O644005 Stephen Lowney 1
Design research for an interactive
constructive product for the work
O644005 Stephen Lowney 2
Today with modern technology, we spend a large percentage of our both our
working lives and our leisure time in front of screens or interacting with
technologies like Mp3 players, mobiles, games consoles, TV and
The biggest problem of all is in mobility of people today. In the US people on
average walk 1000-3000 steps per day. The recommended healthy amount is
This not only affects long-term health with obesity, but also affects everyday
health. Even if you exercise, long periods of sitting can still give you aches and
It is very easy to say people should get up and get active and get outside and
boost their health, but realistically people are not doing this, people are lazy and
especially in our climate people are less likely to get outside and get active.
-On average, Americans spend about 90 percent or more of their time
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Due to this realisation I looked at indoor activities and saw a gap in the market.
They’re a lot of indoor activities for children to do on a wet day. But there is a
serious lack of creative, innovative constructive toys designed with an adult user
in mind. They would give the users a well deserved break from staring at
screens and give their hands and brains a workout. The office workspace is one
area that is need of improvement
Learning from Kids : Lego
Lego is Danish company that is primarily known for their brick based
construction sets, they also have
"People" (minifigures) and a whole range of vehicles and tools that can be used
to create custom Lego worlds.
One of my favourite things about Lego is the interchange ability of every piece
and sheer number of possibilities; I think that is the key to Lego’s magic.
How much is Lego considering the Adult fans vs. the children when
When we design sets, we take both children and adults into consideration.
Children are our primary audience, especially as it relates to the core play
theme sets; however, much of what appeals to children in today’s Lego sets
have strong appeal among adult fans as well. With Lego Star Wars, adults are
equally considered. In designing any set, it’s about the balance between the
building experience and the play experience.
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This seems strange when there are 50 AFOL's (Adult fans of Lego) groups with
40,000 registered members.
- Lego Company Profile 2009
Overall Lego is a great and successful product and has a massive following,
but really doesn’t seem to ever have really catered to an older audience where
there is still allot of interest in construction sets and the creativity, innovation
and construction involved.
The Ultimate Puzzle : Rubik's Cube
The Rubik's Cube is a 3-D mechanical puzzle invented in 1974 by Hungarian
sculptor and professor of architecture Ernő Rubik. As of January 2009, 350
million cubes have sold worldwide making it the world's top-selling puzzle
game. It is widely considered to be the world's best-selling toy.
A pivot mechanism enables each face to turn independently, thus mixing up the
colours. For the puzzle to be solved, each face must be a solid colour. Similar
puzzles have now been produced with various numbers of stickers, not all of
them by Rubik. The original 3×3×3 version celebrated its twenty-fifth
anniversary in 2005.
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Studies have shown that engaging in mental activity through games and
puzzles can help keep the mind sharp in old age. Just as regular physical
exercise helps the body, regular mental exercise has benefits for the mind.
Completing puzzles, soduku, crosswords, and board games have been shown
to be beneficial to the maintenance of short-term memory, eye-hand co-
ordination and general concentration.
In a five-year study involving more than 400 participants over 75 years of age, it
was found that activities that involve thought, such as reading, writing and board
games, were more likely to ward off dementia. Of the physical activities trialed,
only dancing was of any use in keeping our minds fit.
The NeoCube is a very cool product, see the video below!
Composed of 216 individual high-energy rare-earth magnets, the NeoCube
allows you to create and recreate a near infinitive number of shapes and
patterns and has billions of solutions.
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A highly distinguishing feature of the NeoCube is your nearly absolute control
over it. Other puzzles and building sets force you to use preformed two or three-
dimensional shapes, restricting and limiting the outcome.
-Each individual sphere is essentially a point.
-Several spheres arranged in a string essentially form a line.
-Lines can be manipulated to form two-dimensional shapes or polygons.
-Points, lines, or polygons can form three-dimensional shapes or
The makers also claim that it is a stress relief tool and a creativity and
construction puzzle which gives you a mental workout.
