4 Principles of Ergonomic Interior Design

| Riccardo Del Bello | Sustainability and Well-Being

Hello Design Lovers! In recent weeks I have discussed how Interior Design relates to Well-being through articles about sustainability principles, sustainable materials, and biophilic design.

This is an especially relevant topic for me, and I am sure is for every interior designer really. But also for everyone who works at a computer every day or has a physically inactive job. A bad posture held for a long period of time can be seriously detrimental, causing backache, migraine, and worse. Sounds familiar?

If so, this is especially important for you too. And it has become even more so during 2020. The challenge of spending so much time at home, and working every day without even going out has made many people’s life a lot more sedentary (and if you’re like, me working all the time, life wasn’t the most active even before).

For this reason, I thought discussing a bit about ergonomics was as relevant as talking about sustainability in this context. So, I synthesised the 4 principles of Ergonomic Interior Design.

Ergonomics is the science of fitting the physical environment to the worker. We can’t change our bodies, but we can change the workplace to fit us.

1. Simple and Flexible

Interestingly, ergonomic interior design is not just about posture while sitting. A space designed with Ergonomics in mind has to be easy to approach and immediate in every situation too, along with having other characteristics.

While aesthetic is a crucial component for an interior, the designer has to strike a balance between beauty, efficiency, and functionality. This in turn helps to make the space more welcoming for individuals with different preferences and potentially even different physical abilities.

flexible interior

It is important when possible to use modular spaces and pieces of furniture that make a space adaptable to every situation and can improve the residents’ relation with the surrounding space. Toward this same objective, it is important to help ease of movement, use, and comfort avoiding excessive clutter. Especially in a room of limited size, furniture should never be in excess. Living in a cramped space can significantly impact our mood and physical health.

2. Mind Lights sources, air, and temperature

When deciding the seating spots, whether it is just for relaxing or for working, and most importantly if it is a place where you or someone else is going to spend a long time, light is a crucial factor.

Major light sources like windows should never be at your back or side. So, desks should always be placed in front of a window, but not only for lighting reasons. As discussed before other factors that improve our concentration, performance, and overall well-being while seating at a desk are a wider view, the right airflow, and temperature.

laptop window

As for artificial light sources, in each space, depending on the use you’re going to make of it, distinctions should be made between General or Ambient Lighting, Accent Lighting, and Task Lighting. If you’re interested in going more into details regarding this distinction then you should definitely check the guide I wrote a while back, Home Lighting: Easy Guide to Light Layers for Beginners.

One last thing to consider, as Sukhi from Humanscale told me during an interview a while back: When you work, the computer is already generating light so you don't need much more (no task light is required). Unless you're doing paperwork, in which case you should turn the desk lamp on. On the other hand, we must consider that every one of us has different needs, for example, older people require more light. Therefore it's very important that every desk gets an adjustable task light and that the overhead light is kept to a minimum.

3. Low physical impact

Here we are with everything that regards our posture when seating, reading, working, studying, and more.

First of all, the interior should be designed to reduce physical fatigue to a minimum, which of course doesn’t mean one should be seated or lying on the sofa for as long as possible. But for instance, objects of frequent use should be placed in convenient locations, heavy items too should stay where they cannot do harm by falling and can be easily lifted.

Low physical impact can also mean promoting a more active lifestyle. But how one achieves that if the majority of time has to be spent seated in front of a computer?

group of monochrome chairsVarier

One option is to consider Active Seating. Solutions such as Kneeling Chairs or Self-Balancing chairs promote a more natural spine position and movements throughout the seating period. This can help with releasing shoulders tension, backache, headache, and improve productivity. The same principle is true for adjustable-height desks which allow movement and posture changes when needed.

In the more traditional meaning of ergonomics also specifically developed task chairs are a good solution. Numerous brands, like those quoted in the remote working lifestyle article and the ergonomics one, offer a wide range of options.

flokkFlokk

Finally, low physical impact means also encouraging physical activity. So, dedicating areas of both a house and an office to movement and exercises can have a crucial impact on our overall health.

4. Accessories and Details

To fine-tune everything we’ve reviewed so far, there are accessories and details to take into account. Apart from furniture and overall spaces layout, minor objects can vastly change our daily life. When it comes to working, writing, or studying then don’t neglect items like vertical mice, ergonomic keyboards, ergonomic mousepads, keyboard stands, and lumbar support pillows. When needed these can prevent us from inadvertently assuming unnatural positions for long periods of time.

Blue Light Glasses and monitor stands instead help us preserving our eyesight and avoid bad headaches.

accessories

This is it for my personal shortlist of ergonomics principles. Throughout the years, I have applied various of these depending on each specific situation, and still do, especially in this time of lockdowns and home working.

Have you already thought about all 4 of these? Or do you think or wish that more aspects of this topic should be included? Let us know via email or social media!

Cheers!


Riccardo Del Bello

Written by: Riccardo Del Bello

Riccardo is the marketing manager and partner of A Designer at Heart. He is in charge of the development and brand definition of the company for its marketing activities.

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