The U.S. is the most overworked developed nation in the world. If you’re suffering from pain and are one of the 85% of men and 66% of women working more than 40 hours a week, you can probably guess where that pain is coming from.
Fortunately, more businesses and workers are implementing ergonomic working standards.
But what is ergonomics? Ergonomics is more complex than we think. That’s because its true definition hits every aspect of the working world. In addition, an ergonomic workplace offers a myriad of health and mental benefits.
Continue reading to gain a better understanding of ergonomics and how you can make your workday more comfortable.
What Is Ergonomics?
Ergonomics is the science of creating a comfortable workspace, encompassing everything that has to do with the worker and how they interact with their working environment.
In addition, ergonomics also recognizes our limitations and how we can use comfort to maximize our capabilities.
Overall, the underlying ergonomic principles believe that optimizing our work environment for comfort will result in more productivity and efficiency.
For most workers, ergonomic principles are directly applied to the workspace.
This depends on what the worker does and their body mechanics; for example, an office worker will have a different ergonomic set-up compared to someone who works with machines.
Ergonomics isn’t a one-time project. All workers should implement ergonomics into their daily workday. This will make their workday more comfortable, will increase productivity, and will prevent pain.
Why Ergonomics Makes Your Workplace More Productive
Uncomfortable working positions aren’t only painful but they will kill your productivity. Here’s why ergonomics improves productivity.
Reduces High Force Requirements
If you work in a physical job, such as in a warehouse, ergonomics limits your exertion that could cause an injury. Some ergonomic equipment also reduces work effort, making even the most intense jobs easier.
Some examples of ergonomic equipment include counterbalance systems, mechanical assists, and adjustable height lift tables.
Reduces Awkward Positions
If you’re working in an awkward position, you’ll focus more on how uncomfortable you feel and less on the job at hand. Awkward work positions also tire you out; you’ll work slowly and your performance won’t be up to par.
This is why ergonomics puts heavy emphasis on comfort. A comfortable workspace results in more focus, energy, and better performance.
Reduces Unnecessary Motions
Excessive and unnecessary motions will also tire out any worker. When combined with awkward posture and high force, these movements will continue slowing down your progress and will increase fatigue.
Ergonomics focuses on positioning and placement of different equipment, materials, and tools, cutting down on excessive movements.
How to Create an Ergonomic Workspace
The goal of any ergonomic workspace is maximizing your space to limit strain and increase comfort. You can make any workspace ergonomic by reflecting on ergonomic principles.
First, you’ll want to identify any pains or strains. This is common for those who work in physically strenuous jobs. See if you can make any changes to minimize body pain.
Those who work in offices can also suffer from pain, as we will detail below. Simple changes, such as the position of your computer screen and adding a memory foam cushion to your chair, can significantly reduce damage.
Ergonomics also aims to improve your posture. When working in a physical environment, use good form when moving and lifting heavy objects. Office workers can utilize a standing desk and choose an office chair with plenty of lumbar support.
Elements That Make an Ergonomic Office Workspace
Did you know musculoskeletal problems are common workplace injuries? Most workers get these problems from using an office setup that does not fit their body.
These problems can cause poor posture and can lead to severe complications, such as carpal tunnel syndrome.
Here are a few elements that can create a more ergonomic office space.
Your eyes should be positioned at the top quarter of the computer screen. This way, you’re not slouching your neck and back when looking at the computer screen.
A common myth is your eyes should focus on the middle of your computer screen. This only puts muscle strain on your neck and shoulders, causing pain and other problems.
The distance from your eyes to the screen can also impact your eye health. Sitting too close to the monitor can damage your vision. If you can, keep the computer monitor at arm’s length.
If you have to sit closer to the screen, tilt your head slightly downward.
If you type all day, consider placing your keyboard underneath your desk; ideally, an inch or two above your thighs. Placing your keyboard high up on the desk may result in long term damage.
What if you own a laptop and your keyboard is attached to your monitor? Make sure the laptop is positioned in a neutral wrist posture. You should also tilt the laptop screen back so you’re not straining your neck.
If you can, you should disconnect the keyboard from the laptop. You can buy a separate keyboard and place the other keyboard at elbow height.
Many workers don’t consider the position of their mouse. Excessive mouse usage can damage your arm’s tendons.
If you work a job where you’re constantly scrolling and clicking, take regular breaks to stretch your arms and fingers. Shake your hands and arms to relieve any pressure.
If you can work comfortably with both hands, move your mouse from one side of the laptop to the other.
If this doesn’t help, buy a vertical mouse. This places your hand in a neutral position. In addition, you’ll want to refrain from holding the mouse too tightly.
