Tuesday, 25 November 2014

Roamer or Resident? New Ways of Working and What is Needed to Make it Happen

In the World of Agile Working are you a Roamer or a Resident?
New Ways of Working and What is  Needed to Make it Happen

Recently an Evening Standard article by Niki Chesworth asked if you are a ‘roamer or a resident?' There is a lot of talk – and action – regarding new arrangements in offices. The global insurer RSA has decided that 75% of staff in their new office at the ‘Walkie Talkie’ are able to sit at any desk. These people are referred to as ‘hoppers’ or ‘hot deskers’ and they  will sit wherever is free but usually in a ‘neighbourhood’ with colleagues that are on the same project or working on similar things.

Then are 15% of the staff who are ‘roamers’ which has nothing to do with wide open spaces but means they come into the office occasionally. The remainder are classed as residents who have a fixed desk so with 90% of staff not having their own desk it is a big culture change.

There is a lot of talk about the Google offices and culture with their slides in the office and interesting break out areas etc. The latest I have noticed is chat about providing free food and even people living in their car in the office car park to save money.  I am sure these type of offices have ‘hot deskers’ and ‘roamers’ working at different desks every day.

Then there are some offices that never shut. These could be call centres working shifts or emergency services that need manning 24 hours a day. Some call centres have a high rate of staff turnover to add to the mix.

The theme through all this is that staff will be sitting on different chairs from day to day or even hour to hour. This could be unsettling for us old fogies but could actually be uncomfortable and even unhealthy or those that suffer, or are at risk from suffering, with bad backs. In an office it is not that uncommon to see a chair with a big sign attached to it saying ‘Do not adjust or move’ put there by someone who has back trouble and has become possessive over their chair and how it is set up. Hot desking may seem a frightening  prospect for these people. In fact many people have chairs where you can adjust everything and the strange result is that they adjust nothing.

So for this new way of working maybe we need a new way of thinking about office furniture. We need furniture that provides levels of comfort, efficiency and creativity that match the modern approach to offices.  Adjustable height desks will work for all staff shapes and sizes for sitting but also allow standing while working. Chairs that are simple and quick to adjust to the user and promote the goals of comfort, efficiency and creativity will work in this environment.

I admit that I supply such furniture but if you are responsible for keeping the bums on seats as happy and productive as possible in the new office scape then give me a call to at least try the Back App chair and adjustable height desks. 

Mike Dilke can be contacted via mike@relaxbackuk.com or mobile 07979 248286

Monday, 17 November 2014

How Long Should You Use Crutches For?

Santa Walking With The Help Of Crutches Stock Photo

You have broken your ankle and it hurts but you can still get about on crutches. How long until the doctor suggests that you get rid of them and start walking unaided? Hopefully as soon as is sensible because that will help you recover strength in the damaged area and not using your muscles properly (or at all) will lead to other problems. Not to mention it is just better to get on with your life as normal.

Chairs that support every single part of your torso seem to go against the notion that crutches should be temporary. We are designed to be active and take our own weight while we forage and hunt and although most of us are less active than our ancestors we are perfectly capable of supporting our own weight. Some may have specific problems that need extra help but the final goal would be, I hope, to get everyone back to normal – ie without crutches.

There is a movement to get more us to stand more particularly if we have desk jobs. Their website is http://www.getbritainstanding.org. Finding a balance between sitting and standing has to be the key and using a chair that encourages you to support your own weight and keep moving seems sensible to me. So if someone suggests that you need back support when sitting ask them how long you will need it for. If they reply ‘Forever’ then maybe you should ask them how they can help you do without it in the future because that is what you would ask the doctor giving you crutches. 


Young Woman Recovering From Severe Accident Stock Photo

Wednesday, 15 October 2014

Adjustable Height Desks and the Back App in the media

Relaxback UK has been getting a lot of attention in the media recently so I thought it was about time to make some noise and list them all - they cover the Back App chair and adjustable height desks.

Hertfordshire Life |October 2014

The Back App chair was mentioned in an article about posture in this months Hertfordshire life and also in the e-magazine Sticks - see page 17 . 

National publications have noticed the Back App as well. Last week was Back Care Awareness week and the Independent web page looked at different ergonomic chairs and featured the Back App.

Relxback UK was also mentioned in EQUIP, the magazine published by RBLI. Click here and see page 6 but do read the rest as well.

