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This guest post is by fitness consultant and freelance health writer Claire Morgan, who wishes to share her tips for getting more exercise at work.
Millions of us have office jobs and spend most of our time sitting down. Sitting all day and not moving your body is bad for your health and it can even affect your focus levels at work. If you get your body moving and blood flowing you will increase the oxygen levels in your brain and benefit your body in many ways. That is why it is essential to incorporate exercise into your day, or better yet, make it part of your workday. So, let’s see how you can improve your fitness when you work in an office.
Change your commute
The first and probably the best fitness tip is to change the way you commute to your office. There is a fair chance that you don’t have to take a cab or subway every day to get to work. Instead, you can rely on your bike to get there and get some exercising before work. Also, if your office is not that far away you can take a walk. However, if you are far away from work, you can take the bus or subway but get off a few blocks early and walk to your office. For those of you who drive to work, you can park further from the building and get moving before spending an entire day at the office. Lastly, don’t take the elevator to your office - take the stairs and get the blood pumping.
Stand up at work
Even if your chair is really comfy and ergonomic, you shouldn’t spend the entire workday sitting. Instead, see if there is an option to get a sit-stand desk. If such desks are not an option, then there are alternatives. Take smaller brakes for walking around or at least standing and stretching a bit. You can even stand and walk while talking on your phone, or walk to your colleague’s desk to chat instead of sending them an email or instant messages.
Keep fitness gear at your office
We're not saying you have to lug a treadmill to the office, but there's plenty of hand-held equipment you can use to get a good workout. Keep your gear at your desk. Bring your resistance bands, stretchy cords, rollers, small weights and even jumping rope. You can take them to the park at lunch, or even surreptitiously do a few reps at your desk.
Take fitness breaks
Instead of hanging out in the lounge sitting and eating, you should opt for a fitness break. You can take that time to walk around the block, hike a few flights of stairs or stretch a bit. Also, if you’d like to get some cardio, Fighting Report blog recommends using a skipping rope as a form of light but effective cardio exercise. This will definitely get your blood flowing and body moving, making you more ready for the upcoming tasks of the day.
Bring a fitness ball
Bring in a fitness ball to use occasionally as a break from your chair. You shouldn't use it as a total replacement, but enjoying a swap every hour or so for a few minutes encourages you to move. It can be a firmly inflated fitness or stability ball, it’s only important that you can safely balance on it. With this ball you are not sitting on a firm surface so you will be forced to keep your back straight, helping you improve your balance. Every core muscle will be engaged, helping you strengthen your core and supporting back muscles. What's more, you can use your ball during the breaks to get some exercises (try some wall squats!).
Since we sit a lot, our musculoskeletal systems can become overworked and tense. That is why you should do some light stretching every single day. Two key parts of your body that need to be stretched out are your back and glutes.
For stretching your glutes, you can come into the downward facing dog and keep your legs straight and hips high. This will give your glutes and leg muscles a nice stretch. For your back, you can lie face down with your legs together and arms underneath the shoulders. Then, lift and extend your body off the ground using your back muscles to give them a bit exercise and stretch them.
Besides these simple exercises and tips, it’s also important that you drink plenty of water and eat a balanced diet.
Over the past few decades there's been a huge shift in how people choose to spend their time. Technology has made everything easier, quicker and more convenient, freeing up time for us to create and innovate but also keeping us rooted to our desks.
Thanks to the Internet we all have the freedom and space to post our weird and wonderful creations - travelogues, artworks, reviews, how-tos and (of course) cat videos. There are around 23 million YouTube channels and over 500 million blogs in existence, representing hours and hours of time spent typing, clicking and tapping at a screen.
In the comfort of our own homes we're much more likely to adopt risky postures, like slumping on the sofa, propping laptops up at awkward angles and having our feet underneath us or on furniture. The Display Screen Equipment (DSE) regulations don't apply to the millions of people creating content in their bedrooms and home offices, but this doesn't protect them from back pain, RSI or any of the other musculoskeletal disorders associated with sitting for too long at a workstation.
Since launching in November 2018, our Opløft Sit-Stand Platform has piqued the interest of several bloggers, including 18-year-old social media influencer Saffron Barker, better known by her young female fan-base as Saffy B. Saffron vlogs to an audience of more than two million about her daily life - the make-up she wears, her gym routine and her family antics. Off the back of her successful YouTube career she's also launched three fashion ranges for Primark and published a book called Saffron Barker Vs Real Life.
