Office ergonomics: Why it’s worth the investment
To put it simply, ergonomics is the science of work. It plays an important role in a workplace as it establishes value, comfort and safety for the well-being of all workers. This is achieved through a comprehensive approach, as well as through well-structured office design and office furniture.
Ergonomics is the study of the science and technology of activities and institution that fit the dimensions, abilities and overall worker’s demands both physically and mentally. Given that, the practice aids in increasing performance and at the same time improve comfort and safety.
With a few clicks on the web, you can have a look at leading companies’ office spaces. Take a good sight at the setup and how well they seamlessly integrate good ergonomics in their operations. These companies illustrate how worthy of an investment ergonomics is and it’s a common reason why you should consider it too.
Photo source: The Octopus and the Bee
Now, eyes away from the screen and scan through your office environment, how ergonomic-friendly is your office space?
Importance of ergonomics
If you’re still unsure whether it’s worth investing in better office design and acquiring quality office furniture, let’s breakdown the health repercussions of poor quality furniture and work space layout.
For most professionals who spend 8 hours or more sitting on their desks, chances are they suffer from chronic pains. Sitting for hours straight and a space inconducive for natural movements, it will definitely take a toll on your body.
This occurrence is an ergonomic hazard. It’s when the type of work you have, along with the working conditions, put tension on your body position which then causes strain on several body parts. This can be difficult to determine since the harmful effects to your overall health and being aren’t recognised straight away.
Non-accidental injuries caused by poor ergonomics in offices
Here are some of the non-accidental injuries one can suffer from:
- Back and neck pain. This occurs when one does not have an adjustable and comfortable office chair to fit the person’s body needs for proper posture.
- Eye strain, headache and migraines. Those who conduct visually demanding work will eventually develop eye strain and occasional headaches. Eye strain may vary person-to-person. It could develop as tightness, blurring, double vision, burning, watering, headaches, and other sensations and discomforts.
- Poor flexibility. Unnatural, repetitive body movements and positions trigger chronic pains. If a person sits all day, their legs beneath the desk in a workspace that’s too confined, it puts a limit on your body. It restricts natural movement to the human body.
- Slow digestion and metabolism. Being chair-bound for a long period of time may raise the risk of sluggish metabolism and weight gain given that your body is an inactive state for hours.
- Carpal tunnel syndrome. Is your wrist aching? It could be due to excess pressure towards the part. It could be caused by unergonomic position of your workspace (i.e. keyboard, computer, mouse, and the likes).
Poor lighting, repetitive or unnatural movements, uncomfortable and non-adjustable workstations and office chair, confined workstation, and non-ergonomic office layout among others could be the source and cause these chronic pains.
Create an ergonomic-friendly workspace
Sitting for 8 hours or more in front of a computer screen may sound harmless. However, do the same routine daily for months or years more, and your body will deteriorate gradually from the strain.
There are a number of ways in which you can transform your office into a productive and friendly work space. A safe and holistic work environment enhances the wellbeing of your workforce which in turn, they produce quality outputs and overall better performance. It’s effect on your business? Growth and increase in revenue.
Time to bring the best out of your office.
Photo source: Mayo Clinic
- A comfortable office chair. Your office chair is your primary support system — it’s your best friend that keeps you in good posture. Most companies opt for cheap office chairs that looks “good enough” however, with its poor quality, it may do more harm on you, and your pocket than good.
Chairs that don’t allow you to move and seat comfortably will definitely cause hindrance at work and bring serious repercussions if not dealt with seriously. A bad sitting posture can cause fatigue at work which will then decelerate your work efficiency.
An adjustable chair height, and posture settings is a great investment as it will improve ergonomic practices, and ultimately build a more productive, and healthy office space.
- Adjustable desk. While some may see this as unnecessary, especially if one already has an adjustable chair, think again. There are different types and styles of desks and others are simply unfavourable to users who work long hours.
Office desks that offer adjustable heights to ensure there’s space enough for workers to stretch their knees, thighs and feet provides utmost comfort. Avoid storing items under your desk to keep enough room for your legs to move around. If your desk can’t be adjusted, place sturdy blocks or boards under the desk legs to adjust it for your comfort.
If possible, ask if you can choose between a standing or sitting desk to better suit your body’s demands.
- Arm rests. Do make sure that your office chair or desk have good support feature for your arms. Arm rests are vital ergonomic-wise since it is one of the keys that reduces strain on your shoulders, wrists, hips and spine. Posture-related fatigue and wrist and hands discomfort are relieved if you have good support system for it.
- Proper placement of desk items. Run a quick scan on what you have on your desk. Is it too cluttered? How are your computer, keyboard and mouse positioned on the table? Are your other office documents and supplies necessities easy to reach?
