Editor's Desk

By Michael Hughes

Shaking it out for health

My boss hasn't caught me juking around the office yet.

You see, every half hour or so I rock around on my feet, undulate the shoulders, rotate the hips, stretch the calves and twist back and forth. This takes maybe 30 seconds. And every hour or so I do the same for a few minutes, or just walk down the hall to acquire that jolt of black liquid inspiration known as coffee.

In my boss’ defense, this is a recent phenomenon, brought upon by research for this month's cover story, "Get Your Office Moving."

Major media outlets recently have cottoned on to the fact that sitting all day isn't the best thing to do for your health. Of course, like in any media frenzy (and having spent many years being a part of them, I know about media frenzies), they have a solution: Sit-stand desks.

Yes, better furniture will help office ergonomics. After all, in considering an entire system, fixtures have their places, and IEs must figure out in a human factors way how the body interfaces with its surroundings.

But while adjustable-height furniture has advantages, that solution leaves out an essential component: the human.

It would be nice to have a $3,890 Stir Kinetic Desk that knows when I arrive, prompts me to sit and stand at appropriate intervals, and senses how long I stand, how long I sit and how many calories I burn.

But as ergonomists have said for years, the person sitting can decide to sit less, to move around, to stand up. That doesn't absolve IEs and ergonomists from their responsibility to train their workers well and put them in ergonomically optimal situations. (For more on that, attend the Applied Ergonomics Conference 2014, details at www.appliedergoconference.org.)

But it does mean that in the face of whatever is facing you, you can get up, move and shake it around a bit. So my boss has a choice.

Pay the invoice for my extravagant desk, or don’t laugh too hard when she catches me doing moves that remind her of zombie Elvis.

Michael Hughes is managing editor of IIE. Reach him at mhughes@iienet.org or (770) 349-1110.