The following post is a guest post from Connect Physical Health. Connect Physical Health has been providing both on-site and off-site Occupational physiotherapy services including training packages since 1989 and has a proven track record across a wide range of public and private business sectors. Connect delivers significant financial savings, typically £4 for every £1 invested and helps to improve the wellbeing of your greatest asset – your workforce!
In businesses across the nation, millions of employees sit at desks for at least 40 hours each week. That means 2,400 minutes of shoulder slumping, wrist twisting, and eye straining. You may not know it, but your employees may be experiencing carpal tunnel syndrome, trigger finger, or even tendonitis. Many suffer from general aches and pains—back pain, joint pain, neck stiffness, sore eyes, and the like—because of improper ergonomics in the workplace.
We know that, as an employer, you can’t risk these injuries in your workforce. That’s why we researched ways to avoid injury at the office. Here’s what we found:
1. Well Designed Office Furniture Is Worth The Investment
One of the direct culprits of office injuries is disproportional office equipment. We know that each individual is different so tailoring to each body type may be difficult. But having adjustable office chairs and desks may be a great solution.
Investing in quality office furniture can be expensive but paying medical bills associated with office injuries can be even more costly to your bottom line. Having furniture that fits your employees comfortably can go a long way in preventing aches, pains, and rising health care costs.
You’ll want to choose a chair with a stable five-point base that’s on wheels. The height should be easily adjustable so that each employee can rest his or her feet on the floor. Also, consider chairs with adjustable armrests that allow your employees to rest their arms at waist-level.
Just like the chair, the desk should be adjusted to fit the user. While the employee is seated, the desk should come up to elbow level. Employees should not have to hunch over to reach their work. There should be enough room beneath the desk to comfortably fit the worker’s knees and thighs.
2. Make Sure Each Computer Is Properly Placed
The majority of your office workers probably use a computer to complete their tasks. Employees with a standard desktop should have the monitor centered at eye-level. It should be ‘arms distance’ away from the employee’s body.
For those employees using a laptop, proper ergonomics can be difficult. Keeping the head and neck in line, while also finding a comfortable position for the hands and wrists, can be a challenge. That’s why we suggest an external monitor or keyboard for frequent laptop users. This way, you can be sure that each employee has the office design they need to keep proper posture and spine alignment.
3. Encourage People To Have Good Posture
Even with the proper office design, employees sitting with incorrect posture are bound to need a trip to a physiotherapist eventually. While sitting in an office chair, users must keep the bones of the spine properly aligned in order to avoid injury. Having diagrams of proper office posture in the break room can be a great reminder for your staff.
Here are some guidelines to suggest to your office employees:
- Sit with hips and backside as far back as possible in the chair. Use a rolled up towel or the chair’s lumbar support to keep the lower back comfortable.
- Knees should be positioned slightly lower than the hips.
- Let the arms hang natural and relaxed. Rest the forearms on the chair’s armrests. Keep elbows in close to the body, especially when keying and using the mouse.
- The head should always be level and in line with the torso.
- Sit close to the desk. Never slouch or slump.
4. Schedule Rest Breaks
With the hectic pace of corporate America today, “rest breaks” have all but been eliminated from our vocabulary. As the employer, we recommend that you promote breaks and brief walks to help keep your employees energized and relaxed. We recommend a short break every 30 to 60 minutes. Encourage your workers to stand up, walk, or stretch during this period. Here are some specific stretches for employees who need to alleviate tight muscles:
- Stretch arms over your head and link fingers. Lean back slightly, pushing the chest out.
- On one side, tilt ear to shoulder. Hold for five seconds and return to vertical. Repeat on the other side.
- From a relaxed position, bring shoulders up to ears. Hold briefly and then relax.
5. Have Proper Ergonomics Training
Taking a class on ergonomics can give your company the in-depth knowledge you need to keep your workforce functioning at an optimal level. Organizations like the National Safety Council or OSHA, along with universities and private organizations, all offer ergonomics training. You may also contact occupational physiotherapy professionals, like Connect Physical Health, for advice on preventing and healing any musculoskeletal ailments that occur in the workplace. Just being aware of ergonomics safety can greatly impact your office.
For the untrained eye, improper ergonomics can be difficult to detect. We hope this blog post will encourage you to promote better office design and posture in your workplace. With your hard work in office ergonomics, we bet you’ll find improved productivity and happier employees.
Note: The content of this article is for general information purposes and is not meant to replace physiotherapy or medical consultation.
What is the current state of ergonomics in your workplace? How do you think improved ergonomics could benefit your workforce?
Photo Source: Army Medicine