A research summary published by Herman Miller ranks the option to position a computer in a suitable location as one of the most important attributes of a comfortable workspace.
I saw this need addressed during a recent visit to a trading floor located in New York’s World Financial Center. The Herman Miller company Colebrook Bosson Saunders supplied this particular floor with Wishbone monitor arms and posts that can support up to four monitors. Most people on a trading floor work with at least two screens, although many work from four and sometimes six.
The Wishbone monitor arm fits well in this environment because anyone can reconfigure it to support a variety of needs. In fact, the monitor arms on this trading floor are reconfigured up to three times a week.
Monitor arms also carry ergonomic benefits. They allow the technology to move with the user, while contributing to an ergonomic posture and reducing eyestrain.
Unfortunately, from 2008-2009, an estimated 9.3 million working days were lost to work-related musculoskeletal disorders. Having proper ergonomic support, however, creates safer, healthier environments that help to prevent these disorders.
Whether you work on a trading floor or in an office like mine, the appropriate technology support, such as a monitor arm, is a smart investment.
Here at Herman Miller, we’ve been studying the needs of healthcare professionals for over 40 years. It is our goal to create products that can reduce some of the stress and burdens that these professionals, such as nurses, face on a daily basis.
In addition to the healthcare research I do at Herman Miller, I’m familiar with these issues outside of work because my wife, Lindsay, has been a nurse for four years. Since we’re in the midst of National Nurses Week (May 6 through 12), I would like to share some insights about life in the nursing profession.
Nursing is often a thankless job that requires massive amounts of dedication, commitment, patience, and skill. While I work a standard Monday through Friday 8-5 job, my wife works any day of the week (including weekends), 7 p.m. to 7 a.m. I get major holidays off; she gets two of the four major holidays off, and it changes every year. I sit in front of a computer most of the day; she stands, walks, lifts, tucks, charts, cleans, dispenses meds, and starts IVs. And that’s not all. Besides these demanding physical tasks, nurses tackle the emotional challenges of dealing with sick patients and their families. They need to display quick and critical thinking from their library of knowledge to make life-saving decisions for their patients. They deal with the complexities of relationships and collaborate with multiple members of an interdisciplinary healthcare team. Ultimately, they focus on helping people heal.
At Herman Miller, we aim to alleviate their burden and simplify nurses’ tasks by providing them with easy access to supplies and ergonomic solutions in the healthcare environment. That allows nurses to direct 100% of their focus on the patient rather than dealing with insufficient equipment and processes.
This year’s theme for National Nurses Week is “Caring Today for a Healthier Tomorrow.” Thanks to my wife and all the nurses—retired and practicing—I can look forward to a healthier tomorrow.
Researchers at Yale’s School of Engineering and Applied Science are working toward their goal of making machines compliant to humans. In Professor John Morrell’s laboratory they have developed the Vibrotactile Posture Feedback Chair, which uses cell phone vibrators to alert a person when he or she is sitting incorrectly.
“The vibration is supposed to be an annoyance,” says Ying Zheng, who is working with Morrell. When a person slouches, leans too far forward, or crosses his legs, the tactors in those regions vibrate or pulsate as a reminder to use the right posture.
Morrell said he was first inspired to pursue the idea after visiting a physical therapist due to pain from sitting at a computer for long periods of time. He said he was constantly forgetting his therapist’s instructions, which led him and Zheng to evaluate the use of touch to remind people to sit upright with their spines in a neutral position, as recommended by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health.
In addition to the chair, Morrell’s laboratory is developing a robot that can open doors for the disabled or in dangerous situations.
The Envelop desk has received considerable attention for its versatility and unique ability to move with the user. But what’s the best application for such a cutting-edge design? That’s the question we posed to interior designers in the Envelop Design Challenge—a competition Herman Miller initiated last December. The answer? Anywhere and everywhere.
Given the versatility of the Envelop desk, it was no surprise when we received over forty entries displaying the desk in myriad ways—ranging from private offices to group work settings to classrooms. With all of the great designs, it was a challenge in itself to choose the winners.
After considerable deliberation, our team of designers selected four winners who displayed the most creativity with their use of Envelop. Our first place winner, Angela Glenn, placed Envelop in a beautiful work environment by incorporating Teneo storage furniture and Meridian filing and storage (above).
In contrast, our two second place winners, Christa Markey and Gretel Lott, stepped out of the office environment: Christa brought Envelop into a campus coffee shop…
And Gretel built the desk into an air traffic control room.
Our third place winner, Susan Weisenfeld, used one kit of parts for two different types of workstations; both centered on the Envelop desk.
Check out The Be Collection to learn more about our winners and see renderings of these unique applications.
The 2010 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) concluded on January 10 after four days of new product displays, conference sessions, and celebrity appearances. Over 2,500 technology companies gathered in Las Vegas, contributing to the record number of new exhibits at this year’s show. Even amidst all of the excitement among technology products, Herman Miller’s Envelop desk created quite a buzz.
