Tag: furniture

Good ergonomics is essential to a productive and healthy workforce – and they cost almost nothing to implement.

Linda Trim, Director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap: “All enterprises should strive to create an ergonomically sound workspace for all employees. Quality furniture and good design is of course a great help, but it is the responsibility of each person to make sure they are using good ergonomics at their own workstations.”

Here are 7 easy-to-implement tips that will help optimise ergonomics:

1. Good working posture

The number one ergonomic priority is establishing a good working posture. “People should be able to sit or stand in a neutral body position with a relaxed posture that requires no stressful angles or excessive reaching to complete tasks, “ Trim said. Office workers should sit with hands, wrists, and forearms that are straight, inline, and parallel to the floor. The head should be level, facing forward with no turn to the left or right, and generally be in line with the torso.

2. Adjustable chairs and desks

To encourage good posture and the neutral body position, enterprises should install high-quality adjustable chairs, furniture, and equipment. “The more positions a chair and desk can adjust to, the more they can be tailored to the individual using them. When it comes to ergonomics, one size most definitely does not fit all, “ Trim noted.

3. Proper display height and distance

Monitors and other display devices should be placed at eye level. Viewing a display should not require straining the neck nor squinting the eyes. Ergonomics dictates that individuals not be required to turn their neck to the left, right, up, or down to view a display.

4. Keyboard and mice position

Said Trim: “While often ergonomic afterthoughts, the proper keyboard and mouse configuration is just as important as posture when it comes to neutral body positioning.” If people are reaching for the mouse at a bad angle or have to violate the inline parallel rule for elbows and wrists, they are going to lose neutral positioning. Reaching for input devices can lead to excessive fatigue, and after lengthy exposure, injury. Keyboards and mice should be accessed without breaking any of the neutral positioning rules.

5. Reducing repetitive movement

Even if an individual applies perfect ergonomic principals, repeating the same motion over and over will cause stress and eventually lead to injury.

“The best way to combat this is by changing tasks. Doing something else even for a short time will reduce potential for injury, “ Trim advised. When changing the task is not possible, individuals should periodically change the neutral positioning they are using – from the upright sitting position to standing, reclined sitting, or declined sitting.

6. Standing up and moving around

For office workers, this is a really important tip. Once an hour, workers should stand up and take a few minutes to walk down the hall, get a drink, look out the window, anything that gets them out of their chair.

7. Environmental setting

Often overlooked when discussing ergonomics is the overall working environment. “Proper lighting, temperature and humidity are ergonomic essentials,” said Trim.

Lighting should not cause glare on computer screens, which means that many workplace settings should be equipped with softer light systems. Lighting that is good for reading printed material is not necessarily the best lighting for computer displays

Temperature settings are trickier since because of individual preferences, but every attempt should be made to maintain a temperature that is comfortable for as many people as possible.

Trim added that Giant Leap advise user training with all of their projects to allow people to get the benefits out of their furniture and office.

During the last decade, the workplace has undergone dramatic change: but it pales in comparison to how new organisational structures will impact the work environment as we move towards 2020.

Isla Galloway-Gaul, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Our ways of working have changed as many societies become wealthier, as consumers demand new types of products and services and as we constantly seek to increase productivity.”

She notes that there are four megatrends, which will have a profound impact on how we work:

The rise of mobile knowledge workers

A knowledge worker uses research skills to define a problem, identify possible solutions, communicate this information and then works on one or several of these possible solutions. “The rise of knowledge workers sets new requirements for office design. Knowledge work is flexible, and knowledge workers are far more likely than other types of workers to work from home and be more mobile.

“The design of the work environment must be adapted to specific work needs as well as suit personal preferences, “ Galloway-Gaul notes.