Focus Groups preparation
Conducting a focus group will be a big benefit to the research project, the
results to steer the project in the correct direction. A “playtime session” will be
recorded and the subjects asked questions before during and after the focus
The reasons for doing a focus group is to find out how the physiology of play
develops as we age, for children it is an encouraged activity but for adults it is
almost frowned upon as society tells us that playtime is over.
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There are many social and psychological aspects to play which at a young age
species of all types play and it is through this play that we learn life skills and
meet our first friends. It is true to say that most friends have met through play
activities – they could be sports, socialising, hobbies or any leisure activity that
you form an instant common bond over.
Psychologists have divided play into 7 categories
• Object play (kicking a ball)
• Bonding play (common interest between two players e.g. cycling)
• Social play (group play – cops and robbers)
• Body play (Physical activities – swimming)
• Imaginative play (Whatever you want it to be!)
• Narrative play (Story telling)
• Creative play (construction set, puzzle, painting etc)
The truth is most species leave this characteristic behind with adult hood but
humans do not this means that we still require play to ensure a balanced
“In our species the evolutionary development of neoteny, which involves the
retention of juvenile physical characteristics in mature individuals, has also
prolonged the play impulse well into adulthood.
-Desmond Morris, Surrealist painter
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This quote shows that there really is a kid in all of us we just have to bring it out
more often and hopefully it will bring out desirable qualities of children in adults
– Inquisitiveness, imagination and creativity.
Not only this but playing is about having fun and enjoying oneself, forgetting
about the troubles and stress of everyday life. The health benefits are clearly
A 2008 Swedish study of more than 300,000 male and female golfers
suggested that simply playing golf could add about five years to a person's life.
-Farahmand B et al. Golf: A game of life and death. Scandinavian
Journal of Medicine and Science in Sports. 2008.
Focus Group Results
I conducted a focus group with a group in two parts, indoor and outdoor.
The group consisted of ten 22-25 year olds, male and female.
The main point of this Focus group is to see how comfortable or uncomfortable
these young adults feel playing and acting as a younger child would. I also
included the indoor and outdoor for the hope that in the publics eye people are
less likely to want to be playful
The indoor activities were the xylophone, the Rubik’s cube and Lego.
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The xylophone proved to be too childish for most the subjects and the noise it
produced was more an irritant than a pleasure. One subject did play a current
song tune with the xylophone and proved to be quite enjoyable to the
The Rubik’s cube also failed to really get a
good review, with everyone having used
one before and found the fact that they
could not understand and complete the
puzzle a deterrent to playing with it. Making a game difficult excludes people,
keeping it simple will make it more approachable for everyone.
But if a person solves the Rubik’s cube then they get more pleasure from doing
as it is seen as a difficult puzzle.
The Lego was quite popular
among the participants, with
all them having played with
it in their youth, they picked
a theme, (space because its
cool) and worked towards a
common goal and built individual parts and put them together to form s “space
The participants all agreed that nostalgia played a large part in their enjoyment
of the Lego.
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The females of the group spent less time playing with the Lego and were less
excited as they played, the males were more willing to use their imagination and
develop a story about what they were making.
The outdoor activities were guns, yo yo, skipping rope, football.
The guns were surprisingly popular with one female participant, they were
initially popular with the males but they quite quickly went back to what they
know, the football and jus kicked the ball around for most part. The preferred
the skipping rope and the yo yo outside but again, did not play for as long as the
The girls think they are
more mature and they are
therefore more susceptible
to feeling immature or
childish for playing. They
males also generally were
more immature and were more used to playing especially when it came to
It was also noted that some male participants didn’t involve
themselves and stood to the side of the main action. They were
obviously not that interested in soccer and were left out when it
the football was introduced.
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This group of young adults proved to be quite playful but they also showed
some of the games are less enjoyed because of lack of freedom within the
game and/or skill/difficulty level.
To see how adults interact with children’s toys I set up an observation in the SU
I picked the common room, as it is a place where students go to relax in
between classes and also for lunch.
I scattered some Lego on 2 tables and waited for people to sit at the seats.
