International Women’s Day – Inspiring Inclusion: Nichola

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What motivated you to pursue a career in your industry?

The shift into ergonomics came about through a pretty big career change for me. I started my working life in Art Galleries, having studied History of Art.

But somewhere along the line, I realised I wanted to do something more directly impactful for people. So I took a detour to a Career Analysis session where I spent a day doing all sorts of psychometric tests. The result was a couple of options: either to become an Architect or explore Ergonomics. At 27, the thought of committing the years to become an Architect felt a bit daunting and I hadn’t heard of Ergonomics. But the more I dug into Ergonomics, the more it seemed like the perfect fit –  designing with people in mind to make life easier and better. Ergonomics, it turns out, was a fascinating blend of biomechanics, psychology and anthropometrics, all geared towards making our work lives smoother and keeping us mentally and physically healthy.

So off I went to the University of Surrey to dive into a Master’s program in Health Ergonomics, and that’s where my new journey began. It’s been a joy to be in an industry where the learning never stops, and every day brings new opportunities for growth.  I feel privileged to be in a position where I can make a positive impact on people’s lives.

 

Can you share a significant milestone or achievement in your professional journey?

After completing my master’s degree in 2004, I was approached by physiotherapists who challenged me to innovate and design a better office chair.  They highlighted that most office chairs were ill-suited for those with back issues with overly wide backrests that encouraged a slouched posture, by pushing the shoulders forward.

Intrigued by the challenge, and as a back pain sufferer myself, I took it on.  Two years of development later, Corrigo Design chairs were born.  These chairs are in fact the tall-backed versions available in the Paddington Works! If you ever need guidance on adjusting your chair, check out our instructional video below or find me in studio 3!

 

 

Then in 2018, as I found myself deeply involved in consultancy work through the chair company, I established an independent venture to manage these endeavours: www.inspiredergonomics.com.

Our workload surged during the pandemic, as we shifted to provide remote home working assessments worldwide. Our team, which has grown to 9 members, now offers a diverse range of services, spanning from Ergonomic DSE Assessments to Workplace Design, and even designing the pods for the BBC’s media vans.  Our clientele varies from legal firms to international corporations such as Dow Jones.

Our most recent milestone was the launch of our own online self-assessment and training platform last year.  This platform aims to educate and train individuals on how to set up their own home or office workstations to enhance comfort and reduce back pain, regardless of location. You can learn more at:  https://www.inspiredergonomics.com/services/online-ergonomics-assessment-tool/

 

 

Have you faced any specific challenges in your industry? If so, how did you overcome them?

Well, let me tell you, it’s been quite the ride. Our journey in the manufacturing industry, particularly here in the UK where our chairs are proudly made, has been marked by navigating through some tough times.

We weathered the storm of the Great Recession, then had to tackle the complexities of Brexit, and on top of that, dealt with ongoing issues surrounding the Panama Canal.  But through it all, we’ve persevered because seeing the positive impact our chairs have on those battling back pain makes it all worthwhile.

I’ve personally experienced the benefits first-hand while recovering from a piriformis injury and sciatic pain, which made sitting down a real challenge – except of course when I am in one of our own chairs – the ability to adjust everything made a huge difference.

Covid 19 presented a whole new set of challenges for both our companies. At Inspired Ergonomics, we had to adapt quickly, shifting our assessments and consultancy services to a virtual format, which had previously always been done in person. However, this shift ultimately led to the development of our online platform.

Alongside managing the usual challenges of technology, it’s been a journey of adaptation and innovation, pivoting along the way.  Our technology guy has now become a partner in the business as our in-house CTO.

 

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Who is a role model or mentor that has inspired you in your career?

I must admit, that finding a mentor as a woman in the furniture industry hasn’t been easy.  It’s meant charting my own course.  Nevertheless, I’ve been fortunate to encounter numerous inspiring individuals during my journey.  Being involved with groups like WOD (Women in Office Design) and BiP (Business is Personal) has been particularly enriching.  These communities provide an invaluable opportunity to connect on a personal level and engage in candid discussions about the challenges – and opportunities – we face.  It’s through these connections that I’ve found support, encouragement and invaluable insights that have helped shape my path forward.  I would love to hear what networking you have found useful.

 

 

How has being part of our coworking community contributed to your professional network?

Transitioning to Paddington Works was a game-changer for me.  Previously, I had been tucked away in a small office, which often left me feeling a bit disconnected.  But stepping into a vibrant community of businesses here has been like a breath of fresh air.  There’s something about being surrounded by other entrepreneurs that just sparks creativity and gives an energy boost and it has been a wonderful space for the team when they visit.

Getting to know you all through the various drinks and events has been a highlight for me.  Hearing your stories and learning about your ventures has been both inspiring and insightful.  And it certainly helped when the fantastic team here at Paddington Works brought my chairs at the same time, it really helps when clients come to visit.  It was perfect timing.

I’d be absolutely thrilled if we could organise more networking events in the office and get a chance to learn about the huge variety of businesses that are here as well.

 

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What advice would you give to young women entering your industry?

That’s a tricky question, no doubt about it.  In many ways, I’d say it’s probably easier now than when it was when I first started out, juggling the demands of building a business while raising two children.

Currently, I’m actively exploring women’s networking groups because I firmly believe in the power of connections.

One thing I’ve learned along the way is to trust your instincts and follow your heart, within reason, even if it means making a significant career change like I did when I transitioned into ergonomics.  Looking back, I do wish I had found ergonomics earlier and had the chance to work in the industry before setting up on my own, but finding opportunities as a young mother at the time was a challenge.  However, I have faith that the landscape is more welcoming now for those seeking to make similar career shifts and the new law in flexible working is I think very helpful in that instance.

My advice? Find a career path that ignites your passion and don’t hesitate to make connections whenever you can. Keep learning and evolving – it’s a natural progression when you’re passionate about what you do.  For me, knowing that our work positively impacts others is what drives me forward each day, as is working with my inspiring team.

 

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The campaign theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is Inspire Inclusion. How can workplaces contribute to fostering inclusion?

As a female business owner, championing the advancement of young women in the workplace has become a central mission for me. That’s why I’ve deliberately cultivated a team where women are in the majority, each representing diverse stages of life.  In our commitment to fostering inclusion, we’ve flexed working hours and embraced a remote-first model to accommodate a new mom’s needs.  Additionally, we are supporting a junior ergonomist as she pursues a university course alongside her work commitments.  Another team member has ADHD, prompting us to make tailored adjustments – from office lighting to refining systems and processes.  It’s all about listening attentively and providing necessary support within reasonable adjustments.

At the core of our ethos lies a dedication to promoting inclusion and autonomy in everything we do.  We believe in nurturing personal and professional growth through a supportive environment.  Well-being and inclusivity are deeply ingrained in our culture, both internally and in our interactions with our clients.  In our consultancy work, we often advocate for individual needs, offering education on behavioural changes to enhance well-being and guiding towards holistic approaches such as physiotherapy or cognitive behavioural therapy.

Increasingly we are being sought after to extend this support to neurodiverse individuals alongside our standard ergonomics consultancy which addresses physical discomfort, pain and injury such as repetitive strain injury (RSI), sciatica and shoulder pain.

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