DETERMINE USER AND USE
After identifying the type of equipment that will be planned in the space, designers need to gain a clear understanding of who's going to use the space, how…and when. Knowing this is important for several reasons.
For example, an office space used concurrently by two people who engage in similar activities will need two workstations. In contrast, one that is used sequentially, or by people engaged in different tasks or hobbies, can be outfitted with one equipment workstation with individual drawers for each person's storage.
Similarly, an office used during the day as well as the evening requires close attention be paid to both daylight and night light in the space, whereas an office used only in the evening or after normal working hours does not have this requirement. In addition, an office used by different people of different physical statures changes the chair and table height requirements, while an office used for both hobbies and paperwork may necessitate various height work surfaces, as well.
Lighting is the designer's next concern. Office designers contend that vision has become the most neglected of all workers' senses, because lighting technology information has lagged behind that of computers, printers and telecommunication devices.
In the past, office planning requirements simply called for overhead fixtures to cast 50 foot candles of light evenly across the work surface. Kitchen designers follow similar general task lighting planning as they uniformly illuminate kitchen surfaces with undercounter or overhead fixtures.
However, lighting a workstation that includes a computer monitor as well as adjacent paper space is far more complex than illuminating a counter serving the primary cook. First and foremost, brighter is not always better. Different tasks require different amounts of light. For example, reading a document requires four to five times more light than does viewing a monitor. In addition, rather than lighting being the major distraction for the individual using the monitor, oftentimes it's glare from ill-placed light or unexpected natural light that makes the space difficult to work in.
On top of this, the user's age dramatically changes the requirements for lighting. Lighting specialists have written, for example, that individuals in their 60s require approximately 350% more contrast than do people in their 20s.
What this adds up to is the fact that there are multiple lighting needs in the office.
The solution seems to revolve around using a task light on a moveable arm to supplement the ambient lighting scheme of the office so that a cohesive, flexible strategy can be planned to support the various activities and people using the space. This allows lighting to offer a direct, as well as an adjustable, source of light for the specific user at any given time, as she or he accomplishes a specific task.
Once again, this points to the need for kitchen designers to visit commercial office equipment stores to learn about specifying newer task lighting technology. Cool-to-the-touch light sources that can be easily repositioned while providing a variety of lumen light output – resulting in correct foot candle reflectance on the specific work surface – are needed. Plotting the sun's path, as well as considering sources of natural light, will assist the design professional in completing the lighting plan.
COMPUTERS & EQUIPMENT
The computer equipment to be used in the space is the next important piece of information to gather. And, once again, the wide variety of equipment makes the information-gathering stage of the process a key to successful home-office planning.
First, recognize how frequently laptops are used. It's not uncommon for private schools today – and probably public schools, in the near future – to require students to work from a laptop computer. Certainly, many people who travel from a traditional office to a home-based office rely on a laptop to keep the material they need close at hand. These laptops should be easily "docked" for comfortable use when their owner is working at home in a fully outfitted office.
There are equipment preferences and planning techniques employed by professional office planners that kitchen specialists should learn about when setting up a workstation for good upper-body ergonomics. The following information has been gathered from a two-part article appearing over several months last year in Interiors & Sources magazine.
According to Dr. Mark Vettraino, director, Task Group International, a home-office worktop area can be divided into three work zones, based on the user's reach. When these three work zones are planned correctly, most of the physically damaging stresses in the work environment can be relieved. The work zones are as follows:
---Primary Zone: Everything within one's reach when a user's elbows are at his or her side. The keyboard and mouse should be within this zone to prevent injury.
---Secondary Zone: Everything within arm's reach – for example, planner, telephone, etc.
---Reference Zone: Outside of arm's reach – for instance, heavy reference material, files, etc.
The finer points of proper workstation ergonomics are quite technical, but what follows are the four essential guidelines to minimizing physical stress while keying on a laptop or desktop:
1. With the roof of mouth parallel to the ground, the eyes should be looking at the top third of screen. Placing the screen in this position not only keeps the cervical section of the spine erect, it helps with thoracic outlet issues, as well.
2. The wrist should be a natural extension of the forearms, and there should be no deviation from what's normal. Because of this, both the mouse and the keyboard should be in a position that allows for neutral extension of the wrists, with the wrists not touching the desk. Bending the wrists back or raking them across the edge of the desk contributes to Carpal Tunnel Syndrome (CTS). Moreover, the top row of the keyboard should be no further away than the knees to assure that you are keying in the primary zone, rather than extending the arms too far forward, which can contribute to Thoracic Outlet Syndrome.
3. The center mass of the skull should be at or behind the hip joint, with the torso reclined at an angle of 91 to 112 degrees to save stress on the spine.
4. The knees should be no more than three inches above or below the hip joint.