Burst of new technology

For more than 30 years, IT and mobile advancements have had a profound influence on how we work and it’s likely this exponential advance will continue.
A few emerging technologies are already so advanced that it is possible to gauge their future influence. For example the Internet of Things, a connected network of physical devices, can connect and exchange data, resulting in efficiency improvements, economic benefits, and reduced human efforts. Real time speech recognition and translation will support easier communications between different language speakers and big data will allow companies to recognise patterns and make better decisions.

From Generation X to Generation Y

Generation X describes people born from the early 60s to the early 80s, many of whom hold now senior and work-influential positions in society today. Generation Y, often referred to as millennials, represent the generation that followed Generation X.

Says Galloway-Gaul: “Looking ahead to understand how our ways of working will change, it is necessary to understand what Generation Y need from their workplace, what their characteristics are like and how differently they see the world.” For example millennials tend to be more family-centric which means they are willing to trade higher pay for a better work-life balance. They are also the most tech-savvy generation which makes remote work possible, even desirable. They are achievement orientated and seek frequent new challenges.

Globalisation and the pressure to perform

Globalisation affects how we work in at least two ways. “Firstly, there is a now a larger, global talent pool available which means talent is more geographically dispersed and culturally diverse.

“As we head towards 2020, people will increasingly work with co-workers they have never met before,” Galloway-Gaul says.

Secondly, globalisation increases the pressure to perform. Previously companies could produce goods and have a secure home market with limited competition. “Now many products are sold at similar or more cost effective prices with the same or better service, and innovation is copied by competitors within weeks. This puts the question of whether work or services should be outsourced to other countries on the strategic agenda of any corporation,” Galloway-Gaul concludes.

Increasingly offices are beginning to look a lot more like our homes. But what is behind this popular global trend?

Linda Trim, Director at workplace design specialists Giant Leap said: “The term ‘resi-mercial,’ has been coined to describe this blending of residential and commercial furnishings and feel in the workplace. We are seeing greater numbers of requests for our installations to look more casual and more like home.”

Trim noted that it is all about about creating a space that people want to be in. When you think that we spend about a third of our lives working, no one wants to feel like they’re in an office.

“It’s not so much managing work, home and play but the blending of it.”She added that with more people using laptops instead of desktop computers, people are no longer tethered to a desk. “People pick up their laptops and will perhaps sit or lounge on a couch, much like they they do at home.”

More comfortable work space also appeals to younger employees Trim noted. “This is a really important consideration for companies in competition to attract and retain skilled workers.”

A mix of desks and couches is practical too – it makes it easier to do different types of work, from collaborative brainstorming sessions to heads down work.But it’s not just all about adding colourful sofas around the the office. Beyond the traditional desk, there are different sized couches, bar-tall tables let people sit or stand, and even work spaces that resemble a kitchen table or diner are popular.

“The right mix of furnishings can create an environment that increases employee engagement and satisfaction, which are considered key drivers to a company’s success. A space plays a role in the cognitive, physical and emotional well-being of workers. In that world, you have to think more about informal spaces,” says Trim.

Trim adds that home-like offices reduced the sense of hierarchy in offices. “Previously the ‘boss’ would have his own office in the corner while workers sat in rows somewhere else. A more casual environment does away with this old fashioned rigidity and can therefore reduce the tension in the workplace.”

By Michael Holder for BusinessGreen

Upcyclers turn old desks, chairs, and carpets into new office furniture, saving money and delivering environmental benefits.

Making sure products and materials can be used again – rather than going to waste – is good for for both businesses and the environment. That is the premise that underpins the concept of the “circular economy”, an emerging sector the government estimates could deliver £23-billionn a year of benefits to UK businesses if resources were used more efficiently.

For example, one third of our office furniture – 300 tonnes per day – ends up in landfill.

Firms such as Rype Office create sustainable furniture from items that would otherwise get thrown away and is employing ‘upcyclers’ across its growing business to help turn the circular economy vision into a reality.

