David has been a Director of David Caple & Associates Pty Ltd since 1984 and manages major Work Health and Safety (WHS) research and practice projects funded by Governments and industry groups in Australia. He is also an Adjunct Professor at Latrobe University, Australia and a Senior Research Fellow at Federation University, Australia. Having completed his science studies in Australia and ergonomics at Loughborough University, UK, David has been a guest researcher in Sweden and USA. He is a Certified Practicing Ergonomist (CPE) in Australia, UK and USA. David Caple was the 16th President of the International Ergonomics Association (IEA) 2006-2009. He was the Chair of the IEA International Development Committee (2003 -2006) and Past President of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society of Australia (HFESA). David has been involved in the development of the WHS Strategy for large government departments and private companies in Australia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Papua New Guinea and New Zealand. He has presented in ergonomics conferences in over 30 countries. David’s main current areas of work involve researching emerging work health and safety risks in workplaces.
Use of flexible office work to improve productivity, wellbeing and a greener environment
The design of open plan office workplaces has gone through significant change since the introduction of flexible or activity based work. The design of these work environments is based around the activity to be undertaken rather than large open areas of workstations. It utilizes the flexibility provided by mobile technology for staff to select the most appropriate work setting for the activity they are doing. This is a big change from providing an allocated desk and a personal computer to every manager and worker. Architectural research (2014) has found that 30% of desks are vacant during the day in most offices due to staff attending meetings, on leave, sick, attending conferences, etc. These vacant desks still need lighting and ventilation as well as the area to be heated or cooled. This is inconsistent to the objectives of the green environment design. The removal of an allocated desk to every person provides the option of using a wider range of alternative work settings where focused or collaborative work can be undertaken. This enables greater productivity by using work settings that are designed for the specific activities rather than using a desk as the main setting expected to meet the needs for all office tasks.
The availability of mobile technologies such as laptops or other hand held devices with fast and reliable wireless connectivity is essential for flexible workplaces. Digitized access to information is also an essential requirement rather than paper based filing systems. The design of workstations for prolonged computer or focused work needs to provide for the anthropometric requirements of the seated or standing workers. Hedge (2015) recommended that these workstations with adjustability in height is a critical part of the green environment design. The focus of the office design of the future will move away from an entitlement of space and property to a workplace that provides spaces and work settings that actually improve productivity for the range of tasks to be undertaken. The implementation of these flexible work environments includes a range of dynamic work practices to address the health and wellbeing needs of the staff. These assist to address the health impacts from prolonged static postures at a desk by using a greater range of dynamic movements and activities to reduce physical and cognitive risks from office work.