Companies like Microsoft have found tremendous benefits in the practice of hot desking, in which workers are not assigned permanent desks, but rather work at any available station. This practice has been found to increase creativity and inspiration and foster collaboration. It creates a culture in which work is something people do as opposed to somewhere people go.
Employees are attracted to hot desking because it is more casual and open. Some view it as adventurous, with each day bringing something new, and a new connection with a different colleague. Hot desking enables workers to be around a variety of people each day and adds to their flexibility and mobility.
Companies value hot desking for the same reason as employees do and also because it can dramatically cut overhead costs. Franklin Becker, director of the International Workplace Studies Program at Cornell University says that “about 70 percent of the time people in jobs like management consultancy, sales and customer service are not at their desks. That is a constant statistic across country boundaries.”
In fact, a study by Citrix found that “by 2020, organizations are set to reduce office space by almost a fifth (17 percent). The workplace of the future will provide just seven desks for every ten office workers, with each person accessing the corporate IT network from an average of six different computing devices.”
Hot desking and ergonomics
Microsoft offers a number of environments supporting collaboration including:
- Teamwork benches
- Enclosed and semi-enclosed meeting rooms
- Open informal meeting areas
- Concentration booths
- Individual work carousels
- Work lounges
These offerings are a great first step to promoting employee creativity and collaboration. The next logical step is to invest in optimizing employees’ health through ergonomic tools, toys and education. By encouraging employees to get set up properly in every work location, companies demonstrate that they care for their employees’ health and well-being. With this, employee retention increases, along with concentration, effectiveness, and efficiency.
Often in shared-work environments, the following optimization can improve the posture, health, and well-being of those who use the space:
Fully adjustable monitor arms
Setting up monitors on fully adjustable monitor arms enables employee to connect laptops and adjust to their needs quickly. This allows them not to stare down into laptop all day. Per ergonomic expert Craig Stewart, “The activity of holding the head forward of the torso, requires muscles of the neck and back to be overworked and fatigued. And it also results in neck, shoulder and low back pain because it’s fatiguing the muscles and structure. If you have any weakness in these areas, the discomfort can be even greater.”
These devices can be provided for laptop users to raise the viewing and help relieve the neck angles that result when staring down at the monitor for hours at a time. Essential tools for this solution include the keyboard and mouse that offer the adjustability for the upright laptop holder.
Fully adjustable ergonomic chairs
By providing chairs with seat depth adjustment, back height and back forward tilt angle (key adjustment), arms that adjust in and out, and most importantly, lower out of the way, employees can avoid common pitfalls.
For example, in hot desking situations, often the shoulders are raised resting on chair arms that are too high and too wide. The height of the arms (and the table) force the shoulders up, the width of the arms (away from the body) round the back and there is compression from resting on the ends of the arm caps. The end result is static awkward postures resulting in stiffness and discomfort over time.
Also, when the chair back is not height adjustable and the back design flares back, it offers no support to the upper and lower back. This posture coupled with no upper and lower back support puts all the pressure on the low back area.
Consider also providing different size chairs for different size people. Perhaps a color code would make it easy to grab the right chair and set up.
When people use the chair base as a footrest or dangle feet, their hips are very high above their knees. Using the footrest stackers keeps feet supported, which provides immediate relief to the low back!
Sit to Stand Carts
Add a few sit to stand carts or desks with smaller footprints to give people a variety of options for good posture and break up just sitting and working. These workstations will become very popular and are great for posture variation.
Place one of these mats at each stand desk to encourage circulation and ease the discomfort of the knees and feet.
Personal ergonomic tools
Provide each employee the following accessories to make ergonomics a priority anywhere they choose to work:
- Portable low profile keyboard and Ergonomic mouse or roller mouse
- Gel wrist rest for cushioning wrist when resting on table’s edge
- Spill proof water bottle for hydration
About Karen Burke
Karen is the founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.