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How to Create an Ergonomically-Optimized Work Space

July 13, 2018 - 12:00 pm

The human body was not meant to be sitting, let alone hunched over all day. Unfortunately, office work can be largely composed of just that. Prolonged sitting will have your neck, shoulder, back and other body parts eventually screaming for relief. Working with computers only exacerbates the strain and pain, and can lead to repetitive motion injuries, pinched nerves and other health problems. There are, however, ways to avoid or at least reduce all of this. Modifying your work environment into an ergonomic work space will make a major difference not only in employee health and comfort, but also in company productivity.


It all starts with the computer screen

Traditional desks require workers to be hunched over, looking down at ledgers, signing off on paperwork or crunching numbers on calculators and adding machines. When offices began using computers regularly, screens and keyboards were often merely just placed on an old desk, sometimes with a riser to raise the screen to eye-level. Most risers, however, are not effective enough on their own. There are many ways to raise up the screen, from higher risers to adjustable arms. A screen raised to the correct height forces workers to sit up straight, which is the way the head, neck and shoulders work best together. A screen that is too low requires workers to slouch, hunch over and collapse inward rather than sit up with proper posture. Staring at screens all day can also leads to headaches, eye strain and other vision problems, so consider an anti-glare shield.


Customizable chair is key

Too many offices have vanilla, one-size-fits all chairs. Office chairs need to be adjustable, as not everyone in an office is the same height, weight or build. All chairs should offer adjustable backrests, armrests and seats to promote better sitting posture. A comfortable cushion and some form of proper lumbar support is a priority. For mobility, you can add features that allow you to swivel or roll around, which lets employees move about rather than twist or reach in manner that might cause a strain or other injury.


Consider a standing desk or an ergonomic desk

Some people have existing injuries that can make sitting for long periods of time not only painful, but also cause their condition to worsen. A standing desk is an effective solution for those uncomfortable sitting or those who want an alternative to a traditional desk. You can use a high table, podium or an adjustable drawing table. Adjustable desks can also be modified and altered to meet the needs of the required job and employee. It is not necessary to actually stand all day at your standing desk to reap the benefits. There are a variety of furniture options, such as kneelers to accommodate those wanting more support. Ergonomic desks are also easily available, which are scientifically designed to make working at a desk easier on the body. These desks encourage you to properly sit, position and maneuver yourself beneficial to your physique, especially over extended time.


Time to get up and move

There are many little things that can be done to make a work space healthier, from placing wrist cushions between yourself and your keyboard to arranging a station so employees do not have to reach too far for items. The simplest, easiest and cost-free option everyone should do, however, is to just get up and move. If necessary, an alarm can be set to remind a worker they need to take a pause from their computer, stand up, walk around, stretch or otherwise move for a few minutes. Computer programs are also available that require someone to address an alarm, and although a snooze option is offered, the screen will darken or the computer will eventually lock up, encouraging you to leave your desk for a moment. Most employees will soon see that by getting up, stretching, moving about and walking even for a minute, they will not only feel better, but will also work better.


This article was written by Mark G. McLaughlin for Small Business Pulse