Agile working has been defined as “a way of working in which an organization empowers its people to work where, when and how they choose – with maximum flexibility and minimum constraints – to optimise their performance and deliver “best in class” value and customer service.”
Agile goes beyond just flexible working, and can include home and other forms of remote working, as well as hot-desking and other alternative workspace.
The benefits to employers include reduced costs for property and energy use, and extended business hours, as employees might be available outside regular office hours. For staff, be it in Health and Safety or any other function, the benefits include less time spent traveling (less time spent waiting for delayed trains or stuck in traffic jams) and a greater ability to combine work and home commitments, for example doing the school pick-up and then working for a couple more hours in the evening.
However, if performance and customer service are to be truly optimized, any agile working programme must be backed with the right technology. Computer systems that can be accessed from anywhere, along with portable devices for accessing those systems.
Nearly everyone at work has a smartphone, and tablet computers (such as iPads) are becoming more common too. On average, adults in the UK now spend more time using mobile devices than using laptop or desktop computers. And that doesn’t include the time spent using a phone to make voice calls. Mobile devices have many advantages over the clunky laptops of a few years ago – they are lighter and therefore reduce the manual handling burden, and it is often quicker to access functions using an app than to boot up the laptop and log in. However, mobile devices have their own problems which users, employers and health and safety managers should be aware of.
Studies have shown that whilst desktop computer users have previously been advised to take a break from computer work every 60 minutes, users of mobile devices should take a break every 15 minutes to avoid aches and pains. Put your phone or tablet down, look out the window, stand up and shrug your shoulders before you carry on.
To prevent more aches when you’re working agile, consider a few tips on how to hold and use your mobile devices.
We tend to hold tablet computers lower than we might hold a book, or leave the tablet flat on a table in front of us. Both positions result in a poor neck posture which can be avoided by raising your tablet on a stand if you have one, or on a pile of books if you need to improvise. The ideal distance and position for typing on a tablet is not the same as the ideal viewing distance, but using a stylus can improve your wrist posture. The gold standard is to have a separate Bluetooth keyboard, particularly if you spend a lot of time typing into your tablet, allowing you to position the tablet screen at the optimum position for viewing, as well as improving your typing speed and accuracy.
As with tablets, we tend to hold our mobile phones quite low, and often with one hand, using the thumb to type. Try to hold the phone at chest height to save your neck, and use more than one digit on the other hand to type to save your thumb joint. When you hold the phone higher your arm and shoulders will naturally become tired more quickly – use this as a cue to change position. You could also try resting your arm on something. If you are doing a lot of text entry you can get a smartphone riser and Bluetooth keyboard, or consider one of the new Superbook docking stations for mobile phones as they become more widely available.
If you are using a mobile device it does mean you can do more of what your body is designed to do – move! Depending on where you are working, you can walk around, and change between a sitting and a standing posture. At the end of each task – each email read or written, each document checked, each phone call made – stop. Shrug your shoulders, clench and unclench your hands. And, whatever screen you are reading this on, when you’ve finished, look away into the distance, refocus and blink!
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