The entrepreneurial vlogger recently posted a behind-the-scenes video of her editing set-up, revealing that she's been using an Opløft Sit-Stand Platform to move between sitting and standing while she works. Describing it as her 'new favourite thing', Saffron said:
"When I'm sitting down to edit in my bedroom I find I'm so tired. But if I'm working while standing up I'm so much more productive. [Opløft ] is great because I can go and edit in the kitchen, or take it around the house."
You can watch the full vlog for yourself, and benefit from our exclusive discount code, here:
You won't believe what I'm about to tell you.. - YouTube
The Telegraph reported that young people in Britain are among the least active in the world, having been 'weaned on screen-time and starved of outdoor activity' growing up. Sedentary activities like playing video games, watching television and browsing social media have replaced being outdoors, and this shift in behaviour is reflected in the latest obesity statistics, which have reached record levels. One in 10 children are now obese before they even begin primary school.
For young people who spend a lot of their time at their computers studying, browsing online, or working on their blogs or YouTube channels, a sit-stand desk gives them an option to get up onto their feet and move out of uncomfortable positions.
At £299.99, Opløft is a more reasonable expense than a full-sized sit-stand desk, and because it's slim, lightweight and easy to operate, it can be moved from room to room and shared between family members.
Full time food and travel blogger Heidi Roberts of Kitchen Talk and Travels has also enjoyed the addition of an Opløft to her set-up. She told us:
"I spend hours on my computer and laptop. I sit and work at the dining room table which is my ‘desk’. I have arthritis in my knee so getting up and down from the table can be quite painful."
Weighing only 12 kg and sitting just over one inch high when collapsed to sitting level, Opløft is one of the most portable sit-stand desks on the market, which is what first attracted Heidi to the platform. She added: "I like the fact that it is portable and easy to raise. It's very easy to set up and move around the house. It's not too heavy and folds away nicely. It's easier to move to the music on the radio when I'm standing at my Opløft!"
You can read more about the Opløft and its many features by visiting our detailed product page.
The world is still divided on sit-stand desks. Ultimately, employers want to know whether they're going to see a return on investment. Our new Opløft platform and storage rack bundle presents a new concept in shared sit-stand working that's not only less of an expense (compared to a complete workstation refit), but also more flexible and better suited to the modern office.
Opløft, our most portable sit-stand platform yet, now comes with an optional storage rack that holds five Opløfts securely and neatly in one place. The rack stands on brake-loaded wheels, so it can be rolled around the office, into cupboards, against walls, or wherever it's needed for the day before being secured during loading and unloading. Employees can select a platform from the rack, carry it to their workstation and enjoy a few hours of sit-stand working before giving their Opløft a wipe-down and returning it to the rack for someone else to use.
This way workstations remain clear and uncluttered, Opløft platforms remain available for anyone to use at any time, and employers avoid the expense of switching an office of static workstations to full sit-stand desks - while still giving staff that all important freedom to stand up and move around when they need to.
Ready to dip a toe?
We know that lots of employers are still unsure about whether the purported health benefits justify the investment of sit-stand desks. Despite a mounting body of research in favour of sit-stand working, we still occasionally see a surge in negative press which is often fuelled by misconceptions about what sit-stand desks are for. The biggest misconception is that sit-stand desks are predominantly for weight loss.
What are the benefits?
It's important to note that standing up to work does not expend as much energy as a walk, a jog, or any other kind of workout. It should therefore not be used as a substitute for exercise, but as a supplement to active working habits. In fact, standing up for prolonged periods is just as risky as remaining seated. It's the movement and body adjustments that are important for reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and other health problems associated with prolonged inactivity. We recommend following the 20-8-2 principle where each half hour you spend 20 minutes sitting, eight minutes standing and two minutes moving or stretching.
When used as part of a wider health and wellbeing programme, sit-stand desks can make a huge difference to the way people feel and perform at work. We teamed up with University College London professor Vincent Walsh to study the effects of using an Opløft for one week on real office workers. The results were outstanding, with Professor Walsh commenting:
“The research was fairly conclusive in proving that having access to Opløft made people more productive. However, the greatest excitement was the results of the test for attention and concentration levels. Not only did our trialists perform much faster after using Opløft, but there was also a strong increase in their accuracy. People usually trade off accuracy when speed is increased, but Opløft users were able to improve both, which is impressive, and something I have never witnessed before.