There was a wide mix of people who sat down and mixed results.
Group 1 consisted of 3 females 20-23 years old; they failed to even notice the
Lego really and sat chatting and laughing. They did however pick up a
magazine that was left on the table, even pushing the Lego off.
From their very “trendy” appearance, I think the Lego jus wasn’t their style and
would have clashed with their peroxide hair.
Group 2 consisted of 1 male joined after a few minutes by another male and
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While there on his own the first male starts to interact with the Lego, stacking
the bricks in a wall
The other two arrive and he seems to lose interest and starts chatting, but
continues with less involvement that before, the other two pick up a few bricks
and also start to fiddle with the pieces.
This was a more successful group with a four-walled structure being made (no
Group 3 consisted of 4 males, initially no interaction, talking after 2-3 minutes
interaction with all four interacting, and discussing what they are going to make
- car? Boat? Plane? Bridge?
Making and breaking and collaboration between the four
Group 4 consisted of two females and one male eating rolls chatting
No interaction with Lego
Group 5 consisted of five males and three females
2 m and one female interact initially, seating arrangement the cause. Stuff
already made, more destructive.
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Passed around to others as they got interested and had fun, laughed and were
Acting more youthful as they played
The interaction depends on
Males more interested in general, but this is not to say that females are
any less interested in playing, it’s just a male dominated activity in
childhood so females are less likely to interact with it.
Some people see a children’s toy and know they are not a child so totally
block it out, where as some people see it and remember the fun and love
for such a toy and try to recapture that same fun.
Number of people – more casual with more people
When more than one play they tend to work together or at least parallel
with one another.
Adults play with one or more specific goals in mind: social bonding,
emotional expression, cognitive development, and constructive
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- Bateson, G. Steps Into an Ecology of Mind. New York, NY:
Forecasting and trend analysis
With advancing technologies and new material being discovered every year,
there are more options that ever and finding the right solution is all about
picking out what is important to the user.
Trends come in many forms, one trend which has a particular interest to me is
the maker movement in North America, this is a trend among twenty
something’s as they relearn the skills and craftsmanship to make home made
products. This is in contrast with the Global trend of consumerism and convince.
That has swept west in the recent past. Why are people going back to the
knitting, sewing, carpentry and DIY in general. It can be traced back to the open
software where people built upon others work to produce a better product; it has
also been aided by how to websites and videos that are in abundance across
Another trend that has caught on in recent years is the green trend, where
ecological issues are an important image for a products success, a perfect
example of this is GM, by failing to produce smaller more efficient cars they lead
themselves into financial ruin, luckily for them both the U.S and Canadian
governments bought them out of bankruptcy, but if they do not stray from the
American ideology “Bigger is better” then they will not be able to compete with
the European or Asian automakers.
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Casual games" like puzzles and card games are the big draws for adults, who
play for the social interaction and to relieve stress. But video games are
gaining more and more popularity among the old generations.
The average video game player is 30, and 19 percent are 50 or older, up from
9 percent in 1999. And online, women over 40 rule, spending more hours
playing games than even geeky teenage boys do, according to research firm
Digital Marketing Services
Companies are even designing equipment for older joints. KY Enterprises
offers joystick devices that can be used by a player's arm, foot, or mouth. This
allows players with reduced mobility to interact with games.
This is a sign of what pastimes people are choosing, preferring the virtual to the
real world. This shows that adults are willing to disregard their social standing
and play. But why does it have to be confined to video games?
Bringing fun to the office environment is not an easy task, it has to be subtle
and not childish, it should also have a positive effect on not only the worker
health but their performance also.
There are two theories oh how an employer sees their workers, theory Y are the
employers that will invest in this type of product
The average worked dislikes work and avoids work whenever possible.
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To induce adequate effort, the supervisor must threaten punishment and
exercise careful supervision.
The average worker avoids increased responsibility and seeks to be directed.
The average worker wants to be active and finds the physical and mental effort
on the job satisfying.
Greatest results come from willing participation, which will tend to produce self-
direction towards goals without coercion and control.
