Carol Johnson of Spaces Group on "The New Ergonomic Reality"

In our weekly blog, "Beyond the Bio," we ask MBQ Power Players to write a post of their choosing about their industry. This is the forth post from our June/July issue which features the category of Office Design. Last week, Deborah Vaughn talked about changing times in the office supply world. The week before, Chris Miller of Yuletide discussed his start in the business. Prior to that, Henrik Schmidt talked about celebrating a quarter of a century in the U.S.

A friend who works for a large Memphis corporation recited a story about her recent travel overseas. She toured a factory while there, and met a woman who weaves textiles. This woman works on a small stool 12” off the floor in a squatting position with her arms extended upwards to meet the loom, for at least 8 hours every day. After relaying the story to me, my concerned friend exclaimed, “that’s bad ergonomics”.

There was a time in the 1980’s when the new term “ergonomics” was unknown and misunderstood, but now even my non industry friends know the true meaning of that word and the impact it has on our working environment and ultimately our health. Good ergonomics matter. Good ergonomics can change one’s life, health and work.

Ergonomics as we know it today is an evolution of study based on the physical requirements and job demands that support a wide variety of postures. In other words, how we sit, stand, move and work needs to be supported by proper workplace furnishings for your task. At Spaces Group, the process of accessing an existing workplace for proper ergonomic support starts with this checklist:

1. Does the task chair permit unrestrained movement and flexibility in the upright and reclined positions? Today, work environments are much more collaborative than in years past and this trend is growing more and more popular with offices of all types and sizes. The task chair must provide the support and flexibility to properly accommodate a wide range of seated positions, from the traditional straight forward sit to many untraditional positions, postures, and situations.

2. Does the computer monitor arm support the many varying angles, positions and collaborative efforts within the workplace? Depending on the individual’s needs , reach and vision, a monitor must have the adjustability and ease of reconfiguration to support large scale, small scale and/or multiple monitors. In addition the user should be able to view it from all angles, heights and be easily adjustable to deflect glare as lighting changes throughout the day. The monitor arm should also be an unobtrusive visual within the workplace.

4. Does the type and level of lighting inspire and enhance the worker’s ability to perform? Once upon a time, ambient lighting consisted of rooms full of 2’ x 4’ fluorescent lighting fixtures which illuminated every nook and cranny. Times have changed. Varying levels, types and adjustability of lighting, depending on the task, can enhance the overall efficiency of performance and job productivity. Thoughtful selection and position of lighting simply cannot be overlooked.5. Is an adjustable and supportive keyboard tray being offered to all employees? This product, and the adjustability it offers the user, can reduce wrist, elbow or back strain. The support of a relaxed posture while keyboarding is recognizably important and can be achieved with a properly configured keyboard which fits the space and offers tilt and pivot flexibility specific to the users needs.

Research confirms the link between ergonomic workplace design and human response and behavior. Simple and cost effective ergonomic products can increase productivity, enhance employee performance and have a tremendous return on investment for each employer. It’s an investment not only in the product, but a company’s most important asset...employees.

If it’s been over a year since your company has performed an ergonomic assessment, it’s time to have one again. For the sake of your employees, embracing the evolving ergonomic reality can protect your asset from workplace injury as well as from competitors who have done so already and are looking for new hires.


Power Player Profile: Carol Johnson

President, The Spaces Group, LLC. B.S., University of Memphis; Harrington College of Art and Design, Chicago. Former Territory Sales Manager, Knoll; Interior Designer for 20 years. Clients include Ford’s Theatre, International Paper, Duncan- Williams, Mercer Capital, AutoZone, Pfizer, and IRS-Memphis. Past Board Member, AIA Memphis Chapter. Corporate Sponsor, IIDA. Involved with St. Jude, Church Health Center, Christ United Methodist Church, and Junior League of Memphis.

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