This sweet little adjustable height desk won a Platinum award from the Imperfectly Natural Website - infact the Back App chair won it last year as well.

Friday, 26 September 2014

BackCare Awareness Week - 6-12th October, "Back in the Office"

Back pain affecting office workers is the theme of the BackCare charity awareness week this year. Relaxback UK is proud to be a sponsor of this very worthwhile charity and is taking part in some events during the week.

Round Table Discussion

Already recorded and to be aired on UK Health Radio is a round table discussion looking at some current treatments and ways to avoid back pain in the first place. I was joined by the following experts and the result was an informative and entertaining chat.

  • David Rose and Juliana Hyka of Medserena - they very kindly hosted the event at the upright MRI centre  www.mri-london.com/
  • Dr Glenn Caley - a chiropractor with the Gonstead Clinic in Harley Street - www.gonstead.co.uk
  • Namonga Mtonga - a chartered physiotherapist who carries out work assessments with RBLI for the Access to Work Program - www.rbli.co.uk/employment_solutions/accesstowork/
  • Nick Sinfield - clinical director of Spring Active who have programmes to help back pain sufferers that have been proven in the armed forces - http://spring-active.com/

    Thank you very much to everyone for coming and taking part in the discussion and thank you to Medserena for hosting.

    The conversation will be aired just before and also during the awareness week on www.ukhealthradio.com :-

    Wednesday October 1st at 6am and 6pm
    Friday October 3rd at 11am
    Saturday October 4th at 1am, 9am and 5pm
    Monday October 6th at 11am and 11pm

    The show is also available here on a podcast here -

    Back Pain Information/ Advice at Nuffield Health Gym, Bishops Stortford

    From mid-day on Friday October 10th at Nuffield Gym in Bishops Stortford there will be some free advice on how to treat and how to avoid back pain. This will be given by:-

    • A chartered physiotherapist
    • A nutritionist
    • A workstation consultant
    There will also be some office furniture to try out. The event is open to memebers and non members of the club.


    Back Pain Information/ Advice at RSPB, Sandy

    For staff only there will be seminars from an osteopath, a nutritionist and a workstation consultant along with the chance to try out different types of desks and office chairs. This event is on October 8th.

    Thursday, 11 September 2014

    We Need a Healthy Mix of Sitting and Standing - what is happening in USA

    We Need a Healthy Mix of Sitting and Standing

    It is often said what happens in the USA ends up happening here sooner or later. An article that is a review of the Back App chair also looks at American office habits and says that they are going through a Renaissance in active office furniture with standing desks, treadmill desks, desktop risers, and adjustable height conference tables slowly transforming the workplace for the better.

    This type of approach is being seen, somewhat, here in the UK and there have been plenty of articles and media attention given to sit/ stand desks and how we should spend less time sitting. However the article makes the point that to get rid of office chairs completely is 'not realistic, and it's not even healthy.'

    America does have a problem with  sedentary lifestyles (as do we) and promoting standing is generally a good thing but a balance is needed. The article points out that too much standing can lead to fatigue and varicose veins so we need a situation where office workers can switch between sitting, standing and walking. The walking can be walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift or even on treadmill desks.

    The general idea that employers should try and take on board is that helping your staff to keep moving will keep them healthier and that has got to be a good thing for the bottom line.

    The article referred to is here - http://www.workwhilewalking.com/back-app-active-chair-review

    The Back App Chair 

    Friday, 22 August 2014

    Stand Up, Get Slimmer, a Better Posture and Live Longer


    ‘Standing has benefits for improving your posture and therefore back pain, it improves circulation and therefore cardiovascular health and it also promotes greater mobility in general.’

    This is from Professor Kevin Fenton, the national director for Health and Wellbeing at Public Health England, which is the body in charge of improving our health and is the subject of a Daily Mail article.

    One way to promote this healthier life, amongst office workers at least, is to provide sit/ stand desks. These are electric adjustable desks that are quick and easy to change the height of with no disruption to your work colleagues. This means you can sit on a chair of any height or work standing up. A standard desk is 72 cm high and is often given to all staff whether they are six and a half feet or five feet tall – this is just plain crazy so at the very least an adjustable desk will keep all your staff more comfy whatever their size.

    That is just the start though as when you stand your heart rate increases by about ten beats a minute according to Professor Fenton. This will make staff fitter and in the long term having a healthier work force must be good. Standing and moving more can also boost productivity and creativity – certainly I often stand up when I am thinking over a problem or taking an important phone call.   