The average worker seeks opportunity for personal improvement and self-
“the assumption of the mediocrity of the masses.”
Current trends are running inline with the environmental trends which have
resulted in a whole new industry with green orientated products, the recent
recession has also attributed to this new culture with swap shops and second
hand items now seen as an economical and environmental alternative to the
consumer trends which have caused both the recession and the high levels of
pollutants in our atmosphere.
A style has been evolved out of these trends in which consumers are looking for
something that shows the positive (or less negative) effect they are having on
the world around them, but some eco products may not be more friendly to the
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environment because say a product made from recyclable material ends up in a
land fill then it may as well up to the consumer on how they act at the end of life
stage. Also an energy efficient product may use less energy during its use but if
the energy used in manufacture of the product is a lot more, the energy saving
may be cancelled out. But of course there is an ever growing network of serious
green movements across the world in everything form energy production to
manufacturing to people’s lifestyle.
But saying this consumer’s will not just buy a product because it is “green” it still
has to be as good if not better than the competitors if it wants to compete. It sill
has to be desirable and aesthetically pleasing.
A lot has to be said about the emotional engagement that can be formed
between the user and the product. To engage the user the product needs to
play on one or more of there sense, and should give them an positive emotional
response on sight, touch or use of the product. Feedback is a good way to
make the user more involved and feel in control of the process.
A style that is attractive to adult consumers is also a mixture of forms, materials
• Organic and geometric
• Warm and cold materials (wood vs. metal)
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The Office Environment
The average office worker in the EU spends 37 hours at work every week. Over
32% of the time they are awake is spent at the workplace.
To find our more about how this environment is managed I contacted Sws in
Clonakilty to see how they dealt with breaks and their staff.
Stephen Hegarty is chief operations officer for the South Western Group; they
employ over 600 people in the south of Ireland and more recently in Poland.
They specialise in out sourcing with contracts with companies like 02 and The
They are a typical large office based company with most employees spending
their 8 hours at their cubical in front of their computers.
We discussed many issues associated with the office environment and high
Computer/VDU usage, he agreed that a large percentage of the
employees spent their eight hours a day behind one or even several screens.
Breaks were a big area of concern and he pointed out that smokers got more
breaks than non-smokers and this caused problems for non-smokers in the
office who felt it was unfair. This shows that even these small breaks make a
difference to the people in the office
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Stephen also raised the question of employee turnover, which is especially high
in the customer service sector; this causes a problem for employers as they are
constantly having to replace their staff.
There is a software system to track and record every aspect of every
employees day from how long they were away from their comp to how many
customers they dealt with, and every employee has set goals and tasks and
also minimum requirements that they have to reach.
This could be useful with implementing the product as it could be monitored and
also could be used as an incentive to surpass the targets i.e. positive
This would hopefully encourage greater productivity, which according to Mr.
Hegarty should be a good selling point when approaching companies to invest
in this system.
Stress in the workplace
According to the European Working Conditions Survey (EWCS) carried out in
2000, 28% of workers in the EU15 suffered from stress at work. A similar survey
carried out a year later in candidate countries revealed similar trends: 28% of
workers from the 12 candidate countries suffered from stress
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A study carried out in 2003 aimed to identify occupational stress factors and
explore the link between stress and sick leave. 20 occupational practitioners
working in 14 different districts in France carried out 839 observations and
survey studies among workers. The results confirmed that the most powerful
factors which contribute to stress were not those related to personality
characteristics, but were factors associated with occupational environment this
also explained the association between stress and sickness absence
Surprisingly Ireland has one of the lowest rates of work related stress with 16%
of workers reporting stress, but stress, depression and anxiety had the second
highest cause of workers illness and resulting absence
Stress by age
Stress is most reported for the 25-39 and 40 -54 age groups. As you can see
below in figure 1
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This shows that my target market is also a target for workplace stress
With some EU countries with over 40% of workers between the ages 35-44
consulting a doctor with relation to workplace stress.
Stress by gender
37% of men and 31% of women believe that work affects their health
Men surpass women in all symptoms except for anxiety.
Stress by job
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Workers in education and health report high levels of stress, anxiety, and
One stat that surprised me was the stress levels in agriculture that rivals health
and education for the most stressful sector. Figure 2
The cost of stress
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Studies suggest that between 50% and 60% of all lost working days are linked
to work- related stress, but the health of the workers is not all that is at stake.
In the United Kingdom, 70 million days are lost every year through poor mental
health, and 10 million of these are the result of anxiety, depression, and stress
which, according to employees, is directly caused by their work or working
In 2005/6 work-related stresses, depression and anxiety cost Great Britain in
excess of £530 million
The below are the notes for figure 3 which is an ergonomic guideline to working
at a VDU.
1. Use a good chair with a dynamic chair back that is angled slightly to the
2. Top of monitor screen should be 2-3" above eye level
3. No glare on screen; use an optical glass anti-glare filter where needed
4. Sit at arms length from monitor; further if distance is comfortable and
5. Rest feet on floor or on a stable foot rest (move feet frequently for
6. Use a document holder, preferably in-line with the computer screen
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7. Wrists flat and straight in relation to forearms to use
8. Keeps arms and elbows relaxed close to body
9. Centre monitor and keyboard in front of you
10. Use a negative tilt keyboard tray with an upper mouse platform or
downward tilt-able platform adjacent to keyboard
11. Use a stable work surface and stable (no bounce) keyboard tray
12. Take frequent short breaks (micro breaks) and stretch.
Along with these ergonomic recommendations there are many ways to prevent
health issues when in the working environment. Regular light stretching
improves the blood circulation and rests you
Offices of the future
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Some large corporations have been looking at the workplace environment and
have been trying to make it a more relaxed and enjoyable part of the day.
Google is particularly well known for its unconventional office spaces. Another
interesting method used by Google is giving 20% of work time to any project the
individual wants. Apparently it’s where the most innovative stuff is created.
Nobody can argue Google’s success and are on the top of the Internet market. I
believe their work structure has a great deal to do with their success. This is not
to say Google’s way is for everybody but it shows a morality and consideration
form the company to the employees.
A lot of the larger companies are now taking notice to these extreme tactics to
keep employees happy and productive. But by doing this they also reduce
burnouts, sick days and work related injuries. Of course for general use the
playfulness has to be toned down. Offices are about business; therefore there is
a clash. But this informal and variance in the office workplace has lead to
greater productivity and better job satisfaction for the employee.
Like most problems it is jus a
matter of compromise.
Giving the employees a
break or boost without
interfering with their or others
work. At the same time the
break has to detach them
from the work physically and
mentally even for a short
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Work Related Musculoskeletal Disorders
Pain caused by repetitive movements has been investigated since the 18 th
century (Tomatis et al 2009). Bernardino Ramazzini (1633-1714), a professor in
medicine, was one of the first people to focus on workers’ health problems in a
systematic way. He visited workplaces, observed the activities of workers and
discussed their disorders with them.
In his writings (reprinted 2001) he talks about, “the bent posture in sitting” and
“the incessant movement of the hand and always in the same direction”, and
how this leads to “the outermost vertebral ligaments being constantly pulled
apart” and “fatigue of the hand and whole arm because of the continuous and
almost tonic strain on the muscles and tendons” (Ramazzini 2001)..
In the late 20th century, with more occupations involving the use of an office,
computer and desk, musculoskeletal disorders caused by repetitive movements
and postures have become an even more increasing problem in the working
environment (Padma and Balasubramanie 2009)
Examples of physical risk factors include:
1. Repetitive movements
2. Prolonged poor postures
3. Inadequate strength`
4. Frequent or heavy lifting
5. Awkward postures
6. Sustained force
Current treatment options :
• Exercise therapy (Physiotherapist)
• Manual therapy (Physiotherapist)
• Ergonomic intervention (Ergonomist)
• GP visit (Doctor)
• Surgery (Surgeon)
1. Carpal tunnel release
2. Medial epicondylectomy
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There are certain areas where I will focus the attention of this product. Certain
parts of the body become more stressed during normal everyday activities
which in the short term reduces productivity and increases sick days and over
time can become a great expense for both the employee and employer.
