There’s more to an ergonomic office than chairs that support your back – it’s an entire approach to furniture and to office design, and it can promote worker well-being and productivity. Here’s our guide…

For most people, the term ’ergonomic office’ probably conjures images of those Scandinavian-style kneeling chairs.  True, such chairs are ergonomically designed to improve posture and protect the back – but there is far more to the subject of ergonomics than chairs that look different.

Put simply, an ergonomic office is about designing or organising workplaces, products and systems so that they are suitable for the people who use them – a scientific approach that places human comfort and efficiency at the heart of the process.

With an estimated 600,000 UK workplace injuries attributed to outdated or unsafe office furniture every year, it’s a subject that employers cannot afford to ignore. Apart from the importance of minimising the risk of staff injuries, it makes sense to invest in well-designed ergonomic furniture – to ensure that your employees can work as comfortably and efficiently as possible.

What is an ergonomic chair?

The ergonomic chair has become a basic requirement in offices, and there are good reasons for this. They are designed to:

  • support and reduce stress to the neck, spine, and hips
  • enable the user to stay upright while working
  • promote and support good posture while sitting

Ergonomic chairs take account of the time people spend looking at computer screens or laptops, while still being able to use other areas of desk space with ease – to refer to paperwork, for example. They provide upright support for typing and allow users to gently recline to ease back muscles for other tasks such as phone calls.

Their most important features are adjustable lumbar support, seat height adjustment,  lockable dynamic tilt, and height adjustable armrests.  This functionality is to accommodate individual differences in height, arm and leg lengths. Adjustability is key.

Ergonomic sit-stand desks

The office chair is, however, just one example of ergonomic furniture. Recent years have also seen the increasing popularity of sit-stand desks, which are designed to ensure that office staff don’t have to spend entire working days sitting down. Human anatomy doesn’t lend itself to spending hours in a chair and a sedentary working life can lead to many long-term physical and health problem. In California they are now saying “Sitting is the new Smoking”!

Sit-stand desks enable office staff to change their work position, from sitting to standing, regularly, easily and comfortably throughout the day. A recent study by Loughborough University examined a group of NHS office staff who had the option of using a sit-stand desk. They spent less time seated than their colleagues, were less tired, more involved with their work, and experienced fewer musculoskeletal problems.

These desks are already well established in Sweden and in Denmark, where employers have been legally required to offer them to staff since 2015. It’s estimated that eight in 10 of office workers in Denmark now have the use of a sit-stand desk; in the UK it’s just one in 100.

Adding stand-up working capability to an office does not need to be expensive, with a range of options available to suit every budget.

What other office furniture items and accessories are ergonomic?

In addition to chairs and desks, there is a wide range of ergonomic accessories and systems available. These include:

  • laptop risers and supports
  • tablet and smartphone supports
  • keyboards, mice and trackballs
  • arm and wrist supports for laptops and desktop computers
  • headsets
  • document holders and writing slopes
  • foot rests, switches, supports and rockers
  • posture aids including back and lumbar supports
  • desktop power charging
  • soft furniture (with appropriate height tables) that is firm and of a suitable seat height to allow staff to work effectively with laptops and notebooks in breakout areas

An ergonomic approach to office design

Furniture and equipment are only one dimension of workspace ergonomics. A good office designer will take an integrated approach that incorporates ergonomics into every element of planning.

An ergonomic layout will ensure workstations, meeting areas, boardrooms, rest areas, kitchens, and storage spaces are all optimally designed for the staff wellbeing, disabilities and productivity – using scientific principles to make the best possible use of the space available, while tailoring workstations to users and their tasks.

In furniture layout planning, ergonomic design includes spacing banks of desks to ensure appropriate space for staff to move between them (without creating a thoroughfare) and sizing meeting tables to maximise the number of people who can use them comfortably while ensuring there is sufficient room for easy access and egress.

Just as ergonomic chairs can make a significant difference to staff well-being, so too can ergonomic lighting. Inappropriate or poor office lighting can lead to computer vision syndrome, the symptoms of which include blurred vision, headaches, neck pain, itchy eyes and sleep problems.

Conversely, too much natural light in front of or behind users can cause  difficulty seeing monitors and veiling glare.

A good office designer will ensure you have the correct amount of light in every part of the workplace, appropriate to the tasks that take place.

Ergonomics for the home office

Planning an ergonomic office is just as important for a solo worker as it is for larger workplaces.

If you are self-employed and work at home, it can be tempting to skimp on equipping a home workspace – but this is a false economy. When you buy a desktop computer, a laptop or a smartphone, you want the assurance that it will be fit for purpose, easy to use, and will have a reasonable lifespan. So, apply the same principles to furnishing your workspace, even if you’re simply buying a chair.

Self-employed people often work far longer hours than the norm, especially in the early days of setting up a business. When you are the business, you need to be as healthy and as efficient as possible and that’s where ergonomic furniture can make a big difference.

Rype Office – the science of beautiful offices

An ergonomic office need not be expensive. At Rype Office we take a scientific approach to designing workspaces, with ergonomics integrated into every element.

This includes incorporating remanufactured furniture into the design, enabling clients to save money without  compromising on quality. We source the best materials and we are very proud of our workshop team, who have the knowledge and skills needed to remanufacture quality ergonomic furniture and create exceptional value.

At Rype Office we apply rational principles to create wonderful, ergonomic workspaces – we call it the science of beautiful offices.