"Equally impressive was the results of the decision-making test. Not only did Opløft users perform better than average but they continued to improve throughout the week, which is very uncommon in this specific test.”
The storage rack is a great solution for:
offices tight on space
Buy five Opløfts and we'll send you a free storage rack worth £599.95 to keep them secure and tidy at work.
We're in the 'decade of digital dependency' according to experts, glued to our screens wherever we go.
One report found that 40% of adults look at their phones within five minutes of waking up, leaping to 65% for those under 35. Millions of us then go to work to spend the day staring at computer screens, before returning home to watch the TV, or browse social media. Aside from the psychological and sociological implications of so much screen time, what is this doing to our eyes?
One of the most common effects of staring at back-lit screens for long periods of time is eye strain. Symptoms of eye strain include:
This happens for two reasons. The first is that when we look at a screen, our blink rate drops by about 50%. Blinking is what keeps our eyes hydrated, and not doing so can result in a dry, gritty feeling. The second is muscle fatigue. If focus is maintained for long periods, the muscles controlling the lens can become overworked and tired.
Share and download our poster, designed to help office workers take better care of their eyes.
To find out more about the risks of using display screen equipment (DSE) for prolonged periods, head to our guide to DSE health and safety.
If you have a messy desk it may well be a sign that you're a secret genius (according to this study) but unfortunately clutter is a real risk when it comes to your physical comfort and health. If you want to get the most out of that brilliant brain of yours, perhaps it's time to have a clear up.
The old adage goes that a cluttered desk leads to a cluttered mind, to which Albert Einstein famously said: "If a cluttered desk is a sign of a cluttered mind, of what, then, is an empty desk a sign?"
If you, like Einstein, are the type of person who prefers to work in a chaotic den of piled papers and accumulated detritus, it may be time to consider your posture and positioning. Are you reaching over things to find your mouse? Are you twisting to find documents? Are you perching devices on piles of things and craning your neck to see them? Clutter can cause you to reach and twist for your equipment which, over time and with repetition, puts stress on your musculoskeletal system and can lead to injuries in the back, neck, shoulder and arms.
We've drawn together some of our top tips for keeping your desk tidy. It's not about forcing yourself to work in a lifeless, sterile environment - which after all isn't productive for all of us. The idea is that with a little more order you'll have more space to adopt good posture and positioning, and hopefully be more comfortable and productive while you're at it.
1. Get crafty with cable management
Electrical wires have an amazing ability to become irretrievably tangled up in a terrifying and impenetrable mass when you're not looking. If perfectly good surface space is being taken up by your very own pet cable monster, you may want to think about investing in cable management. If you have a sit-stand desk, try our new Spiral Cable Management Spine, which can stretch and compress as you move your desk from sitting to standing height without dislodging any of your equipment.
Another great tip for cable management is to go wireless where possible. We sell a variety of excellent wireless keyboards and mice online. Make sure you use your mouse and keyboard to the front of your body to minimise reaching and twisting.
2. Have an end-of-day clear up, every day
It's tempting, when you finish your last task of a particularly long and onerous day, to switch off, stand up and sprint home without a backwards glance at the graveyard of scummy coffee mugs and unintelligible post-it notes you left behind. Instead of relying on 'tomorrow you' to clean up yesterday's mess, make a habit of having a quick tidy up just before you leave for the evening. This way, clutter never has a chance to build up, and you can deal with any scrawled ideas and notes before you forget what they mean.
3. Discover the productivity-enhancing joys of a document holder
If your job ever requires you to glance rapidly between a computer screen and a piece of paper (or a tablet/phone), say if you're typing up notes, or referencing something, then it's worth considering a document holder. At the very least, it's probably going to ramp up your work speed, improve your accuracy, lower your chances of hurting your neck, and almost certainly make your desk a bit tidier.
Position the document holder directly in front and just below your screen so you only need to move your eyes up and down to see your documents - not your entire head. This'll also keep all your papers in one lovely, neat and easily-accessible place, rather than scattered haphazardly across the surface of your desk.
