Wintour Knows Fashion… How About Ergonomics?

Today we’re looking to see if ergonomics has infiltrated the fashion industry with no other than Anna Wintour. Haven’t heard of her before? Anna Wintour is the editor for Vogue magazine. She’s has had a very accomplished career. Not only did she revive Vogue magazine, but she is probably one of the most influential people in fashion today.

In the world of fashion, nothing is ever comfortable.” – Jay Manuel

This quote summarizes perfectly what many of us think about the fashion industry. But let’s take a closer look at the ergonomics of her workstation, more on this below!

Wintour Knows Fashion… How About Ergonomics?

In this series we look at the ergonomic set-up of ANY workstation. But the thing that we LOVE about this is that it’s entirely based on pictures. So, what we are going to today is identify the ergonomic risk in Ms. Anna Wintour’s workstation and then offer a practical approach that would improve her ergonomics. We shine a light on aspects of workstation design that might not normally get much attention.

Is that really the chair she uses? 

Research has found that the two most important aspects of chair design is the lumbar support and then (at a close second) the backrest angle. Other important chair elements include the cushion and seat pan depth, to name just a few. Ms. Wintour’s chair lacks all of these. As you can see with the picture below its a metal coffee bistro chair. A chair like this can result in not only overall uncomfortable sitting experiences, but it can also contribute to the development of lower back pain! Adding to this you can see in both of the pictures below that Ms. Wintour leans forward while working. Leaning forward in a chair is arguably one of the most strenuous sitting positions because it increases the pressure and strain in the vertebrae in the lower (lumbar) back region. This is not good for long-term back wear and tear. Not only that, but it can be fatiguing!!

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The desk could considered to be fashionable, but is it ergonomic? 

The Desk. As one of the most notable people in fashion today, the desk that Ms. Wintour uses is quite fashionable. However, it doesn’t rate too high for ergonomics. You can see in the picture below that it’s well above her seated (and neutral) elbow height. Desks that are too high raise the hand working height and as a result can increase strain in the upper extremities, especially in the shoulders and neck areas. The desk height can also contribute to Ms. Wintour’s observed leaned forward seating postures as she may be positioning herself at a more comfortable hand working height.

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The Laptop. You can see that in both pictures posted here there is a laptop computer positioned on top of her desk. I’m going to make an assumption here and say that this is her main computer workstation as after looking at many other pictures there is never any extra computer equipment pictured. Let’s look into prolonged laptop use. There is extremely convincing evidence that using a laptop for prolonged periods of time is linked to upper extremity discomfort. This is due to the increased reaching to use the keyboard and increased neck bent positions to view the lowered laptop monitor.

Let’s Talk About Solutions

1. Retrofit Height Adjustability Into Desk

To improve Ms. Wintour’s workstation, the key element will be to improve the desk height. This can be accomplished quite simply by retrofitting automated sit-stand legs into her current desk to keep the style without sacrificing the ergonomics. With automation Ms. Wintour will be able to lower the desk height to an optimal working height, one where her desk height is only slightly below a neutral elbow height to prevent her from leaning forward. Note: a neutral elbow height is found by positioning the elbows in a relaxed position to the side of the torso and bent at about 90 degrees. This set-up will also give some flexibility to Ms. Wintour to work either standing or sitting!

2. Improve That Chair! 

As I mentioned above, Ms. Wintour’s current chair is likely very uncomfortable for her. Although it is said that ‘nothing is ever comfortable in fashion’, I’m sure that Ms. Wintour could find even a slightly more comfortable chair that would meet her style criteria. There are many chairs available on the market today that offer stylish solutions for ergonomics, however if only one ergonomic criteria could be selected, I would suggest finding any chair with improved lumbar support. Of course, there is a long list of criteria of what to look for, but there is a lot of research that says that lumbar support is the most important aspects of a work chair.

3. Get The Laptop Equipment!

Using a laptop for prolonged periods of time exposes the person to certain known ergonomic risks, mentioned above. For this reason, there are specific equipment that is considered to be somewhat essential for those who use a laptop as their main input device. These include a laptop stand that raises the laptop monitor to within a recommended and optimal viewing height, combined with an wireless external keyboard and wireless external mouse. There are many options on the market today that are stylish without sacrificing user ergonomics. A simple laptop stand like this one, a compact keyboard, and a simple mouse can be used and stored in a pinch for Ms. Wintour when she doesn’t need them.

Interested In More? Check out these past posts in this area

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Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!

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