Envelop, a desk that moves with the user as he or she reclines, was featured with the Embody chair. Envelop was well received by designers and users alike, drawing considerable media attention. Since its appearance at CES, Envelop has received excited reviews from multiple media sources, including the popular blogs Gizmodo, Uncrate, and PhotoInduced, for its ergonomic benefits and ability to comfortably cater to the user.
Envelop’s clever design ultimately has the user in mind. At CES 2010, they noticed.
Recently, the Associated Press distributed an article about how “sitting too much could be deadly.” A number of regional newspapers, including my hometown Chicago Tribune picked it up. As a furniture industry veteran and seating researcher for the better part of two decades, it was too broad—and dire—a statement for my personal comfort.
In helping designers like Bill Stumpf and Jeff Weber to develop Herman Miller products—from stacking chairs, such as Caper, to high-performance work chairs, such as Embody—I’ve learned that sitting, comfort, and health are not so cut-and-dried.
In the 1990s I began using pressure map technology, which visualizes what the seat and sitter interface looks like—and how it changes depending on seat construction and the posture of the sitter. These changes translate to comfort or discomfort for the user.
More recently, in the course of our Embody chair development, I commissioned researchers at both the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago and Milwaukee’s Marquette University, who measured the amount of oxygen in the blood flowing to and from subjects’ lower extremities and heart rate–key health measures. It turns out, both improved when users sat in the Embody chair, versus other chairs, doing the same seated tasks in both.
So, it’s not a simple question of sitting down or standing up—but where and how you’re sitting.
I once worked at a company housed in the second floor of an old mill building. You might be thinking “lovely renovated office space with high ceilings and tons of character.” You’d be wrong. The building was dirt-cheap chic and the only character it had was a homeless man who slept in the unoccupied first floor.
Our office space consisted of shoddily constructed half-walls and an eclectic mix of broken down desks, wobbly chairs—and, most important of all, space heaters. In winter, there’d be miniature snowdrifts on the window sill, and you could see your breath until 10 a.m. We never had temperature wars in that office. We just cranked the thermostat as high as it would go, and our space heaters, too.
Granted, ours was an extreme case. But recent IFMA research shows that complaints about the temperature top the list of common office grievances. Facilities managers say they get an almost equal number of complaints about the office being too hot or too cold.
This is a big deal because there’s a positive correlation between comfort and productivity. Unfortunately, it’s tough to keep everybody happy and comfortable all the time. As any facility manager will tell you, often the person complaining about the office being too hot is sitting right next to the person complaining about it being too cold.
Facility managers do the best they can, but when it’s not enough, people do what they have to do. They use space heaters (frowned upon because of the fire hazard), heating pads, personal fans, supplemental clothing and, in one case reported in the research, a small wading pool under the desk in which the worker could “paddle” his feet to cool them off.
Herman Miller has a sweet and sensible alternative that uses 90% less energy than space heaters. C2 climate control uses advanced thermal electric technology to provide heating and cooling in a single unit. Someday I’d like a C2 for my home office, but for now I use a foot warmer to stay warm. What’s your solution?
A few years ago I had foot surgery on both feet at the same time. For six weeks, I stumped around the house with the help of a walker. Climbing stairs, making a sandwich, getting the mail—everything took five times longer than it should have, i.e., five times longer than it took me when I was able bodied. It was a stark reminder that, no matter how healthy we are, sooner or later we’ll all experience physical limitations, whether because of surgery or illness or the natural effects of aging.
Universal design accounts for that eventuality by providing for the broadest range of ages, abilities, and work styles. While universal design came into its own when the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was passed in 1990, inclusiveness has always been part of Herman Miller’s approach to design. In 1968, Robert Propst designed the original Action Office system with universality in mind, and it’s still among the best at accommodating people of all abilities.
If a product can be used with a closed fist, virtually anyone can use it. The sliding door design of Vivo’s overhead unit and its knob are good examples.
So are the arc drawer pulls on Meridian files and the joystick height-adjustment lever on the Embody chair.
Beyond the “closed fist” rule, universal design happens in the application of product in work surface heights and aisle widths, for example, says Marsha Skidmore, Director of Market Response Design & Development at Herman Miller. Herman Miller dealers can help customers plan for universal design in their facilities.
In the product development process, Herman Miller doesn’t mandate universal design, “We don’t have to because we always have taken inclusiveness into account. It’s just a part of our culture,” says Skidmore. “We never aim to make something that would exclude a group of people.”
Last week, the National Ergonomic Conference and Expo (NECE) took place in Las Vegas, attracting safety and ergonomic gurus from across the nation. NECE attendees have access to a wealth of information, from finding new ways to reduce workplace related injuries to improving productivity. The conference is also a great place to discover new products and build relationships.
I love my chair. You can have my chair when you pry it from beneath my cold, dead…never mind. You get the idea. Those are passionate statements to make about an object as ordinary as a chair, but there is nothing ordinary about this chair. It’s an Embody chair from Herman Miller and yeah, the chair is that good.
The Embody chair and I have a history that goes back to its prototype days, when I was one of the first test “sitters.” As a 3D visualization designer, I spend all my working hours in front of an array of computers, always sitting yet constantly moving. In other words, I was a great candidate to test a chair designed to create harmony between people and computers.