4. Be smart with storage
If you find that you're constantly battling with a never-ending tide of desk mess, it may be that you're lacking in adequate storage. Our pedestals are designed to slot neatly underneath your desk, offering secure, spacious storage for desk clutter. Just make sure there's enough room for your legs. Both feet should be flat on the floor with your knees angled slightly lower than your hips.
5. Use a tablet or laptop stand
These days it's not uncommon to be surrounded by a solar system of technological devices as we work at our desktops. This can add to the feeling of mess and clutter, and cause us to twist our bodies in compromising ways. We recommend investing in a tablet or laptop stand.
The new Vision is a two-in-one solution that can be configured for laptop or tablet use. It elevates your screens to a comfortable viewing angle to help you avoid tech neck, and keeps your devices in a safe, accessible place.
6. Keep a bin within reach
It's a simple tip but having a bin within reasonable throwing distance leaves you with no excuse to leave empty packets and balled up pieces of paper all over your desk. Just try not to leave them on the floor either.
7. Disinfect regularly, or use antimicrobial equipment
Here's an unpleasant fact: studies show that our computer keyboards can be significantly more germy than toilet seats. Your hands touch a lot of surfaces during the day, spreading all kinds of bacteria to your workstation. To reduce the spread of germs and unpleasant food-derived grime, have a spritz of disinfectant every once in a while, or - another option, use antimicrobial products.
We submitted our specially-treated Penguin mouse to a scientific trial and found 83% less bacteria on it compared to a non-treated mouse used for the same period of time. Our Number Slide Keyboard is made with the same treated plastic.
8. Install adjustable monitor arms
An instant way to free up space and improve the ergonomics of your workstation is to mount your screen (or screens) on adjustable monitor arms secured to the back of your desk. Make sure your monitor sits directly in front of you at arm's length with the top of the screen level with your eyes.
Pens spawn and multiply when you're not looking. If you're not careful, biros will take over your desk. Invest in a pen holder to keep them all safely contained.
10. Keep a DSE check-list within sight
Finally, intimidate yourself into tidiness by keeping a DSE check-list like this one within sight. Remember that you need a clear space around you to maintain a good working posture, and you need a good working posture to properly manage your risk of musculoskeletal disorders like back pain and RSI.
That rounds off our top 10 tips for keeping a tidy desk. Of course, you can always start from scratch. Shop our range of sit-stand desks here.
You may have noticed that we display several different chair categories on our website. It occurred to us recently that not everyone is as well-versed in the intricacies of chair terminology as we are, and that it may be worth explaining what the differences are between some of these seating types. Perhaps you're in the market for a new chair, perhaps you're just filling in some crucial gaps in your general knowledge. Either way, you're about to find out everything you'll ever need to know about executive chairs – the most luxurious and exclusive category in our range.
Executive chair – what is it?
An executive chair is a premium, tall-backed office chair providing comfortable support to the entire upper body. It's an icon of a bygone era – an era in which the height and quality of one's chair correlated closely with the seniority of their role. In other words, it's the boss chair. It’s the chair reserved for the upper echelons of company society – commanding power and authority with its tall, elegant back, sturdy arms and premium upholstery (traditionally black leather). Short of buying a throne, sitting on an executive chair is a great way of signalling to everyone that you're not to be trifled with.
But executive chairs aren't all about image. The high back and premium build quality guarantee next-level comfort, especially for tall people who can benefit from the extra space and back support that executive chairs offer.
Why buy an executive chair?
While all of the chairs we sell meet our strict quality criteria, our executive range is just that little bit fancier. You'll want to buy one if you:
Are looking for a stylish, high-end chair for your home office.
Have a senior role in your company, or are buying for someone who does.
Are particularly tall.
Simply enjoy the finer things in life.
What are the benefits of buying an executive chair?
Apart from the obvious benefit of having an extremely slick, stylish and comfortable chair to sit in while you work, here some benefits of choosing an executive chair (bearing in mind that all of the executive chairs we sell are ergonomic):
You can choose your own specifications to create a bespoke design, from back height and fabric colour, to the finish on your foot base.
Plenty of adjustment options so you can tinker with your chair until it perfectly supports you in all the right places.
Create a lasting impression - executive chairs are designed to look good, ideal for making good first impressions with visitors and clients.