By Maria Dermentzi for Mashable

Plastic Whale is a professional plastic fishing company that offers boat trips during which tourists — while sightseeing — will pick up plastic from Amsterdam’s canals. The plastic bottles that are being collected get turned into office furniture, in collaboration with Vepa.

Ideas are the new currency of modern economies and it is no more evident than in recent billion dollar idea success stories like Airbnb and Uber which are now disrupting established industries.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says: “Increasingly companies are putting emphasis on new ideas to grow their business and stand apart from the competition.

“We live in an ideas age and business are recognising that fact and today’s offices must support the ‘cult’ of new ideas. And in comfort of course.”

These are the biggest office trends expected in South Africa in 2018:

Idea-centric offices

“Because ideas are so important to the new economy in 2018 so we expect to see more idea centric offices that enable creative thinking. Many people think creativity is just for creatives but it should facilitated and encouraged in all aspects the working life because it helps all areas of business,” Andrews noted.

“There is a misconception that creativity is a ‘light bulb’ moment but it’s not. Creativity is really a haphazard, tricky problem solving process that should allow people to work in groups but also alone. Offices should therefore create spaces where people can work in a creativity supporting way.

This year Andrews expects an even greater shift away from traditional ‘battery farm’ corporate workplaces to places that are more like creative studios – that means different kinds of workplaces that offer uninterrupted individual focus, developing ideas in a pair, generating solutions as a group, converging around ideas and allowing time for diffused thinking.

“These different options allow the mind to wander.”

Unconventional work area design

An extension of idea-centric offices is the unconventional work area design.

“These are not just for hipsters working at Google anymore. Unconventional work offices now offer meditation spaces, dressed-down conference rooms complete with sofas, bean bag chairs, vibrant colours, and lots of room for fun, stress busting activities like ping pong or foosball.”

Offices all over the world are adopting these new and unorthodox working and meeting spaces to attract young talent and make working spaces more fun and collaborative.

Home-style comforts

“We are receiving a growing number of requests to make South African offices more  relaxed and people friendly so people don’t feel they are sitting in a such a severe place,” Andrews adds.

Demand for homestyle comfort design is a sign that employers are listening to the desires of their employees and figuring out new, fun ways to get them to stay at work longer. This design trend is all about making offices feel more comfortable or homelike.

Dynamic spaces

Dynamic spaces is another big trend. They are typically defined by lightweight and moveable furniture with wheels, doors to open extra space, moveable green wall dividers and wipe boards or chalk boards. They are moveable, constantly fluctuating, engaging, and can transform from a space for company parties and activities to traditional conference rooms or meeting areas.

Said Andrews: “Dynamic spaces offer the opportunity for businesses to be a lot more creative with their space. Businesses are constantly changing and becoming more flexible, allowing colleagues and staff to try new things in innovative ways.”

Greenery & nature

More a long-standing design principle than a trend, this is not just about adding a few plants here and there around the office.

“This goes much further by integrating nature through the building in the form of textures, patterns, plants and natural lighting. Being close to nature and living plants instills a greater sense of calm in offices. While not new, we are seeing a strong increase in demand for green in the workplace,” Andrews concludes.

Let the light shine in

A recent survey of office workers across South Africa has revealed the top five things people want from their office space.

Linda Trim, director at Giant Leap, says that the survey was carried out late last year and queried just over 3000 office workers on what mattered to them most in the workplace.

“Unsurprisingly 42% said more natural light was the the most important element.

“It so simple but often design gets so caught up in the fancier things, people forget the importance of sunlight to humans’ sense of well-being.

“This is especially true in the workplace, where traditionally there has been a focus on issues of layout and safety – important factors, but not the only elements affecting happiness at work.”

Second on the list was ‘quiet working spaces’ at 22% and in third ‘was a view of the sea’ at 20%.

“Increasingly we are installing quiet zones for our big clients. People need to escape from what is often a noisy and disruptive environment to really get work done.

“A typical office work switches activities about every three minutes and half of these switches were caused by interruptions. Interrupted work is usually resumed however it takes workers about 20 minutes to get back to what they were doing.”

