Ergonomic Adaptations for the Modern Workplace
- Install Eye-Friendly Lighting
- Use Adjustable Workstations
- Create Opportunity for Movement
- Encourage Good Personal Posture
- Get Professional Advice
- Find a More Relaxed Keyboard
- Use a Footrest to Compensate for Short Height
- Consider Using Rugs For Office Chairs
- Get Rid of Unnecessary Clutter
- Use Relaxing Media and Hardware to Accent the Workspace
For people to lounge or do work in an indoor environment, the space should conform to appropriate sizes and shapes. Without this conformity comes limited to no productivity, discomfort, and a potential risk to one’s health. For these reasons, employees performing indoor work duties are encouraged to make the workspace as comfortable as possible. This can be achieved through the usage of ergonomics. But what is it?
Ergonomics is the science and study of designing spaces around human needs and limitations. While the term is often associated with chairs, desks, and other furniture, the definition actually extends into the entire work environment. There are many ways for employers and office managers to increase the productivity, morale, and health of their team members through ergonomic modification. Even small changes in routine or office layout can provide welcome relief from sources of physical and mental stress.
1. Install Eye-Friendly Lighting
Whether offices are equipped with cheap bulbs or energy-efficient fixtures, they should still be installed ergonomically. Ample lighting illuminates each room completely without causing glare on monitors or forcing workers to squint. Some offices use daylight bulbs or incorporate sunlight from the outdoors into their lighting plan to create a more natural interior environment.
2. Use Adjustable Workstations
Employees aren’t uniform, even if their office furniture and computer equipment are. When possible, offices should have adjustable furniture, monitor stands, and desks to allow each worker to adjust their station as needed. Maintaining good personal posture is essential for avoiding a variety of muscle and bone health issues, especially for people who spend most of their workday sitting down. Lower back pain, which is often related to poor posture, is the most common work-related personal disability reported worldwide, according to Forbes.
3. Create Opportunity for Movement
Spending hours a day sitting down is normal for many modern workers, but this routine can have serious consequences. A stationary work routine saps energy and can lead to several long-term health problems. Work environments should allow for movement and motion, allowing employees to get a little bit of exercise every hour or two. Access to a larger outdoor or communal area can help employees stretch their legs without needing to leave the property.
4. Encourage Good Personal Posture
Maintaining good posture when sitting or standing is the result of habits created from conscious effort. Many people aren’t fully aware of their own habits that lead to slouching or other posture issues. Hanging posters or other visual reminders of posture basics can encourage employees to monitor their habits and give them a simple guide on how to develop healthier ones. Some offices hold meetings or periodic training sessions to show their workers how to take advantage of existing ergonomic features in the workplace.
5. Get Professional Advice
Many large businesses employ full-time professionals who evaluate and improve the ergonomics of all the organization’s work environments. Most small and mid-sized businesses don’t have the budget for a permanent staff member for this position, but they can work with consulting experts temporarily. Even limited guidance from a consultant can offer incredible insight into the issues and interactions related to workplace ergonomics.
The physical and emotional well-being of employees has a direct impact on their ability to work, communicate and collaborate. Following these basic tips for ergonomic workspace design is a good way to start creating a healthier and more productive work environment, which has major potential benefits for both employers and employees.
6. Find a More Relaxed Keyboard
While sitting posture is very important, the position of the keyboard can also determine how comfortable a working environment is. Most keyboards, both modern and old, are designed without comfort in mind. The placement of the fingers on a keyboard is done on top of the home row keys.
When typing, this placement helps guide the user to the button they wish to press, without them looking at each one individually. But keyboards are compact, meaning that a typer must move their forearms closer to one another to press the buttons as normal. This can create serious discomfort, particularly when typing for a long time. However, there are some remedies to fix this.
One is through using a split keyboard. These are made with each section of the board separate. Since the keys pressed are fixed to the user’s left and right hands, touch typing can be done as normal. But the increased distance of the forearms can prevent fatigue during work.
7. Use a Footrest to Compensate for Short Height
Footrests are recommended for people that have a short height. Even with some adjustable chairs, difficulty in keeping the feet and legs comfortable during work is a possibility. Something to help prop up the feet and keep them in one spot without suspension is preferred by many. They also allow the chair to move around easier. Footrests are recommended for people of average height, a good way to stabilize posture in chairs that are awkward or built with wheels that easily slide on the floor.
8. Consider Using Rugs Under Office Chairs
Some office chairs are made for better movement on hardened surfaces, such as tile and wooden floors. They’re popular in office spaces, the lightweight models in particular. But such chairs can also create discomfort if the wheels slide too easily on a smooth surface.
Sliding could produce irritability and is a problem for heavy and lightweight individuals. It can be hard to retain one spot without accidentally moving around. The easiest way to spot excessive sliding, other than getting an office chair with rubber wheels, is the placement of a rug under the chair itself. Rugs can stop your chair from sliding due to the ability to reduce the friction of weighted objects resting on top of them.
