Evolving Workspaces: Office Furniture Trends in 2024

As we step further into the digital age, the dynamics of the workplace continue to evolve, influencing everything from technology to office culture. One aspect that often goes overlooked but significantly impacts productivity, creativity, and employee well-being is office furniture. In 2024, we're witnessing a fascinating shift in office furniture trends, driven by a fusion of technological advancements, sustainability concerns, and a growing focus on employee comfort and flexibility. Let's delve into some of the prominent trends reshaping our workspaces this year.

Ergonomic Designs for Enhanced Comfort

In today's fast-paced work environment, where employees spend long hours seated at their desks, prioritizing comfort is paramount. Ergonomic furniture designs are gaining momentum, aimed at reducing strain and improving posture. Expect to see chairs with adjustable lumbar support, height-adjustable desks, and accessories like keyboard trays and monitor arms, all geared towards promoting a healthier and more comfortable work experience.

Multi-functional and Flexible Furniture

Flexibility is the name of the game in modern office design. With the rise of remote work and hybrid models, offices need furniture that can adapt to varying needs and spaces. Multi-functional pieces such as modular desks, convertible tables, and storage units with flexible configurations are becoming increasingly popular. These versatile solutions allow for easy reconfiguration of spaces, fostering collaboration and accommodating diverse work styles.

Sustainable Materials and Eco-friendly Practices

As environmental consciousness continues to grow, so does the demand for sustainable office furniture. Companies are increasingly opting for furniture made from recycled materials, responsibly sourced wood, and low-emission finishes. Additionally, there's a shift towards circular economy principles, with more emphasis on refurbishing and repurposing existing furniture to extend their lifespan. Expect to see an abundance of eco-friendly options that not only reduce environmental impact but also contribute to a healthier workspace.

Tech-Integrated Furniture for Seamless Connectivity

In an era dominated by technology, office furniture is getting smarter. Integration of technology into furniture pieces is on the rise, with features like built-in power outlets, wireless charging pads, and USB ports becoming standard. This seamless connectivity allows employees to stay powered up and connected without the hassle of tangled cords, enhancing productivity and efficiency in the workplace.

Biophilic Design Elements for Wellness

Bringing elements of nature into the office has been shown to have numerous benefits, from reducing stress to improving productivity and creativity. In 2024, biophilic design principles are being integrated into office furniture to create a more harmonious and wellness-oriented workspace. Expect to see furniture adorned with natural materials like wood and stone, as well as incorporating elements such as living walls, greenery, and natural lighting to blur the boundaries between indoor and outdoor environments.

Personalized and Customizable Solutions

Recognizing that one size does not fit all, office furniture manufacturers are offering more personalized and customizable solutions to cater to individual preferences and needs. From adjustable desks that can be tailored to specific height requirements to chairs with customizable upholstery options, employees are empowered to create workspaces that reflect their unique tastes and promote a sense of ownership and comfort.

In conclusion, the office furniture landscape in 2024 is characterized by a blend of functionality, sustainability, and employee-centric design. As workplaces continue to evolve, furniture trends will likely continue to adapt to meet the changing needs of modern workers. By embracing these trends, organizations can create environments that not only foster productivity and collaboration but also prioritize the well-being and satisfaction of their employees.

Free childcare: Do your staff know?

As reported by DfE, thousands of parents can access free childcare to support their return to work. Ensure your staff know their current entitlements plus how and when to apply

Who can get 30 hours of free childcare?

Working parents or carers of children aged three to four in England are currently entitled to 30 hours free childcare a week.

The childcare provider must be approved – so informal providers such as grandparents don’t count – and the support stops when your child starts reception class.

Some providers may ask you to pay for extra costs like meals, nappies or trips.

Eligibility depends on whether you’re working, your income, your child’s age and circumstances and your immigration status.

Full details about eligibility requirements can be found at: 30 hours free childcare – GOV.UK.

There are different childcare support schemes in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

Who can get 15 hours of free childcare?

All parents of children aged three to four can access 15 hours of free childcare. It doesn’t matter how much you earn or how many hours you work.

Currently, parents of two-year-olds can access 15 hours a week of free childcare if they are in receipt of income support benefits, such as Universal Credit, and earn less than £15,400 a year.

From April 2024, working parents of two-year-olds will also be able to access 15 hours of free childcare. Applications opened on 2 January 2024.

When will the 30 hours of free childcare be extended?

We’re introducing free childcare gradually, to make sure that providers can meet the needs of more families, starting with 15 hours of free childcare for working parents of two-year-olds. If eligible, you can apply now.

From September 2024, 15 hours of free childcare will be extended to all children from the age of 9 months.

From September 2025, working parents of children under the age of five will be entitled to 30 hours of free childcare a week.

Application for these offers will be available in the coming months.

How to apply for free childcare

If your child is age three or four and you want to access 15 hours of free childcare, you don’t need to make an application as your childcare provider will do this for you automatically.

You’ll just need to show them a copy of your child’s birth certificate, and you’ll also have to sign a declaration form. Talk to your childcare provider directly to find out more.

Working parents of two-year-olds can also apply for 15 hours of free childcare, to be accessed from April. Parents can apply via Childcare Choices.

If your child is three or four years old and you’re eligible for 30 hours of free childcare, you’ll need to fill out an application form online.

If you’re eligible, you’ll get a childcare account and a code which you’ll need to show to your childcare provider, along with your child’s date of birth and your National Insurance number.

You’ll need to reconfirm your details every three months, or your code will expire.

When should I apply for free childcare?

You can make an application at any point in the year. However, to make sure you receive your code, leave plenty of time to apply. The best time to apply depends on when your child turns three – work out when is best for you at this link.

You will be asked to reconfirm you’re still eligible every 3 months. This means that if you apply at least 3 months before your child starts going to your childcare provider, you’ll need to reconfirm you’re still eligible before you take up a place.

For parents of two-year-olds to access 15 hours of free childcare, we recommend those eligible apply between mid-January and the end of February so that parents won’t need to reconfirm eligibility before taking up a place. Parents can apply via Childcare Choices.

England sets the date: Single-use plastics ban to take effect from October 2023

Single use plastics ban to take effect from October 2023. England sets the date:

From October 1, 2023, England will crack down on single-use plastics, including polystyrene cups, cutlery, and more, as part of its commitment to reduce plastic pollution and protect the environment, so businesses, get ready to make the switch

The upcoming ban includes polystyrene cups and food containers, single-use plastic cutlery and single-use balloon sticks. There will also be a restriction to the supply of single-use plastic trays and bowls to members of the public, although businesses can continue to supply these items if they are used as packaging in shelf-ready pre-packaged food items.

How to prepare for the single-use plastics ban:

The government response to the consultation on these bans, published in January, set out that these restrictions would be introduced from October 2023 instead of April 2023, giving businesses more time to prepare.

Businesses will need to use up existing stock and find alternative substitutes or reuse solutions by 1 October 2023.

This ban compliments the existing restrictions on other single-use plastic items including plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers
and our carrier bag charge.

Why we are banning single-use plastics

The government is committed to tackling plastic pollution and littering and to reduce avoidable waste. Single-use plastics have damaging environmental impacts as they are commonly littered and are difficult to recycle. These impacts need to be managed so that we can protect our environment.

Damaging environmental impacts:
Plastic pollution takes hundreds of years to break down and inflicts serious damage to the environment. It is also a source of greenhouse gas emissions, from the production and manufacture of the plastic itself to the way it is disposed of.

Unnecessary littering: England uses around 2.7 billion items of single-use cutlery — most of which are plastic — and 721 million single-use plates per year, but only 10% are recycled.

