Time For A Serious Ergo Makeover

Last week, I attended the Future Offices conference in NYC which was one of the best conferences I have ever attended.  The speaker line up was dazzling with companies such as Airbnb, Square, Cushman Wakefield, Dow Jones, Bloomberg, Buzzfeed and Shutterstock, to name a few, who presented and hosted site tours.   Then there was the exhibition floor where the gamut of employee experience providers boasted their latest and sexiest offerings ranging from healthy foods to green walls (living plants to naturally provide pure air and rich oxygen supply) to robots that patrol office floors at night and one weekends.  There were apps for employees to be able to book conference rooms, locate other employees, log visitors, order office supplies – and let me tell you, this stuff is slick, high tech and exciting.

All types of work environments were discussed and showcased including assigned seating, unassigned seating, co-working spaces, renovated training centers and that list went on and on.  All of these spaces were breathtakingly beautiful.   The design considerations took into account work functions (activity based), community, agility – and giving a workspace the ability to transform itself based on functions and events, choice of work environments throughout the day, creativity and beauty.

Millions of dollars and tons of planning and vision went into creating these work spaces.

But My Heart Broke

Because with the exception of a few presenters and panelists, ergonomics was woefully left out of this conversation.   And it’s time to close this gap.   Architects and space design teams…..you must include us ergonomists into the mix before you break ground.   Facilities, please, we can save you staggering amounts of money if you include us from the very first phase of planning.

True Story

Big company.  Global.  Moved 800 people into their new building.  Everyone got Sit Stand desks.  Good right?  Except that they desks were only 24″ deep.  And everyone had a Thunderbolt monitor on their desk.  Some, even had two.  So, they begged us to recommend keyboard trays so they could create distance between them and their monitors.  Trust me.  Facilities and the CFO were NOT PLEASED.  But this was avoidable.

Another True Story

Another big company, also global and high profile.  They have embraced flexible working spaces for tens of thousands of employees.  They picked an excellent ergonomic chair and provided sit/stand desks to everyone which were 30″ deep by 60 ” wide.   The problem?  The height range of the desks were very limited and the lowest point was 29″ up to 42″.  So, if anyone was petite or tall, which many employees are, the desk would either be too low or too high – requiring a retro-fit.

These are just small examples of how someone with ergonomic expertise could have avoided these very expensive debacles.

Bringing an ergonomist in early can allow you to carefully plan and choose the best:

  • Chairs
  • Desks
  • Lighting
  • Design
  • Meeting Rooms
  • Soft Seating Areas
  • Work Flow
  • Wellness Rooms
  • Ambient Features (noise, colors, smells, etc.)

Ergonomists can also help create content and training for teaching people how to interact with their new beautiful spaces.

No matter how slick, beautiful, high tech and impressive a workspace may look, if at the end of the day, the employees experience is negative and causes things like headaches, back aches, sore arms, hands, shoulders etc., then the project will fail.

So, if you are in the midst of an office makeover or build out –  or just a the incipient stages of planning one, please know that ergonomics is an integral part of the projects success.

Until the next time!










  • Koen Wijgaerts
    Posted at 12:44h, 30 January Reply

    So true!!!! Thank you so much for this article. It motivates me to work even harder in ergonomics.

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