Reporting on backlash against open office spaces, the New York Times described “the proliferation of so-called phone booths, mini meeting rooms and all manner of pods.”

Looking at the photo that accompanies the article should at least evoke questions about ergonomics. Most ergo purists I know are stalwarts for “neutral” positions, with individualized chair adjustments, desk heights, computer monitor distance, etc. Ambient and task lighting are given careful attention in ergonomically-aware workplaces (in many cubicle farms we find workstations tented to accommodate headache suffers).

Modern offices that encourage people to work in a variety of comfortable, casual positions may be best. I like the autonomy and personalization. But it would be good to know the safety science, including whether people who can change positions do change positions (regardless of open or closed office-space design). Or do they spend 8 hours sitting, like the worker in the photo, legs-crossed in oddly lit pods (or slung across comfy chairs, or whatever) and their overheated laptops perched on their laps?

Maybe we’ve determined that office safety and ergonomics aren’t important? Seems ironic after years of fine-tuning office workers into what we thought was the ideal position and investing billions in ergonomic solutions.

I’m glad to see employers accommodate employees’ needs for privacy, focus, and autonomy. But let’s be sure not to exclude their safety from the formula.