Mara Pereira looks at how workplace improvement projects create new ergonomic opportunities for the channel.
As hybrid working patterns stabilise across Europe, we are seeing the office workplace being reimagined to attract staff back.
A good deal of the emphasis has been on how the traditional office can be made more social and offer more imaginative in-office services like cafés, lounge and play areas. But there is something else happening – businesses are realising they can compete with home offices by investing in the latest ergonomic equipment.
As we all remember, many of today’s home offices were set up in something of a rush when lockdowns were imposed. A laptop and a good broadband connection made work-from-home (WFH) feasible and productive for many people. However, the overall quality of the home office could also be detrimental to remote working. Furnishing the space was not easy. Basic equipment sold out quickly, leaving many people with no option other than to adapt to their current conditions.
Damaging employee health
Now, several years after the pandemic changed working patterns, there is emerging evidence that increased rates of back, shoulder and neck pain could be linked to WFH. For example, the UK’s Office of National Statistics reported a 31% increase in workers going off sick for back and neck problems between 2019 and 2022 and attributed this to homeworking.
From what we are seeing, there is a clear trend to put good ergonomics at the heart of a new wave of office revamp projects. The goal is to make the workplace somewhere that promotes employee productivity and well-being.
It appears that, while some organisations are downscaling the size of their office space, they are unlocking two years’ worth of underspending on workplace interiors and fixtures to upgrade those spaces with new vigour. According to research by IDC, 85% of European businesses say they are making changes to their physical work environment, with about half retrofitting existing offices and the other half investing in entirely new facilities.
A key part of the trend to improve or create brand new office spaces is how new ergonomic desks and chairs enable productive working, while reducing the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. Ergonomic furniture like a chair, for example, is designed to keep the sitter’s posture in the right position to ease stress on the back, neck and spine.
The renewed interest in creating more efficient and comfortable workspaces could accelerate innovations like the sit-stand desk, which are popular in some markets and mandated in countries like Denmark. Standing when you work on a computer has been shown to deliver health benefits in medical studies because of how it avoids sedentary work patterns and flexes your muscles.
Moving with the times
The technology channel can play a role in helping organisations create more productive and safe workplaces that combine the best technology with the best ergonomics. Typically, these businesses have focused on selling PCs, laptops and peripherals into office projects.
Now, imaginative partnerships brokered by distributors can bring together these businesses with leading ergonomic office furniture suppliers. The goal is always to offer customers a one-stop shop of solutions to deliver improved workplace environments all round.
The trend is also being facilitated by how the technology channel can offer this kind of office refresh on subscription, so the high capital costs are converted into a regular subscription payment, thereby considered an operating expense. This approach offers greater flexibility when the customer asks for replacement equipment in the future.
Putting technology channel businesses at the vanguard of offering ergonomic workplace solutions does require a change in mindset as well as an investment in understanding how to sell high-end ergonomic solutions alongside office technology. Those that are further down the path of taking a more consultative, service-oriented approach will be the most successful in playing this expanded game.
Mara Pereira is VP Peripherals Europe at technology distributor TD SYNNEX.