Are you slouching in your chair while reading this? Are you squinting because your lighting is a little harsh or your monitor isn’t the right height? Does your neck or back ache? If you nodded yes to any of these questions, you need better ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the science of making workplaces, products, and systems fit the workers who use them. And it’s about much more than comfort: Ergonomics impacts vision, musculoskeletal health, energy levels, productivity, and even company performance.
For the longevity of our people, our businesses, and our bodies, it’s time to improve ergonomics.
Want to learn just how effective ergonomics can be? We’ve got your back (pun intended).
What Happens When Ergonomics Are Neglected?
Musculoskeletal disorders are responsible for one-third of work injuries or illnesses, many of which are due to poor ergonomics:
Carpal tunnel syndrome and tendonitis are caused by typing, data entry, switchboard operation, and repeating other hand and wrist motions without proper support.
Sitting incorrectly or slouching causes fatigue, back pain, abdominal cramps, digestive issues, and blood clots.
Poor lighting or improperly positioned computer monitors are responsible for eye strain, headaches, and nausea.
And we’re all familiar with the negative effects of sitting for long periods, which has been linked to cardiovascular conditions, spinal issues, obesity, and even cancer.
In Washington, neck, back, and upper-extremity issues make up 27% of all workers’ compensation claims, and “36% of the claims result in 4 or more lost work days and more than 43% of all costs.” A small study of Iranian workers found that discomfort or pain in the neck, lower back, and thighs resulted in fatigue and correlated with decreased concentration and productivity.
All these health complications result in additional mental and physical stress for employees and lost productivity, absenteeism, and higher healthcare costs for employers. Nobody wins when our people don’t feel well.
Improving Ergonomics Boosts Performance
So do ergonomics improvements really make that much difference for all our aches, pains, and eye strains? Absolutely.
A review of 250 ergonomic studies by the Washington State Department of Labor and Industries found that ergonomic workstations reduced lost workdays by 75% and reduced workers’ compensation costs by 68%.
Highlighted in the above review was a landmark rollout of redesigned workstations for Blue Cross corporate employees, which saved the company $1 million in insurance claims. Blue Cross Blue Shield of Rhode Island followed suit a few years later and had equally impressive results, reducing workers comp costs from $227,620 to $26,010 in a single year—a whopping 89% decrease.
The data is clear: Ergonomics is important for people and businesses.
What Does Good Ergonomics Look Like?
So if we want to improve ergonomics, where do we start? With our workstations.
For office workers, 4 factors impact ergonomics throughout the entire body:
Improving the quality and height of our chairs and desks, the placement of our computer monitors, and the quality of our lighting significantly impacts overall health and performance. And, unlike the many complicated financial and operational challenges in business that are hard to solve, improving ergonomics is relatively simple.
Here are some pointers that can help you immediately make your workstation more comfortable.
Best Practices for Chairs and Desks
When seated, your feet should firmly touch the floor, and your knees should be bent at 90 degrees.
While working at a computer, your forearms should be at desk height and parallel to the desk, ideally with elbows at a 90–100 degree angle.
Sit with your back straight, shoulders pulled slightly back, and ears aligned over your shoulders.
For maximum comfort, consider investing in a chair with a headrest or lumbar support.
Switch to an adjustable-height desk to avoid working at a desk that’s too high or low.
Best Practices for Computer Monitors
Ergonomic Trends reports that “even a 15-degree tilt of the neck to look down at the laptop screen doubles the amount of forces exerted on our necks to hold up the head.” No wonder our necks are achy.
Use a laptop stand to elevate the monitor to eye level.
When using a single monitor, it should be 18–28” away, directly in front of the face.
When using a dual monitor setup, place the primary monitor 18–28” away, directly in front of the face, and place the second monitor on the side with the dominant eye. The inner edges of the monitors should be touching so they form a concave position around you.
Best practices for workstation lighting
Whenever possible, minimize glare on monitors from external sources.
Soften lighting and reduce bulb intensity. If possible, use natural instead of artificial light.
Follow the 20-20-20 rule to rest your eyes: Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away from the computer for 20 seconds.
Improve Workstations to Improve Performance
While minor adjustments are a good start to improving ergonomics, it’s worth considering whether your old workstations need an upgrade. Ill-fitting desks and chairs will continue impeding performance because you’ll be forced to keep working around them. Ergonomics-driven furniture works for you, not the other way around.
And even smaller investments like wrist supports, under-desk mats, monitor stands, or eye-friendly lighting can alleviate many of the physical ailments we covered here.
It’s time we all sat up a little straighter, saw a little clearer, and worked a little more comfortably. National Business Furniture can help. From adjustable-height desks to monitor stands, we can outfit your workstation with everything you need to feel better, work better, and perform better.
Hey, remember to sit up straight. You’re welcome…