Today a large portion of the population spends their days in some form of office as their means to acquiring money and therefore food and shelter. The perception of convenience and comfort are the standard but at what cost are we living this lifestyle? Here are some problems with the modern office experience.
Over the years our definition of work has evolved. Long ago, humans had to move around, hunting and gathering what they need to survive. For thousands of years farming required people to get outside and spend energy to live. As the industrial revolution happened, labor became an organized tool which had it’s own health related drawbacks but still forced people in general to actively exert energy.
1. Chairs – Why do we sit all day?
The human body has evolved over an extremely long period but has only recently been forced to spend many hours in chairs. Besides running the risk of become extremely bored from sitting in one place, there are many serious health risk associated with sitting in a chair all day.
– The body is designed to turn energy into action. Sitting requires very little action which without doubt, incredibly unhealthy.
– The few body parts that are used while sitting, such as the back, are stressed in ways that will cause permanent damage over time.
– A very common pattern is for an office worker to sit in the office chair, sit in a car, then sit at home on the sofa. Such inactivity is clearly associated with heart disease, mental problems, and sleep disorders.
Besides the health risks, creativity and new ideas come through engaging our environment, which cannot be done when we limit our space to a little office desk.
2. Computer Displays – Why do we stare at glowing rectangles all day?
Computers have helped the world in countless ways and is without a doubt caused some form of social evolution. The personal computer, tablet, and smartphone make finding and producing information easier than ever before in history. But even as I write these words, my eyes are locked inside a glowing rectangle and the other 99% of things around me are not usable to me. As you read these words everything around does nothing to make the experience better (unless you are also getting a massage). This seems a little wasteful.
3. Office Buildings – The Heart of the Modern Office Experience.
Businesses like to have workers in a centralized workspace so work can get done. Managers can guide their workers, and immediately give and receive feedback to the workers. Workers can communicate and share ideas with each other because they are very close to each other. In theory this is the ideal situation for a company, but in reality workers spend lots of time and resources to get to the office just so they can spend most of their time on a computer or telephone.
The classic brick and mortar office is far from a perfect place to work. The first problem begins sometimes hours before the employee walks through the door. Preparing for work and the commute uses a surprisingly large amount of our time. What is the real worth of spending many (unpaid) hours a week preparing for and traveling to and from the office?
It used to be that the office was an important place for people to share valuable resources like mainframe computers and communication systems. At some point we have to stop and ask ourselves: are the shared resources we have in the office still so valuable that it makes sense to spend our time there?
As technology evolves, we can hopefully find better ways to redefine our work space. The first step to change is to step back and take a good look at how we use things so we can build a better user experience not just into our products, but into our lives.