In this video Michael discusses what is meant by office ergonomics, the risk factors involved, examples of awkward postures, and the outcome of awkward postures. He also gives some advice on how you can sit less at work, and examples of stretches to do everyday.
If you haven’t seen the other videos in this series, check them out on his YouTube Channel, as Michael has covered a wide range of topics already.
When we’re talking about Office Ergonomics, what we’re really concerned with here, is trying to set up our workplace to suit us, not having to adapt our body to suit our workplace. It’s creating an environment where it’s set up to suit you, not the other way around.
When it comes to our office, it’s really about setting up our desk environment so that it fits our natural postures, and we’re not having to adapt ourselves into any awkward or uncomfortable situations.
If we look at the typical risk factors of an office workstation, we could talk about:
- Force and exertion
- Awkward postures
Force is not going to be a big factor for the office workstation. You’re not doing too much heavy lifting or movement. But there could be some awkward postures, and there could be (or there certainly should be) some repetition and potentially a prolonged duration. It’s those second 2 which make the big difference as far as risk of aches, pains, and injury are actually concerned, so this is what we will be focusing on in this blog.
As you can see from the video, there is a picture of someone starting to loose their posture. It doesn’t look too bad as she’s only a little bit flexed, and a little bit slouched. But, done over 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, 4 months, that could start to add up. These are the things where small differences done for a long period of time actually can make a really big difference.
In another picture from the video, we can see another awkward posture, where the workers screen is a bit too low, resulting in his chins poking forward, and his head bending forward. That will be placing undue stress on his neck, potentially creating neck pain, and possible headaches as well.
From another example, we can see a person who has their chair too low, or their desk too high and it’s causing their shoulder to be sort-of elevated up into the air. That’s going to put much more stress on the shoulder and neck area, and potentially create problems with that.
Looking at an example of a wrist one, the person’s got their chair too high this time, or desk too low, and it’s creating this extended wrist posture, which puts much more pressure on your forearms.
These are just a few examples of postures which if you’ve done for prolonged periods, will add up to being aches and pains.
Some of the things that we see from excessive repetition, or really prolonged duration, is a syndrome called Carpal Tunnel Syndrome which is excessive over-use of the wrist and hand, leading towards swelling in the wrist and numbness in the hand.
Some people also get what we call tennis elbow, which can be caused by poor wrist and prolonged wrist position and prolonged duration. It’s a pain on the outside of the elbow, just near the bone.
Following on from these risk factors, if we want to control our risk a little bit better, we need to do a few things…
- Sit less. Sitting is one of the most prolonged duration type things that we do in an office environment.
- Improve our posture at the desk
- Reduce the amount of repetition, and possibly some duration as well.
Sitting less is one of the big challenges of every office environment, and most people say “it can’t be done, can’t sit less” but there is some things that you can and must do. After all, sitting is one of the most prolonged duration type things that we do in an office environment.
Ways you can sit less:
- Incorporate a little bit of standing into your day. You can do this by trying to take a break, usually every 30 minutes to just stand up if you can. If you’ve got meetings, try and stand up in your meetings. Stand to greet people. Stand to take phone calls.
- Drink lots of water. You’ll have to go to the water cooler, but also that water’s also got to go somewhere, so it’s not a bad way to get yourself up and out of your chair.
- Try and get out and take a bit of a walk or at least stand for a period of time during your breaks just to try and break up that posture as much as you can.
You don’t have to do all of these things, but if you could start to do some of these things, it would definitely mean you are spending less time in your chair.
Standing work stations are not a bad option, and they are becoming much more used these days. When they first came out I saw that they were very rare, and it was only the occasional person that had a standing workstation. Nowadays, they are much more popular. I still don’t think they’re for everyone, some people really love them, some people really don’t. But they’re not a bad option to get you out of the chair a little bit more.
Ways you can reduce repetition:
- Get in the habit of taking breaks every so often. 30-45 minutes is usually a good time. Get up and out of that desk.
- If you’re a very constant user of a keyboard or mouse, you should take what we call a micro-pause, every few minutes, just a 5 second break, where you flex and stretch muscles of your wrist and hand.
- Stretch frequently; side neck stretches, neck retraction, Back extensions, wrist and forearm stretches.
You can see examples of these stretches in the video.