How can dealers ensure that office workers are healthy and comfortable when at work? What are the product trends and developments in this area and how can you go about making that all-important sale? Jess Pike spoke to Kensington’s Ergonomics Product Manager, Clare Harland, to investigate. Here’s what she learned.

After a long day at work there’s nothing worse than feeling like you’ve done 12 rounds with Mike Tyson and having to take a long bath in the vain hope that a concoction of scented bubbles and soapy water will undo some of the tightening knots in your back and neck. Chances are that such a scenario would be down to one thing only: poorly designed office furniture. Whether it’s a chair with a poorly-angled back or a desk that’s too low, furniture that’s been designed without ergonomics in mind can hamper both employee comfort and productivity. According to research commissioned by Fellowes people spend seven hours a day at their desks although, as UK trade marketing manager Tania Turner points out, working with technology isn’t restricted to the boundaries of the office. “We can be working at a desk one day and from a hotel room or from home the next. With these new, flexible ways of working come fresh challenges for businesses to ensure we are working comfortably and productively wherever we work. Not only that, but employers also have a legal obligation to ensure that their employees are working safely and comfortably, whatever their location.”

But what exactly is ergonomics? According to Fiona Mills, Avery UK’s marketing director, it’s an all-encompassing subject area which takes into account human biology, psychology, engineering and design, “… and aims to improve and optimise a product’s performance, whilst protecting the health, safety and wellbeing of individuals involved”.

The soft sell

For dealers a key sales message is linked to how poor ergonomics can have a real impact on a company’s profitability, often leading to a drop in employee productivity and, as Fellowes’ research indicates, extensive time off in some cases. Convincing people of the value of ergonomics will be crucial when it comes to selling. “Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which can affect muscles, nerves, tendons and joints, are completely preventable,” says Clare Harland, European product manager for ergonomics at Kensington, “but the buyers for the workspace need to be educated to the benefits of ergonomics before they make an investment in ergonomic accessories.”

It goes without saying that MSDs can lead to repetitive strain injuries and even long-term disability and can thus hamper productivity and have a direct impact on employee absenteeism levels and office morale. “If employees are provided with the right ergonomic solutions for their working environment it’s likely that they’ll feel happier within their place of work,” explains Clare. “This, in turn, leads to lower staff replacement and training costs. In addition, if the chances of MSDs occurring are significantly reduced there’s a reduced risk of litigation and lower insurance and compensation costs.”

Concentrating solely on the furniture can, however, be a bit myopic, as Fiona from Avery points out. “Ergonomically-friendly equipment like chairs and desks are only half the story,” she says. “It’s important not to let commonplace office problems like disorganisation undermine even the most ergonomically-advanced equipment. Consider, for example, a messy desk. While an employee may have the most comfortable office chair to sit on and the perfect complementary desk, s/he won’t be making the most of them or using them properly if their working space is continually disorganised and they struggle to find essential documents, stationery or personal items. It’s these all too common, everyday workplace issues that can create cross-selling opportunities for dealers.”

So when it comes to ergonomic issues make sure you’re addressing the bigger picture with your customers in order to drive home the importance of complementing ergonomic equipment with other efficient, space-saving organisational solutions.

Promoting workplace wellbeing

With advancements in technology racing forward, and many offices adopting a bring-your-own-device policy, employers have to overcome a number of challenges when it comes to employee comfort and safety. Added to this, it’s widely publicised, says Clare, that office workers are putting their health at risk by spending too much of the day sitting down, illustrating the need for new ergonomic product developments. “Employees working in many European countries also now have the right to request flexible working and longer working hours are placing additional demands on employee health, further increasing the need to identify ergonomic solutions” she explains. “With technologies like tablets and smartphones come a wider range of both traditional and non-traditional ergonomic accessories, such as Kensington Trackballs, which are specifically designed to prevent long-term injuries such as RSI.”

Products like chair mats can also be particularly beneficial for workers and employers, providing as they do an easy glide surface for chair users. “On average an office chair is estimated to travel around eight miles a year in thousands of short, sharp movements,” says John Barker, marketing manager at Floortex. “These repetitive movements are generated by the chair user’s legs and lower back and can result in fatigue and stress over the course of the working day or week. Likewise, the greater the effort needed to manoeuvre the chair the greater the strain and damage that’s likely to be made to both worker and flooring.”

Like Fiona, John advocates the advantages of the cross-sell. “Every time you sell an office chair there’s a compelling reason why the customer should also buy a chair mat,” he says. “Once someone in the office has one, everyone will want one – an excellent cross-sellopportunity for increased revenue and profit!”

Workplace wellbeing is more important today than ever before. With research from Fellowes revealing that 52 per cent of employees say that they’d be proud to work for a company that took employees’ wellbeing seriously, and acted accordingly, savvy employers will make sure they’ve given ergonomic furniture some careful consideration. Make sure you’re pitching to the right market and conveying the right messages, and you’ll soon be reaping the rewards.

Article written by Jess Pike for Dealer Support Magazine

Learn more about our range of Ergonomic Solutions here.