Modern office life often results in a host of health issues for desk-bound employees. Spending eight hours or more each day sitting at a desk leads to pain, fatigue, lowered productivity, increased sick days, and repetitive stress injuries. But it doesn’t have to be this way. A few simple ergonomic adjustments and the right equipment are all you need to make the workspace healthy and comfortable for both you and your employees.
1. Identify Risks
Start by taking a quick look around the office. Do you notice people hunched over, straining to read their screens, rubbing sore necks and lower backs? Talk to your employees and ask them what issues they encounter with being comfortable at work. Understanding their needs and current discomforts will help you choose the right equipment to improve their health and productivity.
2. Make Initial Ergonomic Adjustments
There is likely a lot you can do immediately to ensure that everyone is following ergonomic best practices. Keep often-used items like phones and calculators within easy reach on the desk to avoid repetitive reaching. Ensure employees are in proper typing position—elbows should be at a 90 degree angle, and wrists should be flat or sloping slightly downward. Make sure that the flips on the back of the keyboard are down. When they’re raised, it forces the wrists into an upward angle, leading to repetitive stress injuries like carpal tunnel syndrome.
Monitors should be about an arm’s length away from the user, with the top of the screen at eye level.
Chair height should allow for knees to be at about a 90 degree angle, with feet flat on the floor. Leave about a fist’s worth of space between the edge of the seat and the backs of the user’s legs in order to allow for blood flow and circulation.
3. Determine the Ergonomic Equipment You Need
Once these basic adjustments have been made, you can decide what specific ergonomic products are needed for your employees. For example, do you notice employees reaching awkwardly up and out for their keyboards? If the height of the desk prevents them from keeping their elbows at a 90 degree angle, a keyboard tray is a good idea. This allows for bringing the keyboard lower than the desk and closer to the body, preventing the musculoskeletal injuries that come from unhealthy positioning.
Is all-day sitting causing back pain and fatigue? A height adjustable desk or desktop unit allows employees to stand for part of the workday. Repeated research continues to show the extensive benefits of periodic standing, including increased productivity, energy, and creativity, as well as a reduction in neck, back, and shoulder pain. We simply weren’t built to sit all day.
4. Promote Ergonomic Practices
Explain the importance of ergonomics to your employees. Encourage them to take reasonable breaks to rest their eyes, stretch, and recharge. These breaks will not reduce your employees’ productivity. It’s the opposite; research shows that the most productive employees are those who take frequent breaks. The ideal ratio is a 17-minute break for every 52 minutes worked.
5. Follow up
Once your equipment is installed and your employees are following ergonomic principles, check in with them and see how the new routine is working out. They’ll likely tell you that their pain is greatly reduced, they have more energy, and they’re getting more accomplished. Check in to see if anyone needs additional equipment or a refresher in monitor, keyboard, or chair positioning.
If you have any questions on assessing the ergonomics at your workplace or selecting the appropriate equipment, we’re happy to help. Give us a call or chat with us—we’d love to help you create a safe and user-friendly work environment.