Ergonomics of new technology changing office design

Technology we use at work is changing.  Laptops, smartphones, tablets are all providing mobility over the predominant desktop PC.  Much of this has developed to help us work on the road but it is also having an impact on the way our offices and workspaces are designed.

The shortcoming of the desktop has always been that it fixes us to a desk, a single work position.  The experience of many people suggests that whether this work position is provided in a cubicle or an open plan office, none of these environments work for all the tasks we need to do during a working day.

This mobility has meant we have discovered new workspaces like coffee shops as an alternative both for collaborative work and for solo work: for many of us there are fewer distractions sitting in the hubbub of a public space – we even came across the Coffivity app recently that pipes the coffee shop sound into our headphones!

How is office design adapting to this?  Designers are truly considering the ergonomics of the office.  By this we mean the true definition of ergonomics which is about designing around human capabilities and the performance of tasks (it’s not just comfy chairs and health & safety!)

Office design now recognises that we need a range of work spaces to support different working modes and styles.

In our studio (below) as an example, we’ve included a single large desk that has no defined working positions – it’s like  working on the kitchen table with mates and encourages people to sit together or to spread out when they need to.

This is great for encouraging collaborative team work.  New offices are proving other work spaces like coffee house/cafe spaces, meeting rooms in different forms with different media and spaces to encourage those accidental interactions.

Learning the lessons of the productivity failing of the open plan space, more offices are being design with quiet spaces where you can move and retreat when you need to.  Technology helps by not tying us down to a single space.

All this is good for our welfare.  Not only are we likely to be more productive and less stressed by spaces like open plan but it gets us moving around.  And there is nothing better for our bodies than getting up and away from our desk.

This remains important as these new technologies are changing our posture – for a great longer read on this, check out this article in Metropolis.



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