We know that people and businesses want to do the right thing for the environment and support our ban on single-use plastics. However, if the rules are not complied with, a range of enforcement options have been provided, including both civil and criminal sanctions. The bans will be enforced by Trading Standards.

Further information

Further questions

Sign up to the UK Plastics Pact

Members of the UK Plastics Pact have achieved an 84% reduction in unnecessary single-use plastics since 2018 by successfully driving the reuse of problematic plastic items. To find out more and to be part of this success please sign up here.

Thank you to businesses and trade associations who have already offered to share information to help businesses comply with the ban by generating further public awareness and understanding of the need to minimize single-use plastic waste.

From Stress to Success: The 4-Day Workweek Revolution

From Stress to Success: The 4-Day Workweek Revolution

From Stress to Success: The 4-Day Workweek Revolution as reported in SME today, almost every UK company that took part in the world’s biggest four-day week trial, has decided to continue with the reduced working hours model, 92% of the 61 participating companies confirming the policy is a permanent change

While this shift towards a better work-life balance is promising, Adrian Lewis, Co-founder and Global Lead at Activ People HR advises caution to firms looking to follow suit and ensure they have the right systems in place to make this a success.

Adrian says, “The four-day working week is something many employees would value as it can help them achieve a better work-life balance. This in turn can make them more motivated and enthusiastic, which boosts productivity. It’s easy to see why firms might want to implement this model.

“However, we would urge caution and for employers to think carefully about offering a four-day week, as if not managed correctly, it can be detrimental to the business and to employees, as they try to squeeze their workload into a shorter working week.”

The UK trial showed the main benefits of shorter working hours were around wellbeing with 39% of employees saying they were less stressed, and 71% having reduced levels of burnout at the end of the trial. Also, levels of anxiety, fatigue and sleep issues decreased, while mental and physical health both improved.

Results showed increased productivity and engagement too, with organisations reporting revenue increases of 35% on average, compared with other periods, and the number of staff leaving decreasing significantly, dropping by 57% over the trial period.

However, it hasn’t been plain sailing for all involved as it’s not a model that suits all businesses. Disadvantages reported included staff being exhausted by the time they reached their day off, and employers struggling to get staff cover or facing extra staff costs if the business is customer-facing such as a restaurant or shop.

Adrian adds: “For firms considering implementing a four-day week, forward planning and adopting the right HR systems can ensure a smooth transition. Going digital and using tools like absence management software can offer an accurate way to keep track of staff, so they know who is off when, and allow managers to plan ahead.

“Digital tools give instance visibility over the workforce as well as accurate data on other absences such as sick days or holidays. This can help them spot any changes to behaviour which may indicate that the four-day week isn’t working for some.

“For example, if someone ends up stressed by trying to cram work into fewer days – this could lead to them taking more time off sick if they can’t cope. Identifying such patterns helps companies address any concerns promptly and make adjustments to maintain a healthy work environment.

“Introducing a four-day working week can bring substantial benefits when managed correctly and proactively monitored for changes in behaviour. Using digital tools can support the decision to offer this whilst at the same time staying attentive to any negative impacts.”

From Stress to Success: The 4-Day Workweek Revolution

Employers must learn to be flexible.

Performance should be judged on output – not on the hours someone works. Perhaps an unpopular opinion, but I have always despaired of the comments that fly around a management meeting. The ones that praise the ‘hard workers’ slogging away at their desks from dusk till dawn. 

Or the “good afternoon” remarks made to the poor person who’s just battled the school run and rush hour traffic only to make it into the office a bit later than expected. 

Reflecting on my first full-time contract, it started at 35 hours a week – a typical 9-5 job, with 60 minutes for lunch. It changed to 37.5 hours and then increased to 40. Some businesses currently contract 42 hours for full-time employment. It begs the question: what is the tipping point before an individual stops adding value? 

Employers should really ask themselves whether even though someone is physically present, how much of their time in the business is truly effective. I’ve often contemplated how we have become so bound by and fixated on the number of hours a person is expected to do. 

Even now, in a post-pandemic world, the rigors of the traditional work scenario are clearly coming back into play. That sense of “I must be seen, or I’ll be forgotten or even worse… I’ll be judged”.

Employers must learn to be flexible.

 A place of ‘give and take’

I wonder when the nation will stop asking for more time from an employee – more time away from their home, family and friends. It’s time to realise that, in order to get ‘more’, you have to give something back. 

I don’t think this has to mean a more generous financial package. Flexibility is the best reward you can provide an employee – the freedom to be trusted to manage their own work time and projects.

Prescribed hours at a specific location don’t necessarily make allowances for an individual’s optimal conditions – the time of day they work best; the style they like to work in; the environment and surroundings they thrive within. Nor do they consider circumstances such as young children or a big commute. 

Offering flexible arrangements enable an employee to work during the hours they are most productive. This means a company gets more out of them – higher output, higher revenue and lower staff turnover. Organizations demonstrating such adaptability also reduce their cost to hire because they represent an attractive place of employment.

Being a flexible company also opens up access to a wider talent pool – those exceptional candidates who are otherwise out of reach because they are unable to commit to specific demands such as hours and place of work. 

 Trust and empower

Ex-Amazon recruiter and best-selling author of 7 Critical Resume Mistakes to Avoid Lindsay Mustain said: “Employees have been statistically proven to be more efficient when provided the opportunity to independently work when, how and as much as they like. Flexible options increase both productivity and the time an employee spends working.”

Some day, we might just take a leap of faith – one that gives people the freedom to work their own hours in their chosen environment, which ultimately pays us back with the results they deliver…

Advice on managing a busy email inbox 

Prevent your inbox from becoming another full-time job – use these tricks and tips to keep the chaos at bay and, instead, adopt healthy email management practice

Email is often the primary mode of business communication, and with good reason; it can be a quick and effective way to complete tasks such as scheduling and providing status updates to your team. However, if you don’t follow healthy email management practice, it can seem like your inbox is the one managing you. 

While email is a great form of communication, it shouldn’t be all-consuming. Here’s how to break unhelpful habits and create a healthier, more efficient, relationship with email.

Develop an email schedule

Many people consider achieving inbox zero to be the ultimate email management success; the goal becomes to keep your inbox clean at all times and regularly check for new emails – but while checking your email may feel productive, it can actually take time and focus away from other, more important, work tasks. If you want to reduce workplace distractions, and become more productive, ditch this concept and create a schedule to limit the time spent reading and responding to emails. This will minimise the interruptions that derail your productivity on important tasks and ensure that you are setting aside adequate time for them.

There is no rule for what type of schedule works best; if you aren’t sure how often you need to check your inbox, try looking at it at three designated times each day for a week or other fixed amount of time. Reduce this time the following week until you find the minimum amount of time you need to adequately respond.

Managing expectations and creating boundaries are important aspects of creating an email schedule. Make sure clients and co-workers are aware of the new schedule by setting up an automatic response with your email host or adding your email response times to your signature. This way, people who are accustomed to instant replies won’t be surprised or offended if you take three hours to respond instead of three minutes.

Organise content in folders

We often rely on email for important work history information but, with the number of emails most of us receive daily, finding a message you need can feel like searching for a needle in a haystack. Among the respondents in a Mail Manager survey, 73% said they spent too much time searching for emails – so it’s no wonder that 70% of the same group felt email was a large drain on overall productivity. 

One of the easiest ways to save yourself a headache is to develop a robust email organisation system. Create folders for timely emails or informative messages to keep your inbox clean and manageable. If you work for a company that has several departments, it might be beneficial to organise your account by department, with subfolders for time-sensitive material. You can also create folders for recurring projects or events. 

