As more and more office workers prepare to safely return to the office, it’s an ideal time to evaluate your workspace setup and adjust it, and your habits, to support physical comfort and performance.
That’s right — we’re talking ergonomics.
Ergonomics refers to the ever-growing field that studies the efficiency of people in their workspaces. Specifically, ergonomics applies physical and psychological principles to design products and processes that support human health. This includes factors like posture and range of motion.
According to the injury prevention specialists at Ergo Plus, musculoskeletal disorders are responsible for roughly 400,000 injuries each year. That accounts for 33% of all worker injury and illness cases. These musculoskeletal issues include back pain, slipped discs, pinched nerves, inflammation, and more.
It’s easy to let something like ergonomics take the back seat to the time-sensitive work you or your employees have been hired to do. But with a little foresight and creativity though, it’s possible to alleviate and prevent some of these injuries.
In addition, improving posture and position can impact productivity and mood. In order to effectively think about our own ergonomic situation, here are some key areas we can focus on as we look into making beneficial changes to our workspaces.
The role of equipment in ergonomics
The type of equipment you use and how you set it up can make a big difference to how you work. While there are a whole range of products out there designed to boost ergonomic performance and enhance your workspace, some top priority pieces of equipment to hone in on are:
Let’s discuss each of these high-impact equipment choices.
While there’s a strong case for ergonomic chairs, there are a couple of factors we can adjust with our existing chairs.
Ideally, you should be able to rest your feet comfortably on the floor, knees bent to a ninety degree angle, with thighs about parallel to the floor. Additionally, you should be able to sit upright with your weight evenly distributed across the seat of the chair. If your chair has arms, they should allow you to comfortably maintain a ninety degree angle at the elbow with your shoulders down and relaxed.
Keep in mind that if you already have an ergonomically-designed chair, you still have to adjust it to your body according to these same principles in order to reap the benefits.
Here are some adjustments you can make to your current equipment:
If you don’t have a chair that allows you to place your feet on the floor, you can place a block, box, or step beneath your feet or purchase products made for this purpose.
Making the seat of your chair more comfortable may allow you to distribute the weight of your body more evenly. You can use foam cushions, or even a folded blanket, to provide a softer seat.
Your desk may be a counter-top, kitchen table, or an actual desk, depending on where you’re working at any given time. Ideally, this surface is level, with enough space to hold the tools you’ll need for the day (including creature comforts like a mug of coffee, a plant, and other incidentals). Whether you are standing or sitting, the desk height should allow you to maintain the near-ninety degree bend in the elbows and allow all items to be within easy reach.
A poorly placed monitor can cause a number of issues, including headaches and physical strain on the head, neck, and shoulders. With some quick adjustments, we can negate these issues. Try to position your screen a full arm’s length away. Angle the screen ten to twenty degrees, and make sure the height of the screen places the top of the monitor even with eye level.
Try the following adjustments to find that sweet spot:
If your monitor is too small to reach eye level, you can use books, paper reams, or even a small box to lift the screen.
Working from a laptop? Using a combination of a bluetooth keyboard and a riser can help you position your device in an ideal way. (Check out these tips for more laptop ergonomics.)
Lifestyle changes to support ergonomic health
There are also some key changes we can make in our habits to help support good ergonomic health. These changes focus on the environment around us, physical body positioning, and tactics for mitigating the impact of long days in front of our screens.
The environment simply refers to the space itself that you may be working in. To optimize your ability to work productively and healthfully, here are some environmental characteristics to strive for in your workspace:
Keep your space at a comfortable to cool temperature to maintain alertness
Design and decorate your space to be visually pleasing but not distracting
Match your lighting level to the brightness of your monitor to help prevent eye strain.
There is a wide range of personal preferences that can impact the environments we are most productive and comfortable in, so experimentation and ongoing testing is important.
Neither sitting nor standing is a productive position to maintain for a full workday. It’s important to take breaks and move your body throughout the day, even if the breaks are short and simple — like going to refill a water bottle or having lunch in a different room while seated or standing, in opposition to your regular working position.
Regular physical activity can also strengthen the muscles of the body most likely to be negatively affected by poor posture or ergonomic design, such as your core and gluteal muscles. Not to mention, physical activity can provide stress relief and help to maintain your mental health.
You may also find additional tools to help create a more conducive work experience such as:
Blue light blocking glasses to help prevent eye strain or fatigue
Specially shaped keyboards
Desk risers that allow you to move from standing to sitting back to standing
Some of these tools can be inexpensive and easy to acquire, while others can be quite costly. The most important element is that they should fit your needs.
Setting It All Up
Putting all of these separate components together is what allows to us to create an ergonomic experience that is most beneficial to the body and mind. But don’t be afraid to start small with these changes. Give yourself the space to experiment and examine the impact of these changes on your mood, workload, and overall sense of wellbeing.
Interested in a more ergonomic workspace? CIC ops teams work directly with our clients, preparing their offices to exact specifications. Explore space with us today.