• 4 min read
Ease stress and help people feel more comfortable and productive at the office
by Aaron Haworth
Providing people with greater control over their workspaces and environment is now more important than ever. Throughout the past few years, people were increasingly strained by the major shifts happening at their workplaces—switching to remote or hybrid work and, more recently, fully returning to the workplace. This has resulted in increased demand for resources and tools to ease burdens of coming back to the office.
Research suggests one of the best ways to increase resilience to stressors in the workplace is to give people more control over their work environment. This is particularly important regarding the stress of both physical and mental comfort. By preventing potential situations that might cause discomfort—like a non-adjustable chair or a desk fixed at the wrong height—people are less likely to feel the emotional friction caused by furniture that doesn’t work or accommodate their needs.
Additionally, hybrid work has allowed people the freedom to choose places that best accommodate specific tasks and personal preferences. In returning to the workplace on a more regular basis, many feel stressed about the possibility of losing the choices and autonomy they once had.
For Haworth, this meant pursuing the development of products to meet this critical need for the way people work as they return to the workplace—giving them a sense of control over their immediate work environment. We introduced two new product platforms with user control at the forefront of design: Zody II and Zody LX task chairs and Compose Echo workspaces.
From a seating perspective, Zody II and the fully upholstered version, Zody LX, are the next evolution of our Zody Classic chair. With increased control over the sitting experience and enhanced comfort, Zody II and Zody LX are the first chairs in North America to offer a dual posture feature, supporting more postures—from seated to the in-between “perch” of sit-to-stand. The new feature makes these chairs ideal for working at a height-adjustable desk. The adjustment controls—used to change seat height, recline angle, and recline resistance, etc.—were also redesigned to be more intuitive.
Putting people in control isn’t just about adjustability. It’s also about making possibilities clear—and making the adjustments easy to use over time. The design of Zody II and Zody LX incorporates different textures on different levers to promote muscle memory. For example, the height-adjustment lever has a vertical pattern to reflect the up and down motion, while the slide lever for the seat depth adjustment has a horizontal pattern to express forward and backward motion. Even the icons on the levers were redesigned to be clearer about their function.
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People also benefit from having more control over the position and orientation of their workspaces. Designed specifically for this type of user control, Compose Echo creates hyper-adjustable individual workspaces anchored around a pivot table. That means, within the personal workspace, Compose Echo enables position and orientation changes for fast mode switching—between focus work and collaborative activities. It also lets people minimize glare and distractions, while maximizing their view.
The main method of achieving these goals is through the pivoting table. During development, many prototype attempts were less successful because the table would end up backwards—rotated away from the user. But Compose Echo addresses this problem with its unique design. Perhaps the most important part, though, is the ability for any person to make micro-adjustments based on their needs of the moment—at the same point of work. The table and screen elements are purposefully designed to let people move pieces around to exactly where they feel comfortable, and to do so easily.
Another issue Compose Echo addresses is the importance of visual privacy. In the last decade, auditory privacy was much more important within open-plan workplaces, especially those with few physical barriers. However, there is now a much greater awareness of the many computer cameras around us as colleagues connect virtually. Because of this trend, we are more aware that we might be in somebody’s line of sight. Compose Echo solves this problem with screen options, including personal whiteboards that can double as screens, as well as the primary pivot functionality of the workspace.
It’s no surprise people are feeling a need for control over their work and space more acutely than ever before. So, it’s key to offer them tools and workspace elements that help them feel empowered and productive. For some people, that means adjustable furniture and privacy screens that give them control over their own comfort, so they can stay more focused while they work. For others, it’s the flexibility to instantly adapt to different modes of work within one space whenever they desire. Either way, user control is, without a doubt, increasingly important to today’s workers—and organizations should be ready to address those needs to keep their workforce engaged.
Even in a hybrid world, the office remains the hub of the Work from Anywhere ecosystem. Find out about the role the workplace plays and how to make it a place people really want to be.
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