Improve posture for lower risk of aches, pains, injuries and long-term health problems.
Reduce need for replacement - these are top quality chairs with an extremely decent build quality and generous guarantees (up to 10 years).
Designed by Svein Asbjørnsen somewhere between a fjord and a Norwegian mountain, the HÅG H09 Inspiration positively emanates Scandinavian cool. The back is made from strong, transparent mesh for comfortable ventilation and an attractive, contemporary look. You can choose from four high end fabrics, including classic soft black leather, tex grey and shimmer in white or black.
Another of Asbjørnsen's designs, HÅG H09 Excellence is just as elegant as its Inspiration cousin, but instead of the mesh back, it comes with a high-quality leather or smooth, felted wool back. It has a high backrest and an adjustable headrest, while HÅG in Balance® technology encourages natural movement while you sit.
This is the tallest backed chair in the H04 collection (which is not strictly a collection of executive chairs). But by adding the optional extras – like the neck rest, foot rest and arm rests, you can elevate an exceptionally good ergonomic chair to executive status without the very high price tag.
A modern take on a classic, the RH Extend offers high-end ergonomics packed into an elegant body padded for comfort and support. Enjoy easy-to-use controls and plenty of options, including a selection of arm rests. Incredibly, 100% of the RH Extend is recyclable.
RH Mereo is designed for enhanced performance in the workplace with ergonomic technology that supports your body’s natural structure while encouraging active sitting. It follows your natural movements to stimulate blood circulation and facilitate breathing. Just adjust the chair to your body, sit down and let the Mereo do the work
The workhorse of the collection, RH Logic is designed for 24-hour use (perfect for shift workers or workaholics). Based on the unique 'two-point principle' of upright posture and active sitting, the chair improves breathing and circulation, and stimulates the muscles. The one-to-one tilt action ensures that lower back support remains constant, whatever position the user sits in.
Price: From £869.00 Ex VAT
Want to know about correct posture and sitting? Visit our Art of Sitting guide.
If you've ever felt tight or achy around your shoulders and neck after a long day at your desk, you're not alone. Last year upper limb and neck problems accounted for most reported musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).
While MSDs come about for many different reasons, they can be triggered and made worse by sitting in poor, prolonged postures at a desk.
Being in pain is distracting and draining. If you do suffer from shoulder and neck problems, whether it's the odd twinge or full-time agony, it's worth making a few checks around your workstation and your general daily habits. Do you move enough? Are you positioned suitably? Is your equipment right for you?
We've created an infographic and series of accompanying print-friendly posters to make it easy to identify problems and solutions for neck and shoulder pain at work. Feel free to download and share with your colleagues. Often, just a few simple tweaks can make a huge difference to both comfort and productivity.
Do you want to know more about your DSE requirements and how to prevent and manage employee MSDs? Head over to our DSE guide for more information.
We ran our fifth Agile Working Event at London's impressive Law Society venue on Thursday 25 April, and the feedback has been so good that we thought we'd share it with you.
For the last few decades we've worked hard to protect the health, safety and wellbeing of our clients' employees through a range of products and services. Now, with the rise of portable technology and flexible working, our focus is expanding from typical stationary DSE situations to encompass a much broader range of environments.
Organisations are becoming increasingly agile, with many employees working remotely in a variety of locations - whether at hot desks, at home, or on the go. Agile working presents a new set of challenges for health and safety staff. At Posturite we feel that more guidance is needed to keep agile workers safe in a range of different environments. Over the past few years we've been developing tools and resources to help our clients do just that. We host our Agile Events to not only demonstrate these tools, but to share the latest knowledge and research findings from experts both within Posturite and from our network of contacts in science, healthcare, law, ergonomics and other relevant industries.
It's all about inspiring people to make healthy changes at work.
We were joined at our latest event in London by Professor Vincent Walsh, who talked about the benefits of sit-stand working, explaining findings from his University College London trial using the Opløft Sit-Stand Platform.
While previous studies have highlighted the physical health benefits of increased activity - such as reduced risk of musculoskeletal disorders, obesity and cardiovascular diseases - this is the first study of its kind to look at how productivity and emotional wellbeing may be enhanced with access to sit-stand desks at work.
