Correcting ergonomic deficiencies around the office can dramatically reduce pain and repetitive-use injuries that often accompany prolonged desk work. Following are some steps you can take to create a better environment for employees.
The principle of ergonomics is this: The work station should adapt to the individual worker; the worker should not have to change normal body alignment to use a workstation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration offers an ergonomics checklist that can help you identify problems, such as a keyboard being too high and creating strain on the wrists. But good ergonomics also has a lot to do with posture. Workers who tend to lean forward or slump in their seats may be putting excess strain on their backs. If employees frequently complain of back pain, it may be worth the cost — a few hundred dollars, generally — to hire an ergonomics consultant to evaluate your workplace and make recommendations for improvement.
Tools that can Help
You’ll find many office supplies that can make workstations more comfortable — such as wrist rests, or hands-free headsets for workers who are on the phone frequently. Make sure employees know that you’ll purchase those items if they need them.
Inflatable balance balls are also a great way to relieve tension on the back. Keep them around the office, and encourage workers to use them instead of their office chairs periodically. Balance balls, by design, don’t allow people to slump. The body must be properly aligned to stay balanced on the ball.
Treadmill desks and standing desks are slowly beginning to catch on, in workplaces that value ergonomics and fitness. Standing as you work instead of sitting may require some adjustment time, but the benefits make up for any initial discomfort.
Science tells us that a sedentary lifestyle is unhealthy — in fact, sitting several hours a day can shave two years off your life expectancy! So when workers start incorporating the use of a standing workstation into their daily routines, they’re actually adding time to their lives.
A treadmill desk may not be an option for small businesses on a tight budget, and a standing desk can cost hundreds of dollars. Plus, if you have several employees who want their own standing desk, you could be looking at spending thousands of dollars. An alternative is to build one or two that workers share in shifts, and you’ll find plenty of blogs online that show quick and easy ways to construct a tabletop workstation that workers simply place on top of their current desk. The materials to make your own desk can cost less than $30; all you need is a small table or boards, some hardware nuts, wood screws and a screwdriver (check the website LifeHacker for some construction ideas).
Start evaluating your office ergonomics today, and make changes that will keep your workers happy and healthy.