‘Ergonomic’ is a word that gets tacked onto quite a lot of office products. It’s never just a keyboard. It has to be an ergonomic keyboard.
But while manufacturers can often get a bit liberal with their use of the term, the concept itself is very important.
Ergonomics is all about designing products, processes, and situations with human physiology and psychology in mind. It’s about designing things that actually help our minds and bodies work better—the usual goals are health, safety, and productivity.
In this article, we take a deeper look at how ergonomics can improve workplace wellbeing and productivity.
Taking an ergonomic outlook to office design impacts productivity at a number of different levels.
First off, ergonomic offices affect productivity by ensuring workers take fewer days off due to injury or unwellness. For example, research suggests that even minor ergonomic interventions directed at neck pain can improve presenteeism in a 12-month period.
We also know that there is a correlation between physical health and job satisfaction. In turn, job satisfaction is the most important contributor to an organisation’s turnover rate. So, if you want to create inspiring workspaces where your team loves to come and work in, making sure they are safe and healthy is key.
Next, it’s known that pain or discomfort at work will directly decrease a worker’s capacity to perform office tasks. A study by the American Osteopathic Association found that 3 out of every 10 office workers lose 2 hours of productivity a month due to discomfort.
Lastly, organisations can use ergonomics interventions to improve productivity indirectly. This is because there is now much factual proof that when organisations show care for their employees, those employees respond with higher levels of productivity.
It’s clear that ergonomics has the power to effect real productivity changes in the workplace. So how do we implement change?
Here are the most impactful ergonomic ideas you can implement.
In office spaces, the most important ergonomic consideration is your sitting position. Here are the factors you need to consider:
To achieve a proper ergonomic sitting position, it’s often necessary to use specific furniture or equipment at your workstation, so read on to find out about the most important ergonomic office equipment.
Since your sitting position is your greatest ergonomic concern, your chair is your most important piece of ergonomic office equipment. Here is what you should be looking for from an ergonomic chair:
1. Lumbar Support
This is necessary to support your lower back and to maintain the natural curve of your spine. You can also use a backrest to improve support.
2. Adjustable Height
You need to be able to adjust your chair’s height so that 1) your forearms rest easily on the desk and 2) your feet are flat on the ground.
Armrests can help you maintain good posture when you sit back from your desk. They allow you to support yourself with your elbows and stop you from slouching down into the chair.
A headrest helps to keep your back in line and takes the pressure off your neck.
Beyond your standard ergonomic chair, you have a few other options to choose from.
You might have seen someone using an exercise ball as a desk chair and, if so, you’ve probably thought it looked a bit funny. But an exercise ball is very useful in maintaining good posture.
Why? The inherent instability of an exercise ball forces you to engage your core to keep you up straight (if you slouch on an exercise ball, you’re likely to fall). Although you have to use your muscles, an exercise ball should make you feel more comfortable by keeping your back out of any unnatural shapes.
A kneeling chair is another piece of ergonomic furniture that forces you to engage your own muscles in setting the right posture. With a kneeling chair, you have a seat that is tilted forward with no backrest. Instead, you have a second rest for your knees/shins.
The idea is that you open your hips up, so that you are closer to a standing position, forcing you to engage your core to keep your back straight.
We now know that sedentary work habits are very bad for our health, leading to everything from musculoskeletal disorders, diabetes, heart disease, and some forms of cancer. A standing desk is a simple solution to getting people up out of endless sitting.
There is often a fear that people couldn’t possibly work as well standing up as they do sitting down. But the research suggests that there is no drop in productivity when standing desks are implemented.
We also know that blood flow is critical for good brain function, and standing up is a simple way of making that happen
Using adjustable desks, it’s also possible to split the workday up into some standing sessions and some sitting. Alternatively, a workspace might be able to rotate people through standing and sitting desks throughout the day.
A more radical option than a standing desk is to use a so-called ‘active workstation’. An active workstation is one in which you do some kind of basic exercise while you work.
The most common form of an active workstation is a cycling desk. That’s not a desk on a bicycle. It’s just a desk that allows you to rotate bicycle pedals while staying stationary at your desk. It’s another way of getting the blood moving (but you might not want to do it all day).
We’ve covered the main ergonomic considerations of an office workstation, but there are a few extra gizmos and gadgets that can make a difference. Here is a list.
Ergonomic keyboards incorporate wrist rests to ease harmful repetitive straining.
Likewise, an ergonomic mousepad will usually have a wrist rest so you can click and scroll without continually straining your wrist.
Ergonomic mouses are usually larger and are designed so that your whole hand rests on them, rather than just your palm.
4. Monitor Stand
A monitor stand can lift your laptop or desktop monitor up to eye-level to promote good posture.
A footrest can give your legs a bit of a break during long sitting sessions.
Whether you are using an ergonomic chair or not, an additional backrest can give you more support in your lower back, promoting strong posture.
At Christie Spaces, we don’t just want to offer office environments that look good and are fun to work in. We understand that all of the little things are important in keeping people safe, comfortable, and happy. And most of all, we understand how important it is for workers to feel safe, comfortable, and happy for an organisation to perform at its best.