As health and safety in the workplace has improved and evolved over recent decades, posture and ergonomic support have become an increasing focus when it comes to product design. Companies have strict health and safety rules and regulations that they legally must follow to protect their employees. We all know that jobs that require physical labour and moving heavy objects present a risk of injury to employees not using the correct posture. However, there is also the less obvious risk in our modern workplaces of office and desk-based work and how it can wreak havoc on our posture in the long term.
Product designers are having to come up with innovative solutions to these workplace risks with ergonomically designed equipment. If you would like to learn more about how posture and ergonomic support is adapting the product design process, we have put together the following post.
What Is Ergonomics?
Many of us are unaware of the stresses we are placing on our bodies from our modern lifestyles. We are sitting down more than ever, stretching our wrists to type, and straining to look at screens. Ergonomics (also sometimes known as human engineering or biotechnology) is the science of adapting our living and workplaces to best provide physical health, comfort, and support.
Ergonomically designed furniture can cover a range of uses, from specially adapted chairs for the elderly to office furniture and accessories designed to improve posture at work. Equipment and furniture which has been ergonomically designed not only helps us by reducing strains and pains on multiple areas of our body, but can also help boost our productivity in the workplace.
How The Covid-19 Pandemic and Working from Home Have Affected Ergonomical Product Design
Throughout the pandemic, many of us have had to work from home and designers and manufacturers have had to respond to a surge in the sales of health and fitness equipment. For example, the back brace has become incredibly popular for those sitting at desks. Working from a desk is not naturally good for our posture anyway, but with the added factor of working within our own homes rather than a more formal work environment, it is easier for us to forget to use the correct posture. If we’re in a relaxed environment, we tend to slouch, lean back in our chairs, and hunch our shoulders.
The increased strain on our back, shoulders and spine means remote working employees are feeling the effects of bad posture, and are having to invest in their ergonomic support. The market is adapting by creating new and improved posture and ergonomic support that is tailored to be used when working from home.
Product designers are now focusing on these areas over aesthetics, as it has become a top priority for both businesses and individuals. A few years ago, designers would create desks, chairs and other equipment which looked the part in any office. Today, practicality and ergonomics are taking the lead.
Technology And Its Influence on Changing Ergonomic Product Design
The posture and ergonomic market is an increasingly fast-growing area of medical device design. Posture support companies are constantly advancing the technology they are using, in a similar way that the healthcare industry does when designing and developing medical devices.
Many of us spend hours a day on our phones, so the influence of smartphones and apps in our lifestyles is even being incorporated into recent medical technology. These are just a few of the products that designers are working on to address the increased demand posture support and ergonomics.
Ergonomically Designed Chairs
Ergonomically designed chairs support the areas of your body affected by sitting down for prolonged periods. It is likely that at some point you have experienced that irritating twinge in your neck or back after a long day sitting down. Or you may have an elderly relative that struggles with back pain and getting up from a sofa. The science of ergonomics is becoming an increasingly important design feature to consider for companies creating seating. Improved lower lumber support, adjustable arms and backrests, and perfectly cushioned are just some examples of how these products are being designed to support good posture.
Office chairs that support posture are becoming very popular in workplaces and for those working from home. The S-shaped design of ergonomic office chairs helps to uphold the natural shape of our spine and reduce strain. Similarly, ergonomic chairs specifically designed for the elderly and obese feature back and neck support, as well as electronic rising and declining to reduce the risk of injury from trying to stand up.
Cushions And Wearable Devices
Manufacturers are working on innovative product designs such as smart chair cushions that can link up to your phone. These handy devices provide data on sitting habits, posture, and potential strains on your body.
Just as recent as last year, we worked in partnership with a company called Tended, on a fantastic piece of wearable technology that helps create safer working environments for industrial and manual labour employees. Essentially keeping safe at work by preventing any potential accidents in real-time.
Electronic, wearable devices like these are becoming increasingly popular as a way for us to correct our posture, both sitting and standing, offering real-time feedback on how we need to improve our posture.
When designing an ergonomic product, companies must consider how best it will fit the lifestyle of the customer. The key here is to focus on designing products which are hassle free, easy to use, and deliver some value to their daily lives.
As well as the more obvious benefit of burning more calories, standing also offers us other health benefits. When sat down for long periods we are placing static strain on our spine, which can be relieved by standing and stretching. Many companies are beginning to recognise the benefits of standing rather than sitting whilst working, as we have seen both for remote working and in offices, there is a growing popularity for standing desks.
Product designers are coming up with more and more solutions to get workers standing in the office. There are various desks on the market which have the ability to switch between seated and standing positions, giving employees the choice over how they work. Designing standing desks brings new challenges to manufacturers, such as how cabling is going to be moved between standing and sitting, getting the standing height correct, and ensuring the mechanics can withstand the weight of the desk and items on it.
Incorporating ergonomics into your lifestyle can be hugely beneficial for your comfort and health in both the short and long term. As a product designer, it is essential you consider ergonomics for all future furniture or office related projects. The demand for posture supporting equipment is still rising, and doesn’t look set to slow any time soon.