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интервью Дмитрия Симкина об эргономике офиса, «St. Petersburg Times»

The Feng Shui of the Office

By Yelena Andreyeva
Special to St. Petersburg Times

In the U.S. one third of company losses related to employee absences are due to illness health caused by poor working conditions, according to a report by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.


Besides the building layout, an ergonomically sound workspace is equally vital. Ergonomics, a science that integrates several different sciences such as anatomy, demographics, physiology, and human psychology in order to create an optimum school and working environment, has been widely used for offices all over the world, although it is not much applied in Russia.

"Unfortunately, many Russian employers consider their office workers' health a private matter, unless it directly affects a working process," says Dmitry Simkin, a specialist in treating diseases of the spine and an author of training programs on ergonomics in the office.

Such a negligent attitude on the part of employers is repaid in the form of losses in productivity and quality of work, said Simkin.

As a doctor of osteopathy, Simkin thinks that one of the main problems in modern offices is the way most employees sit at the computer. Low back pain, cervical stiffness, frozen shoulders, carpal tunnel syndrome, and other health problems, as well as loss of sight, could be easily prevented by using some uncomplicated ergonomic rules that "help to reduce the level of professional illnesses in between 20 percent and 80 of cases, and [can] increase labor productivity by more than 20 percent," Simkin said.

Although managers often believe ergonomic furniture to be expensive, sometimes just a common orthopedic pillow is laid on a standard office chair, or a simple re-tuning of the computer screen can make a worker feel more comfortable.

Using back pillows and special footrests for tall people reduces muscle tension and facilitates the working process. "In such a pose a human body is as well balanced as a spaceman in the state of weightlessness," Simkin said. It's only the proper combination of tuning and orientation of all furniture and office equipment that enables a worker to maintain a rational posture throughout the day, he said.

The modern science of ergonomics and the Chinese teachings of Feng Shui may not have gained widespread professional popularity in Russia, but recruitment industry experts say the situation is changing.

"More applicants think that a comfortable office environment and well-equipped workspace are among the crucial factors they consider when choosing a job," said Lidia Treivis, public relations manager for recruitment industry research company Begin Group.

Meanwhile, Feng Shui consultants say the popularity of the teaching is becoming popular for Russians looking to improve the arrangements of their house. Familiarity with such non-traditional principles could yet bring it closer to the office, although Simkin says the growing trend needs government support.

"The U.S. government started a special program in ergonomics development over six years ago, but no one knows when it will happen in Russia," Simkin said.

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