An important part of my career in journalism and public relations has been guiding people to live more healthfully by telling them specifically what to eat and how to exercise, but it hasn’t been till recently that I realized how important furniture design is to your health. We spend a lot of time behind a desk and in a chair. Discovering wholesome and beneficial design that makes us feel better is paramount for optimal health.
I am so impressed by how the office furniture industry is taking our health seriously by its choice of green and non-toxic materials, and by its efforts to create non-toxic design for our posture and all that it impacts. And with so many healthy designer products on the market, I can’t stop thinking about what those ergonomists and designers will come up with next. And whatever it is…I am grateful!
Part of my goal at NeoCon East show in Baltimore, MD October 16 – 17, 2013 was to help cross pollinate the healthy food and exercise wisdom with what’s possible in the workplace and I am thrilled by all of the truly comfortable, designer options they offer to work more healthfully. I feel really confident to say that in many ways…ergonomists are the new designers.
At the junction of the design and wellness worlds is an opportunity for Americans to re-educate themselves about what it means to be productive. Most other cultures make work-life balance a standard, and with all the pleasantly surprising, dizzying varieties of options popping up, we can too.
RESEARCH TO IMPROVE WHAT WE TAKE FOR GRANTED
I learned that Steelcase has invested upwards of 80 million dollars in researching how people get their work done to determine what kind of office furniture to bring to the market. Other companies like IOA studied nurses to develop furniture that would minimize back and leg pain now used in Johns Hopkins, and hospitals around the country are taking notice.
Some companies like Humanscale are going as far as to have ergonomists come to your office to map out designs that help employees work smarter and more comfortably.
There has been more emphasis on green than ever before. Beaulieu is a green diamond in the rough using the most recycled bottles to make their carpeting and backing lines and has even started a plastic bottle recycling company to do that. Capri Cork has a “floor score” to rate its cork flooring. Greening definitely contributes to a healthier environment.
CYCLING IN THE WORKPLACE
According to Mark Strauss, publisher and president of Interior Design, part of greening is cycling and within 10 years people won’t travel more than 10 miles to be in their office daily. He said smart employers are making space for bicycle parking in their office. Some are even offering repair.
Another company taking its cue from the outdoor industry is CF Stinson, bringing its high performance textiles to the indoor industrial space with a soft “hand.”
FURNITURE TO SUPPORT EVOLVED WORK STYLES
“The idea that creative brainstorming can be fostered in dynamic co-working atmospheres struck me as a major trend at NeoCon East," said Steven Thomson of Architizer.
FURNITURE WITH A SMALLER FOOTPRINT
Between the hike in real estate costs and the need for more digital storage solutions, the workplace footprint continues to shrink. And Proximity’s furniture does that with incredible style and precision. Their furniture can relatively effortlessly change the purpose of a room in seconds.
Even top executives are giving up their spacious office spaces, often with the best views, because they are most productive when they are on the go. The trend in telecommuting has co-workers sharing and trading desks on a regular basis. We’re all team-oriented so we need to be situated to work as such.
ARMS TO SUPPORT YOUR TECHNOLOGY
We just don’t need as much space. Office furniture is adjusting to mobile technologies. Desks don’t need to be as deep. Arm chairs can bring you closer to your screens—whether it’s your computer, your iPad, your laptop or your phone. You shouldn’t have to “chase” your technology.
SITTING IS THE NEW SMOKING
Chairs in general are under scrutiny as sitting slowly becomes recognized as the new smoking. Studies show sitting will eventually kill you. I have this feeling that office chairs will start acting more like trampolines. All Seating chairs have a SitFit program on how to sit to optimize fitness. Ergogenesis makes chairs that look like traditional executive chairs but are ergonomically designed. There is a new influx of furniture intended to keep us moving all day. Inwood makes the ergo which is a sit-to-stand accessory you can put on your desk. Focal Upright makes stations that allow you to lean in at your desk.
We need to unite and incorporate products like these into office culture to prevent them from becoming fads. They can save our lives.
BRING OUTSIDE IN
A corner office with a window isn’t as healthy as being outside. I personally tend to a small garden in my office and would like to see more elements of nature and natural materials for the workplace. Opiary makes cement, cedar and metal accent pieces and furniture with planters so you can easily bring the outside in.
OFFICES SHOULD BE FUN
More time on the clock means less time for outside fun so it’s important to make the workplace a fun place to be. Designs that bring fun activities and whimsy will appeal to the next generation of employees. Hearth Cabinet makes ventless fireplaces that are safe and hassle free to install in any environment. Everyone knows we have a primal attraction to fire. It relaxes our minds and stimulates group activity and conversation. Google headquarters will be featuring these roaring fires in communal areas where employees can go to unplug and recharge with nature.
I’ve always said that health can be incorporated into every room of the house. It’s finally happening. We can work in health centric offices.
Nancy Trent is a writer and speaker, a lifelong health advocate, a globe-trotting trend watcher and the founder and president of Trent & Company, a New York-based marketing communications firm. Trent & Company grew out of Nancy’s personal commitment to helping people live longer and healthier lives. A former journalist for New York magazine, Nancy has written seven books on healthy lifestyles, serves on the editorial boards of several magazines and travels around the world speaking at conferences and trade shows on trends in the marketplace. She is a recognized expert in PR with more than 30 years of experience creating and managing highly successful campaigns. Nancy can be reached at (212) 966-0024 or through e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also visit www.trentandcompany.com.
Posted on WholeFoods Magazine Online, October 31, 2013