This is a 2019 SHRM Annual Conference & Exposition interview with Stevyn Guinnip, Corporate Kinesiologist at FFL Brands. Learn more about office furniture, workplace movement, and creating spaces that stimulate productivity and health.
Stevyn Guinnip, MSEd helps organizations rethink traditional concepts about how workplaces and schools should function in a modern, health-conscious society. She has a master’s degree in kinesiology and over 20 years of experience including research for the National Institutes of Health (NIH), corporate wellness, cardiac rehab, business consulting, and launching fitness programs in both the US and Australia. Currently, Stevyn is the Corporate Kinesiologist for FFL Brands® in Boulder, Colorado.
Who is Furniture For Life!? Tell us everything, just as you would someone approaching your booth and asking you this question at SHRM ‘19 in Las Vegas.
FFL Brands (Furniture For Life) is a manufacturing and distribution company located in Boulder, Colorado and committed to offering furniture that enhances the health of the users.
Office furniture is so fascinating to me. And it’s also something I know very little about. How does one even go about finding a solution to office furniture? It can be so overwhelming to get right, without a silver bullet that really exists because it’s all connected.
Everybody thinks that you need a desk, task chair, filing cabinet, and that everyone is the same. Traditionally, that is how offices were outfitted. Now that active seating and sit-stand desks are a thing, the paradigm has shifted and has left HR, health and safety, ergonomists, and office designers confused. They are wondering how to customize the experience for the individual, yet still stay within safety parameters and budget restrictions.
Safety is a funny word, though, because safety in the moment of doing the work at a computer is a far cry from functional safety when away from the desk or lifelong safety in regard to the user’s health and risk of chronic disease. In the past, safety was all based around right angles and an externally supported spine. Now, research suggests that dynamic movements and self-supported spines are best for the user.
The solution to office ergonomics seems to be “movement.” And given that your super power is advocating movement, I’d love for you to sound off on the topic. How can employers design office environments for movement?
I love this question. I could do an entire lecture on this topic...but I won’t, for your sake. Incorporating movement into the workspace needs to happen strategically and organically at the same time. That’s a balancing act for an organization because the simple nudges to move shouldn’t be mandated, but simply offered. Some examples are in the furniture they choose, in the layout of the office space, and in the placement of tools like copiers, kitchen, stairwells, etc. There is a growing body of research that supports the impact of low-level movement on overall health outcomes - even more so than working out in a fitness center. So when I see fancy fitness centers or gym memberships offered to employees, but their desks and office environment does nothing to inspire movement, I have to scratch my head.
More than 30 chronic diseases and MSD’s (musculoskeletal disorders) could be decreased by providing space for employees to walk while they are on the phone, fidget while they are behind their computers, and destress in a purposeful way at least once a day. The two silent killers in the workplace are sedentariness and stress, and it doesn’t matter if you workout everyday. The average middle-aged American is sedentary for 12.3 hours per 16 hour waking hours. The good news is that it only takes two hours a day of low level movements like walking and fidgeting to impact health risks. It is far more economical and impactful to offer “Blue Zone” types of environments at work. The Blue Zones in the world are where people live active lives to 100 years old and beyond. They all have nine habits in common and one of them is a lifestyle that nudges movement throughout the day.
Office spaces can do this pretty easily if they offer a “chair corral” where people can pick the chair they want to use for part or all of the day and then return it. I also think that office should have indoor walking paths that allow employees to walk while on the phone or immediately after a meal (since that has the biggest impact on blood sugar). Sit stand desks are good IF they use them as transitions throughout the day rather than just standing all day. One of the lines I use all the time is “the next position is the best position.” It doesn’t necessarily matter how you are sitting now as long as you will be sitting, standing, or walking in a different way soon.
Let us in on the magic. What’s the office furniture setup like at FFL? I saw you use variations of Varier. How do you utilize your own products to bring out the best in people who work at FFL?
We use the Move and Variable balans mostly at our office. People can choose which one they like better. Some people like to stand and then switch to sitting on the Variable while others prefer to perch on the Move in a semi sit, semi stand. We also have massage chairs that we encourage everyone to sit in once a day to offset the stress of work and the circulation issues that may arise from being in an office all day. Sometimes we work in our zero gravity recliners, too. The thing I like about the workspace is the variety and the ability to take your laptop to any space or even outside to sit under the trees and work.
What do you wish more CEOs and HR professionals knew about office furniture?
I wish they would look at office furniture through the eyes of long term health and not just an ergonomic lens. I also wish that it was not a “one-size-fits-all” mentality. Men and women have different pelvic pressure points and need different types of chairs to be comfortable and enhance productivity.
Doesn’t an office chair say so much about a company culture? I think it does, but no one has ever asked me what kind of chairs we sit in at our company. Well, let’s change that. What are some companies using FFL who have designed exceptional workplaces for their employees - and deserved to be recognized?
Some companies with our products in their offices are in the banking, tech, and property management sectors. Since I don’t have permission from them right now, I don’t want to go into too much detail. However, I will attach an image of some of our customers.
How does someone really interested in office furniture and workplace movement learn more?
- I recently wrote an article about active seating in a school I visited recently. Here is the link with some of the references I used.
- Here is a webinar I did for the EdMarket. It is from the education furniture point of view, but there is some information that is relevant to the workplace, too.
- My friends at www.JustStand.org have alot of great information and research on this topic.
- I also like the book by an Australian friend of mine called “The Sitting Epidemic.”
- Another resource is my personal blog where I write about these ideas from time-to-time.
For anyone who won’t be able to make it to the FFL booth in Las Vegas, what do you want them to know?
Reconsider what you’ve “always done” and explore options that you may not be familiar with that will have a lasting impact on your health. It is possible to create spaces that stimulate productivity AND health. We don’t have to sacrifice one for the other. Use me as a resource to begin this process.
What are your favorite books? Jensen, Eric. "Teaching with the Brain in Mind," ASCD, 2005. Ratey, John J., and Eric Hagerman. "Spark: the Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain," Little, Brown, 2013.
What are 1-3 of the best things you’ve implemented at FFL that has helped change the course (or culture) of your company?
The reason I was brought in to work with FFL Brands is to add a body of education and evidence that organizations could use to learn about the health connection with the FFL furniture. I’ve always been in the fitness & wellness industry with a research background, so I came in with a different perspective than most of the ergonomists in the furniture industry. Challenging the status quo in the workplace (and schools) is something that I do on a regular basis.
How do you scale learning and development to help employees grow?
Writing, videos, and webinars are how I reach most people. I also developed a weekly educational email series. These things I talk about are well documented and logical, but hard for people to grasp in real life applications. So many people have disconnected their brain from their body, that it takes time and some uncomfortableness to start listening to the signals our bodies give us to help us know when to move or how to change to new positions. Unfortunately, this is drilled into children at a very young age and continues into adulthood. My hope is to spread the word that health, happiness, and productivity all improve when it is a combined mind and body effort.