This post isn't about technology - but it is related because it is a story that is about tackling the sedentary work lifestyle created by technology.
Banker Martin Whelan is a man without a desk. Instead of starting each day at a workstation armed with a
computer, swivel chair and some fond family photos, the 44-year-old
executive places his bag and overcoat in a locker, turns on his laptop
and heads off to a 'workspace'.
Some days he stands at a high desk and clears his emails, on
others he lounges on a comfy couch near the in-house cafe, and sometimes
he heads for a communal table. Whelan, who is general manager of consumer marketing at the
Commonwealth Bank, said moving around throughout the workday improved
his efficiency and provided "a lot more flexibility".
But it may also help him to live longer, based on the findings of a
recent study from the University of Sydney that found people who sat for
eight to 11 hours a day increased their risk of dying by 15 per cent. A Dutch company, Veldhoen & Co, is building a worldwide
business around a concept known as activity based working. The company's
Sydney-based managing partner Luc Kamperman said between 80 and 100
companies in Europe and Australia had changed their workspaces to stop
staff being chained to a desk with a personal computer.
Macquarie Bank was the first (in 2008) and the Commonwealth
Bank introduced activity based working at its headquarters in Sydney's
Darling Harbour almost a year ago. Staff such as Martin Whelan are encouraged to work in
different sections of the office, depending on their tasks, and about 10
per cent of desks in each office 'home zone' are standing work stations
in which the desks are set at chest height.
“Some people like going and sitting at a desk that is their
own space. I'm lucky I'm not one of those… you need to be more organised
and have a more flexible attitude,” he said.
Jennifer Saiz, head of property at the Commonwealth Bank,
said the more active work environment had already delivered tangible
benefits. “We surveyed our staff and found, on average people were
sitting down just 50 per cent of the time they were at work,” she says.
“We thought, 'How can we get people to work better with each other and
do to their work more effectively, in a healthier way?'.
“In surveys over the past year since we started it, staff
report they are more productive and more engaged thanks to the activity
Interest from Australian companies means Veldhoen & Co's
Kamperman has settled in Australia to meet the demand. He is now working
with Bankwest in Perth and Price Waterhouse Coopers in Canberra and
Perth. “The biggest hurdle is the shift in mindset,” Kamperman said.
“I get thrilled in my job when . . . you feel like people finally get
it, that they have seen the light. They start to acknowledge that they
have to change themselves and how they think about work.”
Academic Catriona Bonfiglioli doesn't have the luxury of
working in a modern bank building, but is keenly aware of our over
reliance on chairs.
A senior lecturer in Media Studies at the University of
Technology, Bonfiglioli has set up her computer on the top of a filing
cabinet and does her best to stand up for close to half the hours she
spends at work. “I wanted to break the nexus between the computer and chair,”
she said. “People can be sitting 15 hours a day when you add up time at
work, time commuting, eating and watching TV or reading. “I have reduced my sedentary time… I do my emails, admin and
editing standing up but for creative work I tend to sit down. People
need to rethink their whole relationship with their computer and stop
assuming if they are using a computer they have to sit down.”
Bonfiglioli's interest was spurred by studies that showed
that inactivity was damaging to health and even a cause of premature
death. An Australian Institute of Health and Welfare study published
in 2007 found physical inactivity was the fifth leading health risk for
men after tobacco, high blood pressure, high body mass and high blood
cholesterol. And for women, physical inactivity was an even bigger
burden than high cholesterol and tobacco. Adults spend, on average, 90 per cent of their leisure time
sitting down, according to the University of Sydney researcher Hidde van
der Ploeg, and fewer than half meet World Health Organisation
recommendations for 150 minutes of at least moderate-intensity physical
activity each week. As for the health benefits of activity based working, the Commonwealth Bank's Martin Whelan is in no doubt there are many.
“I'm a surfer and I had compressed vertebrae,” he said. “My
chiropractor and physiotherapist said the impact of sitting in the same
place in the same way all day every day was a bad thing. So, the set up
has been good for me. “It will be interesting to see the long term effects. At the
moment it feels like a healthier building and the variety of
environments, from a mental and physical perspective, are brilliant.”
Paul McClure, managing director of Back Centre and Specialty
Seating, said demand for standing work stations had increased
dramatically in the past three years. Desks that can be adjusted for
standing and sitting sell from $950. “Government departments and big business are really onto this issue now,” he said.
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/executive-style/stand-and-deliver-at-work-20120612-206zb.html#ixzz23hhZYoJv
- Anita Hamilton
- I am an Australian occupational therapist, educator and researcher. I have worked as an OT in mental health, vocational rehabilitation and a private surgical hospital. I am passionate using online technology to enhance the knowledge and growth of the occupational therapy profession. In my PhD research I am looking at the role of online technologies in information management and knowledge transfer in occupational therapy. Views expressed and stories shared on this blog are my opinion and do not represent views of my employer or professional registration body.
Thursday, August 16, 2012
Thought control wheelchair: The 'Aviator' is a thought-controlled wheelchair developed in NSW, Hung Nguyen describes how it works.
Life could soon get easier for those with a severe disability.
Researchers at the University of Technology, Sydney have developed technology to allow severely disabled people to move around more easily by using their minds to control their wheelchairs.
They hope to commercialise the project within three years.
At present, there are few ways for those who are severely disabled to move around in their wheelchairs. The two most common ways are the "chin stick" and "sip and puff" methods.
Both methods require physical movement. The chin stick method requires a user to operate a wheelchair using their chins, while the sip and puff method requires a user to blow air on to sensors to move around.
Nguyen and his team at the Centre for Health Technologies have been working on a product that reads brainwaves using an electrode, which allows the user to command a wheelchair, telling it which way to go.
There are four commands: forward, left, right and stop. To go forward, you simply need to think of a dice moving forward. If you want to go left, you compose a letter. If you want to go right, you think of solving a maths problem, and if you want to stop, you close your eyes.
Nguyen told this website that the thought-controlled wheelchair was for those "with severe disabilities [who] cannot use their hands, for example". Over the years, he said, he has been working on "a few different technologies" to deal with those in wheelchairs with severe disabilities. One technology involves wearing a baseball cap and moving your head the way you want to go.
Nguyen said the technology had been 15 years in the making. "I started with the head movement [technology] first," he said. "I've been working with neuroscience for more than 10 years now - to understand how the brain works - and we've developed the electronics [to] interface with the wheelchair [so that it can] be made smaller and [still] decipher the information."
How it works
Nguyen said the thought-controlled wheelchair worked by looking at certain brainwaves and how they react to certain thoughts. "But we don't look at that specifically," he said. "We look across the board at what is actually happening. We look at the spectrum and we decipher the information directly. At first we'll try to have one size fits all but we'll have in the device later on the ability to adapt it to what you think."
Nguyen said he was "not actually sure at the moment" how much it was actually going to cost. "I hope it will be, it could be, maybe $1000 or $3000," he said. "It depends on the complexity, you know, what we want to have - the features with the device." He said the technology was still in prototype and that his team was trying to get people to fund it. "We're starting to have financial support and that sort of thing," he said.
Put to the test
Nguyen said the technology had still to be tested on severely disabled people, but that it had been tested on those without a disability. "I only start with people without disabilities for now because we want to be careful," he said. "I've been working with people at the .... rehab centre and so they are very aware of what we do and so once we're ready we will have a number of different studies involving people with severe disabilities but we just want to make sure that everything is working fine first." He said his team would need about $1 million to get the project commercialised and that, so far, the project had received grants of more than $500,000.
The author of this post is on Twitter: @bengrubb