To the everyday person, ergonomics may seem like something that you only need to care about when you get older or get low back issues from being stuck in a chair 8 hours a day. I’m here to tell you that couldn’t be farther from the case. Whether we are aware of it or not, ergonomics factors into every single thing we do daily.
Why should you care?
You’re probably thinking: I’ve made it this far without caring about ergonomics, why should I start now? Well, when bad ergonomic practices and postures are things that add up over time and enough bad ergonomic practices will eventually lead to something disastrous. Will you give yourself carpal tunnel syndrome by having poor posture while mousing for a day? No. But, if you have enough days where you’re overworking a certain part of your body, in a less than stellar posture you are bound to hurt yourself.
What’s the worst that could happen?
Okay, so maybe you’re still not convinced that ergonomics is important. But poor ergonomics can lead to debilitating injuries, surgery, and a noticeable decline in quality of life.
Headaches and Migraines – For those who use the computer 8-10 hours a day and come away with a throbbing headache, poor ergonomics are most likely to blame. Improper monitor height, awkward angles, and glare are all major contributors to neck and eye strain that will lead to tension headaches and sore eyes.
Neck Stiffness – More often than not, we tend to attribute severe pain in the neck, and immobility in the neck area, to a bad sleeping position. Although sleep position can be a contributing factor, most of the time neck pain is caused by having our necks in awkward, stiff postures for prolonged periods.
Back Injuries – When we think about back injuries, we think about jobs that require heavy lifting or machinery operation. Contrary to that belief, some of the highest-risk employees are those working at a desk. From tech employees to telecom, people are sitting for many hours, and on top of that, their workstations are not set up properly. A proper chair, desk, and workstation setup are key to avoiding prolonged back pain.
Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSD) – Poor ergonomics can musculoskeletal disorders, especially in people whose jobs require doing the same task over and over. This could mean someone who stacks bags of grain, or an office employee constantly reaching from the keyboard to the computer mouse. On average there are approximately 300,000 work-related MSDs in the US per year, which is no small number.
None of those potential outcomes sound particularly fun, I think we would all agree. So, let’s look at the flip side of the coin and talk about some of the benefits of being proactive about good ergonomics.
What can good ergonomics give me?
Aside from helping you avoid all of those issues mentioned above, proper ergonomics can have plenty of benefits that will impact your everyday life
Improved mood and energy levels – We’ve all had that feeling of getting home from work after a long day, with no energy or motivation to do anything else than plopping down on the couch and pop on Netflix. What if it didn’t have to be like that? A 7-week study on sit/stand desks shows that users who alter sitting and stand reported an increase at the end of day energy levels and overall mood.
Improved Comfort – Not only does proper ergonomics reduce the risk of injury, but it will also make you more comfortable. No more tingly hands after using your iPad for hours on end. Gone will be the achy wrist after a full day of using a computer. That back stiffness that pops up at random will start to wane. Almost all our daily aches and pains can be linked to ergonomics, and a good proactive ergonomic approach can alleviate a lot of these issues.
Improved output – Studies have shown that ergonomically designed workstations allow workers to experience less fatigue and require fewer breaks. Not only does this increase overall comfort, but it allows workers to focus on the task at hand, improving productivity and quality of work. Ergonomics helps you be the best you possible!
But where to start? People study for years to get degrees specifically in ergonomics! Don’t worry. While this is true, attaining a base level of ergonomics is easy. Here are some tips on how to set yourself up for ergonomic success.
How can I be more ergonomic?
While ergonomics is a complex science that takes in all aspects of the body and movement, some amazingly simple principles can be applied to help you achieve better ergonomic habits.
Stretch Breaks – Once an hour, stop and give yourself a minute or two to relax and do some simple micro stretches at your desk. This small, yet effective step allows you to give your overworked muscles a break, increase blood flow, and release tension.
Posture Variation – The biggest danger for developing an ergonomic issue is constant repetitive tasks. If you use a sit/stand desk, try alternating sitting and standing every half hour or so. If you are constantly using a mouse to complete computer-based tasks, try incorporating more keyboard shortcuts to get the job done. These tiny changes help you avoid a stagnant posture and reduces your risk of developing ergonomic issues.
Take Breaks – Especially if you stare at a screen all day. Try to follow the 20/20/20 rule. Every 20 minutes get up from your desk and stare at something 20 feet away for 20 seconds. This will allow you to vary your posture, reduce eye strain, and help you regain your focus.
Get the right equipment – Ergonomically designed office equipment comes in all forms from chairs that can cost hundreds of dollars, to simple document holders that will cost maybe 10 bucks. We suggest looking at ergonomic workstation bundles, that will help users easily get an ergonomic set-up. Or, at the very least, an ergonomic mouse and keyboard set-up that helps reduce the repetitive motions and will keep you in a safe, healthy posture