    Standing up all day may seem like a chore but that is not what is being suggested here and mixing it with sitting is the goal. Using a chair in which you sit a bit higher so it isn’t such an effort to get up means you are less likely to get stuck in a seated position while glued to the computer and will help you switch between sitting and standing. The Back App chair does this and has the added benefit of ensuring movement hence giving your back muscles a very gentle but constant exercise, keeping you comfortable and burning more calories than if sitting completely still.

    Some companies already have standing meetings as a way of keeping them focused and shorter. An adjustable height conference table would allow standing and sitting during a meeting and might provide the best of both. However it might be best to let the boss have the height control!

    In October, Public Health England will issue new guidelines on exercise which will advise on all areas of our lives and not just office work but for many of us that is an important part of what we do.

    The Back App chair and adjustable height desks

    For more info on sit/ stand desks and Back App chairs see http://relaxbackuk.moonfruit.com/

    Article in Mail Online by Sophie Borland

    Thursday, 24 July 2014

    An MRI scan while sitting on a Back App

    An MRI Scan While Sitting on the Back App

    I recently had an MRI scan and really enjoyed it. It may seem odd to say that when I will usually settle for not too painful or uncomfortable on a trip to the hospital. This was however very different – the reason being it was an upright MRI at Medserena in Kensington, London.

    They scanned me while I was sitting on the Back App seat. Not the whole chair but the non-metallic seat part. The images below show the seat in place and the scan of my spine – warts and all but in a nice natural shape.

     MRI scans can be really quite unpleasant if you don’t like lying in a small, enclosed tube with an odd noise in the background. You have to keep still for a few minutes and if the reason you are here is because you are in pain then speed can be of the essence -  the Medserena scan lasted just five minutes  for me.  People use things from drugs to cognitive behaviour therapy to allow them to cope and to keep still but in the upright MRI I just took a seat and watched TV for five minutes. I could see the radiographer at all times which was reassuring and she was watching me to make sure all was fine.  The video below shows the whole process.

    Apart from this the images are taken when you are in a position in which the problem is more likely to happen. The spine, knees, hips, feet and ankles can all be scanned when they are taking the weight of your body rather than just lying down.  For example, I talk to a lot of back pain sufferers who say that they get most pain sitting down  – well take a picture in the position that it hurts and you are more likely to see what the problem is. There have been a lot of crashes and injuries in the Tour de France recently. I can’t help thinking that scanning a cyclist when he is leaning forward adopting a position much more similar to cycling will give a better idea of torn shoulders, dislocated collarbones etc than when lying down.

    My wife was concerned when I told her I was going for a scan but when I explained it was an MRI with no X-rays she was happier. I didn’t even have to remove my wedding ring  which was good thing because I have got a little larger since we got married and it doesn’t come off anymore.

    Apart from all that the surroundings are designed very carefully to keep the patient relaxed and happy and this, along with the very professional and attentive staff, made it an enjoyable experience. It certainly worked for me and I would recommend the upright scanner at Medserena if it has been suggested that you need a scan to get to grips with your pain.

    This photo shows me ready for the scan, sitting on the Back App seat, and just how open the machine is.

    The one thing that the MRI scan can't do is deal with movement so you have to keep still. The Back App chair has the big benefit of keeping you moving to keep your core exercised. That benefit can't be imaged so if that interests you please contact me on 01727 757221 to arrange a trial.

    Medserena can be contacted on 0845 5197747 - website www.mri-london.com

    Monday, 9 June 2014

    Interview with Edward Tidbury of RBLI

    Interview with Edward Tidbury at RBLI

     A while ago I met with Edward Tidbury of Royal British Legion Industries. He runs the independent work based assessment programme which essentially means that he and his team help people remain in work, get in to work and be more efficient when they are at work. It is a large team and Edward is a busy man but he agreed to answer some questions for me.

    In your experience, does keeping people in work keep them healthier and is there any evidence to prove this?
    Yes absolutely, my experience is that being active physically and mentally in the workplace has an empowerment value that cannot be under estimated.

    My belief is that everyone should be able to work and if you want to get help to enable you to do so there are many organisations that can help. A good starting place would be looking at the access to work scheme website at https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview.

