Updated: August 27, 2019
The goal of any good ergonomics program is to optimize every workstation for the worker who uses it for better health and efficiency, but is that goal actually achievable? Modern ergonomics has become trickier than ever as more people work from mobile devices designed with convenience and portability, but not the human body in mind. Complicating things even further is the pace of technological innovation, which keeps ergonomists adjusting their strategies as quickly as they can.
If you focus on ergonomics in the office, how do you get everyone on board? What changes can you make right away, and which types of equipment will you have to purchase? As technology changes, how will you make sure your employees continue to work pain and stress free?
The payoff is healthier, more efficient employees who are dedicated to helping your company grow, so it’s worth the effort. Improve ergonomics in the office in the following ways:
1. Understand What Ergonomics Is
Ergonomics, at its deepest level, is all about making workspaces fit the human body, rather than forcing human bodies to adjust to the workspace. When done right, ergonomics leads to less pain, greater productivity, and fewer workers compensation claims.
2. Recognize What Ergonomics Isn’t
If you think just buying everyone at the office an adjustable office chair is starting an ergonomics program, you’re missing the boat. Ergonomics isn’t one piece of equipment, it’s a holistic approach to the way people work. Your employees come in all shapes and sizes, and they all perform tasks differently.
Also, ergonomics doesn’t have to be expensive. Some solutions are as simple as rearranging desk objects so those that are most frequently used stay within easy reach. Even equipment you purchase like ergonomic keyboards and ergonomic mice are affordable, especially compared to the direct and indirect costs associated with injury claims.
3. Research Ergonomic Injuries
An ergonomic injury often isn’t like a sprained ankle. Ergonomic injuries tend to happen over a long period of time, as in the case of repetitive strain injuries (RSIs). In this way, ergonomic injuries can ultimately be more damaging than sudden injuries, as they often result from the fundamental change of the structure and behavior of a set of muscles and joints.
You may not know the incremental injuries your employees are experiencing while they work today because they happen so gradually. They don’t know it either. They feel pain, stiffness and fatigue as microscopic tears occur and inflammation builds, but they don’t realize they have a choice, they think it just goes with the territory. It doesn’t have to be that way.
You could provide ergonomic solutions that prevent back and neck pain, repetitive strain injuries like carpal tunnel and even more serious health issues. But the longer employees use traditional equipment that requires awkward postures and uncomfortable repetition, the more likely they are to need medical attention for ergonomic injuries they’re developing every day.
4. Study Current Risk Factors
Some of your employees are at greater risk than others for developing an ergonomic injury. If their current work environment allows them to move naturally and rest with their body in a neutral position, they can devote all their attention to work. But both physical and psychological stress are occurring wherever you note these risk factors:
- Awkward postures
- Frequent reaching
- Wrist deviations
- Repeated vibration to the hands, arms or whole body
- Contact stress from repeatedly pressing or striking an object
- Frequent heavy or bulky lifting
- The need to stay in one position for long time periods
The more risk factors an employee encounters, the greater their chance of developing a problem that requires medical intervention.
5. Identify Ergonomic Challenges
Each office — and each workspace, for that matter — comes with its own set of ergonomic challenges. Take the time to do an ergonomic audit before launching any new ergonomic programs to ensure you’re pinpointing the true problems at hand. Collect data by measuring job tasks and movement patterns. Note workstation layouts, both problem areas and ways employees have already made modifications to improve efficiency.
6. Involve and Train Staff
People are naturally resistant to change, even when it’s good for them. You won’t experience the benefits of ergonomics in the workplace unless management and staff understand the importance of what you’re offering. Current equipment and work habits might cause pain and fatigue, but your workers might not be making the connection between movement patterns and health. They’re accustomed to their current work habits, and what you’re about to ask of them will require leaving their comfort zone and learning new skills.
Ergonomics is about the individual, and that’s what you want to communicate. To start, show them how it will make their work easier and improve their long-term health. Offer ergonomics awareness training to explain the risk factors and symptoms of repetitive strain injuries and other problems caused by awkward movements and postures. Gather their input. Then, encourage them to conduct a team job analysis and submit feedback.
7. Set Up Your Workstation
Your job is to help your organization run at peak efficiency, and sometimes that means hiring an expert. An ergonomist can help set up office workstations for best results and high dividends. Each employee might require different modifications or adjustments, but here are the areas to focus on.
- Head position – Place monitors so workers can look at them with their head, neck and shoulders in a neutral position. The focal point should be directly at eye level. Monitors should sit at or more than an arm’s length away.
- Hand and arm positioning – Workers should be able to work with elbows bent at about 90 degrees and no tension in the upper arms and shoulders. Wrists should remain relaxed, and the mouse should sit nearby so there’s no need for reaching. They shouldn’t have to pound on keys to type.
- Seated position – Seat height should allow feet to rest on the floor or on a footrest, knees at about hip level. The lower back should be supported.
Your ergonomist can also evaluate light levels. Too much or too little can cause eye strain, and if it does workers will adopt awkward postures to compensate.
8. Select the Right Equipment
From ergonomic keyboards to chairs with lumbar support, it’s important that you have the right equipment for navigating your office space. But how do you choose the best ergonomic office equipment for your teams? Goldtouch ergonomic business solutions give you the results you’re looking for.
Goldtouch ergonomic keyboards have an innovative split design that adjusts to every hand size, arm length and body type. Our ergonomic mouse line has options for right and left-handed workers that allow hands and wrists to stay in a neutral position for comfort and productivity. Our new EasyLift Adjustable Standing Desk makes it possible to switch from sitting to standing in seconds for better posture, decreased back pain and improved overall health. We also have an extensive line of numeric keypads, laptop arms, mouse pads, wrist wrests and other ergonomic solutions.
9. Plan for Continual Improvement
You and your employees probably don’t realize how much tension, inflammation, fatigue and soreness are cutting into your ability to work. As you begin to improve ergonomics in the office, productivity and mood will change in unexpected ways. You’ll begin to hear conversations you didn’t anticipate, and those should guide planning for an even more ergonomic future.
Start a dialogue between employees and supervisors to identify potential issues and find solutions. As workers show an interest or find creative ways to solve problems, publicize their results and make them leaders in future efforts.
10. Train New Hires
Current staff will experience the benefits firsthand as you improve ergonomics in the office, but new hires who didn’t go through the transition might not. Make ergonomics training part of your onboarding process. Help new employees understand how ergonomics helps them do their job better and protects their long-term health.
Show them how to adjust equipment to their needs and how to use it for optimal productivity. Also, train them to recognize the signs of a problem and to report issues that might need intervention.
When you set out to improve ergonomics in the office, you’ll jumpstart a positive cycle of better health and increasing productivity. Get in touch to find out how you can change your workspace to better fit your body today.