She adds that views of the sea were a nice to have but not practical for inland cities. “We have found however that placing large pictures of peaceful natural places like forests, mountains or the sea does create a calming atmosphere in the office.”

Rounding out the list was ‘live indoor plants’ at 18% and ‘bright colours’ at 15%.

“The recent trend to create clinical uncluttered offices doesn’t make people more productive or help them concentrate better.”

Trim noted that a green office signals to employees that their employer cares about their well-being.

“Adding live plants will pay off through an increase in office workers’ quality of life and productivity.”

Another factor that made offices better places to work was the right use of colour.

“Bland colours induce feelings of sadness and depression while grey and white can also contribute to feelings of gloom and anxiety.

“Scientific studies have shown that colours don’t just change our moods, they also profoundly impact productivity.

“That’s why it’s best to decorate your workplace with a vibrant mix of stimulating hues that increase output and spark creativity,“ Trim says.

How space affects learning

South Africa faces a particularly challenging teaching environment with often overcrowded classrooms, distracted learners and hard working but sometimes under-qualified teachers.

And another, more subtle challenge is that traditional teaching classroom experiences are often not aligned with how the brain works, particularly as it relates to attention.

Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office, says that learning institutions in South Africa can achieve far better results by better understanding how learning works.

“There are so many things vying for student attention today it makes it harder to get attention and therefore engagement but there are five things that can be done to dramatically improve results:

Seat location impacts attention

A study by Kennesaw State University revealed that where students sit in the classroom impacts focus. Says Andrews: “Students in the front and middle of the classroom stayed on task, while those in the back were more distracted. An active learning classroom where students easily moved and rearrange their seating enables them to stay attentive.”

Classrooms configured with no fixed position where the instructor must stand and mobile seating create better results. Here an teacher or student can address the class, lead a discussion and share content from anywhere in the classroom. There’s no front or back of the classroom, and since the seating allows students to change posture and position easily, every seat is the best seat in the room.

Active learning

Research by Diane M. Bunce, et. al. on “How Long Can Students Pay Attention in Class?”, compared a passive lecture approach and active learning methods. Researchers noted fewer attention lapses during times of active learning. They also found fewer lapses in attention during a lecture that immediately followed a demonstration or after a question was asked, compared to lectures that preceded active learning methods. This suggests active learning may have dual benefits: engaging student attention and refreshing attention immediately afterward.

Physical movement fuels the brain

Schools are starting to incorporate more physical activity in the classroom, such as Delaney Connective, a high school in Sydney, Australia, where students do “brain pushups” each morning: five-minute, Tai Chi-like exercises that get the blood flowing and help students focus.
“Physical movement increases alertness and helps encode and trigger memory. Yet schools and teachers traditionally train students to be sedentary, and equate sitting still with greater attention and focus,” noted Andrews.
Simply allowing students to get out of their seats to move while learning provides the brain with much-needed novelty and change.

Novelty and change get attention

Our brains naturally seek out what’s new and different. Therefore varying materials and breaks facilitate attention. A study by Kennesaw State University found that students paid more attention when the professor reviewed quiz answers, presented new information or shared videos, essentially by changing things up.
Novelty and change facilitate learning in another way too. Repeating important points by engaging multiple senses helps to reinforce learning. There is a greater likelihood that learning will generalise outside the classroom if it is organised across sensory, physical, emotional and cognitive networks.

Learning has a natural rhythm

The need for periods of both quiet focus and healthy distraction finds its parallel in learning.
Our brain can focus on a task for only so long, after which it needs a break for renewal to achieve high performance on the next task. Ignore this rhythm and we tend to lose focus.
“Researchers have found that people who respect this natural rhythm are more productive,” says Andrews. Breaks for rest and renewal are critical to the body and brain, as well as to attention span. The work of education is similarly organic, changing at different times of the term, week, even during a single class period.

