Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Workplace Ergonomics

The concept of Ergonomics wasn’t something that we often thought about until recent years. Now, more than ever, individuals in the workforce find themselves spending their days working at a desk on their computer. This has led to the growing interest and conversation around Ergonomics and its benefits. Unfortunately, many individuals don’t know what it is or don’t understand how it applies to them, and there are some who don’t necessarily believe in its importance. The goal here is to raise awareness and, hopefully, peak interest in those who could benefit from Ergonomics in their work place.
So, what is Ergonomics? Ergonomics is the process of making your workplace more functional, productive and healthy by positioning yourself in better alignment with the equipment you’re using. What wasn’t widely known for a long time, and in some instances still isn’t – that poor ergonomics in the workplace can lead to an environment of disorganization, frustration, low functionality, and can result in an overall poor work environment. In this scenario, workplace risks are higher than ever, and can lead to many physical issues including, carpal tunnel, tendinitis, and spinal issues. By improving workplace ergonomics, you can effectively reduce, if not remove, the risk factors leading to these injuries, and in turn, kick start the effectiveness and productivity at work. If you’re a business owner, think about if your employees were operating with high functionality, in a happy and healthy work environment. This type of environment is typically seen in companies in the top echelon of competitiveness within the market.
Poor Ergonomics. There are many risk factors to be aware of that promote poor ergonomics, leading to some of the risks mentioned above. Three critical factors that often get overlooked are repetition, poor posture and intense exertions on a task.
·      Repetition – When we think of repetition in the work place, we don’t necessarily think of it as being negative. If we do the same motion repeatedly, our bodies will become accustomed, and we’ll even get better at it. Think of the concept “practice makes perfect”.  While this may be true to some extent, when combined with other risk factors, which it often is, it creates a scenario that can drastically increase the development of a physical injury or ailment. As mentioned before, carpal tunnel is a common injury in those who repeatedly use a keyboard and mouse, as it causes tension and strain in your wrists.
·      Poor Posture – Often, we see people showing poor posture far more than proper posture. This puts quite a deal of stress on our joints, muscles and tendons. If poor posture is sustained for long periods of time, or even becomes chronic, the likelihood of developing a musculoskeletal disorder increases greatly. One such issue on the rise is Lower Cross Syndrome - a muscle imbalance in the lower back and hips, often causing severe low back pain. Combine a repetitive motion with poor posture and its sure to have a negative impact on the body.  
·      Exertion – When we exert an excessive amount of force into our work, it increases the demand on the body’s joints, muscles and tendons. This constant demand increases fatigue and the likelihood for serious injury. This risk could result in decreased mobility, inability to work, etc.
 Improving Ergonomics. The first step to improving your ergonomics is to evaluate your workstation. Whether it’s a typical desk with computer, or whichever spot you can find Wi-Fi on your laptop, there are a few simple aspects to consider getting you started: back and torso straight and against the chair, hands to your device, feet on the floor and keeping your eyes level ahead of you. With an overwhelming amount of options, it can be difficult searching for the right chair or piece of equipment, so here are a few things to consider:  
·      Chairs – It should offer an option for height adjustment, a tilting back and provide lumbar support.
·      Monitor – Your monitor should have the ability to tilt and elevate so it’s at eye level, and have contrast and brightness control, which most do.
·      Laptop – Using an external mouse and ergonomic keyboard are beneficial for posture when using for long periods of time. It’s important to take regular breaks and change posture.
·      Headset – If you spend a lot of time on the phone, using a headset will help prevent muscle tension from holding the phone to your ear.  
·      Desk – It should have elevation control, going from a seated to standing desk, with plenty of room to spread out your work to avoid cramping.
Improving ergonomics in the workplace should be viewed as a positive, healthy change. Like most things, it’s more effective when it’s a team effort, providing support and encouragement in promoting this type of environment. Talk to your friends, coworkers, bosses – the more people invested, the more effective it will be. Improving ergonomics can promote safety in the workplace, decrease employee turnover, and improve the quality of productivity. Overall, the best benefit is that you’re ensuring the health and wellbeing of yourself and your co-workers. With all the praise from those who use ergonomics, and with such great return on investment, it seems well worth the effort in exploring it for your workplace. Promoting health and productivity in the workplace should be a constant, not a trend.