- Mouse and keyboard. One of the ways you can prevent carpal tunnel syndrome, as well as hand and wrist strain is by placing your mouse at an arm’s reach. The mouse and keyboard should be on the same surface, and within close perimeter of one another.
On an important note, keep in mind proper position of your elbows to the sides when aligning your keyboard and mouse. The placement should allow you to utilise little muscle load as possible to avoid tension.
- The same aspect goes for your computer screen. Convenience is key to keep a functional yet comfortable work terminal. Place the monitor at proper height: the top of the monitor parallel to eye level; and at least in an arm’s length distance.
If needed, tweak the screen brightness, contrast and resolution for comfortable viewing since one can suffer from eye strains, headaches and the likes when staring at a screen for hours.
- Technology support and accessories. Is your computer screen catching a little reflection? Get an anti-glare filter. Perhaps you would need lighting accessories for better viewing. You could purchase a utility cart to keep your desk uncluttered and get all documents in one storage. Maybe what’s best for your physical needs is a standing workstation, it could be worth a try.
Benefits of ergonomics
How does exactly a well-thought out workplace with applied ergonomic guidelines beneficial for the employees and employers alike?
- Boosts productivity. A 2011 report released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, stated that musculoskeletal-related injuries are increasing in work environments. Imagine how much inconvenience this can affect one’s work performance especially in a computer-intensive environment.
The productivity-enhancing effect brought by good ergonomics results in saving a large chunk from rejection costs and completely reduces the rejection rate. Also, it increases revenue as productivity and outputs are improved.
- Improves quality. With less exertion and effort in doing tasks, as well as better heights, and reaches in association with good posture equals a more efficient work station.
When poor ergonomics are established in an office, employees are prone to distraction, frustration and fatigue, as well as other illnesses which results to mediocre output. Working for 8 or more hours straight can be physically and mentally draining, so the least employers can do to make workers feel valued, and comfortable is by giving them office furniture and equipments that are convenient, and fit for their needs.
- Cost-effective. Good ergonomics prevents costly musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) which estimates to $1 out of every $3 in employees compensation costs. This essentially means cutting in injury-related costs improves your company’s safety culture which in return increases return of investment.
- Employee satisfaction. Improving on your ergonomics means valuing, and keeping the safety of your employees — they will notice. If they see their employers promoting a safe culture and general well-being, this reduces turnover.
Higher job satisfaction leads to an increased productivity level of employees. When they no longer feel any discomfort in terms of physical, and mental health in the work environment, absenteeism is avoided, and increase in employee involvement and satisfaction outweighs.
Bottom line is: Good office ergonomics is the key to the overall growth, and success of the company — employers, and employees alike. In various work settings, comfort, convenience, functionality, and most importantly, safety should be imposed in order to establish a healthy working environment.
True enough, companies tend to commit mistakes in terms of practicing good ergonomics in the workplace.
“The thing companies get wrong is that they think bringing in an outside person once (especially and equipment vendor) to do a training will appropriately address ergonomic issues,” explains ergonomic expert, David Rempel, Professor in Bioengineering in University of California.
“[I would say that] Appropriate Office Ergonomics requires a Systems approach that integrates into existing health and safety program. The System includes: training of new and existing employees, especially on when to seek help; readily available expert who are familiar with employees’ work to do workstation evaluations; easy ordering of appropriate equipment; scheduled follow-up of employees in discomfort/pain; integration of equipment purchase/planning with facilities management; and assignment and tracking of responsibilities. May also include an ergonomics test room for employees to try out available equipment,” said Professor Rempel.
Since different work structures require different ergonomic solutions, there are several reliable ergonomic office furniture and ergonomic services to help you out so be sure to consult with one to make the most out of your company and investment.
Given the observation of good safety practices, it’s safe to presume that ergonomics is not a hefty expenditure but rather a great investment. Since upgrading your furniture and equipment means cutting costs on injury-related expenses.
Reference information and links:
- Ergonomics Plus – The five proven benefits of a well-established office implementing strong ergonomic practices.
- Thrifty Office Furniture – Five simple and accessible tips on how to construct a productive work space.
- The Electra Health Floor – The symptoms and illnesses caused by sitting for too long at work and how to resolve it.
- Mayo Clinic – Visual guide on how to create an ergonomic-friendly office station.
- Taylor and Francis Online – Discomfort and consequences brought by poorly structured computer work stations.
- Spine Research Institute – Aside from increasing productivity and serving better comfort, discussed here are other lesser-known benefits of good ergonomics.
- Dasha Wellness – Ergonomics aren’t only for the sake of employees but for the employers as well, here are three positive results and points which proves each.