Blog - Involve your staff in the design process

A red boardroom chair with non-adjustable arms and back, and not enough seat padding

More boardroom than office

I’m a big advocate for getting your staff involved when redesigning a workplace. They’re the people who know about the tasks they have to do, what has worked for them in the past, and the challenges that exist within the current workplace. I find that they often come up with innovative ideas and think outside the square, if and when encouraged, and when the organisational culture is one which has a collaborative approach. I have also observed that people generally don’t respond well to arriving in a new workplace which doesn’t work well for the work they do, and in which they had no input. So given that staff satisfaction will enhance productivity, there is a real plus in taking this team approach.

There can however be times when having workplace design or equipment selected by people who work there, is not as successful. I came across this recently where staff in a call centre environment, with long periods of sitting and no reason to leave their desk (apart from getting a cup of coffee or going to the toilet) were given the opportunity to select their chairs.

The chair they came up with a very smart looking chair, but the challenges with something like this are several:-

  • The back angle is not adjustable, so it can be difficult to use when you are working at a computer and want to sit upright rather than recline back into your chair
  • There is a slight negative tilt back on the seat, so it is difficult to maintain an upright sitting position and leads to a tendency to lean back, then stretch forwards to the desk space, which is hard on the back
  • The arms are at a fixed height so generally block access to the desk
  • These chairs often don’t adjust up high enough to sit at the correct height on some desks
  • The chair base has hardly anything in the way of padding, so is too hard to sit on for more than a couple of hours

By the way, points 1, 3 and 5

  • non-adjustable back
  • fixed height arms
  • insufficient padding

are non-compliant with the VDU Code of Practice put together by ACC and WorkSafe. In other words, these are features you want to avoid in any chair purchase.

Because this chair looks quite attractive, in my experience, these less positive features are not something people immediately consider (if at all) when choosing. So it really pays to get some advice from a professional who can give some tips on what to look for and where to find potential suppliers. Even better, see if you can organise trial of some chair options – various suppliers offer this service, so it is quite feasible to do. Checking that a chair is the right one for the job can save money long term in relation not only to equipment purchase, but also in reducing the risk of staff pain and discomfort due to awkward postures, with possible time off work, or reduced productivity due to discomfort.

This brings me back to the benefit of getting and/or keeping your staff involved with the process of your new workplace development or office refurbishment –. yhey will often provide helpful insights that you might not otherwise have picked up on and also, use experienced trained professionals who can give advice on ergonomic options for furniture and workspace use, to ensure you make the best decisions for your business.