Suffering from a sore neck while you work? Or stiff shoulders? Or having some back pain? There’s a good chance your eyes are to blame. Much like the old gambling adage, “the house always wins,” when it comes to being comfortable while working, ergonomists will tell you, “the eyes always wins.”
The eyes only care about their own comfort and to ensure that, they’ll force the rest of the body to contort into unhealthy positions. You’ll really notice this after a few hours in front of the computer.
One way to create a win-win situation for both your eyes and your body is to move your monitor. Try bringing it closer, moving it away, and adjusting it up or down—of course a monitor arm makes this easier to do. We also recommend increasing the size of the on-screen font. Make your eyes comfortable and your body will thank you.
Our bodies aren’t designed to stay in one position for long periods of time—sitting or standing. Studies have found back injuries are as likely for those who sit all day as those who stand. That’s why we encourage people to do both throughout their day.
Changing your posture as you work—from sitting to standing to sitting again—is the best way to keep your spine healthy and body happy. At first, it may take some practice to remember to keep moving, but once you do, it will become second nature. You’ll feel better and work better.
Are you getting the most out of your work chair? If you’re not sitting properly, then there is a good chance that you are not.
Just as you were scolded for slouching at the dinner table as a kid, you should be warned against slouching in your chair at work. It’s bad for your back: distorting your spine into an unhealthy “C” shape that puts pressure on the intervertebral discs. This contributes to back pain and general discomfort.
How can you sit better? The first step is to sit back in your chair—all of the way back. Make sure that your back is making contact with the chair’s backrest. This better supports your spine and helps you receive the full benefits of an adjustable work chair. Give it a try, you’ll feel better.
At some companies, you’re more likely to see a unicorn prancing through the office than the CEO casually chatting with an employee. This wizard-behind-the curtain executive mentality is losing traction, as many organizations continue to see the value in open office plans.
The concept of an open office—where executives live and work among the masses—may seem cutting edge, but according to Herman Miller Workplace Strategist Margaret Serrato, the idea is nothing new.
“If you look at images from offices from the 1880s, all the way up through probably 1940, you’ll see that everybody worked out at big tables,” Serrato says. “Some owners would have their own office, but,” Serrato added, “more often they’d simply have a roll-top desk to lock up the payroll at night.”
Why the continued interest in open-office plans? Research shows that locating executives near employees increases daily communication and speeds up the decision making process. The need for formal, time-consuming meetings decreases, and brilliant ideas hatch during cookie breaks, coffee pot chats, and lunchtime conversations. While most offices fall somewhere in the middle on the private-to-open spectrum, it’s becoming increasingly clear that the more open the office, the more collaborative and innovative employees and executives become.
For many technology, social media, and Internet companies, open office plans are integral to strategy. You won’t find their C-suite executives enshrined in inaccessible corner offices, blinds closed and doors locked. Executives are in the trenches, working at multi-person benches alongside everyone else, or even going completely mobile, working from a different location around the office each day. The resulting workplaces breed collaboration, invention, creativity, and fun.
Transparency, executive visibility, and timely communication during major organizational changes can help employees understand high-level strategy and embrace change. The Campbell’s Soup Company exemplified these ideas during a recent headquarters renovation, and the results were as delicious as their soup.
A strong desire to provide an invigorating, supportive workplace for employees lead Campbell’s to create a LEED-NC Silver Employee Center packed with people-pleasing features, including a credit union, fitness center, company store, café, training center, and pilot workplace that would act as a test lab to inform future space planning.
Campbell’s, with help from Herman Miller, kept employees informed during the renovation process through information sessions, executive-lead panel discussions, and a café fair for employees to learn about the services provided in the new employee center. The result? The new employees center is a hit, and Campbell’s employees now embrace and even champion change instead of resisting it.
A body at rest tends to stay at rest. Just ask T.J. Allen. His research of communications and its relation to collaborating led to the idea of the Allen Curve: the more distance there is between people, the less they will communicate. The effect really kicks in at 50 meters, or 150 feet.