    What are the most common problems that you help people with?
    RBLI delivers a pan-disability service to help overcome work-related needs as a result health conditional disability, this is led by the needs of the individual so we help people in all sorts of ways and don’t really have a most common difficulty that we help with.

    Are we a ‘put up and shut up’ society?
    In many ways yes but I think this stems from people not knowing what help is available. There is also sometimes a feeling that if someone asks for help they feel like a nuisance and think that this will be seen in a bad light. It is my experience that employees generally want their staff to be as efficient as possible so react well to requests for help. There are also some very positive employees who make it their business that staff are helped in this way and these companies reap the rewards of a motivated and efficient workforce.

    Keeping people in work and efficient in work, is likely to make economic sense for the employer, can you provide examples to show this?
    There are many but I will put myself forward as one. I have dyslexia and I have received excellent support from my previous employer and also RBLI. I am in my ninth year with RBLI and run a large team that provides assessments for the government run Access to Work programme in addition to our independent company assessments.

    As well as running the Access to Work assessment delivery in the South I am also a customer of access to work and I have been provided with specialist computer software that helps with my dyslexia. Without this support I would find very difficult to carry out this role and could not contribute to the economy as a whole. 

    For RBLI there is no question that providing the support we do has very positive financial outcomes for the employer and the larger economy.  

    How many of the people you help are ex-service men or women?
    We don’t know as my group does not ask if clients are ex- service. That said RBLI has a very proud heritage of helping those who have served their country and that is still a very large part of our work. 

    What advice would you initially give someone who thinks they need some help at work to be more productive and comfortable?
    I have been lucky in my career as I have always been open about the difficulties that I have faced and received support that has helped me be a productive employee. So my advice  would try and be as open and honest as you can about any difficulties you have and then be proactive in getting help  so you can demonstrate how useful and what good value for money you can be to your employer.
    Support and help is available to everyone whatever disability they have. The Access to Work website is very user friendly and has full details on how to apply for a grant to provide practical help to enable you to become or remain an efficient member of the workforce - https://www.gov.uk/access-to-work/overview.

    Edward can be contacted on Edward.tidbury@rbli.co.uk or 01622 795900
    He can help businesses and individuals who need help with workplace assessments.

    Information on the rest of RBLI’s activities is on www.rbli.co.uk

    Members of Edward's team

    Thursday, 8 May 2014

    Get Some Help

    When I see people who are worried about their posture or have a bad back I always suggest that they don't suffer in silence and get some help. Whether this is seeing an osteopath, physiotherapist, chiropractor, Alexander technique practitioner it is important to realise that there are people who can and want to help.

    My business is a small concern but I have learnt through my experience (admittedly only two years or so) that getting some help from others is usually a good thing. I have a couple of examples.

    I truly believe that the Back App can help a lot of people  - there are many testimonials from current users and also published research showing this to be the case. However to help me tell people how the Back App can be beneficial I got some help in the form of a PR person. Laura Berril has helped enormously and 'spread the word' in articles such as the one here. -

    I would recommend small businesses to really consider using all the different sorts of media to get their message across and Laura is a practical and talented person to lean on for this.

    Also using blogs, twitter, email shot etc is a good way for small businesses to be heard. It can be a bit daunting at first and again I got some help from someone who can advise on a whole social media strategy. His name is Nick Hazell and again he has a very practical approach and is a delight to work with.

    Both Nick and Laura have a track record of helping large business as well so you don't have to be a start up to benefit from their expertise.

    So when running your business and also dealing with your bad back don't be afraid to ask for help!

    Laura Berril's website is www.lauraberrill.co.uk
    Nick Hazell's website is www.stratys.co.uk

    Wednesday, 7 May 2014

    Stand at Your Desk or Move While Sitting

    There is a lot of talk about standing at your desk being more healthy than sitting all day for all sort of reasons. This morning on the BBC there as a piece on this subject - http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-27305330

    For those people that want to move more but find it hard to stand all day then the Back App chair can help. It ensures a good posture and also provides a gentle but constant exercise for the core muscles. In addition it is easy to get out of so you are unlikely to be rooted in your chair all day so more possible you will stand for periods throughout the day.  See the video below for a demonstration of how it works.

    Friday, 2 May 2014

    Be In Balance - a new book on the Alexander Technique

    Angela Bradshaw is an Alexander Technique teacher and has written a book that is an introduction to AT. I have read it and my review is below - I like it and recommend  it whether you have back pain and other niggles or not. Follow the link below to buy it.

