The Traditional Office and Coworking Spaces

ubicles, commuting, colleagues: just some of the typical features of the
traditional office environment. But by taking advantage of technological
advances, small businesses, start-ups, freelancers and teleworkers are changing
the image of where work is being performed. Home offices and cafes have
established themselves as popular non-traditional work settings, but now
there's a third option that's entered the picture: coworking spaces. Learn more
about this innovative and collaborative concept, and how to keep these spaces
healthy and safe.

What is coworking?
A coworking facility has all the features of a regular office, such as work
desks, conference rooms, kitchen area, photocopiers and WiFi, but instead of
housing a single company or organization, multiple workers from different
businesses share the space and resources. This arrangement often results in
reduced operating costs and provides workers with the opportunity to network,
collaborate and socialize with their fellow coworkers.

Coworking is suitable for individuals who work for themselves or largely on
their own as part of an organization, but don't want to be physically isolated
or work alone. Membership options are usually flexible, with drop-in and
monthly or annual membership plans. The first space opened in San Francisco in
2005, and the concept has become a global movement with over 2500 spaces
worldwide. In Canada, there are now more than 80 coworking spaces that could
potentially accommodate hundreds of workers on any given day.

Health and safety considerations
Many coworking spaces make concerted efforts to not resemble a traditional
office. It's not unusual to come across comfortable furniture, lounges,
fountains, or even a rooftop garden. However, safe workplace practices still
need to be made a priority, for the health and well-being of the coworkers
using the spaces.

Here are just some examples of the range of health and safety considerations
for coworking spaces. Other considerations include slips, trips and falls,
electrical safety, lighting, noise and more.

Avoid pains and strains
Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are a group of common, painful injuries and
ailments that can affect the muscles, nerves and tendons mostly in the back,
legs, shoulders, neck, wrists, hands and joints. Common symptoms include pain,
joint stiffness, muscle weakness, redness, swelling, numbness and tingling.
These injuries can be caused by work involving repetitive motion, forceful
movements, and fixed or awkward body postures that are held for long periods of
time. For coworkers whose jobs involve a lot of time spent on their computers,
some possible causes of MSDs are:

  • The monitor, work surface, or chair are too high or too low

  • Poor posture

  • Prolonged sitting or standing in one position

  • Incorrect hand positioning

  • Contact stress with a hard surface

  • Too much or too little light

Coworking spaces can assist by:
- Investing in adjustable furniture that accommodates a variety of individuals
- Providing footrests, wrist rests and document holders
- Installing ambient lighting, and using low reflective finishes and neutral
colours on walls and furniture
- Encouraging coworkers to take stretch and exercise breaks; post cards and
hang up posters of sample exercises

The spaces we occupy can influence the way we think, how well we work, and our
overall health and well-being. For a growing number of office workers the
advantages of a collaborative and connected coworking space are winning over
the traditional office. It's important for coworking spaces to foster this
sense of community by looking after the safety and wellbeing of the coworkers
that contribute to it.

More information: - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety