Ergonomics 101: is your workspace working for you?

Ergonomics is the science of arranging workspaces so that they suit the people who use them.Here are some expert tips to help you use ergonomics to create a comfortable and productive working environment.

You’ve probably heard the word “ergonomics” bandied about the office, but what does it actually mean? Australian ergonomics specialist, Dohrmann Consulting, explains:

“Ergonomics aims to create safe, comfortable and productive workspaces by bringing human abilities and limitations into the design of a workspace, including the individual’s body size, strength, skill, speed, sensory abilities (vision, hearing), and even attitudes.”

This translates into creating a workspace that suits your unique body type and measurements. Studies show that a poorly designed workspace drastically increases your risk of developing musculoskeletal complications that affect your quality of life. Your workspace should therefore be comfortable to avoid developing aches and pains that hinder your productivity.

How to tell if your workspace is working for you

If you’re suffering with any of the following symptoms, your workspace could use an ergonomic overhaul.

  • You constantly feel uncomfortable: you change position and fidget regularly throughout the day.
  • You’re experiencing chronic pain: if you seem to be developing permanent back, neck, shoulder or wrist pains, examine your workspace. These symptoms are often linked to tension headaches and other health problems, so don’t ignore any type of frequent or chronic pain.
  • Your pains are not as prominent at home: be aware of when you feel the most pain. If you find that your backache subsides over a long weekend, this is a sign that your workspace is causing strain.

Here’s six simple tips to help create a more ergonomic work environment

1. Mind your monitor and eyes
Did you know that looking up or down at your screen puts unnecessary strain on your neck? This leaves it vulnerable to injuries and headaches.

Your eyes should be level with your computer’s screen. It’s also important to ensure that your eyes look directly at the screen area where you focus the most. If your computer and eyes aren’t at the same level, stack books under your monitor to raise your screen to the perfect position. Additionally, if you happen to be a multi-monitor worker, make sure you apply this tip to every monitor you use. The last thing you want is an injury from looking sideways all day.

2. Organise your desk logically
Make sure that everything you use regularly (like your phone, stationery and so on) are within arm’s reach. When you stretch over your desk, you force your body to overwork, causing strain and discomfort.

3. Rest your arms comfortably on your desk
To help you avoid shoulder injuries and upper back pain, keep your arms comfortably in a neutral resting position. To do this, we recommend getting a chair with armrests. This will help to support your arms.

4. Make sure your legs and feet are comfortable
Crossing your legs all day or putting unnecessary stress on your feet restricts your blood flow. As difficult as this can be (we know how busy you get), try to be mindful of your posture and body position while you’re working.

Ask yourself the following questions to keep your posture in check:

– Am I sitting at the right level?
– Am I experiencing any pain or numbness in my lower back or legs?
– Is my posture affecting my energy levels and productivity?

5. Take regular breaks
Sitting for long periods of time causes your muscles to become inactive – even when your posture is perfect. Don’t forget to stretch your legs. Taking a five minute walk around your office will help prevent the pains caused by a sedentary lifestyle.

6. Make sure you have the right chair
According to NBC News, the standard desktop was designed to support a 6’4” male.“What this causes is a situation where people sit unexpectedly high in their chair to reach the keyboard and mouse and this creates a host of potential health risks.”
A well designed office chair should allow you to easily adjust the height of your chair to suit your workstation. If you find that you’re sitting too high (or too low) simply find the control lever, and adjust the height of your chair so that your arms (as mentioned above) are able to rest comfortably.

Read our article (Ergonomics, quality and style: is your office chair a hit or a miss?) to help you evaluate whether you’re using the right chair.

Making small changes to your posture, and being aware of bad sitting habits such as slouching, not having your monitor at eye level and crossing your legs all day, can cause greatly improve your productivity and general well-being.

We urge you to try slowly incorporating these changes into your routine, to adjust your body to a healthier posture. Over time, sitting properly won’t feel awkward at all – your body will thank you for it, we promise!

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