This past week, we had a great e-mail interview with one of the leading ergonomics firms in the country. As one of our first interviews for the blog, we wanted to better understand the relationship between ergonomics and architectural design as well as provide additional tips for those looking for hacks to improve their at-home office space.

Below are some of the interview questions we asked Executive Director, David Weiner from The Rising Workplace. The responses are very thoughtful, and I’ve begun implementing some of these strategies on my own time.

Have you worked with architects in the past to merge the discipline of ergonomics and architecture? If so, How do you believe the two fields interrelate?

Yes, we assist with specific workstation design and equipment recommendations tailored to the job tasks that will be performed in the facility that the architect designs.

What recommendations would you have for someone who is new to the field of ergonomics and wants to take the first steps toward setting up a personalized space?

Definitely research before you buy any products or set up a space, or even better, visit a few showrooms. There are lots of articles, blog postings, webinars, etc. about ergonomics and how to properly design your workspace, but make sure the source is from a trusted ergonomics professional. It is important to know what you need to buy before buying just to buy and also be cautious of things that are labeled “ergonomic” just because that is a catchphrase that people are looking for. Consider your individual height and know what measurements are important for you too, especially in the case of chairs and desks.

Are there any smart/passive strategies you recommend? For instance if someone doesn’t want to invest in an expensive chair or desk, what can they do to become a healthier worker right away?

Occasionally we will run into budget issues where clients need to prioritize their purchases. In that instance we may recommend they utilize a box or a 3-ringed binder as a footrest, a stack of books as a screen riser, or a rolled up towel for lumbar support behind their back. Another thing we always suggest is beginning a healthy movement break routine. We recommend every 30-45 minutes doing 1-2 minutes of stretching or walking around the room to increase blood flow and decrease muscle stiffness. This is free and has loads of benefits!

At 2nd Place, One of our primary goals is to discuss how good design can make you a more efficient worker and live a more efficient life. What strategies do you have for someone that wants to be a “Superworker”, save time and feel more healthy?

Definitely keep up with a consistent movement. Break routine throughout your workday. Set a reminder on your calendar or smart device, download a movement reminder app. We also emphasize the importance of eye breaks – every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away or close your eyes for 20 seconds.

Additionally, notice the times during the day when you are not actively typing/mousing (perhaps on a call) to be aware of your hand positioning; this is a good time to take what we call micro rest breaks. Rest your hands in your lap or down at your sides, give them a break from being placed on the keyboard/mouse whenever you can.

What kind of results from a data standpoint have you seen from people who integrate your strategies?

We collect data pre and post out assessments regarding discomfort level and overall satisfaction and improvement after receiving our services. For virtual and in person individual assessments, or discomfort reduction is significant, at an average of 35% discomfort reduction post intervention. 

At 2nd Place, we focus heavily on how to improve work life balance, but what about the “life” part. Is there an ergonomic couch or furniture or anything interesting you’ve seen to augment day to day living?

Lap desks are very functional when working on the couch or in bed. They help you position your laptop slightly higher so you are not looking down as much, but also allow you to use an external mouse which is generally less stressful to the shoulder, arm and wrist than a trackpad. Some of the same strategies we use in the office, we can also use in leisure and recreation areas, including having lumbar support, awareness of neutral postures, taking breaks, and environmental set-up. For example, if your television position causes an awkward viewing posture, this can contribute to neck discomfort.

Do you ever think about aesthetics when it comes to ergonomics? How do you feel ergonomics can play an integrative role with design aesthetics?

Occasionally we will get clients who are concerned about purchasing a chair or a desk that is aesthetically pleasing and matches their space. There are a lot of options out there so we are generally able to accommodate everyone’s preferences. Our biggest concern obviously are the ergonomic adjustable features and functionality for that specific client and their space. There are aspects of workstation design that have to do with both aesthetics and performance, for instance, plants in the office are shown to boost productivity and replenish mental resources. When we are comfortable and at ease in our workspace, we perform better at our jobs.    

In Conclusion: There are a number of different strategies we can implement to help improve the ergonomic quality of our work and living space. Some of these are entirely free! If you appreciated these responses from The Rising Workplace, I would recommend checking out their website. They have a blog and offer free videos on ergonomics and they have received plenty of attention from major news outlets. 

More personally, this is our first official blog post. I reached out to a number of people to be interviewed, some responded with a YES, but many never responded. Not only did the Executive Director (David Weiner) Respond, he did it enthusiastically and asked for nothing in return! Given how much attention they receive, he could have easily said no!

When thinking about the best of the best in their industry, you can see it when you meet people who will go the extra mile to tell their story and reach people any way they can, so once again, give them a visit!