Why I don’t want to be average: Ergonomics in the Office

02 Aug 2017  |  Worktech  |  Tech  |  Design

by Beth Harrison, Sketch Head of Sales

The workplace is changing, and has been for many years now. We no longer work in cellular offices, with rows of workers all using bulky desktop computers, sitting at static desks for eight hours a day. In fact, many of us no longer work from a single workspace. With the introduction and increasing success of agile working, flexible working, home working and co-working, to mention just a few, technology has changed the workplace beyond recognition. The calling card of the world’s most successful businesses are those which have embraced working methods that are right for the task, fostering innovation and collaboration in ways we have never seen before.

However, when it comes to comfort and safety in the office, the latest Display Screen Equipment (DSE) Regulations, designed to act as a guide for employees and employers working with Visual Display Units (VDU), are seriously behind the times. Regulations were written in 1992 – that’s 25 years ago. Amendments were made in 2002, but that means it’s still 15 years since anyone looked at the regulations to see if they were still relevant for today’s workplace. And as the world has embraced the way in which technology has transformed the commercial landscape, the DSE Regulations have not.

A traditional office is designed under the assumption that everyone repeats the same tasks on a daily basis. However, this simply is not accurate anymore. When you examine the regulations, it’s clear that they focus on averages. The specifications they suggest are aimed at the average employee – someone of an average height, average posture, and even average arm length (to indicate the distance from eyes to screen). But who exactly is average? Even considering the different sizes and shapes of people – these days, no one day is the same.

Agile working has seen people thinking about tasks in a different light and challenging the norm. As such many of us are now working from multiple devices throughout the day with the flexibility to work from wherever best suits the current task. Pods, collaboration tables, in the kitchen or break-out spaces, at home or in a coffee shop, flexible working has fostered a new era of innovation and collaboration like we haven’t experienced previously. As such, the DSE Regulations should provide guidance for the safe use of equipment covering all the various ways in which we now work.

The problem is, the regulations are the only guidance available for employers to refer to. Some workplaces still adhere very closely to them. For example, they will spend lots of money on a specific task chair because it fits with the DSE assessment – but they might be spending money on a chair that’s not necessary, simple ignoring something more modern that could be better just because it doesn’t fit with the guidelines.

As such, DSE regulations need to be rewritten to be much broader in their scope in order to still provide relevant guidance and keep up with the ever-evolving corporate landscape.

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