The neck is one area where pain and stiffness are found among office workers.
One example of where this has been combated is with head sets, which avoid
bending of the neck when holding the phone on the shoulder.
Hunching over a computer, bad seating or posture can cause pain in the
shoulders. It is neck and shoulder pain are also commonly associated with
The angles at which your wrists are at while typing can be strenuous, unless
strict ergonomic adherence by both the employee and employer. The same can
be said for mouse use. The elbows should be inline with the wrists in a neutral
position, prolonged tension of the tendons that bend the wrist causes
inflammation and pain. Tendons need to be relaxed more regularly to reduce
build up of stress in the tendons
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Fingers work similarly as the wrist with tendons pulling or straightening the
fingers, over extension or retraction results of build up of stress especially at the
It is undeniable that VDU workers need to take short frequent breaks from
displays and also the input devices to reduce the risks of RSI, eyestrain, stress
Also the thought of playing at work seems to be obscure to some but more and
more businesses across the world are now making the office environment a
more playful place as the office culture and community prosper and as a result
the business reaps the rewards. A perfect example of this is the Google offices
across the world, which are ground breaking and push the boundaries to the
office of the future.
The product needs a focus of one defined area. I learned that in order to tackle
this project I would need to direct my attention in order to really tackle the
problem. After reviewing my research the biggest problem area with the most
benefit and room for improvement was a mobility issue.
This can be divided into two areas that are applicable to anybody
Walking is a simple thing but it is something that was our most reliable mode of
transport for millions of years. Since we started to travel grater distances more
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regularly, sitting has become a lot more prolonged. This lack of movement and
focused hand and eye movement (using a computer) causes stress build up.
Getting up and walking just for a short distance, wakes up all you muscles filling
them with oxygenated blood and if done regularly would reduce stress build up
in the body which cause the aches and pains associated with un-ergonomic
Light stretching is a good way to prevent RSI and stiffness of the joints. It also
can be done in the confines of a cubicle. Allowing easy integration into office
Getting the user not to think about stretching or walking
By introducing a task or functional aspect, eg work for it. Work as in the term;
exerts physical effort for a return. This is what we have until recently done –
farmed, hunted, gathered.
You could also integrate different body gestures or movements that would be an
untraditional type of stretch (I have been looking at Tai Chi)
I also would like to incorporate gestures for answering the phone, or email or
any task that is repeated through the day at intervals.
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Verghese J et al. Leisure activities and the risk of amnestic mild cognitive
impairment in the elderly. Neurology. 2006. 66(6): 821-827.
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SuperBreak: Using Interactivity to Enhance Ergonomic Typing Breaks
Dan Morris, A.J. Bernheim Brush, and Brian R. Meyers 2008
Stress at work — facts and figures; European Agency for Safety and health at
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Alexander & R. A. Rabourn (Eds.)
Applied Ergonomics. London: Taylor & Francis
Reilly, P.A. (1995) ‘Repetitive strain injury: from Australia to the UK’, Journal of
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STRETCHING TO REDUCE WORK-RELATED MUSCULOSKELETAL
DISORDERS: A SYSTEMATIC REVIEW
Bruno R da Costa, PT, MSc and Edgar Ramos Vieira, PT, PhD, 2008
An introduction to the LEGO Group
The Science of
LEGO SERIOUS PLAY – Introduction Pdf
Integral Play: Social Interaction in the Workplace
Christian Thönia and Simon Gächterb
An Exploration of Adult Transformation
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Gwen Gordon & Sean Esbjörn-Hargens
Insights into the Social and Psychological Effects
Of SMS Text Messaging
Donna Reid & Fraser Reid
University of Plymouth
The effects of exercise and rest breaks on musculoskeletal discomfort during
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Ronald De Vera Barredo, Kelly Mahon
Psychology Today, July/August 1999
THE HUMAN MOMENT AT WORK