There’s no shortage of health-related scaremongering in the workspace industry.
We’re told that sitting is the new smoking, complete with risks of heart disease and long-term ill health. Not to mention the endemic desk-bound effects of neck, shoulder and back pain.
Yes, office life can have a negative impact on your health. But fortunately for those of us who spend many a long day hunched over a laptop, the office furniture industry is responding with positive developments.
We’ve discussed the merits of standing desks and treadmill ‘walkstations’ on OT before. I even tried one myself at last year’s BCA Conference. But despite the health benefits of installing adjustable desk facilities – which certainly befits an industry famous for its flexible take on workspace – it seems the business world is still slow to catch on.
Cost may be a barrier, not to mention workplace culture. After all, the concept is still fairly new. The humble desk-and-chair combo has been around for thousands of years, so the more recent arrival of flexible, health-orientated adjustable-height desks, complete with gas-lift and touch-button functionality, is by comparison something of a novelty.
But don’t let that age-old chestnut “We’ve always done it this way” prevent your business centre from breaking out of the mould.
Steve Wiltshire, who has worked at office furniture manufacturer Cubewing since 1992, is perfectly placed to tell OT about the slow but sure evolution of office furniture. Interestingly, he has seen some significant changes of late – and while demand for flexible furniture design is still fairly small, he believes the industry is turning a corner.
“Traditional furniture manufacturers still think the need for adjustable height desks is a fad,” he said. “While we haven’t noticed a particular upswing in demand for desks based on health benefits, we are seeing a growing niche with regard to adjustable height desks, particularly from the creative sectors.”
These creative industries are driving demand for adjustable desking options, as more and more workers seek the flexibility to work in comfort, and in ways that suits their creative style.
Naturally, employers recognise that a more comfortable worker is more productive one.
According to Steve, when it comes to health and comfort, adjustable chairs are in much greater demand than desks. However, he believes the balance is beginning to swing in favour of adjustable desks – and that health awareness is one factor that’s helping to push the concept into the mainstream.
Shifting workplace requirements
Of course it’s not just a question of health, but of practicality too.
Take bench desking for instance. Cubewing has improved the problem of space limitation by taking the concept a step further. In this example, the company has factored in a height adjustable version (pictured) along with additional features such as extendable desks. These configurable platforms aren’t just comfortable for health-conscious workers; they also compete with more traditional space-saving furniture products, paving the way for greater acceptance of flexible furniture.
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Indeed, so confident is Cubewing in this evolution that, unable to find what they wanted from traditional suppliers, the company has expanded its reach to new, innovative manufacturers that are more in-tune with shifting workplace requirements.
In light of this, Cubewing also recently changed its website to reflect demand for ‘niche’ desks.
Niche they might be, but for how much longer? With demand for flexible workspace continuing to grow, and traditional workplace culture gradually phasing into new and ever more productive cycles, it’s only a question of time before the very instruments that facilitate the way we work – including the desk you’re leaning on right now – changes with it.
We look forward to the day when innovative design becomes part of the furniture.