Ergonomic Health: How to Stay Productive at Work
If you run a company with an office you have probably heard your fair share of complaints around the comfortability, quality, and support of your office equipment. You might or might not have taken them seriously. After all, replacing office furniture seems like an expensive investment without any real return.
If that situation applies then it might be that your office furniture isn’t ergonomic, and if those are your thoughts your dead wrong! Not making use of ergonomic office furniture can lead to many problems:
- Uncomfortable and unproductive employees
- Employees sustaining injuries
- Office furniture that requires a lot of maintenance and cleaning
- Employees are uncomfortable and frustrated
- Employees at a higher risk of becoming too disabled to perform their work
What exactly is ergonomics?
Officially the broad definition of ergonomics is: “the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.” As the importance and relevance of ergonomics has grown, so has our definition. Ergonomics not only have the efficiency and productivity of people in mind but also their health and safety. After all, if an employee is injured or disabled and come to work, how can they perform their work at all, never mind efficiently?
We can then say the purpose of ergonomics is to design items, for use by humans, in a way that improves their efficiency and productivity and also to mitigate the harmful effect using these items can have on the body over a long period of use. This means making items more comfortable, more durable, supportive, and to hold our body at optimal and natural positions and to be functional on top of it all.
We will go into more detail but overall ergonomic furniture provides a wide range of benefits.
- Improves day to day productivity
- Help keep employees healthy
- Reduces costs through less cleaning and maintenance
- Fosters appreciation from employees
- Keeps employees at work
When you shop for ergonomic furniture look for products that are AFRDI certified. The Australian Furnishing Research and Development Institute is dedicated to ensuring safe and comfortable furniture.
Choosing an ergonomic office chair
An office chair might just be the most important piece of office furniture there is. Certainly, when it comes to health and comfort it is the determining factor. We spend up to 13 hours a day seated, 6-8 of those at work in our office chairs. It is crucial that these chairs take our needs into account.
Unhealthy side effects of chair use
- Back pain
- Blood pressure
- Heart risks
- Loss of focus due to discomfort
Why go ergonomic?
While it is not a magic bullet ergonomic chairs go a long way to reduce the effect of the strain on our bodies caused by being seated. It does so mostly by improving and maintaining our posture but also by making our movements easier and less strenuous.
What makes up an ergonomic office chair?
Adjustable armrest, headrests, and height
This is key. Ergonomics demand that when seated the occupant’s joints should all be at 90° for health reasons. We also realize that it is impossible to manufacture and buy chairs for every individual person’s body type. A fully adjustable chair goes a long way to make sure anyone is comfortable, like this range from Jasonl.
Look for chairs that say they provide lumbar support and try them out yourself. You should feel some pressure on your lower back, forcing you to sit straight.
Mesh fabrics are only now starting to really catch on. Many people think they are simply more stylish than normal fabric chairs but they have many actual benefits. They are more durable, easier to clean, collect less dust, and allow the skin to breathe.
It is bad for your neck and back to twist into other directions. Rather invest in swivel chairs so that the occupant can merely swing the chair while sitting straight.
Imagine if you had to either hop with your chair or get up every time you simply want something on the other side of your desk?
Choosing an ergonomic office desk
Unhealthy side effects of prolonged desk use
A desk does not come with as many health risks as an office chair. The biggest risk is of developing a condition like carpal tunnel syndrome or arthritis from having your hands and wrists at awkward positions.
What makes up an ergonomic office desk?
Different types of desks have different ergonomic benefits. Let’s look at some of the most common types of office desks to see what benefits they have:
Corner or L-shaped desk
These desks makes the most of those awkward corners and are perfect for the office or home. The ergonomic benefit of L-shaped desks come from the fact that everything is within reach, as opposed to one long desk. You only need to swivel your chair and a whole new side is available to you.
Computer desks can come with many alterations that make it more convenient to use a computer. For one, a perch on which to place your monitor puts the monitor at eye height so that you don’t slouch. A keyboard and mouse sliding platform can also save space.
Workstation is a very broad term and can mean different things depending on which extra’s it comes with. You can usually expect rolling cabinets, bookshelves, and computer accessories as part of a workstation. This has the obvious benefit of not requiring you to move from your desk to access files for example.
Standing up desks
It sounds strange. However, many people swear by its benefits. Seating is one of the worst positions your body can be in and standing office desks is one solution. Although not mainstream just yet, if you have chronic back problems it’s worth a look.
Considerations for an ergonomic desk
- Height: An ergonomic desk should let your armrests fit underneath and let you rest your elbows at a 90° angle. A monitor should be at eye level.
- Positioning: If you work on a computer the mouse and keyboard should be shoulder width apart and right in front of you.
- Adjustable: Although not so common, an adjustable desk is preferable.
- Level: A desk should be 100% level. Any amount of skewness will lead to back pain.
Ergonomic office arrangement
Being more ergonomic is not as easy as buying and using ergonomic furniture, if that was the solution to everything the world would be a much happier place. You also need to put some effort into making the space around you and your own workplace interactions more ergonomic.
If you are convinced by going ergonomic and are willing to put in some effort in exchange for long term benefits, read on. If not, read on anyway to see just how simple it is:
- Get an ergonomic chair: We can’t skip past this point, even though we’ve mentioned it before. Everything starts with an ergonomic chair. Without it, all the rest will be for naught.
- Arrange your computer ergonomically: We already provided you with some basic tips on how to arrange computer components. It’s really that easy.
- Adjust, adjust, adjust: Hopefully, you listened to us and bought adjustable furniture. Take some time to adjust the chair and desk (in conjunction with each other). Pay attention to how it feels. If you need to slouch or feel uncomfortable in any way time to adjust again. Remember that the perfect adjustment pushes you to have good posture.
- Be lazy, be smart: Everything should be within easy reach. If you have a swivel chair a simple turn should put anything within sight and within reach.
- Consider a workplace planner: might seem a bit over the top but you only have to do it once to have permanent satisfaction.
Some bonus tips:
- Take regular breaks: Ideally, you should stretch your legs for a short time at least every hour. Try to use your lunch time to get in a light walk.
- Avoid eye strain: Avoid staring at the screen for long periods of time. Let your eyes rest once every 5-15min. You simply need to close them or sit and stare into the distance with soft focus.
Put in some effort! Yes, a properly adjusted chair and desk will make it easier to use correct posture but it’s useless if you don’t try too. After some time you will form a habit and it will become natural.