Unsubscribe from email chains

An integral part of the email organisation process is the magic of the unsubscribe link. It’s easy to become inundated with offers from companies and vendors by signing up for their lead magnets but if their subsequent correspondence only adds to your email backlog, it might be time to unsubscribe. Be ruthless with this; marketers know they need to earn subscribers’ attention, and your subscription is a privilege.

If creating an email schedule and implementing a strict organisation policy doesn’t make your inbox more manageable, it may be time to consider an email management tool. Some apps allow you to mass unsubscribe from newsletters and other things that are clogging up your inbox.

Pre-schedule messages when appropriate

Schedule-sending features can make email management easier both for you and the people who receive your messages. For instance, let’s say you’ve got a big client meeting coming up; you can draft and schedule your follow-up email ahead of time so that you don’t have to worry about remembering to send your presentation afterwards.

Or you might have an important email you want to get off your desk, but you didn’t draft it until end-of-day Friday. You can schedule it to hit your co-workers’ inboxes first thing on Monday so that you all can enjoy the weekend. Email scheduling can show that you respect your colleagues’ time as much as your own. 

Clear the clutter

Past emails can be helpful when you want to retrace your steps in a conversation, but you don’t need to keep every little message. Yes, conversations about action items will help down the line but an email confirming that the team meeting was moved from 2:30 to 3:00 p.m – maybe not as important. Regularly delete the emails you don’t need to keep so it’s easier to search your inbox when you need something important. 

Set email reminders

One of the reasons people read emails as soon as they receive them is to avoid accidentally forgetting about them later. Let your email platform do the work of remembering for you so that you can focus on your highest priorities. 

Some platforms will allow you to mark and set timed reminders for specific messages. If you can sync your calendar with your email platform, you may also be able to create an event from an email. This can be especially helpful if your response requires some extra thought and you need to block time on your calendar to address it.

Turn off notifications

If you’re working on a task, and in a state of flow, the last thing you want is to be interrupted. When you’re inundated with pinging sounds and pop-up notifications every time you get a new email, maintaining focus can be an uphill battle. Disabling notifications can help you stick to your designated email-checking schedule and this will also eliminate the temptation to answer emails outside of working hours.

Encouraging productivity in a hybrid work environment

Annemarie Estess explores the impact of a hybrid work environment and how to encourage productivity for employees working from home 

Back in November 2020 when I asked my coaching clients how they were doing with working from home, they described some highlights — ‘I guess I sleep a bit more’ — and lowlights – ‘We’re struggling for space and getting cabin fever’ — of the experience, but ‘lonely’ was the overtone. 

I spoke then with people aged 20s-to-60s, graduates to executives, across varied industries and roles. Their circumstances varied but they all described feeling more alone than usual. They were also unsure of what to do about it when the reality was that they were likely to continue to work from home, with no defined end in sight, against the backdrop of the pandemic.

Even though most people logically understood how extraordinary these circumstances were, many were still convinced they were doing something wrong, that it was a failure of their time management or productivity skills, somehow, if they didn’t feel as fired-up and connected to work as they once did. When we zoom out (no pun intended) and look at the trajectory that work has taken for many organisations and staff since 2020, our loneliness, and uncertainty about how to address it, is not surprising. Working from home used to be an exceptional arrangement, something we might have longed for, or tried to get approval for here-and-there as a perk; now, in 2022, ‘hybrid working’ is on everyone’s lips.

A report by the Office for National Statistics in 2019 showed that the number of employees working mainly from home was around five per cent. That figure jumped to about 49% of employees working mainly from in June 2020. These figures are pretty striking. They remind us that we were in uncharted waters as a workforce and, to some extent, we still are. It’s no wonder so many of us may, even now, be feeling adrift and unsure of how to work well at a distance. Of course, some people are loving being based at home but others aren’t so happy, for various and valid reasons.

Wherever you find yourself on that spectrum, it’s fair to say that we’re still collectively in a living experiment about how we can remain connected, engaged and motivated about work without having meaningful, in-person interactions with colleagues every working day.

Here I’m sharing food for thought and approaches that I’ve picked up from clients and colleagues, various podcasts that discuss work fulfilment and engagement amid the pandemic, and my own experimentation of home-working habits. All of them revolve around the same key idea – how to make our contact with each other more regular, more honest, more fun and more human.

Bring back the ‘coffee-machine chatter’ when working from home

We may have never expected to miss small talk while waiting for the kettle to boil, but the in-between-meeting moments, and informal conversations, seem to be missed a great deal. Allow a few minutes to, quite literally, sit and chat over a beverage. Even five minutes at the start or end of a one-to-one or team meeting can go a long way to building positive attachment in the team, broadening our base of trust and comfort with each other.

As counterintuitive as it may sound, structure in ‘unstructured’ time with your colleagues

Yes, many of us are coping with meeting fatigue and might groan if someone were to suggest another video call, but we shouldn’t underestimate how powerful it can be to have a ‘phone or video chat where we catch up as people, beyond the scope of work.

If you’re in charge of a recurring meeting, start it with a short check-in

This can involve asking people to name a word or a couple of sentences about their headspace that day. It’s a chance to get a temperature check on how people are doing when we aren’t otherwise getting much interaction with each other.

If you’re a leader or manager working from home, do what you can to give practical support

This might mean flexing a colleague’s working hours to accommodate caretaking responsibilities and facilitating team conversations to gauge where people can tag-team tasks so they aren’t feeling isolated and buried.

Broaden your support base beyond work

Many people I’ve spoken with, particularly those in senior leadership positions, recognise that they need to be able to let down their guard and connect with people who aren’t colleagues. They need somewhere independent and external to get support. Seeking out people and forums – friends, family, networking groups, training programmes, professional support like coaching and therapy can give us a more dynamic, broader base of support while working from home.

Listen out for what people are finding difficult about working from home and what they’re finding helpful

You might find a grab-bag of various strategies people are coming up with to stay motivated, engaged and healthy while working from home. If you’re a leader in the organisation, these strategies can be compiled and shared informally or formally.

These approaches won’t replace what we get from being side-by-side with each other, able to organically strike up chat, gauge each other’s moods, stroll to get tea and share stories of the weekend, but they can be part of the important work to revitalise our sense of connection to colleagues, to our work, and to ourselves as hybrid working becomes more and more the ‘new normal’.

Flexible working now arriving at aisle three

Remote workers might soon be able to do their jobs and shop for groceries at the same time, under a new “Spaces” project between Tesco and flexible office operator IWG. A trial at a branch of Tesco in New Malden that will start later in this month and will accommodate 12 private desks, 30 co-working spaces and a meeting room. The 3,800 sq ft space within the store would normally have been used for electrical goods, music, and other forms of entertainment, most of which are now mainly purchased online. The aim is to make better use of floor space and, if successful, Tesco stores across the country could become flexible working hubs.

The deal is the first collaboration between IWG’s Spaces brand and Tesco. The move reflects “part of a shift towards creating more self-sustaining, vibrant local communities that will greatly improve the work-life balance of local workers as well as having a positive impact on the environment by reducing the need for daily and costly commutes into central London”.

Research undertaken by IWG suggests that three-quarters (72 percent) of workers would prefer the long-term ability to work flexibly to going back to the office five days a week, with a 10 percent pay rise.  The growth of IWG’s network has been increasingly focused on suburban locations, emphasising the demand for workspace solutions in the heart of local communities. About  77 percent of employees say a place to work closer to home is a must-have for their next job move, with workers four times more likely to choose an office close to home than a city centre.

