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Ergo Charla de expertos: Levent Caglar

BakkerElkhuizen spoke with Levent Caglar, Senior Ergonomist at The Furniture Industry Research Association (FIRA) in the United Kingdom, about various trends in the field of ergonomics and knowledge workers. Here are Caglar’s ideas with regard to four areas of this subject:

1. Open-plan office environments

We’re hearing more and more about them: open-plan office environments. Caglar says they are also a hot topic in the UK. But he also says that only large companies are actually capable of implementing this concept successfully. ‘A good example of implementing open-plan office environments here in the UK is at the BBC. This television broadcasting company used its move from London to Manchester to realise activity-based office environments. Employees now choose the workplace that best accommodates their activities. At the BBC, the motto is “work is something you do, not a place where you go". The BBC wants to be the most creative place in the television world, flexible and dynamic, so that employees can really flourish.’

2. Flexible working
An important change accompanying the move towards flexible working, according to Caglar, is that employees are taking on more responsibility. ‘Employees are increasingly determining where and when they want to work. In other words, you have a deadline but it’s up to you to determine how you schedule your time. You have to be capable of dealing with this freedom. On the other hand, the emergence of devices like smartphones and tablets means that we’re flooded all day long with e-mails to which colleagues and customers expect a quick response. Inadequate time management can thus result in stress. In addition, a knowledge worker also needs access to practical information to be able to create a comfortable efficient workplace anywhere.

3. Ergonomic accessories
In answer to the question of whether input devices such as keyboards and mice could be improved by better ergonomic options in the future, Caglar immediately supports the idea that it would be interesting to conduct research into the differences in brain processes involved in tasks such as writing, dictating and typing. ‘I sometimes hear people nowadays say that they would like to talk to their device. It’s also rather amazing to see that users would rather have a touchscreen as an input device than the more accurate and efficient computer mouse. VDU workers thus prefer to leave the mouse behind when travelling because of its extra weight even though it would increase their work efficiency.

Another interesting fact is that the importance of ergonomics is almost always realised only after we’ve suffered physical complaints. To apply ergonomics more preventively, it would be a good idea to have an effective collaboration between ergonomists and designers of not only equipment but also of work practices and workplaces.’

4. Regulations & working conditions
Whereas laws and regulations to protect employees are decreasing in the Netherlands, Caglar says that the awareness of the importance of ergonomics is on the increase in the UK. ‘Employers there see the advantages and are willing to invest in a good environment and materials. Good working conditions are especially important for knowledge workers. When dissatisfied, they tend to move to a working environment or employer they think will be better. For managers, keeping knowledge workers in their organisation is a key goal. And ergonomics plays a crucial role in this. I’ve also noticed that companies are encouraging their employees to be more physically active. Examples of this include providing showers at the office for employees who commute by bicycle and even having a gym in the office building. More attention to exercise is also being devoted to the workplace itself. A good example of this is the use of sit/stand desks. In the future, I predict more attention being given to the psychological condition of knowledge workers, especially how to deal with high stress levels today’s workers have to cope with.’

Quote from Levent Caglar
"Work practices are being driven by ever fast changing technology which enables today’s agile knowledge workers to work at any palace and any time. This presents ergonomists with a great challenge. As ergonomists we must embrace this challenge and come up with practical guidelines and new ideas for unconventional equipment needed to ensure health, wellbeing and efficiency of knowledge workers."

Brief info on Levent Caglar & FIRA
Levent Caglar is renowned for producing practical solutions to ergonomics issues faced by knowledge workers as well as working with designers to produce truly ergonomic products to assist the workers. Levent leads the ergonomics department at FIRA (Furniture Industry Research Association). Since, its inception in 1949, FIRA has been undertaking research, providing consultancy and developing standards as well as testing furniture and related products. From the day it was established it always had an Ergonomics Unit which worked with and provided assistance to the users and manufacturers of furniture.

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