Ergonomics is human engineering, designing things or spaces so people can utilize them more comfortably, efficiently and safely.

Fortunately, workplaces around the country are following Google’s lead. Organizations in every industry are realizing that their people are their most important assets and their workplace must be optimized for them. Here are some of the top workplace trends I see as organizations endeavor to increase productivity, improve employee health, and retain employees for the long term.

Collaboration is encouraged.  Workers must be given more diverse spaces and the autonomy to move around those spaces. Many workplaces are creating collaboration spaces of different sizes so people aren’t trapped at their desks or battling over the large conference room.  The effective open office is about space reflecting and enhancing organizational culture. Opening doors, increasing communication and collaboration, and breaking down departmental silos is the new paradigm.

Mobility is king. The workplace is dynamic, don’t be left sitting still or you will be left behind. Technology has allowed people to untether from the desk. The BlackBerry thumb has been replaced by Smartphones, tablets, and laptops.  Many organizations are replacing desktops with laptops and docking stations so employees can work seamlessly in the field, move about the office and utilize the collaboration spaces created.

The emphasis on mobility is coming just in the nick of time.  The percentage of obese and overweight workers has reached epidemic proportions. The health impacts of a sedentary workplace have led some experts to say, “Sitting is the new smoking.” Dynamic sit/stand workstations have been adopted in offices across the country so workers can transition from sitting to standing throughout the day and not be trapped in one unhealthy posture.  Should you sit or stand at your desk?  The answer to the question is both. It’s the ability to change positions that creates the opportunity for wellness.

Aesthetics is functionality. An open office must take into consideration the whole person and the whole work experience. The work environment should optimally address all the senses and create a coherent whole that complements your organizational culture. Think sight, sound, and smell. What is your office decor? Are the colors for different spaces appropriately relaxing or stimulating? Do you have a scent/fragrance policy? Is there proper ventilation, especially around the break room? What is the noise level? Do you need sound proofing, white noise machines, or to designate certain disruptive tasks to specific spaces?

It’s not about money, it’s about attitude. Yes, Apple is spending $5 billion building a new campus but ergonomic solutions don’t need to be expensive. Start with your employees that sit the most and create an environment that allows them more freedom of movement throughout the day. It’s the little things that show employees you see them and value them as individuals.  The key to human engineering is adapting your workplace to fit your people, not the other way around.

Individual workstation setup is more important than ever.  Even small changes can bring ergonomic benefits.  To learn more about office ergonomics please join me for a 30 minute webinar at 10:00am EST on March 9, 2017 entitled “Office Ergo:  Little Changes Make a Big Difference.” 

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