What is Ergonomics in the Workplace?
In the workplace, we all want to stay productive, reduce risks of injuries and improve comfort. One way for employers and employees to achieve this is to introduce ergonomics in the workplace.
From the chairs we sit in, the desks we use, to typing emails to clients - introducing ergonomics is a must to keep the employees healthy.
What is ergonomics?
Ergonomics is an interesting word because it has a lot of definitions. When we use this term, we mean it as a way to make the workplace safer and more efficient through the arrangement and design of the workplace to meet the needs of the employee.
There's a science behind ergonomics, with both physiological and psychological factors being used to create the following for employees:
Products, including furniture and the many electronics and tools that a person uses, can be made ergonomic. Employers should focus on improving these concepts in the workplace to keep the workers as efficient and productive as possible.
How to Improve Ergonomics in the Workplace
Improving ergonomics in the workplace can help increase productivity while also reducing the risk of injuries and boosting employee happiness. There are several ways to improve workplace ergonomics.
Invest in sit/stand desks
Sitting is becoming an epidemic and one that many employers are studying to counteract. When people sit too much, they’re at higher risk of heart disease, issues with blood pressure and obesity, among many other problems.
A break once or twice a day is simply not enough to counteract all of the sitting that a desk job entails.
Instead, many people are turning to sit/stand desks that allow them to rapidly convert their sitting desk to a standing desk in seconds. When you stand, you’re promoting healthier blood flow, engaging your muscles and burning more calories.
An ergonomic sit/stand desk requires you to choose a model that’s perfect for the user. For this concept to be beneficial, it’s important that you include a desk that offers:
- Straight wrists and 90-degree elbow
- Monitor that has a top that’s just below eye level
- Monitor that is at most an arm’s length away
When standing, the person must keep their back straight and maintain proper posture.
Use the right office chairs
Ergonomic chairs are the ideal choice to keep a person sitting with a straight back, level arms and without slouching. The right chair can relieve hip, back and neck pain. Adjustability is key to the performance of these chairs. Users should:
- Adjust chair height so that their feet are flat on the ground
- Tilt the chair to a comfortable position
- Use lumbar support to maintain a straight back
- Adjust armrest height
It's important for the user to measure the depth of the chair or to use some form of lumbar support so that they fit in the chair properly. A proper fit means that the feet are flat, and the person is sitting far back enough in the chair.
Make sure screens are the right height
Monitors and screens don’t get enough attention, but they’re a leading cause of neck pain. If the screen is placed too high, a person will strain their neck to see the screen. The same issue is experienced if the monitor is placed too low.
Many models have an adjustable base that may or may not raise and will often tilt for easier viewing.
Setting up the monitor is crucial. A few tips to making sure that the monitor is accurately placed and works to make a person more productive are:
- Keep the monitor 20 inches from your eyes and around an arm’s length distance from the body
- The top of the monitor should be just below your eye level or at eye level
- Position the screen on a slight downward tilt
You'll also want to place the monitor in a position that doesn’t cause glare or eye strain. Employees should adjust their monitors to find a position that works best for them and reduces any strain on their eyes or neck.
Don’t forget to adjust the mouse and keyboard
Wrist pain is one of the most common reasons for people missing work. Carpal tunnel is the main cause for pain and is considered a job-related injury because of repetitive motions. Desk workers are experiencing wrist pain in high numbers because they often neglect to choose ergonomic mouse and keyboards.
Users can purchase both of these devices in ergonomic models, but it’s important to set them up properly. A few tips to reduce wrist strain are:
- Keep the mouse and keyboard at elbow height
- Use an ergonomic mouse pad that can help keep the wrist in a neutral position
- Adjust the height and/or angle of the keyboard when possible
Manufacturers often sell ergonomic combos for both mouse and keyboard. Users should make adjustments until they’re maintaining proper wrist position when typing and using their mouse.
If wrist pain does continue, there are computer gloves that keep the wrist in a neutral position when typing.
Adjust the lighting in your work area
Lighting is one area of ergonomics that often goes overlooked, but it’s an important one. If the lighting is too bright, it can be distracting and create glares on computer monitors. If it’s too dim, it can lead to eye strain. It’s important to find the right balance and the right type of lighting to match the task.
- Task lighting can help limit the brightness around a computer screen. Monitors set to maximum brightness levels can fatigue the eyes. A simple desk lamp with dim lighting can help reduce monitor brightness, making it more comfortable to work for longer periods of time.
- Avoid placing monitors near windows. Natural lighting is great in the workplace, but it can create uncomfortable and eye-straining glares on monitors. Position monitors away from windows or make use of blinds during the day to control natural lighting.
- Use a mixture of direct and indirect light fixtures to create even illumination and reduce glares.
- Choose a cooler light temperature. Yellow, or warm, lights are the most common type on the market, but they aren’t always the best option for the workplace. Although they create a warm, cozy environment, yellow lights can strain the eyes and even promote fatigue. Cooler lights mimic daylight, so they can help you stay alert and focused.
Adjusting the lighting in your workplace is one simple way to improve ergonomics without spending a fortune. Having a variety of lighting options can help you adapt to different weather patterns and tasks, so you stay productive in the face of any challenge.
Practice good posture
Good posture plays an important role in workplace ergonomics. An appropriate chair can help promote good posture, but it’s up to you maintain it.
When you maintain good posture, you reduce the risk of:
- Back pain
- Spinal injuries
- Musculoskeletal issues
Unfortunately, many people slouch in their chairs, round their shoulders and arch their necks in unnatural ways that lead to pain and discomfort down the road.
Here are some tips for maintaining proper sitting posture:
- Sit up with your shoulders back and your back straight.
- Keep your weight evenly distributed between both hips.
- Keep your knees bent at a 90-degree angle.
- Make sure that your feet are flat on the ground.
- Try not to stay in the same position for more than 30 minutes.
Even with the best office chair on the market, you can still wind up with back pain and spine issues if you don’t take steps to improve your posture.
Have an excuse to get up and move around
Workplace ergonomics is more than just adjusting your workstation. It's also about making sure that you’re getting enough movement during the day. Having an excuse to get up and move around, even for just a few minutes, can help prevent back pain, reset your mind and get your blood flowing.
Consider placing your workstation far from the restroom, break room and other shared equipment that you may need to use, such as printer or copier. While inconvenient, taking this approach will force you to get up and move around throughout the day.
Try using ergonomic accessories
If you’re having trouble getting your workstation set-up to work for you, ergonomic accessories may help.
- Footrests can help shorter individuals keep their feet comfortably and properly on the ground.
- Ball chairs force your core muscles to stay engaged to keep you upright and balanced. These chairs are ideal for those who want to stay active during the day.
- Headsets eliminate the need to hold a phone between your ear and your shoulder, which can cause neck pain.
- Document holders make it easy to read printed documents without having to keep your neck bent forward. Task lighting is also important for these jobs, as it can prevent eye strain.
Office supply stores may have other accessories that you can use to further improve your workstation's ergonomics.
Workplace ergonomics plays a key role in productivity and health and wellness in the workplace. The right equipment and setup can help reduce the risk of pain and injuries while helping you stay focused on the task ahead.
Download the full guide on how to maintain correct posture in the workplace
About Century Office
Century Office are a leading UK office and contract furniture supplier, with over 40 years’ experience in the industry. They provide workplace solutions and offer a tailored approach for architects, interior designers & facility managers for small offices to large corporations as well as educational facilities.
Please contact Century Office on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone 08000 929301 for more information.