Ergonomic furniture – a must for long-term homeworkers

Ergonomic furniture for people working at home will still be an active market even when people have begun to return to the office

Research published in March by Currys PC World, in collaboration with Canon, found that many UK employees working from home still don’t have their own office space, with 27% working from the living room and one-in-10 working from the kitchen.

Such working environments are not ergonomically optimised and, in the long-term, could lead to tiredness and work-related injuries, such as shoulder or muscle strains, which are painful and can impact on productivity.

It means that, with working from home set to be a long-term arrangement for many employees – either full-time or part-time split between home and the office, the issue of having ergonomically-designed office furniture at home is as important as ever.

“Ergonomics is all about enhancing your performance through good design whilst also keeping you safe and healthy,” says Simon Howorth, marketing and design manager at DAMS. “What this means is that you need to take a bird’s eye view of the space you now find yourself working in and identify what is working and what’s not. You don’t need to evaluate your workspace every day to within an inch of its life, but you should certainly be considering how you generally feel, day-to-day.

“For instance, for a chair to support and fit you properly there are some key features you need to consider – height adjustment, good seat depth, lockable back with lumbar support, adjustable armrests and dynamic chair adjustment which allows you to move in the chair whilst being supported. At Dams we believe that everybody deserves a good office chair which has the movement and positioning capabilities to enable people to sit comfortably, while at the same time encouraging productivity by seamlessly supporting the body during work activities.”

Wherever I lay my laptop, that’s my workspace

Hybrid working is set to be a major business trend in the second half of this year, and Wave Office can help employers ensure they have the right equipment for this.

The COVID-19 pandemic changed the way many people work, with home working increasingly significant. These changes look set to stay as we move towards a post-pandemic phase, with many people wanting to work at home for at least some of the time.

Figures from the Office for National Statistics show that of those currently working from home, 85% want to use a ‘hybrid’ approach of both home and office working in future. This means that hybrid working is set to become increasingly common and presents opportunities to dealers.

For instance, while mobile ‘phones, webcams and high-speed internet connections continue to offer seamless communication between home and base, access to information is a concern. “Employees are looking for solutions to have business continuity between work and home, through shared online access to documents and paperwork,” says Andrew Cowling, senior channel marketing specialist at PFU (EMEA) Ltd – a Fujitsu company.

“Paper-based information can be stored in filing cabinets, desks, storage boxes and archives, which makes it difficult to share and access. Moving documents between home and work also increases the risk of loss, damage or theft, increasing the risk of data loss and potential of fines.

“Scanning these documents unlocks their potential, allowing the digital information to be shared on mobile devices, tablets and PCs – enabling access whenever, and wherever they are required. This also offers the combined benefits of being able to organize, analyze, search and share information, quickly and easily, saving time and money whilst improving efficiency for customers. Wave Office can educate customers on scanning benefits in order to help open up this market opportunity.”

5 Essential Furniture Items For Your Home Office

COVID-19 has officially swept the nation, and now home offices are becoming the new normal. Many people have adapted to changes, but some are still finding it difficult to create an efficient working space at their homes. And without the right furniture or space, working from home can seem like a chore rather than a refreshing experience. Here at Wave Office, we are the experts of office furniture and know what essentials you need to help you be the most productive. From office chairs to desks, storage solutions and more, we can help you find the right furniture to suit your needs. With the right environment and office furniture, working from home will seem like a breeze. Keep reading on and find out what furniture items you should have in your home office
  • The Right Chair Finding the right chair for your home office is very important, as you are going to spend a lot of time there. Most office chairs will be comfortable for the first few hours but after they can cause a lot of discomfort throughout the day. That isn’t ideal especially since you will be spending around 7-8 hours at your desk each day. A comfortable chair you should consider is an Ergonomic chair. Ergonomic chairs provide amazing comfort and will feel comfortable throughout the whole day. They can also be adjusted to suit the height of your desks and length of your arms, so you won’t need to lean forward every two seconds.
  • A Flexible Desk One of the most important furniture pieces in your home office is your desk. You want to choose one that suits your workload, style and colour scheme. Plus, you want a desk that offers flexibility and boosts your productivity. The perfect desk for this would be a height-adjustable one. These desks are very versatile and give you a break from sitting down. In addition, standing desks also boost your productivity as it keeps you more focussed and alert on the task at hand. Standing desks come in a variety of sizes, so you can easily choose one that will suit your workload as well.
  • Appropriate Storage An essential item that always gets overlooked in home offices is storage and it definitely shouldn’t! Unlike commercial working spaces, home offices are usually smaller. Which makes investing in storage units a smart idea. Cabinets and storage units can make your home office look more professional and attractive. Plus, file cabinets and other storage units will ensure that important files are kept safe while at home.
  • An Organized Bookcase Getting an attractive book-case for your home office will give it the colour, style and wow-factor it needs. This piece of furniture can be a focal point in your office and be a place for you to keep books, magazines and other work items. Some bookcases come with additional storage draws as well, which can be extremely beneficial.
  • Attractive Office Accessories At most commercial workplaces, they have an abundance of office accessories, such as accessory trays, pencil trays, monitor arms and more. These accessories are also essential for home offices as they keep stationery, files and the overall desk organised. You can also get accessories such as chair mats that help moving around your desk easier. So, think about your day to day tasks and what files or actions you will be doing. Then you can determine what accessories you need to streamline your work and finish off your home office.
Here at Wave Office Ltd. we have been helping many people design their home office with quality furniture. We understand these times are uncertain, and we will always be here to help. From chairs to desks, accessories and more, Wave have everything you need for your home office. With us, you can design an efficient home office with quality furniture that will boost your productivity and make your work feel easy. You can check out our wide range of home office furniture on our site, or you can call our friendly team on 01293 510553

Obesity in the workplace

Did you know that one in four adults are classified as clinically obese?


This means that one in every four of your employees could be obese and require additional adjustments to support their comfort and overall wellbeing.

