The office of the future is one no longer restricted by location, time and physical structure. Work is not a place you go, but something you do. The worker of the future must be flexible, self-directed, disciplined and able to cope with relative isolation. People are connected to the world through digital cellular links. The all-encompassing computer eliminates the brief case, printer, projector, phones and pagers.
Workstations today are adjusted to a standing position an average of 3.6 times per day, which means on average, workers stand for 23 percent and sit for 77 percent of their day. Sit-stand workstations can improve discomfort ratings over 26 percent and can decrease work-related injury/illness by 28 percent, lost-time by 82 percent and associated costs by 95 percent. Productivity increases up to 17 percent with sit-stand workstations. These figures reflect employees' comfort or lack of discomfort and awareness of their own control over their wellness. Employees appreciate the ability to adjust the workstation to their specific needs and enjoy the opportunity to stand.
Sitting causes less fatigue, is stable and allows for use of foot controls. Standing allows the employee greater mobility and the ability to cover large areas and use stronger forces. Standing also promotes blood flow and beneficial postural changes and allows for improved respiration and reaction alertness.
Observing the position the body assumes in the weightlessness of space, NASA discovered the neutral body posture (Exhibit 1). This refers to a position in which the body achieves equidistant spacing of the vertebrae and all muscles, tendons and ligaments are perfectly aligned and stress-free. (NASA, 1978) Sit-stand workstations are designed to support a neutral posture for sitting and standing positions. Changes in technology and the way people work necessitates the design of a workspace that will always support an ergonomic posture.
Laptops are used in the home, airport, airplane, hotel, conference room, office, train and automobile. Seldom are adequate or adjustable work surfaces available when traveling. In the present and future office, skills required of workers are communication, records management, keyboarding, management and scheduling, customer service, information gathering, processing and distributing and staying current with the industry. To accommodate employees' needs, facility managers must decide on an amount for employees to spend on a flexible and adjustable office, limit selection to good ergonomic products and provide computer-based training.
To train for the future, workers must be more technologically aware, independent thinkers and understand and apply principles of ergonomics to their workspace in terms of lighting, the workstation, the chair and the aesthetics of the home office. As technology will forever be changing nd increasing our capabilities, work will become an activity, rather than a place.