Ergonomics is the process of designing or arranging a workplace, equipment and systems so that they are personalised to those using them. Ergonomics isn’t just about comfortable seating and screen size, it applies to the design of anything people will be using. This can help to improve workspaces, environments and health and safety which is key for employee wellbeing. Ignoring or not researching appropriate ergonomics can result in both short-term or long-term effects, and is an important part of any industry.
Ergonomics in an office
Ergonomics in the office ensures there is a comfortable fit between a product, its purpose and the person using it. In an office setting specifically, ergonomics relates to accessories such as chairs, desks, monitor stands and other elements involved in a workstation. Office ergonomics is all about the user, reducing strain, and injury and helping day-to-day comfort.
There are different forms of ergonomics to consider when it comes to the workplace.
Computer ergonomics is surrounded around the computer workstation, with the main purpose to reduce issues such as vision syndrome, neck and back pain, and carpal tunnel syndrome. Altering computers and screen positioning can also help to avoid pain in the muscles, spine, and joints.
Following appropriate posture ergonomics ensures employees sit in a way that maximises comfort and efficiency. Paying attention to posture can help to reduce the risk of pain, discomfort and potential long-term injuries. Some tips to follow to get the correct posture to include:
- Keeping feet flat on the floor
- Keeping elbows at the side of your body so your arm forms an L-shape
- Sit up straight or use back support
- Sitting with your hips to the back of a chair
This type of ergonomics focuses on preventing common workplace injuries such as stress, strain and damage to the joints. Typing ergonomics also focuses on setting up desk equipment correctly, including the keyboard and mouse. Incorrect typing or poor placements can result in cold hands, particularly the fingertips, aching pains and other common risks including swelling, tingling and numbness.
Risks of poor ergonomics
To put it simply, poor ergonomics describes a lack of unity between the environment, the task at hand and equipment used. There is, however, a difference between poor ergonomics and poor office design. Ergonomics has to be balanced alongside the aesthetic, user, budget and components used.
More severe ergonomic injuries include:
- Carpal tunnel syndrome
- Ganglion cysts
- Raynaud’s disease
- Lower back problems
Ultimately, poor ergonomics can result in health and safety issues, with a number of injuries potentially being caused. These issues can range from aching joints to lifelong conditions so must be considered from start to finish.
How to achieve healthy workplace ergonomics
Before actively building an office space, analysing business needs and the surroundings is the starting point for any project. What type of work is being done? How many employees are there? Is it inclusive? What is the final goal for these improvements? Whether you’re starting off with a brand new office design or making renovations to your existing one, workplace ergonomics can not only affect an employee’s physical health but could also cause distraction, general happiness and productivity.
Here are just a few techniques and improvements to consider when it comes to successful office ergonomics.
As most office workers are on their monitors 90% of the day, the placement and positioning of the screen are one of the most important aspects of ergonomics. Altering the angle, distance and viewing size can all result in a more comfortable, practical feel. Most companies opt for an adjustable monitor station to ensure each employee can have a personalised position.
When it comes to a desk and ergonomics, this doesn’t just mean the height and size of it, but it always refers to the products placed on top. For example, ensuring all the equipment on the desk ( the keyboard and mouse) are comfortably accessible is key for day-to-day comfort. Although each worker will use the same desk type, this space still needs to be personalised for whoever is using it.
A comfortable office chair is one of the primary concerns when it comes to office ergonomics and staff health. As these chairs are used pretty much all day every day, it’s vital they can be adjusted and personalised to each individual. As every staff member will be of different height, weight and personal needs, their chair needs to be able to adapt to the equipment around them and suit their own body shape. For an office chair to achieve successful ergonomics, it will provide features such as: cushioning, armrests, height, backrest and swivel control.