Use a Standing Desk
Sitting too much can increase your chances of developing many health problems. While the right sitting arrangement can improve your health (we’ll go over this in the next section) you’ll also want to stand.
This is where a standing desk comes in. Standing desks are very ergonomic because they’re adjustable, reducing pain and improving your posture.
Many workers also report they’re more productive when using a standing desk. Some people even say they stretch and perform mini exercises while using their standing desk.
Use the Right Chair
Sit in an adjustable chair where you can easily control the height.
Make sure the chair is comfortable and offers good neck and lumbar support. If your chair isn’t the most comfortable, you can always use memory foam seat and back cushions for more comfort and support.
Working From Home
It can be easy to work in an ergonomic office. But what if your office is located in your house? There are plenty of ways to create an ergonomic workspace while working from home.
First, privacy is key. Keep your office in a separate room. Make sure to inform anyone who lives in your home when you’re working. If necessary, keep a sign on your door.
Your office should be large enough to move around with enough flexibility to set up your ergonomic workspace. Try to limit to amount of trip hazards, such as wires.
Use appropriate lighting. Regular daylight is the best option. If your office doesn’t have many windows, fluorescent lightbulbs are the next best option. Blend your lighting into your computer light to improve clarity.
If you can, reduce the light from your computer without making it too dark. This will be more comfortable on your eyes.
Other Ergonomic Tips to Know
Your work setup isn’t the only factor in ergonomics. Knowing these tips can keep you healthy and pain-free.
Take Regular Breaks
Working for long periods of time has serious health consequences, whether you’re sitting or moving around for long hours. This is why constant breaks are necessary.
Take a five-minute break every half hour. If work is busy, take a five-minute break every hour.
What should you do during these breaks? Stretch! Whether you’re working an office job or a physical job, stretching will decrease your risk of injuries, enable muscles to work effectively, and help you move in your full range.
Some classic yoga poses, such as downward-facing dog, are easy stretches that benefit your body. If you’re sitting for long periods of time, focus on back stretches to relieve any pain and pressure.
We’ve been mentioning posture throughout this article and there’s a good reason why posture is important.
Bad posture puts a strain on your muscles and ligaments. Posture issues may also result in spine misalignment, causing unnecessary strain. All of these issues can lead to pain and worse.
There are ways to correct your posture. If you work at a desk, keep your elbows tucked in while you type.
Your wrists should be straight and neutral. Sit with your back straight and shoulders back. If you struggle with this, find a back cushion with lumbar support.
Sit with your feet flat on the floor and the height of your knees should be even with your hips. Use a footrest, if necessary.
Avoid slouching. This happens when you get too comfortable, especially if your chair is reclined. Find a good balance between sitting up straight and staying comfortable.
Sit in Different Positions Throughout the Day
If you struggle to sit up straight throughout the workday, there’s nothing wrong with changing up your sitting position. As long as all sitting positions have ergonomic principles, you’ll stay pain-free and comfortable.
A few good examples are:
- Cross-legged sitting
- Lying down
- Chaise lounging (sitting while stretched out with your knees supported)
You should also try to be as active as possible during the workday. Anyone can fit in a few squats into their shift. If you can, try pacing if you’re on a work phone call. During breaks, do yoga or go out for a walk.
Many offices are also installing bars in the office. Grab the bar and hang for a minute. If you can, do some pull-ups.
Be Mindful When Talking on the Phone
Customer service representatives may be on the phone and typing at the same time.
If you use a classic handset or your cell phone, you may jam your phone between your ear and shoulder. This is a terrible posture and can result in significant shoulder strain.
Switch to a headset. This way, you’re multi-functioning while maintaining good posture.
Give Your Eyes a Break
Looking at a bright computer screen for long hours of the day can seriously impact your vision. Many swear by the 20-20-20 rule: every 20 minutes, look away from the computer screen for 20 minutes at an object that’s 20 feet away.
You’ll also want to reduce the brightness of the computer screen and keep the screen an arm’s length away from your eyes. If you’re using a laptop, tilt the laptop back.
Switch up Your Office
Whether you’re working from home or you work in a traditional office setting, you shouldn’t only work in one location. Switch up your desk. Work in another part of the house or the office.
If necessary, work in a coffee shop or another location occasionally.
Do You Need More Back Support?
What is ergonomics? Ergonomics aims to reduce discomfort while making a worker’s environment more productive and efficient.
More businesses and workers are implementing ergonomic principles into their workdays. If you want to create an ergonomic workspace, you may need some tools and materials.
Start with cushions you can use on your office chair. These cushions offer lumbar support, reducing back pain and improving posture. Shop our collection today.