The New Year is nearly upon us, and that means it’s the perfect time to start fresh. Of course, there are numerous excellent candidates for your resolution priority list, but we would argue that some are far more worthy than others. (Hey, we all know you want a giant Pez dispenser in the break room, but there’s only so much that can possibly do for “employee morale”). Here, we recommend our top 10 ergonomic resolutions for the New Year – sure to increase employee comfort and productivity rates while giving a big boost to your bottom line.
Throughout this past year, we’ve featured a number of ways to sneak a little stretching into your daily office routine – and they don’t even require yoga pants. Leg raises, for example, can be done right at your desk, while back stretches can be done effectively even in a cramped airline seat. Stretches are essential, as they’ll challenge your muscles to move in a different way, breaking up the monotony (and dangers) of repeating the same motions throughout the day as you type and use your mouse.
2. Move Throughout the Day
Of course, if you can get out of your seat and move around, that’s even better. Lunges, for examples, are an excellent way to get from your cubicle to the water cooler (just ignore the funny looks you get). Or, consider having a regular walking meeting to get that blood pumping while you’re generating ideas. When you start looking at it from a different perspective, you can sneak movement into just about every aspect of your day.
3. Sit Better
When you are sitting, make sure you’re holding your body in a way that won’t cause you musculoskeletal pain. Keep your neck straight ahead in a neutral position, and your spine nice and straight. Make sure the armrests are at such a height that you can comfortably support your elbows as you work. If you can, purchase an ergonomic chair to support your back, especially as you adapt to this new position, or else you’ll just wind up hunching again.
That said, sitting, no matter how well done, can have negative long term health effects over a number of years, increasing your risk of developing heart disease, diabetes, and a number of other ailments. Try alternating sitting with some time at a standing desk, available for purchase or easy to make by simply stacking books. Start slow with just a few minutes at a time, and build up until you’re standing the whole day. One warning here: make sure that as you stand, your body doesn’t overcompensate by hunching or overextending at the knees. You may also want to invest in a good pair of arch support to prevent your arches from tiring.
5. Provide Ergonomic Support
One of the best ergonomic resolutions you can have this 2016 is to invest in ergonomic peripherals to support the way you work. An ergonomic keyboard, for example, will move your hands and wrists into a more ideal position, while an ergonomic mouse and wrist rest will support your wrists and joints, reducing the risk of developing a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI) like carpal tunnel syndrome. Using support products like this will make working more comfortable and productive, as you’ll focus on the task on hand rather than on your pain.
Whether you work with one other person or you manage a whole team, it’s important to keep the whole workforce educated on ergonomic issues. No support items, after all, are worth much if employees aren’t using them correctly. Regular seminars and check-ins will keep the whole team on top of the best approaches, as will rewards for improvements.
7. Work in Sprints
Despite what our work-a-holic tendencies would say, humans just weren’t made to work for much longer than 45 minutes at a time without interruption. You’ll do more and you’ll do it better if you take breaks, even if they’re just for 5 to 10 minutes. What does this have to do with ergonomics? The most effective breaks happen when you get up and – you guessed it – move around. So do it!
8. Change the Routine
Another great way to avoid repetitive stress is simply to change up the routine. Working in a new space, whether from the coffee shop, behind a different desk, or from a different room, will both stimulate you creatively and challenge your muscles to work in new ways. Of course, you’ll want to make sure each of these new spaces has been set up with ergonomics in mind.
9. Bike to Work
It’s been said a million times in a million ways, but swapping the car for a bike or a walk to work is an effective way to sneak in exercise. And when you’re building the muscles that power your commute, you’ll also be strengthening them for your workday, so you’ll be able to work more effectively once you’re there.
10. Get the Whole Company on Board
Last but not least, to really make ergonomic resolutions work this 2016, you’ve got to get the whole team on board, from the executive team down to the most junior level employee. When everyone is in it together, an ergonomic program won’t feel so much like punishment as it will feel like everyone looking out for everyone else as you work meet your shared and individual goals.
With a few simple changes, you can improve the way you work this coming year, 2016! Where will you start? Let us know in the blog comments.