Monday, August 20, 2007

Buyer Beware: Is That "Ergonomic Chair" Really Ergonomic? has a great series of articles on ergonomic chairs. I discovered this one today, and thought it might also benefit you. It's full of practical advice, as well as some warnings. Anything can truly be ergonomic (as we've said before, it's "fitting the tool to the worker"), but you've got to wonder if some chairs were designed with anyone in mind!

Not everybody knows exactly what ergonomic means, but it's getting to the point where everybody knows an "ergonomic chair" is better than just some plain old chair. Thus even Joe Newbie is more likely to buy the ergonomic chair than the chair that is not advertised as ergonomic.

The problem is stores and manufacturers are starting to put the word ergonomic in front of every chair they sell, whether it has anything to do with ergonomics or not. There is more to ergonomics than a little added cushioning in the seat.

So, What Is an Ergonomic Chair?

Ergonomics is the study of equipment designed with humans in mind, meant to reduce operator fatigue and discomfort. Specifically, an ergonomic chair should be highly adjustable, including not just a knob for lowering and raising the chair but adjustability in the back tilt and the height of the arm rests. An ergonomic chair should also have a sturdy frame (avoid plastic), a great deal of support, especially in the lumbar region, and padding that has some give and supports your body without losing shape.

Real ergonomic chairs cost hundreds of dollars. Look for manufacturers that specialize in ergonomics and are known for producing quality chairs. Examples are Herman Miller, Neutral Posture, and BodyBilt. Avoid gimmicky chairs (such as kneeling chairs and ball chairs) unless you have actually had the opportunity to try one and feel it's a good fit for your body. Remember, the chair that is comfortable when you first sit in it may not remain so after several hours.

Why and When Should You Consider Buying an Ergonomic Chair?

An ergonomic chair promotes good posture, reduces the fatigue that comes with sitting in one position for a protracted period of time, and it can even reduce the likelihood of developing Carpal Tunnel Syndrome and other repetitive stress injuries (many of these hand and wrist injuries start with poor posture at the computer).

Anybody who spends more than an hour a day at the computer should consider buying a good ergonomic chair. If you work 8 hours a day or more at the computer, you should definitely have a good ergonomic chair.

See Ergonomic Resources' full line of ergonomic chairs

Thursday, August 2, 2007

8 Office Tips to Help Your Acoustic Environmen

8 Office Tips to Help Your Acoustic Environment
by Thomas Horrall

The number one facility-related complaint expressed by people working in the open plan office environment is inadequate acoustical privacy from neighbors. The increasing trend of lower cubicle wall heights directly contributes to the transfer of more unwanted sound from one cubicle to surrounding ones. The single most effective acoustical tool for reducing the annoyance of this sound transfer is adequate background sound, usually generated by an effective sound masking system. However, even the best sound asking system may not be able to fully reduce acoustical annoyance by itself. If implemented, the following recommendations will go a long way toward further enhancing acoustical privacy.

1. Never use a speakerphone. Not only is speakerphone sound an annoyance in itself, but people usually speak louder when using a speakerphone, causing further annoyance to their neighbors. The office noise transmitted to the external party by a speakerphone is also an annoyance to them, and may even degrade their ability to hear the conversation. Pick up the telephone handset or use a headset.
2. Develop a softer telephone voice. Many telephones have an adjustment called “sidetone” which can help with this. Sidetone is the amount of the telephone user's own voice that he hears in his receiver. If it is set too low, the user usually speaks louder than necessary, annoying his neighbor. Many telephone vendors don't take the time to adjust the sidetone properly during installation, and they may have to be called to make the adjustment. There are also “stoplight” type monitor devices available that remind the user to keep his voice down.
3. Adjust telephone ring loudness. If your phone has an adjustable ring loudness setting, make sure it is only as loud as necessary.
4. Set cell phones and pagers to minimum ring volume, or better still, vibrate mode. If vibrate mode is not feasible, make sure the ringtone setting is subtle and that the phone is as close to the user's work position as feasible so that it is audible at a low volume setting. Don't leave the cell phone when going to lunch - take it with you so that ringtones don't annoy neighbors when there is no one to pick up the phone.
5. Take cell phones to a break room or other private space if a call is likely to be protracted. Also consider letting voicemail take a message and return the call from a landline. One of the worst breaches of office etiquette is those people who make long, loud personal calls at their cubicle desks instead of stepping outside (or into a more private area).
6. Listen to any music over headphones, not loudspeakers. Music listening in the office is increasingly acceptable, but remember that one person's music is another's noise. If it is frequently necessary to hear colleagues entering your office while listening to music, use “open air” type headphones, or even a single earbud, rather than one in each ear. Don't hum or sing along to the music.
7. Use Instant Messaging. IM is also becoming commonplace in the office. Do you really need to go have a verbal conversation with a colleague or would a brief IM do just as well, or maybe even better.
8. Don't make unnecessary noise in the office. Gum-cracking, coffee-slurping, ice-chomping, pen-tapping and, most offensive of all, full-bellied belching potentially annoy all of your neighbors. A cubicle is a public area, and those working inside should act as they would in any other public area.

If you'd like to discover the productivity increases your office space is capable of, contact