Keeping employees physically comfortable at work
Do your employees spend long periods of time standing or sitting? Maybe your work environment is pretty hip and encourages casual seating, standing desks, and the occasional power nap? Whatever the case, it’s important you minimize the risks of injury with proper ergonomics.
For workers who spend a good portion of their day seated at a desk, the right chair is a must. First and foremost, the chair should be comfortable. Encourage the use of a pillow to support the lower back and prevent slouching. Stools, exercise balls, and other non-standard seating don’t offer sufficient back support. Characteristics of a properly ergonomic chair include:
- Pneumatic height adjustment
- Adjustable lumbar support
- Adjustable seat pan
- A seat back that can be locked in an upright position or inclined to 110 degrees
- Adjustable padded armrests
- Five-caster base and casters suited for your flooring surface
Yes, they’re fun and keep you moving in a sedentary environment, but what about back support? A lack of back support when seated for extended periods causes the back muscles to contract, which compresses the discs. Results from a Cornell University study show that exercise balls can help with strengthening the core muscles, but they don’t provide the necessary back support. Exercise balls are not recommended as a substitute for proper ergonomic seating in the office setting.
You may have heard that sitting is the new smoking, a reference to our sedentary lifestyle and how it affects our health. To combat this, many office workers use standing desks. But is standing for long periods the answer?
There are benefits if the standing workstation is properly designed. But there are risks involved in using a improperly-designed standing desk.
Height is important; too high leads to raised elbows and too low results in stooped posture. Prolonged standing is linked to poor circulation and discomfort in the feet and lower back. Additional risks include unsupported back, leaning and reaching. A fixed posture, hard floor and even unsupportive shoes can contribute to pain and injury.
The bottom line on standing desks is that they need to accommodate the employee’s seated and standing height. Make sure users are knowledgeable of neutral postures, appropriate footwear and the risk factors associated with prolonged sitting and standing.
Whether seated or standing
Ergonomic rules of thumb no matter how an employee chooses to work at desk are:
- Work should be at elbow height
- Shoulders should be relaxed, arms near the sides
- Wrists and head straight
- Weight is balanced
And finally, encourage desk workers to take occasional walks around the office.