  In the UK, an estimated 15.5-16 million sick days taken per year are attributed to the effects of obesity. Obesity can cause a number of serious health issues such as:
  • high blood pressure
  • diabetes
  • heart disease
  • some types of cancer
  • musculoskeletal conditions
  • poor mental and emotional wellbeing
  All of these effects of obesity can also have repercussions on the productivity, presence and efficiency of your staff. Worries about health, lack of self esteem, feelings of  guilt or shame and varying amounts of pain and discomfort can all distract people from their work. As an employer, there are several things that you can do to care for your staff. You should ensure that they are as comfortable as possible at their current size, but also consider creating a company wide strategy for health and wellbeing that encourages everyone to make healthier choices. Healthier food and drink options should be offered in the canteen, vending machines and from any outside subscription services or caterers. You could also make sure that the healthy canteen recipes are made available for staff to follow at home. Considering how and when staff get the opportunity to move and exercise throughout the day is also important. Practical plans that go beyond a subsided gym membership should be implemented in order to encourage all staff to become more active during working hours. For example, installing changing and showering facilities, alongside secure and convenient storage for clothes, bags and equipment can be helpful in encouraging more active ways to commute to work such as walking, jogging or cycling. An on-site gym could be considered to provide an easily accessible place to exercise or external agencies could be brought in to run a variety of exercise classes throughout the week. Simpler and more instant plans could include the introduction of walking meetings, promoting the use of stairs instead of lifts and creating monthly or weekly staff team challenges such as total amount of steps or weight lost. Make sure that staff often take the entirety of their lunch break, are encouraged not to eat at their desk and incorporate some type of movement during their break, such as a short walk around the building or grounds. Regular health screenings can not only help people to realise if they do have a health issue, but they can also help to keep those who are trying to make healthier choices on track. Another benefit of on-site health screenings is that they allow employers to gain a better insight into the health of their workforce and identify areas that may require more focus. Employees should be provided with information on reputable weight loss, exercise and wellbeing classes, clubs or apps. This helps to ensure that they make healthier and more informed choices outside of the workplace. The NHS Change4Life website is a great place to source this type of information.   With all that being said, change takes time and staff need to be comfortable enough to work productively until the changes start to take effect. So, what can be done? Carry out a review of the furniture that your staff are using. If an employee is sat in an unsuitable chair, levels of discomfort can increase, leading to a drop in productivity. In the worst case scenarios the chair may break, causing embarrassment or even harm to the employee. Key indicators that someone is sat in a chair that is inappropriate for their size include:
  • The employee does not appear to comfortably fit between the two armrests
  • In the case that a chair doesn't have armrests, the member of staff is visibly too large for the chair
  • The employee has complained of or taken time off due to musculoskeletal pain
  • The castors or base of the chair may start to crack
  • The chair's back does not properly support the employee, even once the tension has been adjusted
  There are a range of seating options available to cater for larger employees. These types of chairs feature wider seats and backrests and are designed to withstand heavier weights. Some chairs designed for heavier loads offer even more support and comfort with bespoke designs, unique to an individual's needs. A chair assessment can be carried out by a member of our staff to avoid potentially uncomfortable conversations between employers and employees in relation to size and weight. We can also take a range of other measurements in a professional and discreet manner and ask specific questions in order to establish the best product for the employee's needs.

What Is Ergonomic Office Furniture?

The small round table in the dinette may be great for casual meals with your family, but inviting overnight guests can mean that you need extra chairs around the dining room table to seat more people.


February is the British Heart Foundation's, National Heart Health Month and we are all encouraged to learn as much as possible about looking after our hearts

  Many deaths and preventable disabilities in the UK are caused by heart related illnesses, but making some simple changes can improve your chances of avoiding these diseases.  


A good diet is vital for overall health, but it is even more important when it comes to health of the heart. However, if you work in an office environment, sticking to healthy food choices can be particularly difficult. Birthdays, celebrations, leftovers and general "pick-me-ups" are all good excuses for people to bring unhealthy food into the office.   Saturated fats raise cholesterol levels and increase the risk of heart disease. Foods such as cakes, biscuit and dairy products are all generally high in saturated fats. Sugar raises your heart rate and any unused energy will be stored as fat, which can increase the risk of heart disease and type 2 diabetes. Salt raises blood pressure and increases the risk of heart attacks and strokes.   Try to encourage staff to make healthier choices by offering nutritious meals in the canteen, providing fresh, low sugar snacks throughout the day and ensuring that low sugar drink options are available. Education is an extremely important factor in helping people to make informed choices about their diet. The British Heart Foundation has some great resources on their website that you could use to provide staff with information about well balanced diets and portion control.  


The heart is a muscle and requires regular exercise in order to stay strong and healthy. Unfortunately, spending the majority of the working week sat at your desk means that fitting regular exercise in to your day can be difficult. With some small changes to equipment, alongside motivating tasks or challenges organised by management, it can be easier and more fun than you think to get a good amount of movement into your working day. For example, sit/stand desks or monitor risers can be a great way to get staff on their feet throughout the day. Step challenges are also a fun way to build morale as well as keeping employees active. If you don't already have teams within your business, divide your workforce up as evenly as possible and supply everyone with a pedometer. Give every team a week to complete the most amount of steps and think of a healthy reward for the winners.

Mental and Emotional Health

Employers should also strive to look after the mental health and overall wellbeing of their employees as stress can have a detrimental impact on heart health. Employers should make sure that their staff are aware of the help that is available to them if they find themselves struggling emotionally or mentally. You could create information leaflets, posters or emails to let people know about support available to them within the business and outside agencies that can help. Workshops are also a great way to get people involved and educated or finding a new hobby which can help people to care for their wellbeing outside of work.  

Training and Education

For every minute that somebody in cardiac arrest doesn't receive defibrillation, their chances of survival drop by 10%. Having a defibrillator and trained staff on site could save a life. First aid training should be provided regularly and as many staff as possible should be invited to attend. Employees should also be made aware of the risk factors that can cause heart disease and illness such as high blood pressure, diabetes and smoking. Information and support in controlling these risk factors can help staff to take back control of their health and avoid more serious conditions in the future.

Getting to work in winter weather

Snow, rain or ice , as well as lower light levels or glare from the low sun are all conditions that can make the winter commute very hazardous. Driving in these types of weather can be extremely stressful and require a lot of concentration. However, there is some sensible advice to be followed to try to make your commute as safe and calm as possible. Give yourself extra time: Rushing is a main cause of mistakes and feeling under pressure to arrive on time can cause you to speed. In winter, this can be even more dangerous than speeding in normal conditions. Remember that in snowy and icy conditions in particular, you should drive slower than you normally would, traffic is likely to be heavier and slower moving and you may need to take a detour. All of these factors may add time to your journey that should be allowed for. Clear your car properly: All windows and mirrors should be completely clear of any ice, snow or fog and you should make sure there is no snow left on the roof of your car as this can drop on to the windscreen when you are driving. Driving your car when windows, mirrors and windscreens are not clear is an offence that can add three points to your license. Keep speed down and stopping distances greater than usual: Corners should be taken extra slowly and remember that safe stopping distances are doubled in wet conditions and can be up to ten times greater in icy conditions. Keep steady and in control: Try to avoid heavy acceleration, braking and steering in bad weather conditions. Carry out any maneuvers slowly and with great care. Make sure that you are always aware of your surroundings as pedestrians, cyclists, motorcyclists and other cars can be harder than usual to see. Keep an emergency kit in the car: Winter weather can be unpredictable and it is not unheard of for people to become stuck due to impassable roads or breaking down with long recovery times. This is why it is vital that you keep a winter emergency kit in the car. This should include: Torches and batteries, warm clothing and blankets, hi-vis jackets, jump leads, food and drink and a spade.

Cold Weather Working

Cold weather brings lots of worries for employers and employees alike. Main concerns include travel, absenteeism, illnesses and general health and safety. In this post, we aim to give a little practical advice to help you to handle the biggest business concerns that cold weather brings.  

What temperature should my workplace be?

    There is no legal lower limit for indoor working temperature, but the Workplace Health, Safety and Welfare Regulations of 1992 state that the minimum temperature in the workplace should not fall below 16°c, reduced to 13°c if the work requires a high level of physical activity. However, these are only recommended guidelines and not legal requirements. The regulations go on to state that the temperature of workrooms should provide reasonable comfort without the need for special clothing. Employers are required to do what is reasonable and practical to keep employees warm and safe. Extra risk assessments may need to be carried out to ensure that employers are doing everything that they can to ensure their employees are not at risk of illness or injury. When the weather begins to affect the workplace, the HSE recommends the following measures in order to keep the working environment warm:
  • Provide adequate heating with the addition of additional heaters if required
  • Reduce any drafts and reduce exposure to the cold by minimising the length of time that tasks are carried out outdoors or in colder areas
  • Provide ample break time for employees to spend time in warmer areas, eat warm food and make hot drinks
  • Provide appropriate floor insulation or footwear if employees are expected to stand for extended periods of time

What if the weather makes it difficult or impossible to reach your workplace?

