What does the final year of the decade have in store for office workers?
We may be a few years away from office hover boards and augmented reality desks, but we think the next 12 months could bring some significant improvements in the way organisations manage employee health and wellbeing. Let's take a look at some of the areas we think will start to grow in 2019.
1. Portable/communal sit-stand desks
Sit-stand desks, or standing desks, have been growing rapidly in popularity over the last decade. In 2019, thanks to the rise of more flexible working practices, we expect that employers will be looking for lighter, more compact sit-stand platforms suited to environments where staff work between their homes and the office.
Instead of purchasing sit-stand platforms ad-hoc, organisations will invest in banks of communal platforms that can be stored away and used by staff as necessary. This will be aided by easy-to-carry platforms like our new Opløft, which in its sitting position is just one inch high, and weighs 12 kg. It can be extended to 14 different height settings - ideal for anyone up to 6 ft 2, making it usable for the majority of office workers.
2. Mental health first aid
In 2018 we noticed a boost in nationwide conversations about mental health at work. This is extremely positive, considering that 12.7% of sick days are taken for mental health (according to Mind). Organisations are beginning to see the mental wellbeing of their employees as a real priority. In 2019 it's likely we'll see many more employers offering valuable training such as mental health first aid courses and stress awareness e-learning to their staff.
We hope this new openness about mental health will improve working environments and make people aware of the impact stress can have not only on individual performance, but on the company's too.
3. Ergonomics as prevention, not cure
Too many organisations still see ergonomics predominantly as a curative measure - not as a prevention. Ergonomic equipment is typically bought for staff who have complained of musculoskeletal pain already. By this time it's often too late. The risks of musculoskeletal disorders like back pain and RSI can often be reduced with the use of well-adjusted equipment set at the right height and angle for the user.
In 2019 we would like to see more organisations taking a preventative approach, not only by investing in adjustable ergonomic equipment for everyone throughout their careers, but also by encouraging healthy behaviours like taking regular screen breaks, stretching and walking frequently throughout the day.
4. Four-day working week trials
The tantalising prospect of a (fully-paid) four-day working week has been discussed in the media throughout 2018, but will we see it become a reality for more organisations in 2019? The Trades Union Congress (TUC) recently claimed that a four-day working week is possible - and productive - if business share the benefits of automation, robotics and artificial intelligence with their employees.
Companies around the globe, including Cardiff-based IndyCube have been trialling the concept.
"We felt we had an opportunity to prove something, that you can be as productive in four days as five, and it has been worth it," said founder Mark Hooper.
IndyCube employee Mari Dunning used her extra day to write and publish a collection of poetry, and she says she also uses it to get housework done to free up the weekend.
We expect to see more research carried out into the pros and cons of a four-day working week throughout 2019.
5. More agile working
2018 was a big year for agile working, as our six successful agile working events across the country demonstrated. More companies are going agile. They are embracing the benefits of greater flexibility and autonomy and being more open to technologies that allow this to happen.
In 2019 we expect to see a continuation of the trend for agile working and increased interest in products like laptop stands, mini keyboards and wireless mice that are easy to carry from place to place.
We also hope to see interest in our newest e-learning DSE course, reimagined for an agile workforce. The course guides users through a choice of environments and shows them how to set themselves up comfortably, and how to make good choices for their health and productivity.
Would you like to know more? Head over to our Agile Working e-learning course page for more information.