It is not as tricky (or expensive) to incorporate sound ergonomics in the office as many people think. On the contrary, you can save quite a bit of money on it in the long run.
What is the first thing you do when you arrive at work? Do you hang up your coat? Do you make a cup of coffee? Do you turn on your computer?
We guess that you turn on your computer. Even if it is not the first thing you do, it is most likely something you manage to do within your first few minutes in the office. Working at a computer is a big part of the working day for many people and often occupies a large proportion of the hours of the working day. Unfortunately, long hours in front of your computer can hurt both your body and your wallet.
Many office workers suffer from discomfort or pain, which can be traced directly to working too long hours in front of their computers.
A Danish study from 2019 shows that two-thirds of office employees experience physical pain during work. These pains include the neck and wrist, often caused by poor posture at their computer. This wear and tear can result in sick leave if left unchecked, which is not fun for the worker or the employer. One has to suffer the pain. One has to pay the bills.
Fortunately, according to the Industry Community for the Working Environment for Welfare and Public Administration in Denmark (BFA), it is easy and inexpensive to do something about the problem.
All that is required are a few adjustments in the way you work and the purchase of the right equipment. Fortunately, the latter is not a significant expense compared with sick leave, which on average costs a company about €1,300 a week.
Get rid of the pain before it occurs
Before you throw yourself into purchasing the grand package of equipment, you should understand the primary conditions of good ergonomics.
38% of all sick leavers are sedentary office workers.
Bedrifternes kostnader ved sykefravær, Sintef Rapport 2011
Ensuring that workers can take regular breaks from computer work is the first thing you need to make sure of.
The good idea is to make it a rule that no one arrives at the office, sits at their desk, and then works intensively in that spot for eight hours at a time. This way of doing computer work is quite unhealthy for the human body.
In the long run, sedentary and repetitive computer work will cause discomfort or pain, which will, in turn, reduce commitment, efficiency, and job satisfaction from the worker. Variation in posture is essential, and this message must be shared far and wide.
This is how your workstation should be equipped
Once you have made sure that your workers can take regular breaks, it is time to take a closer look at what your workstation lacks to offer an excellent ergonomic setup.
An ergonomic chair, height-adjustable desk, and adjustable screen are the norm in most Danish workplaces, but many are still lagging on ergonomic keyboards and mice.
It's a pity when we know that reasonable ergonomic solutions put less strain on your body and thus pose the least risk of injuries caused by poor posture.
An ongoing study (2021) that compares muscle activity using different types of mice, conducted by pathologist Eduardo Alcaraz Marteos shows that a centred mouse with a rolling bar requires the least muscle activity when using it.
At the same time, a Harvard study in 2015 showed that a RollerMouse was the option that allowed work with the most neutral hand positions and with the least finger and hand stretching while also requiring significantly lower activity in the forearm extension muscle.
Overall, good keyboard and mouse ergonomics are about having a keyboard allowing a neutral hand position when you type (this can happen if the keyboard has a negative incline, so your hands do not have to tilt up to type) and about getting the mouse in front the body so that both hands can be used. The arms and shoulders do not repeatedly have to go into unnatural positions.
So, it's a good idea to replace your old mouse with an ergonomic model, both if you already have pain or if you want to prevent pain. With that investment, you can stop and potentially altogether avoid frustrating and expensive mouse-related sick leave.