  If heavy snow or ice is making your journey extremely long, difficult or dangerous, the most advisable thing to do would be to talk to your manager about working remotely. Employers should prepare for such events with clear guidelines in place to avoid confusion among employees. Employers and employees should both act in a responsible manner at these times to protect individual safety and the interests of the company. By being prepared for such events ahead of time, risk of confusion is lowered and safety concerns are clearly communicated. If you have to travel in the snow or ice, make sure that you are aware of the best way to drive in these conditions.  

What about illnesses?

  Conditions such as asthma, arthritis, psoriasis and cardiovascular disease can all be aggravated by the cold weather and those who suffer from these illnesses should be encouraged to take extra precautions to protect their health. Working indoors in periods of cold weather can encourage the spread of illnesses such as cold and flu. This is because indoor environments are generally less ventilated in the winter months and people's immune systems are normally weaker. Consider installing hand sanitizing dispensers around the office to help to control the spread of germs. Norovirus is another highly contagious illness and is so common in the winter months that most people know it by the name of "the winter vomiting bug". The bug is easily spread in unventilated environments where people spend a lot of time in close proximity to one another. Those who have had the bug should remain off of work for at least 48 hours after their symptoms have cleared and should remember to properly clean and disinfect their desk and equipment upon their return. Employers should be aware that asthma can become worse in cold weather as the sensitive airways of the sufferer can become aggravated by damp or cold conditions outside. Indoors, sufferers are at risk from heated air and indoor pollutants.

How To Make Hot Desking Work for Your Company

Hot desking can have many benefits for your business and can be especially useful for companies that have smaller offices or for organisations who promote flexible working. However, there can be a variety of barriers to the successful implementation of hot desking. Here we aim to highlight the biggest of those hot desking problems and provide some tips and insight into how you can avoid any big issues.


Have a system in place that allows employees to "reserve a desk"

Some days will require more desk based work than other. Having the option to make sure a desk is available when needed is a great way to help the implementation of hot desking seem less scary and more functional for staff. It also helps to keep tensions and competition for space low and makes it easy for people to plan their working day efficiently.

Reservation systems could be as simple as having an office manager or receptionist place a note or dry-wipe board message on a desk stating that the space is reserved for "x", accompanied by the time the desk is reserved from and to. For larger organisations a desk reservation software may be more suitable.

Whichever reservation method is chosen, it is crucial that all staff are briefed on the system, how it works and the importance of following it.


Make sure ample storage solutions are available

If your company is looking into hot desking, its is vital that suitable storage solutions are not forgotten. Adequate and functional storage can be the difference between the success and failure of your hot desking system.

It may be a good idea to ask your employees to fill out a questionnaire about the items they regularly bring in to work and what type of storage they feel would suit them best. For example, if people regularly bring a gym kit or change of clothes to work, larger storage options such as lockers should be made available.

An effective and secure filing system is also important when people no longer have a personal desk to occupy. There are many mobile pedestal options now available on the market and these can be a great solution for storing documents and other items that staff require to carry out their job effectively.  Alternatively, a move towards a paperless office could also be implemented around the same time as the start of your hot desking plans.

It's also a good idea to place coat racks and hooks near each set of desks to allow people to keep bags, coats and other bulky items away from their working area but within sight and reach.


Have awareness for how others work

Some companies organise their hot desking system into different zones or departments throughout the building. For example, you may choose to have a silent working area, a more relaxed area and a zone for people who regularly make or take calls.

Alternatively, staff should be encouraged to respect others around them, such as stepping outside to speak on the phone if other colleagues are working quietly.


Keep desks clean and tidy

This is an important factor of hot desking success. Firstly, staff will become frustrated if they have to rearrange or tidy a desk before they can use it and secondly, colds and other illnesses are easily spread when desks, keyboards, phones and mice are shared by many people, so good hygiene is paramount for staff health.

Make it quick and simple for staff to keep desks clean and clear by placing a bin next to each desk or set of desks and antibacterial wipes within easy reach for wiping down the desk and shared accessories. You could also consider placing sanitising hand gel dispensers near each set of desks to help to stop the spread of germs.


Create spaces where staff can relax, socialise and collaborate

Hot desking offers a range of benefits, however, having alternative spaces that allow staff to break away from their work are crucial to the success of a desk sharing environment.

Staff need time to relax, meet with other colleagues and eat and drink in order to be productive, alert and creative. Depending on the way you choose to implement your hot desk system, it may not be possible to achieve these things at a shared desk. Without accessibility to spaces that cater for these types of activities, staff will quickly become frustrated with the system and become rapidly demotivated and unproductive.

Why Are Office Kitchen Areas So Important?

Interior design trends are clearly showing that kitchens are becoming the new domestic hub. This trend is now spilling over to the work place and it's easy to see why.

  A well designed kitchen area, breakout space or canteen, provides a much needed break from screen time and allows employees to rest, recharge and socialise with colleagues. These areas are fast becoming the collaboration hubs of the office, where creative ideas are conceived and cross-department relationships are formed. Kitchens and breakout areas provide employees with space for a no-obligation rest, chat or meeting. It's an environment where ideas can be sparked, problems solved and morale boosted, all without any pressure. If these things happen in this space, it's a bonus, but the space is primarily accepted and respected as a space that allows time away from work. However, it is often found that without the same pressures that are found in meeting rooms or behind desks, ideas and problem solving become much more creative, inclusive and frequent, even without a set intention or agenda.

What makes a great space?

  The best functioning kitchen and breakout areas are equipped with modern appliances and conveniences such as coffee machines, microwaves and refrigerators which allow staff to bring in healthy meals from home and easily recharge their bodies while they rest their minds. Furniture is also hugely important to the functionality and enjoyment of these spaces. Comfortable lounge areas with sofas and soft seating are important for those who want to sit down and recharge. Ergonomic chairs and tables are ideal for staff who wish to work away from their desk in a less formal environment. Large tables and comfortable seating provide a space for groups to gather and chat or collaborate, whilst smaller tables and high quality canteen chairs are great for those who simply want to sit and eat. Acoustic pods and booths can be invaluable in this type of environment as it means those who prefer a little more quiet can still enjoy the culture and opportunity that these spaces provide, without having to completely isolate themselves from the experience. Kitchen and breakout areas are no longer seen as small conveniences, but more as areas that capture and create a positive company culture that should be accessible for all. So, with that in mind, it might be time to start planning a refurb! Here's a great case study for a kitchen area that we completed for a global Sat Comms company to give you some inspiration.

Getting Through Winter at the Office

Most staff will be waking up to dark mornings and leaving the office in the dark. It's cold and rainy, so commutes are even more miserable and there's less to do during leisure time outside of the office. Christmas is only a few weeks away and some may be stressed with the cost and organisation associated with it. And to top it all off, it's cold and flu season.

So, what can be done to lift spirits and make sure that staff well-being is cared for over the winter months?

