Control room green chair

Question for you: How much thought do you give to human factors when choosing new office equipment, whether for you or your colleagues?

For most people, the answer is none. We look at a pretty picture, check the cheapest price and go “that’ll do.” But you wouldn’t go to Pizza Hut to buy new shoes, no matter how cheap they are.

I’ve chosen a rather dull picture for this post. A control room, because control room managers tend to spend a lot of time considering human factors when designing their workstations. Which makes sense, as they are in constamt use, by different people for 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Numerous people of different shapes and sizes all sharing the same work space for 8 hours each at a time. And little 8 stone Cynthia will be in a lot of pain after 8 hours in the same chair as Barry, from Honiton rugby clubs front row, if she can’t make the necessary adjustments to make it fit her.

The first consideration will be how much are you going to use it. 10 minutes a day for checking emails and updating your social? Buy cheap and spend the change on something you’re going to use! But i’m assuming you’re spending a good part of you working day seated.

Do you do work that involves standing as well as sitting, or do you want to incorporate more standing and movement into you’re work? We would advise that you should. Movement is life after all, and the more of it you do, the fitter and happier you will be, and the more productive your work time. But some jobs necessitate sitting for long periods, and some people just want to, so we have already narrowed our choice.

Does the chair fit you? The most important factor. It can be built with the highest quality, most advanced memory foams, and might feel amazing when you first sit in it, but if it doesn’t fit you, and cannot be adjusted to, it is going to hurt you. Is it going to be used by others, or just you? Buying a chair that cannot be adjusted, even if it fits you properly now, does limit it’s possibilities.

Is it going to last? Consider the whole life of the products you buy. This should apply to everything we buy. The interent changed our buying habbits. We used  to go to the store we liked the most and speak to someone who’s opinion we trusted. No one wants to find the product much cheaper elsewhere, but the advice and service we receive has some value. People buy from people – it’s still the best way.

Online has created a race to the bottom. In an effort to compete, the high street has cut costs and it’s flooded with product that lasts just one season. I’m as guilty as anyone here. Bought a washing line last year. Little rotary thing. Goes up, comes down, spins round, dries socks. A very simple device, why wouldn’t I buy the cheapest? It cost me £40, went up and down and dried the socks for one summer and now it’s in landfill. It’s replacement cost me £80, and it’s clear from the material quality that it will last at least 2 summers, and probably a lot more. Simple things like a sturdy cover with proper fastenings so that it doesn’t blow off everytime the cat walks past. The upfront cost may have been more, but I am confident the whole life cost of it will be considerably lower.

We are not designed to sit for long periods. Humans gained some massive advantages over our competiors when we eveolved to walk on just our legs, but it has left us with some flaws. The pelvis  has not adapted well to this weird new position and leaves us with some issues. It is not for example, wide enough to push a baby through. No other animal goes through the pain a human woman does giving birth. Most apes don’t even look up from their breakfast.

And sitting is another problem. Raise your thighs to horizontal and sit down and you are not using the sit bones in your pelvis. The pelvis reclines and we adopt a slouched position which puts excessive pressure on the lumbar region. Our ligaments and muscles strain to cope and we get back pain. Or worse, a permanent injury.

A good chair, that fits you, that has been designed for the human form, will support in the right places, and encourage a good posture. Marry this up to the correct equipment for the task, that fits you and is correctly positioned, and you’ll work comfortably and be productive. And do look at all the equipment. How many sizes of hand are there? Lots. How many sizes of mouse are there? Also lots, if you ask the right person.