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Designing Workspaces for Non-Desk Workers

An interview on SmartPlanet with designer Allison Arieff brings up a very interesting point: What are employers, office space designers and facility managers doing to improve workplace design for employees who don’t sit at a desk? Workers in service and hospitality industries who are on their feet most of the day seem to be ignored in these discussions.

Arieff says she’s noticed there isn’t much office design innovation outside the white collar knowledge worker sphere. Apparently, employers in these situations assume that painting the walls a cheerful color and posting inspirational prints around the place is enough. To be fair, it is a little difficult for the average business owner to come up with ways to improve the physical office space when they aren’t working with traditional office furniture. There’s been a huge amount of research into ergonomics and the physical and psychological impact of office and furniture design for desk workers. It just doesn’t seem to extend to workers who don’t have that type of job.

Let’s Get Creative

It’s going to take a change in thinking for workplace space designers and employers to start enhancing the comfort and productivity of their non-desk workers. Here are a few ideas to start things off:

  • Make sales counters height adjustable. We’ve all seen very short service industry workers hopping up on a step stool to ring up a sale since the cash register is too high to reach. Wouldn’t it be cool for workers to be able to push a button and have the worksurface lower to the right height for them at the start of their shift?  They could even raise or lower the counter to accommodate the customer if necessary.
  • Always include appealing seating options. Employees who are on their feet all day need a place to sit in their work area – even if it’s just for a few minutes. It doesn’t have to be a big chair if space is limited. A fun item like the Swopper stool pictured above might be appreciated. In a scenario with adjustable counter spaces, this would allow workers to sit as needed even when they are interacting with customers. The ergonomic benefits could be substantial.
  • Make the break area extra special. This is one area where employers can really make a point of creating an oasis for their workers. Put in some really nice lounge furniture. Herman Miller has plenty of gorgeous options – or you could look at the Steelcase Turnstone line. Add LED lighting that offers a spectrum similar to natural daylight. Add some alcoves or privacy screens so employees who don’t feel like socializing on their break have a place to sit and read a book or magazine.

What are some ways you might make workspaces more enjoyable for service industry employees? Let us know in the comments.


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