After a week of the trial participants using the sit-stand platforms, Professor Walsh found a marked increase in performance over the following areas:
Concentration and vigilance
Event attendee Joe Fullbook, from Surrey Heath Borough Council, said: "I found all of the presentations very interesting, especially the presentation on the benefits of sit-stand working."
Fellow attendee Keisha Brown of Herbert Smith Freehills said: "I really enjoyed the session by Vincent Walsh. Being a professor I assumed that he would talk in 'science' language! He was able to explain things in the most enjoyable way. I would definitely attend a session run by him again."
The practicalities of agile working
Agile working looks great in theory, but how does it actually work in practice? This is the topic Head Consultant Katharine Metters and Seating Specialist David Kirtley set out to address in their presentation 'A Day in the Life of an Agile Worker'.
What do we need to thrive at work? How do we make sure employees get what they need in a range of agile working environments? Katharine and David walked the audience through a range of typical working environments, from hot-desking to home working, discussing risks and recommending solutions.
Attendee Keisha said: "Agile working is becoming increasingly popular within our business, so I attended this event to see if there is anything more that we can or should be doing for our employees.
"My number one speaker is Katherine Metters! I could literally listen to her all day. She has a plethora of knowledge and experience that so many of us in the world of health and safety can relate to or even learn something. Amazing!"
Another attendee, who wished to remain anonymous, said: "All the talks were interesting and I took away a lot of points to discuss with my team. I enjoyed it all, but I especially like the fact that I can now talk about 'agile workers' instead of 'hot-deskers', 'homeworkers', etc.. This was an amazing discovery! The minute we mention hot-desking we get resistance, but when you talk about agile workers and give the definition, it gets much more of a warm welcome! Thank you!"
Training agile workers doesn't have to be complicated
We've remastered content from our flagship AssessRite DSE course along with new material and extra content from our other key courses (manual handling, slips, trips and falls, office health and safety, working from heights, stress awareness), and built it into a brand new e-learning experience that takes users on a personalised journey through a range of agile working environments.
Bright illustrations, memorable characters, animations and interactive elements make learning about health, safety and wellbeing engaging, fun and genuinely useful.
We can easily roll this out to all of your employees. They choose the environments they're most likely to work in so none of the training is irrelevant. To find out more, head over to our WorkRite Agile page.
For all the good intentions of open plan office designs, they're not always suitable for those moments when staff need to shut the world off and concentrate.
We're all different, and while difference is a great thing in business - difference in skills, backgrounds, opinions, approaches, ideas - it's not such a great thing when everyone is put together in the same room and expected to be productive, regardless of the task they're completing.
For some people, silence itself is a distraction. They simply can't focus without a constant background buzz of noise and chatter. For others, the slightest sound jerks them out of their focus. Some roles require constant telephone use, others call for deep concentration. Some tasks are solitary, some demand help and collaboration with others. When we're all pooled together in the same open space, all doing different things in our own different ways, interests can clash.
This is the problem French engineers Pierre Guiu and Eric Behaim set out to solve four years ago when they launched their crowdfunded startup Orosound. Both entrepreneurs hold multiple degrees in science and engineering; Pierre has worked for over 10 years in consumer electronic development, specialising in noise-cancelling headphones, while Eric has published research on visual speech analysis in three journals and frequently presents his findings at international conferences.
Together they designed Tilde® Noise-Filtering Earphones, now-winner of nine prestigious awards and recently described by TechHub as one of “15 of the coolest wired and wireless earbuds seen at CES [the largest consumer technology convention in the world]".
The lightweight Tilde® earphones fit comfortably into your ears to give you full control over your working environment. Suited to both concentration and collaboration, these revolutionary wireless earphones allow you to precisely control the noise levels around you.
The selective noise-control 60° cone allows you to hear the person directly in front of you while reducing distracting background noise, enabling you to hold a conversation without removing the earphones. Adjust the noise control from 0 to -30 decibels with the 4 dedicated microphones so you can meet your own preferred sound level.
Focus on work in blissful silence, or enjoy crystal clear music to help boost your productivity. Tilde noise-cancelling earphones come with a comfortable neckband and a selection of different sized eartips for absolute comfort. As an added bonus, the wireless multi-point connectivity allows you to connect to multiple devices without fixing you to one spot - a must-have for all agile workers.
