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By Jackie Edwards
September 8, 2017
This article was originally published here and has been updated for VPPPA by the author.
Precise ergonomics are fundamental to the success of any business because staff health, safety and morale are paramount. If employees aren’t happy, if they aren’t properly cared for and if they wrestle with work-related injuries, the tasks we need them to complete don’t get done and the company suffers as a result.
Long gone are the days when dangerous working environments were only considered part and parcel of certain industries, such as construction, mining and chemical manufacturing. It’s now understood that the standard office environment is full of potential health and safety risks too, placing all employees under a variety of strains and pressures on a daily basis.
The main purpose of good office ergonomics is to help prevent the development of common office-related conditions, including musculoskeletal injuries and repetitive motion injuries. Musculoskeletal traumas are generally caused by remaining in prolonged, static postures, by heavy lifting, or by frequent and repetitive stretching. Repetitive motion problems develop as a result of constant engagement in fixed-position activities, like typing on a keyboard.
The benefits of office ergonomics
Both businesses and employees benefit from improved office ergonomics. The cost advantages to having healthy, happy members of staff are clear. Companies that take care of employee wellbeing benefit from lower levels of absenteeism, fewer employee compensation claims, lower recruitment costs and a reduction in staff turnover. Employees benefit from improved overall health and from a greater positive feeling towards the environment in which they work.
Implementing ergonomic solutions
First and foremost, the implementation of effective ergonomic solutions in the workplace can only work with a strong leadership at the helm. When senior management members take the process seriously, all other department areas and individual employees follow suit.
From there, the most practical and valuable way of locating where the health and safety problem areas are is via a staff survey. Questions that establish whether employees spend long periods of time sat in the same position, or if they experience high task repetition, form the basis of a constructive survey. Another idea is to employ someone to observe members of staff as they work throughout the day for a set period of time. The observer should record information about how employees sit, how they move and which areas of their bodies are placed under the greatest amount of repetitive strain.
Once sufficient data has been gathered, appropriate solutions need to be offered. These could include a change of chair design to support the back or to improve posture when seated. Standing desk bays might be another useful addition to the office environment. It may also be deemed necessary to schedule regular breaks for office gym routines that promote 15 minutes of light stretching and encourage the relaxation of potential danger zones.
A final thought
While it can be tempting to write off office ergonomics as an unnecessary waste of time and resources, the facts speak for themselves. Most people who hold down a standard office position work for about eight hours a day and remain in full time employment for around fifty years.
A simple math equation brings the total number of working hours in the average lifetime somewhere close to 90,000. That’s 90,000 hours of sedentary behavior, uninterrupted typing activity and strained neck positions while we desperately try to keep our eyes on the computer screen. Office jobs, without a doubt, can provoke serious negative consequences on our health, so it’s time we worked to together to protect ourselves from danger.