When the pandemic recedes, the post-pandemic office life will be considerably different from what we left behind when lockdowns started. As companies look to reopen their offices, they must consider what the workplace will look like when employees start returning to work. Whether you are an employer or employee, it is essential to follow proper workplace ergonomics practices to avoid any future health issues.
What is Workplace Ergonomics?
Workplace ergonomics is about designing workplaces for the user’s needs. Ergonomics aims to keep the workstation comfortable for workers and improve efficiency and productivity.
It was rightly said – “The goal of ergonomics is to fit the task to the individual not the individual to the task.”
It is a challenge to manage the modern office workplace because organizations need to make continuous adjustments to maintain stimulating and healthy environments for employees. They must make sure employees are willing and able to come to work daily.
There are unique ergonomic challenges in the workplace resulting from the use of common office equipment like desks, chairs, computers, laptops, phones. Employers need to be aware of the ergonomic issues in their office and learn how to adjust the office workstation to fit the worker. This can largely improve comfort and productivity at the workplace.
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Why Do We Need Workplace Ergonomics?
As sedentary jobs become more and more common, studies show just how bad these types of occupations can be for our health. Extensive periods of sitting in front of a computer screen can have detrimental health effects like headaches, dry eye, neck/shoulder pain, Carpal Tunnel, chronic back pain, sciatica, to name just a few. Such conditions can significantly reduce a worker’s quality of life, as well as productivity. But since our sedentary jobs are not going to change, we have to find ways to improve workplace health.
Thankfully, more and more employers are recognizing the health problems associated with sitting at a desk all day and are investing in ergonomically sound office equipment to create a healthy workplace.
in a recent interview while talking about their ergonomically designed office products, Eric Holtsmark, the Managing Director of Konica Minolta New Zealand, nicely explained the need for a good office workstation. As he mentioned,
“A poorly designed office workstation can also cause serious health problems. Poorly designed desk setup or poorly maintained tools and equipment may cause body strain and stress in workers. It often leads to fatigued and frustrated workers, who develop musculoskeletal problems and long-term conditions like obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes, and abnormal cholesterol levels. Such workers are rarely the most productive.”
Fortunately, these problems can be solved quite easily. Ergonomic workplace arrangements and improved work practices can help your company maintain healthy, safe, and happy employees. Relaxed and comfortable workers tend to be the most efficient ones.
Benefits of Workplace Ergonomics
An effective ergonomics program can benefit an organization in a number of ways:
- Reduced Costs: If you systematically reduce ergonomic risk factors in your organization, you can prevent costly MSDs (Material Safety Data Sheets). An ergonomic workplace provides the opportunity for significant cost savings attributed to worker’s compensation costs.
- Improved Productivity: An ergonomic workstation becomes more efficient and improves productivity.
- Improves Quality: Poor ergonomics leads to fatigued and frustrated employees who do not put in their best work because the job task gets too physically strenuous for the worker.
- Improves Employee Engagement: Employees understand when the organization is trying its best to ensure employee health and safety. If an employee is happy and comfortable during their workday, it can reduce absenteeism, boost morale and improve employee engagement.
- Creates Better Safety Culture: Healthy workplace ergonomics shows an organization’s commitment to health and safety. Healthy employees create a safe and healthy culture within the organization which can lead to better human performance.
Workplace Ergonomic Tips
Let’s take you through a few invaluable workplace ergonomics tips to boost the ergonomics and productivity of your office.
To-do list for employers
- For employers, the key is to make a continuous effort to fit the job to the person to ensure increased productivity. Remember, if your workers perform well, your company will perform well, and vice versa.
- Identify potential ergonomic issues at the workstation.
- Conduct ergonomic risk assessments to identify and document risk sources.
- Find possible solutions. Make changes to the workplace to reduce or eliminate risk factors.
- Make sure every workplace tool and equipment is ergonomically designed. Today, even devices such as 3D printers come in ergonomic designs. It makes better business sense to invest in these.
- Check your tools and machinery inventory to understand where you can improve.
- Be open to discussions with workers about workplace accommodations.
- Select the right equipment, when purchasing workstation items. Make sure you choose ergonomically designed:
- Chairs – with seat-pan height adjustment, movable backrest, the lumbar support.
- Workstation – should have a height-adjustable work surface with ample desktop space to perform tasks.
- Keyboard/keyboard tray – should lie flat and have slope adjustability feature.
- Mouse/Input device – should move easily and be usable by both right-handed and left-handed users.
- Monitors – should have brightness and contrast adjustable features, and have adjustable tilt.
- Wrist rest – should be made of soft material so there’s less pressure on the wrist and friction gets reduced.
- Headset – opt for digital headsets.
- Footrest – should be height adjustable.
- Laptops – should be fitted with an external mouse and keyboard for long periods of use.
To-do list for employees
- If you are uncomfortable with your chair or desk environment, talk to your supervisor about getting an ergonomic chair or desk arrangement.
- Adjust your chair so that you don’t have to strain to reach the keyboard or items on your desk.
- If your work involves long sitting hours, make sure your chair is vertically adjustable and on a five-point base. It should be fitted with adjustable lumbar support.
- When you’re seated, your knees should be at or below the level of your hips.
- Make sure that the weight of your arms is supported while you are working. If not, your neck and shoulder muscles may get strained by the end of the day. Keep upper arms and elbows close to the body.
- Avoid craning your head and neck forward; maintain head position directly above the neck.
- Do Not Slouch! Slouching puts undue pressure on the discs and vertebrae of our backbone. Make use of the lumbar support of your chair.
- Avoid sitting posture where your body weight is not distributed evenly on the chair. Position your chair as close to the work desk as possible to avoid craning and reaching.
- Your feet should not be dangling when you are sitting on the chair. If your feet don’t touch the floor comfortably, or if you have to strain the back of your legs to reach the floor, use a footrest or lower the chair and keyboard. Your feet should be placed uncrossed and flat on the floor.
- Make sure the monitor is placed directly in front of you, with the top being no higher than your eye level. Adhere to the 20-20-20 rule. The monitor should be at an arm’s length away from you to minimize eye strain.
- The keyboard should sit directly in front of the monitor so you do not have to turn your head and neck frequently.
- Place the keyboard and mouse at a comfortable distance from you, so you do not need to reach out all the time and strain your arms and shoulders.
- Take measures to control screen glare (use anti-glare screen filters or wear anti-glare safety glasses). Make sure the monitor is not placed near a window or a bright background. Sunlight falling on the screen can get reflected as glare.
- Ensure adequate desktop space for job tasks and clear space for your knees and legs in front of you.
- Avoid talking on the phone at the workplace with the phone receiver jammed between your neck and ear. Try using the headset for phone communication while typing or writing.
- Take a break from the screen and let your eyes rest periodically for a few seconds by looking at objects at a distance.
- Take regular breaks to get up from your chair and stretch and move around for a couple of minutes. Give your body, mind, and eyes a break before getting back to work.
- Practice good sitting posture. Do posture checks every half hour or so. Reorient your body, roll your shoulders up and back, stretch your spine and sit back into the seat to get rid of any stiffness of muscles.
- You can feel stiff sitting in the same position all day. Alter the way you sit often, make small adjustments, and stretch your arms, wrists, and fingers at frequent intervals.
- Practice deep breathing once in a while throughout the day. Breathe deeply and exhale fully so that your circulation gets stronger and you feel more active and alert.
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Implementing a proactive ergonomics program at the workplace presents an opportunity to add significant value to any business. Increase growth and productivity for your business by creating a happy and healthy workplace with the right office ergonomics makeover.