Designing offices to be more compact is one way to counter an aversion to taking a walk at work. This ends up being a win-win for the business: People talk more (coming up with better ideas) and real estate costs go down.
Smaller offices and places for people to gather or bump into one another, as J. Michael Welton writes about in The New York Times, shared offices, compact conference rooms equipped with technology, quiet spots to get away from it all, choices in where to work given the task at hand, all these are elements in creating the right balance. That’s key. Intelligent remixing between individual offices and group and community areas, as opposed to simply shedding real estate, is necessary for enabling one of the organization’s largest resources—its human talent.
There are lots of forces at play in today’s workplaces. People are drawn to the buzz of activity. Ask, and most of them will tell you they’re more productive, more energized, and more engaged when they’re around other people. So it makes sense to shrink the size of offices; it not only brings people closer together, which can foster collaborating, but it also cuts real estate costs. Given that many offices aren’t being used, the trend toward compacting offices is understandable; nothing kills the buzz in an office faster than a bunch of empty workstations.
All that togetherness can cause problems, though, with cries for quiet piercing the office buzz. Putting people too close together without places they can go to concentrate can backfire. That’s why smart companies are using some of the real estate they save to design other types of spaces, such as community zones, gathering areas, quiet rooms, and phone booths, so people have choice and variety in where they work. These companies are cutting real estate costs while giving employees a better workplace. It becomes a matter of making real estate work harder, so it costs less and it gives people an appealing, inspiring place where they can to do their best work.
More than ever, working together defines how we get things done. And more than ever, getting things done often takes just two people. Recent research we’ve conducted at companies around the world found that nearly half the time collaborative events involved two to three people.
But no matter the number of people collaborating, companies are committed to making it happen. One approach they’re taking is to give their employees flexible workspaces. In a recent survey, 50 percent of corporate real estate executives said this flexibility enables collaboration.
All this focus on collaboration shouldn’t obscure the fact that people also need privacy and freedom from interruption. Research also suggests that some people, and especially introverts, are more creative when they can work on their own. Maybe the best way to get the creativity we’re all after is to design places that give people more choices for when, where, and with whom they work.
“History doesn’t repeat itself, but if you look back far enough you’ll find that it rhymes.” Futurist Paul Saffo recently said this in a meeting with us. He was paraphrasing an aphorism often attributed to Mark Twain, but whatever its source the maxim relates to the discussion taking place about the future of work.
There’s plenty of “rhyme” in the words of Robert Propst, inventor of the Action Office system. In 1968, he wrote that “The real office consumer is the mind. More than anything else, we are dealing with a mind-oriented living space.”
Given the ubiquity of technology today, Propst’s words were prescient. The office is a state of mind. We once used to enter that state of mind by crossing the threshold of a building called “the office.” Today, we enter that state of mind by simply accessing our work-related data on our mobile devices. Work is no longer a place we go. It’s a thing we do, anywhere we are and at anytime.
Not surprisingly, because of the different properties offered by digital space, interacting with each other in the physical world is taking on new forms. This is evidenced in the proliferating new business models for delivering physical places dedicated to work, work clubs being one example.
Because so many people work so often and so meaningfully in digital space, they now seek new forms and new levels of social connectivity in the physical place. It is the human experience in the digital workspace that now drives the meaning, expectations, and behaviors that take place in our physical workplaces.
You know the old saying that two heads are better than one.. But it may be that only two heads are better for collaborating. Recently, we conducted research at our Design Yard facility, which was recently equipped with our Canvas furniture. Fully 68 percent of collaborative events were between two people versus larger groups.
Findings like that raise another question: How are people really using places at the office? Getting a clear, accurate picture of usage is essential to intelligently remixing available square footage. A better mix of settings can include microenvironments that enable these ad hoc gatherings.
Places that promote a few people “swarming” around a problem-solving challenge can accelerate the creation of new knowledge. And this sort of knowledge remains a key concern for organizations. A recent survey of the London Business School’s Future of Work Consortium found that “deep collaborative working” was rated a top factor in ongoing effectiveness. In a word, let’s get together—but not too many of us—and work it out.