Are you prepared for new ergonomic challenges in the office?

New devices and technologies in the workplace introduce new ergonomic challenges, are you prepared?

Tablets, wearable computers and other mobile devices will become ubiquitous in the office alongside the two most important tools for office workers: smartphones and laptops. These devices are changing the way we communicate with other people and the way we physically interact with our surroundings. As companies adopt more flexible work arrangements, including third working spaces and temporary war rooms (Read: Seven organizational changes affecting the workplace towards 2020), people are adopting a number of improper postures that will negatively impact their health and well-being in the future.

The introduction of new technology leads to poor posture, increasing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders and carpal tunnel syndrome. In a study of 2000 office workers in 11 countries, the office design company Steelcase identified nine postures that people adopt when interacting with mobile technologies. These postures “are not adequately supported, workers are uncomfortable, in pain and are doing long-term harm to their bodies.”


The FM challenge towards 2020

The challenge towards the future for facility managers and office designers is deciding where the onus for better workplace ergonomics lies – the company or the employee. Particularly as the relationship between employee and employers evolve towards shorter, more flexible arrangements, especially as people work less from the office and more often from home and third working places. This dilemma creates an opportunity for FM providers to offer training programs for better workplace ergonomics at the office, home, and third working places to companies and their employees. If companies are not interested, insurance companies and government health care providers instead could be interested in reducing social costs related to improper working conditions.

The introduction of wearable technology will introduce new risks for injury in the workplace. The challenge is that that these devices overload our cognitive capabilities to process visual information “to the point where wearers miss things which are ‘utterly obvious’.” Humans have already been shown to be incapable of operating mobile phones, and other embedded electronic devices, while driving. People who attempt to operate hands-free devices have demonstrated comparable levels of impairment as drunk drivers. The latest wave of wearable devices – Google Glasses, iWatch, and eventually computers in contact lenses – pose a number of workplace risks that FM providers will have to plan and compensate for.

What are your thoughts? Do you agree that the introduction of new devices posts a greater risk of workplace injury? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!

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