Ergonomics & Your Health: Preventative Best Practices You Can Start Today

Posted by Doug Herman on May 11, 2020 11:30:51 AM
Doug Herman

 

If I said, “Your employees need an ergonomically correct workplace," you may bristle. But if I said, "Your employees will be more comfortable and more productive, and they’ll likely complain less,” I’ll bet your ears just perked up.

Ergonomics is the critical component here. Not only is does it provide a workplace standard, but it also sends a message to your team that you care.

Everyone knows that if something is uncomfortable, it won't be used. But continued heavy use of something that “doesn’t fit right” can cause serious health consequences. That’s the result of poor ergonomics.

But what constitutes poor ergonomics? Many of us are probably doing something right this minute that can be causing harm to our bodies. Let's take a look at four common ergonomic issues, how they might be impacting our health. Further, let’s address best practices that you can start implementing right now.

Back Pain/Injury at Your Workstation

When you are standing or seated for an extended period, you are putting more strain than usual on your back.

Best Practice: Your posture in a seated or standing position needs to be supported to take the strain off your back and prevent pain or injury. When standing, wear comfortable shoes that are designed to support standing for hours at a time. When sitting, adjust your chair height and use seat/back pads for support. Movement is the best, so try to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day.

Stiff Neck and Headaches at Your Monitors

Monitor placement can result in an unhealthy posture. Are you looking up to view your monitors? Are you craning your neck forward to see the screen better? This is poor posture. This can put significant pressure on your neck and shoulders resulting in a stiff neck. If you find bottles of ibuprofen and acetaminophen in the break room, it’s likely this is occurring in your workplace.

Best Practice: Proper ergonomic positioning guidelines suggest adjusting your monitors and your seated position to where you can view the monitors and use your workspace without having to look up. The preferred viewing angle is 15-20⁰ below horizontal eye height. It’s recommended you position the top of your monitor just below eye level.  

If you have stacked monitors in your workplace, place secondary resource information on the upper monitors to reduce the need to look there as often. Or, lower both monitors below the keyboard surface using a dual-surface workstation. Then ensure the monitors are the proper distance from your eyes to prevent a craned neck (20-30” or 50-75cm).

Carpal Tunnel and Trigger Finger at the Keyboard

Ever had pain, numbness, or tingling in your fingers? That may be carpal tunnel or cubital tunnel due to poor positioning. Carpal tunnel syndrome causes these symptoms in the thumb, index, and longer fingers, while cubital tunnel syndrome causes these symptoms in the small and ring fingers.

Perhaps you’ve experienced “trigger finger”? AKA stenosing tenosynovitis, this condition causes pain, stiffness, and a locking sensation when you bend and straighten your finger. Having to type, write, or use a mouse repeatedly can cause trigger finger.

Best Practice:  Assess how you’re resting your elbow at work, and pay attention to the alignment of your wrists. If there is direct compression on the inside of your elbow along the nerve when driving or on the desk or armchair, for example, adjust your body position to reduce that pressure.  Resting your hands when you have a break at work and not jumping to use the next technology device can help prevent further injury. Stretching also helps with a better range of motion and mobility.

Fatigue During the Workday

Having poor posture can put more strain on your body and make routine tasks seem daunting. Being uncomfortable at work can make you uncomfortable at home and can make it difficult to get a good night's sleep. Fatigue can have a detrimental effect on your overall health. 

Best Practice: Correct your posture in the workplace and at home. Create an exercise routine to increase blood flow, give you more energy to be alert at work, and to be able to rest properly at home. Remember to move throughout the day at your desk. A sit-to-stand desk that can fully adjust to proper ergonomic settings can help fight fatigue and increase motivation. I suggest you stand at your desk when you first arrive at your desk in the morning, after lunch, and after meetings.  

The bottom line is this:  your employees need an ergonomically correct workplace.  Makes more sense now, doesn’t it? Try it out, and they’ll be happier, more comfortable, and more productive. 

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Topics: Health, Ergonomics, QUICK TIPS, Monitors, Lighting, Eye Strain, Standing Desks