Improving how we work within offices and making them more ergonomic has become more popular in recent years, as we move away from the nightmarish cubicle offices of the past. However, some of the key things about office ergonomics may have been forgotten over the past few years. They will be of more importance in 2022 as people return to the office after Covid, and need to adjust to their new or old working environment. Here we will lead you through the 4 key principles of Office ergonomics right now.
Why are office ergonomics important?
The main reason that workplace ergonomics is important is because if it is mismanaged, it can cost both employees and businesses dearly. If you are forced to work in an office without ergonomic office equipment, you could suffer a range of health complaints and workplace injuries. These include problems with your hands, stiff joints, neck and back pain, muscle cramps or develop eye strain. This is bad for the worker obviously, but also for anyone who is trying to maintain their workforce.
The HSE states that work related musculoskeletal problems have affected 469,000 workers across Britain, causing the loss of 6.6 million working days. Overall work-related injuries and ill health cost the economy a total of £15 billion.
The 4 key things to remember
The space you work in determines how you work
If you have done any work in your life, you most likely know that the space you work in affects our experiences and how we work. This is definitely true within an office. The productivity of employees is affected by their office surroundings.
Luckily we have mainly moved away from the nightmarish surroundings of office cubicles, but there are now other menaces like completely open floor plans, which can be equally bad. There is much more to ergonomic office design than where the walls are placed.
Like in the rest of life, an ergonomic office is a place that is designed for balance. Work is a social process, and as people return to the office post covid, this will be an even more important part of office culture; so people need areas where they can talk and work together; but at times people also need privacy and room to focus as well.
There are a number of things you should take into consideration when trying to design or rearrange an office and make it more ergonomic.
- Sunlight is crucial. Sunlight is something that elevates people’s mood, and workers need access to it.
- A good office should have a variety of spaces; open spaces with high ceilings for fuelling creativity, and smaller spaces with more solid boundaries for critical thinking.
- Plants can help boost creativity. Being around items that remind us of nature helps shift our mind into new modes of thinking.
Setting up your desk properly
Most of the time an employee spends in an office will be spent at their desk, and this is where most ergonomic hazards lie. That is why the next 3 key ideas are all related to setting up your desk properly.
If you find a written description of how to set up your desk insufficient, this is a very helpful video that acts as a visual guide to how you should be setting up your desk.
Office chairs are crucial
Whilst at your desk, you spend a lot of time sitting down; so where you sit is vitally important. A good office chair will aid the user to sit upright, rather than slouching, as well as support their lower back, neck, shoulders, hips and thighs.
Aside from getting the right chair, the chair needs to be set up properly so it can be ergonomic. It should be set at a height that allows you to keep your feet flat on the floor, and the arms rests should prompt you to hold your arms at a 90 degree angle.
The placement of devices or screens
Once you have got your chair set up properly, the next thing is to make sure your desk and the devices on it are placed in an ergonomic manner.
Your computer monitor or laptop that you are working at should be set with the top of the screen at or slightly below eye level.
A great way of doing this is by attaching your monitor to an arm so you can properly adjust it to aid your vision, posture and comfort.
However, it is not just your screens that you can end up stretching your neck to look at. Many people who work within an office will refer to documents as they type. They can end up stretching their neck and back constantly looking down at the documents on a desk. You can use a document holder to view the documents whilst maintaining a straight neck and proper posture.
Interrupt prolonged periods of sitting
Whilst a good office chair will prevent certain ergonomic injuries, sitting for long periods of time can be harmful to your health. So you should encourage people within the office to move around often.
A good way to do that without having people pace around the office is with a sit stand desk. These desks allow you to work whilst standing up, which can improve your circulation among other things. At the touch of a button or turn of a lever you can move between sitting and standing at your desk, allowing you to avoid remaining in the same position for too long.