9. Get Rid of Unnecessary Clutter
Having too many objects nearby to a working area can create chaos, making it more difficult to focus on one task, and raise the chances of important items becoming lost. These issues themselves are enough to avoid clutter, but so is the strain it creates.
If the objects are large, it could be hard for an employee to reach items, stretch their legs, or maintain enough space to keep themselves from feeling claustrophobic. Fewer items nearby can also free up areas to make it easier for moving desks and chairs around, a great way to create an ergonomic workspace when neither has any adjustment abilities on their own.
10. Use Relaxing Media and Hardware to Accent the Workspace
Even with a carefully laid out workstation, some employees may still feel uncomfortable. The reasons for this are many. It could be through feeling stress starting a new job, the temperature in the office, or from simply staring at a monitor for a long time.
Media can do wonders to improve concentration on work. These include music, fragrances, and even the computer itself to keep the stresses away. There are videos, mobile apps, and desktop programs capable of mimicking the sounds of nature, such as rain, to place users at ease when working. When used in conjunction with a better planned workplace layout, employees can focus on duties and minimize other audible distractions.
Frequently Asked Questions
1. Is ergonomics a real science?
Ergonomics incorporates several sciences, to create a science around the human environment, and how people interact with their immediate surroundings. For example, engineering psychologists study anthropometrics, human science, biomechanics, psychology, and mechanical engineering to design tools and spaces that conform to the needs of people. They make the surroundings people work and lounge around safer and more convenient.
Practicality is the essence of ergonomics since a tangible understanding of appliances and accessories is needed to make one’s setting pleasant to be around. Other fields of study that draw into ergonomics include anything requiring a product to be designed before created, such as clothing designers, interior decorators, and retail merchants.
2. What are some practical ways ergonomics can be applied to people working from home?
Employers that work from home are at an advantage since they can better manipulate their working space without relying on the permission of supervisors. An entire room could be set up as their workstation, with comfortable seating and large monitors to keep one focused on tasks at hand.
Still, care must be taken to avoid making an indoor work environment too comfortable, something that may interfere with assignments being completed quickly. But there’s no limit to what a work-from-home employee can do to keep themselves relaxed during their working hours. And best of all, there’s little need to wear fitted clothing, an annoying thing for office workers that must adhere to strict dress codes.
3. Does ergonomics increase productivity?
Productivity starts with an understanding of a job, but doesn’t end there. Using a plant as a metaphor, if one reduces its sunlight, starves it of water, it’ll become haggard and brown. In like manner to people, the more uncomfortable a working or living space is, the more distractions will come about. And an increase in distractions reduces focus on assignments, or even preventing them from being finished altogether.
So yes, ergonomics can surely increase productivity and lessen it when it isn’t put into use. It centers on reducing physical strain wherever it may potentially arise from in the same way that plants thrive in a space that’s adequate for them to grow.
4. Is the ability to adjust more important than conformity to the average human’s size?
Ergonomically designed workspaces and furnishings within them tend to adjust according to the user’s needs. In some cases, this is also achieved through engineers creating appliances that are set to a specific size, height, and distance apart. So adjustments aren’t always needed for objects to be comfortable to use at work. However, they must be made with more than one size of humans in mind.
With the right size chair or desk, a person that’s either tall or short could feel okay when sitting down or resting their arms in them. So both adjustment ability and conformity in size are great, though adjustments could be ideal for setting appliances in positions that better the posture of people on an individual level.
5. Is clothing important for maintaining comfort in a workspace?
The clothing being worn is very important during work, even in an indoor setting. It’s one of the reasons why so many clothing designers currently label their garments “ergonomically designed.” Accessories are also marketed this way. Good clothing is built to hold up when a user is engaged in an activity that adheres to what the garment was made for.
For example, some construction workers wear gloves for different undertakings, such as operating heavy equipment or performing masonry work. If the gloves are ergonomically unfit for the job they’re intended to be worn for, then discomfort will make them irritating during wear.
6. How can ergonomics be beneficial to jobs that aren’t in an office setting?
Ergonomics is crucial to making jobs done outside safer for employees. Driving is one profession done by taxis, transit workers, and other people with commercial driver’s licenses. If the vehicles they drive aren’t built to keep their focus on driving, it’ll make the roads dangerous for them and other nearby drivers.
Construction workers are required by law to wear hard hats while on a construction site, which should fit in a way that dampens the impact of falling debris. Ergonomics are needed to help standardize safety practices, more so than office work.
7. How important is posture?
No matter what kind of working space someone finds themselves in, the way they stand, sit, and move can increase undesirable effects that arise from bad posture. To some extent, this can happen through people themselves, such as those accustomed to slouching when sitting down. Posture can boost the senses and increase attentiveness. It’s commonly referred to when referencing ergonomics since cleverly-designed spaces can encourage better posture, even without realizing it.
In any situation that people place themselves in, it’s a given that the field of ergonomics was applied to create a more pleasant setting for them. But workspaces are where its practice becomes more conspicuous, at least when it’s taken into account for improving posture. As shown, this is feasible through ergonomically-conscious appliances and furniture. Creativity when using them can go a long way, too.