All for show

With two of the Middle East's biggest FM related expos set to hit Dubai in June, we preview the events and take a look at how FMs can use office furniture to better increase the welfare of their staff.

ANALYSIS, Facilities Management

Any FM will tell you that an ergonomically designed office is a happy and productive office. Ergonomics involves designing workplaces and work tools to be used easily, efficiently and effectively by people. The overall goal being to promote health and productivity in the workplace. "The office can be a place where injuries occur just like any other place," says Emma Willetts, Boss Design. "Problems can be a direct result of poor posture, repetitive motion and excessive force or pressure to any part of the body."

Workstations that aren't designed well increase the risk of muscoskeletal disorders such as back pain, repetitive strain injuries and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome or Cumulative Trauma Disorder, which is the term all three fall under.

Eyestrain is another problem that can occur from spending too much time in an office staring at a computer screen with the wrong contrast.

According to Siddharth Peters of The Total Office, office equipment can be some of the most important items you buy in your lifetime. "The products you can't compromise on in your life are the shoes that you wear, the bed that you sleep on and your chair at work," he explains.

"Your body is in contact with these three things 90% of the time and hence the quality should be a priority."

So what can employers do to minimise the risks of injuries at work?

"Employers can look at assigning a team of employees as a health and safety action team," adds Peters. "They'd be responsible for putting together the recommended practices, and should furniture not meet these standards, encourage a proposal on using products that will support the health and safety standards."

There are a number of procedures that FMs can follow with regards to good ergonomic office design. Workers should be sat an arms length from their monitor screens which should be adjusted so they are between 15 and 30 degrees below the straight ahead line of sight to avoid slouching. Glare screens can also be used to reduce bright spots caused by light reflecting on monitor screens. Wrist pads should be put in front of keyboards to reduce the strain placed on wrists and making sure that the carpal tunnel isn't compressed. The chair is the most important piece of ergonomic furniture and employers should invest a little more initially for the correct type of product in order to avoid facing staff injury issues later on. "In total we spend 40 years sitting in our office chair in front of our computer," says Frederic Thiel of Steelcase. "Studies have shown that the spine does not move as a single unit. The upper and lower back require different amounts and kinds of support. When we recline, our need for upper back support increases, but our lower spine requirements remain more or less the same."

Although ergonomic furniture can be expensive initially the benefits are manifold. Serious financial reductions can be made as a result of decreased productivity loss through absenteeism. You can also reduce the chance of facing legal claims and increase worker morale by putting the welfare of your staff first.

Dubai has seen a huge growth in construction over the last few years which has included an array of new projects and developments, ranging from hotels to airports, residential complexes and over 2000 commercial buildings representing 4.65 million square metres of floor space.

The perfect setting for both the FM and Office Expos which hit Dubai from 3 to 5 June at the International Exhibition Centre.


"The FM EXPO is the first dedicated exhibition for the management and maintenance of property, buildings and facilities in the Middle East," explains the show's project manager, Sinead Bridgett of Streamline Marketing Group. "It's now in its second year and is a ‘one stop shop' for the FM industry, featuring leading FM practitioners, strategists and outsource specialists, together with a comprehensive range of FM product and service suppliers."

Thousands of professionals from the real estate and construction sectors are expected to attend the event. It is also a major networking event for anyone linked to the property and facilities management sector.

"Featuring the new ‘Supplier's Zone,' the event will bring together the latest in FM technology and solutions - everything needed to manage and maintain our built environment effectively," adds Bridgett.

Seminars accompanying this year's event will focus on green and technological advances in FM.

Office Expo

Now in its sixth year, the Office Expo is well established in the Gulf region and is recognised for being an authority on the design and manufacture of the office environment. "The show is the established meeting place for all professionals involved in the design and management of the office environment," says Paula Al Chami, exhibitions director, Office Expo. "It will include exclusive product launches and developments from providers of office furniture, office interiors and office technology."

This year's event will showcase different trends from around the world with exhibitors from North America, Europe, Australia and Asia expected to cover over 8000m².

"The 2007 event will be bigger and better than previous years," explains Chami. "With more than 200 suppliers from over 30 countries exhibiting the latest developments and innovative design from all the industry's major manufacturers as well as the key distributors from the region."

The Expo is also famed for its Workplace Freedom Seminars, which is a concept based on the need to create a motivating and productive working environment. This year will once again see an array of international specialists sharing their knowledge and expertise on workplace-related developments and innovations.

Key seminars Office Expo

Sunday 3rd June
Break out space - social areas designed as an escape
The ergonomic office

Monday 4th June
Workplace change
Sustainability LEED

Tuesday 5th June
Designing the future office


Key seminars FM EXPO

Sunday 3rd June
What are Green Buildings?
Intelligent Buildings

Monday 4th June
Lake Management - Solar-powered water circulators to solve stagnation problems
Energy Management

Tuesday 5th June

A Balancing Act - The factors affecting sustainability

NB. Conferences were correct at the time of printing.


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