When it comes to understanding the human aspects of product design, Scott Openshaw is no stranger. Currently serving as the Human Factors & Ergonomics Knowledge Lead for Herman Miller in Holland, MI, his background in medical device usability testing, coupled with a PhD in industrial engineering, gives him a broad perspective on ergonomics.
“One of the philosophies I’ve always had when it comes to ergonomics is to look at the big picture,” Openshaw says. “Ergonomics is not just buying a height-adjustable table or focusing on a fixed solution,” he adds.
As part of his role in educating both internal and external customers, Openshaw emphasizes what he calls the three aspects of ergonomics: physical, cognitive, and social. “Most people know about the physical aspects of ergonomics, which include posture and workstation layout, but the other two are sometimes overlooked.” Cognitive aspects include employee stress and motivation as well as human-computer interaction. Social aspects include addressing privacy in addition to meetings and personal interactions. Openshaw explains that all three aspects are considered in Herman Miller’s Living Office.
When asked about the biggest misconception he encounters with office ergonomics, he doesn’t hesitate. “I think the media has created a huge amount of hype around the ‘sitting is killing you’ campaign. It’s making people think they have to stand all of the time,” he says. “Sitting isn’t necessarily killing us. There are certain aspects of the way we sit or the type of chair we sit in, or the behaviors we have while sitting that can contribute to mortality rates. But you really have to step back and read what the research is telling us,” he explains.
Openshaw points out that some studies were based on data from the 1980s and not specific to sitting in the office. “Office chairs have evolved a lot since the 1980s. You do have to move, but you have to balance moving with sitting and standing.” He says he often spends about 60 percent of each day sitting and about 40 percent standing.
Openshaw has been involved in human factors for almost 20 years and is a certified professional ergonomist. He spent most of his adolescence in South America and is fluent in Spanish. Having lived in Utah, Iowa, and Massachusetts among others, he is happy to now call the Midwest his home.