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From the Desk of Nichola Adams

Addressing the Evolution of Human Size and its Impact on Workplace Ergonomics

As humans, we’ve undergone significant changes in our physical stature over the past century. In many cases (obviously not all), we’ve grown taller, wider, and live longer lives.

But what’s behind these shifts in our size, and how does it affect us in the modern world?

Contrary to popular belief, these changes aren’t due to genetic evolution.

Instead, they’re largely influenced by environmental factors such as nutrition, healthcare, and hygiene.

Improved access to better nutrition, healthcare, and sanitation have played pivotal roles in shaping our bodies.

One significant impact of these changes is the need to reassess our work environments, particularly when it comes to ergonomics. As we now have more generations than ever before working, the differences in sizes in the workplace means that ‘standard’ will definitely not always suit everyone, even allowing for good adjustability in design.

If we are going to make all our people comfortable, it becomes more important to get an expert in ergonomics in when considering design of an area to make sure it doesn’t just look good, but it is also fit for function and purpose for everyone.

 Some key points regarding human size evolution and its implications for workplace ergonomics:

  1. Increased Height: Studies show that people, especially in developed countries, have grown taller. For instance, young men in the UK have gained an average of four inches in height since the early 1900s. This is not universal but these changes need to be considered.
  2. Rising Obesity Rates: Alongside increased height, there’s a global rise in obesity rates. Factors like diet, lifestyle, and genetics contribute to this trend. Obesity is not just a health concern; it also impacts how individuals interact with their environment, including office furniture like chairs. How many more people now require a chair with bariatric properties for example.
  3. Evolving Workplace Dynamics: Workplaces have evolved, and so have our needs. As we spend more time seated at desks, the importance of well designed areas and furniture that fits cannot be overstated.
  4. Longer Lifespan and an Ageing Workforce: Humans are living longer, healthier lives. This means that ergonomic considerations must account for individuals who may spend decades in the workforce.
  5. Technology and Culture: In today’s rapidly changing world, technology and culture play significant roles in shaping human evolution. The decisions we make daily, including the tools we use at work, contribute to this ongoing process.

It’s clear that workplace ergonomics must adapt to the evolving needs of the workforce.

As specialists in ergonomic solutions, we’ve witnessed firsthand the importance of providing solutions that cater to the diverse needs of individuals.

At Inspired Ergonomics we’re committed to creating ergonomic solutions that address the changing landscape of human size and shape. We can advise on environments which maximise comfort, support, and adjustability, ensuring that every individual can work safely and efficiently.

Nichola Adams

Founder of Inspired Ergonomics

Nichola Adams, MSc Health Ergonomics, Tech CIEHF, ACPOHE Reg Member, is the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics.

Nichola is a specialist in back pain disorders in the workplace. Inspired Ergonomics regularly provides consultancy services to leading UK and International companies on how to reduce and prevent back pain in the workplace as well as working with rehabilitation companies.

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