Ergonomic furniture for people working at home will still be an active market even when people have begun to return to the office – and dealers need to cater to this market.
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.”
Desks are as important, according to Simon. With the standard desk height of 725mm – which correlates to the seated elbow height of a 6’2’’ male – users need to ensure they can set themselves up so that, when their hands are in their lap, the worktop meets their natural elbow position. “You can do this by adjusting your chair height and using a footrest for additional support, or adjusting the table height. The desktop should be at around elbow height in a seated and standing position,” he says.
Meanwhile, it is recommended that the laptop or monitor is positioned at eye level, or just below, Simon adds. “If you are using a laptop alone, sourcing a height and angle adjustable laptop stand is important; this will encourage a better head and neck posture. If you have one or two screens, you may want to consider a monitor arm to provide smooth and effortless adjustments, which can be tailored to the user’s exact needs, allowing you to sit more comfortably at your home office desk whilst reducing lower neck pain and eye and back strain due to incorrect monitor positions.
“Creating a space where you design issues out and, therefore, can work with better health and performance is vita – but it only works if you allow your body the chance to move throughout the day.”
Increase in sales
Jon Askill, marketing manager at Nautilus Designs, adds that ergonomic office chairs have been by far the most popular and desired office furniture item during the lockdown, due to their proven health benefits. “Having an ergonomic office chair helps prevent neck and lower back pain, promotes the natural lordotic ‘S’ shape of the spine, improves blood circulation and boosts overall productivity,” he says. “All respectable employers are aware of this (though many may not admit it).
“Throughout 2020, we saw a dramatic increase in sales of basic home office furniture and, as 2021 progresses, and we move into 2022, we expect demand for ergonomic equipment to level out and to be, once again, overshadowed – or perhaps only matched – by standard equivalents. It’s all contingent on what the ‘new normal’ turns out to be.
“Whatever the outcome, we suspect that the market for ergonomic home office equipment will remain thriving and healthy for quite some time.”
Mark Galliano of Teknik agrees that the ergonomic furniture market will continue to thrive in a post-pandemic world, “There is no question that things will change in the furniture market, with emphasis erring back towards the traditional office environment, so there will be a return to normal office products,” he says.
“That being said, the term ‘hybrid working’ is becoming common parlance and reflects the expectation that, for the longer-term, many employers will be offering their staff the choice of working from office, home or both; this means that the WFH market will move past the ‘firefighting’ needs of a lockdown and into a phase of more maturity, so breadth of price points, styles and sizes of workstations/desks with matching ancillary items, are key for dealers if they want to capture the opportunities that this demand will create.
“We are also seeing a call for multi-purpose furniture that could be used as a desk but then double-up for domestic use – flip-down tables, counter height desks, etc. As far as chairs are concerned, there won’t be a huge change to the market as seating functions are largely interchangeable between office and home.
“One thing that is notable about the WFH market is that, from a dealer perspective, it is much more fragmented, and doesn’t really create many large installation project opportunities, so a good supply partnership is key.”