Despite the well worn office mantra of group work being central to success, businesses often struggle to offer effective collaborative spaces. This is according to Inspiration Office, an Africa-wide office space and furniture consultancy.

Says Richard Andrews, MD of Inspiration Office: “Historically, most collaboration in South Africa has occurred through formal, scheduled meetings having many participants.

“As a result, organisations have had years of experience building conference rooms and other formal meeting spaces. These spaces were designed to facilitate large group work processes, efficient client exchanges of information and decision making.”

Andrews notes that the need for innovation, improved productivity and particularly speedy decision making are the principal drivers behind the charge towards collaborative, less structured workspaces.

“This is especially true when you consider 70% of great, innovative ideas at work come from people collaborating,” he says. “The search for competitive advantage through innovation and effective decision-making has led many organisations to highly value group-oriented work and workspaces.”

Today’s collaborative spaces fall short of expectations, driven by a lack of spaces to support the most valued types of collaboration, and a lack of adaptability of both furnishings and technology within the spaces.

“While the most highly prized collaborations are informal in nature, they need to be supported with the right design characteristics such as convenient location, support for social and small group work interactions, and casual look and feel.”

Most organisations consider the social component of work separate from “work” spaces. To foster social interaction, some copy the obvious characteristics of successful public spaces (the café, bar, market, lounge) mistakenly hoping that the variety of social interactions occurring in the public versions of these spaces will translate to a business setting.

However, organisations have few insights into supporting innovation other than to encourage as much interaction as possible and “wait for the magic to happen”. Organisations know their group spaces are under-performing, but do not know how to respond.

Andrews says that while the trend to establish comfortable, informal collaborative spaces within offices has taken hold in Europe and particularly in the US over the past few years, and to some degree in South Africa, he expects the trend to accelerate here in 2017.

“The economy is sluggish and adding a collaborative space in an unused office area means you can enhance office facilities without taking on extra spaces and bumping up the rent or spending a lot on expensive office reconfiguration.

“Another advantage is because these spaces typically consist of things like screened off areas, perch tables with high stools, booths with comfortable ottomans and chairs, they are easy to move to a new office.”

Andrews says that the types of collaborative spaces offered continue to evolve- the most rapidly growing categories support brainstorming, small unplanned meetings, videoconferencing and project team work.

“In the future, most collaborative spaces will offer features that facilitate connection to technology, sharing of visual information, adaptability to changing work process and amenities such as food, beverages and daylight,” he concludes.

What makes an office not just mediocre, but exceptional? How can a design that has all the functional elements be taken one step further?

It comes down to the little finishing touches. The splash of colours and textures. The furniture and art. The detail that is incorporated into the design. These finishing touches bring together the elements of a room and set the tone for the space.

Choose a design company, such as Giant Leap, who knows how to carefully choose these features, spending time pulling together the overall design of a room.

In 2016, Giant Leap has seen certain trends coming through with these finer details. A lot of natural materials, textures and neutral colours have been incorporated in the design and accessories. Pops of colour are brought in through aspects such as the art, scatter cushions for the furniture and the objects that may be placed around the room. At the moment, favoured materials are copper, brass, wood and marble.

An integral part is also ensuring that the overall design works with the finishing touches. Some offices have been designed with intentionally exposed elements, such as exposed roof beams or unpainted concrete. In these instances, the accessories or finishing touches will tie the space together and highlight the design. The finishing touches work hand-in-hand with the design to enhance the space and ensure that it leaves a positive impression.

Although lighting may not be considered a finishing touch, it is! The use of floor lamps, table lamps and pendants can provide a warmer, calming atmosphere, affecting how a space is perceived. It’s an important part of the design that can really tie together the tone of a room.

Ensure a design that is exceptional from floor to ceiling by inspiring creativity, enhancing productivity and focusing on the finer  details.

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My Office News Ⓒ 2017 - Designed by A Collective


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