Provide healthy snacks This is important in keeping people alert and productive and stopping the afternoon slump. Comfort eating is common at this time of year and usually there's no shortage of sugary snacks on offer in the lead up to Christmas. Fruit is ideal for getting a sweet hit and vitamins all in one. Iron rich foods are also great for providing energy and keeping people alert. Sugary and caffeinated drinks should be kept to a minimum, so consider stocking up on herbal teas or naturally flavoured water. Encourage movement Holding walking meetings, taking the stairs and getting outside on breaks (if it isn't too cold or wet) are great ways to incorporate movement into the working day. Moving helps to keep you alert and productive, as well as stimulating the release of endorphins to keep spirits up. You could also consider putting together a "deskercise" information sheet with instructions on how to keep active whilst working at a desk. Encourage short breaks Following on from the previous point about keeping active, encouraging staff to take a few minutes break in between tasks is a great way to keep people focused. A few minutes every hour to take the eyes away from a screen and allow the brain to relax a little also helps to keep stress levels down and generally help people to feel less pressured. Consider lighting Keep the blinds open, even when it's cloudy as any natural light is beneficial. Consider investing in lighting that more closely mimics natural daylight. This is important for keeping the body clock on track and keeping us refreshed and productive despite the cold and dark outside. Educate staff on the importance of vitamin D In the winter, there is less sunlight available which means our Vitamin D levels will naturally decrease. This can lead to a more deflated mood and further exaggerate any existing aches and pains. Good quality vitamin D supplements are easily available over the counter and can easily help to restore any depleted levels. Offer help and support Set up exercise or well-being workshops throughout each month or offer access to mental health support - this could be as simple as making staff aware about the type of help that is available and local places they can go to receive support or further information. Consider offering physical health checks to staff to make sure their basic health is looked after. You could also set up awareness classes around smoking and drinking as these habits are generally increased around this time of year and are often popular new year's resolutions which are rarely followed through without the right support and awareness. Also, stress the importance of people going to have their flu jab, and perhaps offer it free of charge to employees. Organise a few fun activities throughout the winter Keep morale high and invest in a few fun days out or evening social gatherings throughout the winter months. Generally people tend to hibernate at this time of year, once the Christmas party season is over. This can affect well-being, their performance at work and team morale. Get staff involved with organising something they would all like to do together, and help them to fund a few activities.    

How Can I Manage Stress At Work?

On Stress Awareness Day, we look at some ways that stress at work can be managed

  Don't stay silent If your workload is too overwhelming, talk to your manager or a colleague. Explain to them why you're struggling, especially if the problem is out of your control. This helps to keep the people around you informed, which in itself should relieve some pressure. A manager or colleague may be able to offer a solution that you hadn't thought of, or even take some of your workload off your shoulders. Take breaks and try to relax Stress slows down and distorts the cognitive functions of the brain. This has a direct impact on productivity and quality of work. While it may seem that you have no time to take breaks, not taking them can actually be counterproductive. Even just a few five minute breaks taken between tasks, or after working for a certain amount of time can help to keep your brain alert. Use this time to look away from your work, (particularly if you use a screen), get up, stretch and move and also make sure you are snacking healthily and keeping hydrated. After an intense or particularly stressful workload is finished, try to take some proper time to recuperate. For example, if a job has taken weeks to complete and has been particularly stressful, consider taking the minimum of a long weekend off. This way, you will have something to look forward too whilst you are doing the work and a great way to wind down before starting a new project. Try to get outside Even if it's a quick, brisk walk around the block during your lunch break, a change of scenery and some fresh air can help to calm you down and refresh your brain. Exercise is a great stress reliever and it also releases endorphins which improve mood. If you can't get outside, try to leave your desk and walk about the building, use the stairs instead of the lift and even consider parking your car further away from the entrance of the building. Try not to take work home with you Don't check your emails after you leave the office, unless it's company policy. When at home, try to spend some time on yourself. A nutritious meal, a soothing bath or shower and a herbal tea or decaffeinated hot drink can all help you to unwind. Try to end screen time from devices and TV at least an hour before you intend to go to sleep. In this time, you could escape into a book, meditate or write your emotions down in a journal. The NHS also has a list of apps that they recommend in order to help with a range of mental health issues, including stress and anxiety.

Ergonomic Tips for Teachers

Although teachers are not necessarily sat down for as long as office workers, they are still just as susceptible to musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs)

    Standing for extended periods of time, bending or crouching down to low desks and chairs, or sitting on chairs designed for children can all put strain on a teacher's body. MSDs are one of the leading reasons for extended periods of time off across a range of professions throughout the UK workforce. The economical impact of extended absence is huge and in the case of teachers, the academic impact on students also needs to be considered. Research shows that:
  • 75% of teachers suffer neck and shoulder pain
  • 53% have suffered with knee problems
  • 33% have had trouble with their hips
  • 82% experience MSD related pain at least once a week

What do teachers need to be aware of?

  Teachers should pay special attention to how much time they spend on their feet, particularly if they are stood in one place, such as next to the whiteboard, for long periods of time with little movement. Spending a lot of time standing, particularly in one position, can increase the risk of:
  • Varicose veins
  • Poor circulation
  • Bunions
  • Painful swelling of the feet and legs
  • Joint damage
  • Lower back pain
  • Problems with the feet
Standing properly can help to alleviate pain and strain. When standing, feet should be shoulder width apart, with weight evenly distributed across both feet. Knees should be slightly bent, the back kept straight and shoulders pulled back. When interacting with students, teachers should note how often they are crouching and bending down. These actions can put huge strain on the body and should be avoided where possible.


  Achieving good musculoskeletal and postural health is all about making sure that the teacher is properly supported and comfortable throughout the range of tasks they must fulfill each day. The Jollyback Teacher's chair is a great addition to any classroom. It prevents the need for teacher's to crouch and bend by allowing the teacher to sit at pupil height in an ergonomically supportive chair. The castor base and adult height handle, make the chair easy to move without the need for bending or lifting. A supportive, ergonomic chair for working at their own desk should also be made a priority by teachers and their employers.

How Can You Improve Children’s Spinal and Postural Health at School?

Is your classroom ergonomical?

  Musculoskeletal disorders and back pain account for 31 million of lost working days due to absenteeism. The costs to the economy are huge and perhaps that's why prevention or intervention for these issues tends to focus on adults in the workforce rather than children. However, research shows that increasing numbers of children are experiencing neck and back pain. 72% of primary and 64% of secondary school students reported that they had experienced back pain at school. There are currently no legal regulations regarding back and postural health for students that schools are required to follow. Children spend approximately 30% of their waking hours at school and much of this time is spent seated. Freedom from back pain and good postural health has been shown to have a positive impact on concentration and the ability to learn.

Luckily, there are some simple things that you can do to care for student's musculoskeletal health

  1. The 30:30 Rule: for every 30 minutes spent seated, encourage students to stand up, move and stretch for 30 seconds
  2. Limit the amount of time that students are sat cross-legged on the floor. Try to keep this time to around 10 minutes and encourage students to sit with their legs out in front of them
  3. 10% of a person's body weight is recommended as the limit of safe weight for backpacks. Try to encourage students to repack their bags each night so they only bring what they need. Alternatively, consider the provision of lockers where students can store belongings that aren't required for their next lesson.
  4. Make sure everybody has a clear view of the front of the classroom, the white board and where you are standing to teach. Students should not need to twist, strain or stretch to clearly see these elements.
  5. If a student is regularly hunching over their work in order to read or write, consider the quality of their eyesight and consider reporting this to their parents
  6. Make sure students are active during break times
  7. Provide students with specially designed ergonomic chairs suitable for their age range.
  8. Lead by example. Get up and move with them and make sure that you are standing and sitting with a good posture.

How Does Tiredness Affect Performance at Work

Research from Westfield Health has found that almost half of employees regularly turn up to work too tired to function effectively. Despite this, 86% feel that they are not able to openly communicate with their manager about how their tiredness is affecting their performance. 34% of survey respondents said that their mental well-being has suffered because of their tiredness, whilst 55% stated that their fatigue extends beyond the office and affects their home life too. 37% state that tiredness has made them forgetful at work and 30% said it has made them short tempered with colleagues. Worryingly, 22% have found themselves actively drifting off to sleep at work and 13% have drifted off while driving. Furthermore, 30% have had an accident, made a serious mistake or felt extremely stressed at work due to fatigue. Currently, 86% of employees feel that their employers or managers do not recognise the negative impacts and dangers of fatigue and only 9% believe that their employer would find fatigue a valid reason to call in sick. Director of Well-being at Westfield Health, Richard Holmes, states that "the importance of rest time both at work and home should be taken seriously and encouraged by employers, and fatigue should be considered just as important as any other physical illness or injury".

