Musculoskeletal Disorders (MSDs) are serious injuries to the human body that can occur from lack of movement and stress on the musculoskeletal system. Such injuries develop over time from poor posture, straining and repetitive movement. And guess what? This isn’t some little bruise. The damage can be irreversible causing lifelong pain for the employee and in some cases even a lawsuit for the business owner (www.aiha.org). The fact is that the humans are designed to be pursuit predators, not to sit around all day (which is the unfortunate reality for most modern workers who sit at a computer for hours on end). Now, by no means are saying that you should quit your job and move out into the wilderness. Please, let’s stay civilized. Instead, we are going to give you some ace information about how office space planning can prevent MSDs from occurring from your daily work routine, and it all begins with ergonomics.
Ergonomics is the science of designing and arranging objects so that their interaction with people is safe, healthy, and efficient (www.merriam-webster.com). Companies like HON and Lorell have tossed out the idea that a chair is simply a chair and will serve all people the same. They have designed ergonomic office furniture to move with people to accommodate each person’s unique body size, type, and needs. Even if you don’t have a desk that can rise and lower at the push of a button, there are still ways to incorporate an ergonomic workplace design into your work routine for a healthier and happier life.
Remember your parents telling you to “sit up straight!” at the dinner table? Turns out that they were right. Good posture isn’t just good etiquette –it’s essential to your health. Slouching puts pressure on the disks and vertebrae of your back, and after day in and day out of that continuous pressure, things will to begin to go very wrong. The chair you sit in every day at work should support the curves of the spine, and be high enough that the thighs are parallel to the floor and the feet flat on the floor. For the petite people out there, we recommend a footrest to maintain this ideal position if your desk is too high to sit comfortably at in your chair, but more on that in the next section. (www.startstanding.org)
Just like how a chair needs to be able to accommodate each person, a desk is not a one-size fits all either. The standard desk height is about 73cm, meaning that it is designed to be ideal for a person who is approximately 183cm tall, and that is by no means the average height (www.painlessmovement.com). A desk’s height is actually imperative to posture at work and a proper ergonomic set up. When sitting at a desk the angle of the arms should be between 90° and 100° (www.uncagedergonomics.com). If a desk is too high, raise the chair to meet this arm position and use a footrest to keep your feet flat. On the other hand, if a work desk is too low for you, the best solution is to raise it using books or risers that can
be found in almost any hardware store. If you are lucky enough to have a workstation that can rise to standing height, then you are ahead of the game. Having such an option is ideal for those who spend their days at a computer: the body gets the natural relief it needs, and the job still gets done. In fact, incorporating a standing desk into your office space planning will help prevent MSDs and likely increase productivity. That’s a win across the board!
Have a stiff neck and/or neck pain? Stop cradling the telephone between your ear and shoulder. Actually, never ever do it again. The best solution if you need to use your hands while you talk with a client is to use a headset (www.mayoclinic.org). In the modern world of communication, trust us, you can find one compatible with your phone and for a reasonable price. However, if you insist on keeping your normal landline receiver, make sure that it is close to your hands to avoid reaching. Stretching is a great thing you can do from your desk, but “reaching” cannot be counted as part of that routine. Repetition of this movement will cause strain, as well as wear and tear to your shoulder and arm muscles over time. Just move it a few inches. It’s really that simple.
Like the telephone, you want to keep the keyboard and mouse close. Typing for 8 hours a day, 5 days a week is one of those bad repetitive motions. Consistently using such fine motor skills without the correct placement of the arms and wrists will take its toll. Can you say, “Arthritis?” To avoid this, they should also be kept on the same surface to keep your motions even. Having a wrist rest will help, too. Ideally, the keyboard should be 2.5-5cm above your thighs, and the mouse should be about shoulder width away from the keyboard. (www.cnet.com)
Planning your office space to include ergonomic design will not only better the life-long health of employees, but it is likely to increase productivity and limit absent days. See how Everyday Office Supplies can help you to plan your new ergonomic workspace design!
Related Content: 5 Benefits of Ergonomic Office Furniture
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