If asked to think of an extreme environment, you're probably more likely to think of a cold tundra, or the side of a mountain than, say, an air conditioned office. But as Professor Mike Tipton mentioned at the beginning of his fascinating webinar with us a few weeks ago, the workplace can be an extremely challenging environment that requires careful planning and risk assessment just like any venture into adverse conditions outdoors.
"The office environment can be an extreme environment for a wide range of physical and psycho-social reasons," Mike commented. "Even in our open plan office we have conflicting requirements for air temperature for comfort between men (21°C) and women (24°C), people sitting by windows feel too hot or cold depending on season and sunlight. There are also adverse reactions to air conditioning, sick building syndrome and the issues surrounding interpersonal relationships."
It's widely accepted that spending too much time in a poorly designed and ventilated building can make us ill, producing symptoms similar to that of a common cold, including:
dry or itchy skin or skin rash
dry or itchy eyes, nose or throat
headaches, lethargy, irritability, or poor concentration
stuffy or runny nose.
UK workers spend an average of 37 hours a week at work. If all of this time is spent in an unpleasant environment with poor lighting, ventilation, lack of space, insufficient equipment and unhealthy habits, performance and employee satisfaction is bound to be affected.
Here are some of the main ways an office can feel like an extreme environment:
Poor air quality
As many as 800,000 people across the globe die every year from poor air quality at work, according to one Lancet study. As we explore in our blog Clear the air at work to boost productivity, indoor air can be just as polluted as the air outside, if not more so - and the long-term effects can be devastating, from lung cancer and acute lower respiratory infection, stroke and heart disease.
We recommend investing in a commercial air purifier like AeraMax® PRO, which constantly monitors air quality and filters out contaminants (including mold spores, germs, dust, volatile organic compounds, odours and allergens) as required.
Stressful interpersonal relationships
Environments become challenging and even extreme when the people inside them aren't getting along. If there are clashes of character or poorly managed teams working in an open plan office, this can create a tense environment that may exacerbate or even trigger mental health issues such as stress and anxiety.
Mental health issues like stress, depression and anxiety are the third most common reason people take sick leave from work.
Anyone who's worked in an open plan office probably has, at some point, had a small dispute over the thermostat. As Professor Mike Tipton has already pointed out, optimal temperatures differ from person to person. Being asked to focus in an environment that is uncomfortably hot or cold can be detrimental to both wellbeing and productivity.
Posture and DSE set-up
For DSE users the office can be a particularly risky place. Sitting at an unsuitable workstation for long periods of time can encourage users into poor postures that eventually lead to painful and debilitating musculoskeletal disorders like back pain and RSI - which cost the economy billions each year in sick leave and lost productivity.
It's important to have DSE users assessed. This can be achieved in three different ways:
Offices are generally sedentary places, with most people rooted to their desks for significant portions of the day. This, as we know from emerging research, can be deadly. In fact a recent study found that too much sitting is the cause of 11.6% of all annual deaths, costing the NHS around £700 million every year.
It's important that offices embrace active working as part of everyday life. Staff should be encouraged to take regular breaks to walk and stretch. Ideally, sit-stand desks or platforms should be installed and adjusted between sitting and standing positions at least every 40 minutes.
In his webinar, Mike said: "We become so good at controlling our environment that the day-to-day variations that we saw in the past - hunting, being in a cold environment at night and a warm environment during the day, have completely disappeared and as a consequence of that, we've got all of these conditions that have evolved. We've become sedentary, we've become obese, we've developed diabetes, we've got cardiovascular disease - that would be in part cured by being more active, and by challenging the system."
Mike Tiptonis Professor of Human & Applied Physiology at the Extreme Environments Laboratory at the University of Portsmouth. He is fascinated by effects of adverse environments on the human body and mind, and is considered a voice of authority on the subject. Mike and his team are currently preparing Olympic athletes for conditions in Tokyo next year.
Watch the webinar - Cold water immersion: kill or cure?
We’ve known for centuries that immersion in cold water can quickly result in death by drowning, cardiac problems or hypothermia. We have also believed that taking to the sea has health benefits. Recently open cold water swimming has become increasingly popular, with claims for health benefits ranging from improved immunity to a treatment for depression. Which is right? What should you do if you want to swim safely this summer or survive a cold water immersion? Find out in Mike's webinar, ready to watch below.
Cold water immersion: kill or cure? | Posturite Webinars - YouTube