So, what can be done?

  Try to break your work schedule down into smaller chunks. This makes larger tasks seem less overwhelming and also allows you to use the Pomodoro Technique which can help you to stay focused and less stressed. Make sure you get up to move around as much as possible throughout the day. This is good for keeping your mind alert and a gentle outdoor exercise such as a short walk during your break time is proven to have a positive impact on mental health. Try to slowly cut down on sugar and carbs and swap caffeinated drinks for herbal teas or water. This helps to keep energy levels steady throughout the day rather than providing an artificial peak caused by sugar or caffeine which results in an energy crash later in the day. Make sure your work space is set up ergonomically. A good ergonomic chair and setting your monitor screen to the correct height, as well as the addition of a footrest are all great ways to keep your body free from aches, pains and strains. An ergonomically correct posture will also keep oxygen flow and circulation at an optimum to help you to stay more alert and focused. Freedom from aches and pains helps you to feel less tired and aids in keeping added stress from pain at bay. Try to get as much rest at home as possible. Develop a good night time routine with screen time ending at least an hour before you plan to go to sleep. Also, unless it is required by your employer, do not bring your work home and don't check or respond to emails whilst out of the office. Consider taking a long weekend if you have enough holiday time to use. Regular, shorter breaks can often be better than one extended summer holiday. Try to use this time to relax and unwind as much as possible and make sure that you do not spend the time checking up on work. Finally, if you feel able to, talk to your manager or employer about how your fatigue is affecting you both personally and professionally. You may, for example, be able to reach a flexible working agreement to allow you some extra time to rest, or you oculd ask for the opportunity to start and finish earlier so that you don't spend any more time than necessary commuting.  

What Are Employee’s Top Priorities in Terms of Benefits and Working Environment

Do you really know what makes your staff tick?

    Research by co-working developer, Areaworks, has found that flexible and comfortable working zones are a top priority to employees. Half of the workers surveyed wanted to swap fixed desks for hot desks and casual seating. 64% of office-based respondents also stated that having access to good outdoor facilities or the ability to work on a roof terrace were important productivity and well-being factors.   Other items that made the list for dream office features included:
  • Good kitchen facilities
  • Plants
  • Games, e.g, table tennis
  • Pets
  • Sleeping Pods
  • Water Features
  A study conducted by Perkbox, found that Generation Z - those born between the mid-1990's and 2000 - place a high importance on perks when deciding where to work.  The research also found that 32% of Gen Z prefer smaller benefits with a higher frequency that they can benefit from year round, rather than one bigger annual event such as a Christmas party. The top 3 most popular perks were annual leave on birthdays, free hot drinks and flexible working hours. These were closely followed up by free lunches and access to private health and dental care.   Capital One recently conducted a survey of 3,500 full-time US employees. The aim of the research was to understand employee's thoughts on workplace environment and design in relation to productivity, innovation and collaboration. According to the results, many employees highly value flexibility and good office design. They also value up-to-date technology, agile work spaces and personal well-being investments. These factors were found to be particularly important when employees were considering moving to a new employer. For example, 73% of workers say that a flexible schedule is a top reason for choosing to stay with or leave an employer. When it comes to office design, 57% value natural light, 37% feel they benefit from easily reconfigurable furniture, 30% value collaborative spaces and 25% place high importance on rest and relaxation zones. 66% of workers believe that the design of the office environment is more important that it's location. When asked to choose a health and well-being benefit that they would most like to keep or see implemented, 39% of respondents cited healthy food and beverage options as an important benefit, while 33% placed a high importance on on-site health and wellness centers or programs.   Next time you're considering your staff retention rates or are trying to attract a new generation of workers, consider what it is that they value and implement as many of these factors as you can.

The Importance of Staff Input in Office Design

System management: sort, straighten, shine, standardise and sustain.

  For a lot of companies this formula equates to tidiness, efficiency and uniformity. In many institutions, this system is extremely beneficial. However, it has increasingly spilled over from operating theaters and assembly lines where it makes sense, into the office, where it doesn't. This system management does not belong in the office because it does not recognise what makes a space comfortable, inviting or pleasant, nor does it inspire or stimulate productivity.  

How does the office environment affect productivity?

  Psychologists Alex Haslam and Craig Knight from the University of Exeter, UK, conducted an experiment in order to discover how the office environment affected the volume of work that people were able to complete and how they felt about the work they were doing. They set up four simple office spaces and in each office the study group were asked to carry out basic administrative tasks such as checking documents. Each office was set up slightly differently. The first office was referred to as the "spartan office" and consisted of a clear desk, a basic swivel chair, a pencil and a piece of paper. The tidiness of the space quickly affected the study group with people stating that it felt oppressive and that they couldn't relax. The second office was slightly more enriched than the spartan office. It featured large, decorative prints on the walls and potted plants were dotted around. Participants in the study said they felt that they could relax more in the space and weren't afraid to carry out their tasks more efficiently in this office. The final two office layouts were visually laid out the same as the second, enriched office. The distinction in the case of these two offices was that the study group were allowed to decide on the appearance of the space. In the first of the final two offices, participants were invited to move the plants and the prints on the wall to areas where they liked them best; they even had the opportunity to remove them from the room should they wish. This was the most successful office in terms of productivity and satisfaction and was dubbed the "empowered office". In the last office, the group was again invited to rearrange the room and contents as they wished. However, what they didn't know was that once they had finished rearranging to their tastes, an experimenter would come and and put everything back to the way it was. This was the most hated office and named the "disempowered office". Participants were also found to be the least productive and most resentful in this office.  

What were the results?

  The empowered office saw a 30% rise in productivity compared to the spartan office and a 15% rise in productivity compared to the enriched office. Three participants in the empowered office were able to complete the same amount of work as 4 people in the spartan office. The feelings that participants had about their working environment were found to be all encompassing. If the disliked the office environment, they disliked the tasks they were asked to carry out and also the company that was hosting the office.    

Office or prison?

  Robert Sommer, a psychologist from the University of California, spent years studying and comparing "hard" and "soft" architectural spaces. Hard spaces included areas where windows would not open, lighting and air conditioning could not be adjusted or chairs were bolted to the floor. Essentially, these areas were representatives of prisons. However, these types of factors are now frequently seen in schools, public places and offices. Repeatedly, Sommer found that having scope for autonomy in choices affecting your environment, such as adding pictures to the wall, increased happiness, satisfaction and productivity.  

There's still a way to go

  Despite these studies, control over working environments by employees is still seen globally. In late 2006, HMRC staff were instructed to remove items such as photographs or momentos from their desks. At BHP Billiton in Australia, staff were trained in keeping a tidy desk by way of an 11-page manual. Examples of policies in the clear desk manual included: nothing other than computer equipment and ergonomic aids on the desk, with the addition of a single A5 photo frame. No plants. An award is allowed, but only if swapped for the photo frame. Raising awareness about both the quality of the office environment and the autonomy that staff have over their personal and shared work space is important for two reasons. One, it benefits employers in a multitude of ways - staff satisfaction increases and thus, so does staff retention and productivity. Two, it benefits the health and well being of staff which can only be a good thing for individuals and businesses alike.
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