    Most people have heard about Alexander Technique but very few know what it is. I have had an AT lesson which I really enjoyed but I needed to read Angela's book before I could really tell you what AT is.

    In particular it made me think about my children and how precious their movements and 'way of being' are when they are little. The book made me glad that they go to a school that employs movement in their learning and does not use computers, tablets and all the other 'stuff' that is often 'issued' by schools to young children.

    There is sage advice for everyone on how to make the workplace more bearable and maybe even fun and pleasant. Tips on how to commute by train will make sure you start the day well. I took special note of AT tips on driving. Not only for posture but driving is something that can make me tense so practicing learning some new habits along with the 'whispered ah' will make me a better driver and hopefully, for my wife, better company in the car. 

    Wednesday, 16 April 2014

    A couple of good ideas to ease your back

    Are child car seats a bit of a pain?

    I have a four year old boy and I have often found fixing the child seat into the car an irritating thing to do. It is at a funny angle and puts my back in an awkward position. This blow up child seat might help -


    Universal Power Sockets

     One reason for a bad back can be a heavy briefcase. When I go away mine is often full of chargers for my computer and phone which not only makes it heavy but bulky. Margolis Office Interiors are marketing a universal socket block that takes all  international plugs and USB sockets for charging smart phones, tablets, cameras etc.
    It is designed for anywhere there might be international travellers so will be seen in hotels, universities, serviced offices, coffee shops, libraries infact it would be useful pretty much anywhere. Contact Matthew Wickham on 020 75043473 to find out more.

    Monday, 17 March 2014

    Meet The Experts - Discussion on the latest musculoskeletal diagnostics and how technology affects ergonomics

    Meet The Experts

    Last November (2013) I was lucky enough to be invited to the Medserena upright MRI facility in London. This is a state of the art MRI where Professor Francis Smith is clinical director and he hosted a round table chat with some very experienced and capable people in the world of ergonomics and musculoskeletal health. I was also there - just to make up the numbers.

    Present were

    Professor Francis Smith - Clincial director of Medserena 
    Guy Osmond - of Osmond Ergonomics

    Alberto Gonzalez of The Gonstead Chiropractic Clinic in Harley Street 

    The discussion was recorded and has been aired on Health Radio UK 


    Please do listen but bear in mind it is the original recording and has not been edited by UK Health Radio so has some preamble at the end has caught one of us asking for a glass of wine - who do you think it is?

    Pictured from left to right are Professor Francis Smith, Guy Osmond and Alberto Gonzalez.

    Friday, 7 March 2014

    Do as I say Not As I Do!

    I went to the Health and Wellbeing@Work conference this last Wednesday. It was very good with lots of excellent exhibitors and talks.
    I went to some of the talks chaired by Professor Peter Buckle and the subject of changing cultures and also bad habits of children using technology came up. The professor took a straw poll of the room asking how many present sometimes used their laptop or tablet while sitting on the sofa - I think it was while watching TV at the end of the day. The room was full of ergonomists, OH therapists etc and at least half of them raised their hands. I am sometimes guilty as well and it shows how hard it is to get people to adopt healthy habits. Professor Buckle commented that children will tend to do what they see their parents doing and with musculoskeletal problems becoming more prevalent in younger people I am going to try and curb my bad habits - at least when my children are around!

    Thursday, 20 February 2014

    The Mercedes Chicken Ad, The Jaguar Chicken Ad, Something Else

    I love this ad for a Mercedes and the Jaguar spoof. See below for my attempt - the result amused me but it s not quite as good!

    Monday, 20 January 2014

    Dining Tables used as Desks

    When talking with therapists I the subject of home working and back pain often comes up. Quite a few people work on their dining table as they may not have a desk space elsewhere in their home.
    I was at the Interiors UK show at the NEC today and saw an adjustable height dining table made by Skovby from Denmark. It looks great and costs around £2600. It is worth considering if you are worried about the effect  that working at the dining table is having on your posture.
    Another alternative could be the Swedstyle adjustable height table frames - these can take tops up to 2.4m long and 1m wide and can be adjusted for standing and sitting at any height. These will also take pretty much any type of table top. Recently a customer of mine had a top specially made from recycled scaffold boards - it looks fantastic and is eco friendly. The whole thing cost him around £1550.
    The Swedstyle frame is the top image and the Skovby table is the bottom one.