If you run a small business, you may be familiar with the term ergonomic workstations but have wondered what it meant. Simply put, ergonomics pertains to how a workplace environment is designed so that it benefits its workers as well as supports their limitations.
The main goal of office ergonomics is to ensure a workplace is as safe and comfortable as possible. This way, employees are less likely to be fatigued or distressed, besides not be injured. Here are some basic guidelines for improving a workstation, along with other considerations.
Benefits of Office Ergonomics
There are many advantages of office ergonomics, such as employee comfort. When your workers are more comfortable, they tend to be more efficient, productive and engaged in their work. They’re less likely to be become fatigued or be injured at their workplace.
According to one study, an insurance company reported an increase of $620,000 in productivity after spending $500,000 in ergonomic furnishings. Moreover, 90 percent of the decision-makers who were surveyed confessed that an improvement in office design resulted in better productivity. On the other hand, poor office ergonomics can lead to problems, including musculoskeletal (MSD) injuries. These injuries often mean increased employee absences and reduced productivity.
Because many workers spend up to eight hours sitting, having the right type of office chairs is especially critical. When selecting chairs, choose ones that provide exceptional lumbar support. As for the height of a chair, a user’s feet should be positioned flat on the ground and should not dangle. While shorter people may need to use a footrest, taller workers may have to adjust the height of a desk.
There should be adequate room between the back of a person’s knees and the edge of the chair, which is about the size of a fist. You may be able to adjust the depth of the seat on some types of chairs. Be sure your chairs offer good neck support. The entire weight of the typist’s head needs to be positioned directly above his or her neck so that the neck receives full support. Consider how craning the head forward when working can lead to neck strain or even injury.
Show your employees how to position their computer monitors directly in front of their heads at about an arm’s length. The top of a computer screen needs to be at eye level or slightly below it. Employees wearing bifocals should lower their monitors about an inch or two inches, so they can comfortably see their screens.
A computer keyboard needs to be directly in front of the monitor. Don’t have your keyboard too far to either the left or right because this can force you to turn your head and neck frequently to see what you’re typing, leading to repetitive stress.
Your team members need to be able to easily reach a computer mouse. Furthermore, a mouse should be on the same surface as a keyboard. To minimize mouse use, it helps to use keyboard shortcuts.
- Tell your employees to keep their desk phones, printed materials, staplers and other key desk essentials near the body so that they don’t have to reach far. If they can’t reach something without having discomfort, they need to stand up to get it.
- Employees who do a significant amount of writing, typing or talking on the phone at the same time should use a headset to prevent neck strain from having a phone cradled between their neck and head.
- If you see employees sitting in an odd position, such as sitting on a single leg or their feet tucked behind them, this may be a sign that their chair needs to be adjusted.
- Encourage your employees to get out of their chairs and move to stretch their arms and legs. This should be done at least once every hour. Consider that it’s important to stretch the body, so health problems won’t develop from extended sitting.
Helping design employee safety plans is one of the many services of a PEO (Professional Employer Organization.) If you’re spending too much time on administrative tasks and HR, we want to help you. Please contact us at Harbor America for a free consultation.