Smart workplace boosts movement during workdays - but getting up is up to you!
11/16/2017 - 06:16

Knowledge work no longer requires a specific location. All you need is a laptop, a smartphone and an internet connection. You can work away lounging on your home couch or swinging on a stool in a coffee shop. Perhaps you no longer have a designated desk, and you’re free to choose the place that best suits you each day.

Sounds all really good and flexible, right?

There is a caveat too, and it concerns your health and wellbeing. Whether we’re sitting on a couch, in a coffee shop or on an office chair, we’re face to face with a serious threat to our health - immobility. A typical wake-up call for us knowledge workers is sudden pain in our back, neck or shoulders.

The first thing we tend to think of when faced with pain is ergonomics, but the main issue is often immobility: sitting down still for extensive periods of time. Concerning ergonomics, the key challenge is the fact that we no longer work at designated and ergonomically optimized workstations.

Office design can encourage movement during workdays

It’s very human to blame technology for our immobility at work. In fact, the effect quite the opposite: new technologies can actually encourage movement. Activity wristbands are increasingly common, and Martela task chairs are equipped with a similar feature: they vibrate gently in case you haven’t moved at all for 20 minutes.

Health risks linked with sitting down too much are common knowledge, and one of the consequences is increasing popularity of standing desks. When standing up, we activate more muscles, increase our energy consumption, and change our pose more often, with slight unconscious movements a couple of times per minute.

Unfortunately standing up is not an optimal cure either, as too much of that is harmful as well. The key to a healthier life is frequent movement during the day.

Standing up is a great choice for meetings, and modern meeting areas often offer standing places too. Quick and spontaneous stand-up meetings are a welcome opportunity to move around. Smart workplaces are designed to encourage movement during the day, but changing a culture that favors sit-down meetings takes serious effort.

Our body cries for movement: the best pose is the next one

Workplace design and versatile ways of working certainly contribute to the battle against immobility, but when it comes down to actually doing it, it’s up to each individual to take initiative for themselves. If you’re convinced by now and want to be a part of the change towards healthier workdays, start with these three things:

  1. Take breaks at regular intervals and make sure to sit down, stand up and walk around during the day.
  2. Learn how to adjust the office chairs you use. Lean back slightly and set the inclination a little bit forward, so that your hip joint is above the knee. This eases the pressure on your lumbar spine.
  3. Whether you’re sitting down or standing up, change your pose every 20 minutes.

Even if your office settings are all good and correct, measuring real use often reveals suboptimal utilization of both different spaces and services at the office. If you’re not familiar with the adjustments of the desks and chairs at your workstation, ask for help. If there are no standing desks for meetings, bring up the need and benefits. The most important thing, however, is your own activity: the change towards healthier workplaces is up to you!

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Blog authors

VP, Customer Supply Management
Martela Oyj
Director, Education
Vice President, Innovation to Market
Interior Architect, Physiotherapist, Physical Training Instructor, 11/2016 - 06/2019, Martela

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