What is Office Ergonomics?
Office Ergonomics help you to feel more comfortable and settled at work. It ensures that you are positioned well and feel serene whilst at your workplace by implementing elements that help to remove stresses that are caused by awkward postures and repetitive tasks. This is done by concentrating on the areas that are set up in your ‘station’ at work, like the way you are positioned when sat, your desk space, the amount of time that you sit in one position, and even things like temperature and lighting are all important in making employees comfortable.
The aim is to ensure that all these aspects are taken into account in the office and employees’ health and wellbeing are a top priority. This article by CIEHF backs up the idea that ergonomics really is more than just the type of desk chair that you have. Within this article, you will find everything you need to know about office ergonomics, such as the different areas of ergonomics, their importance of them, and examples of how you can improve your workstation.
The 3 major areas of Ergonomics
As stated by the International Ergonomics Association, there are 3 areas of ergonomics. These are Physical, Cognitive, and Organisational and are a great way of understanding the different aspects of this topic.
Physical ergonomics, as written by Matt Middlesworth, is the “human anatomical, anthropometric, physiological and biomechanical characteristics”. These are aspects that relate to the physical activity of an individual in the workplace and are the body’s responses to both the physical and psychological demands at work, including first-class, second-class, and third-class levers within the body.
This can also relate to workplace safety and repetitive motion. Physical ergonomics is a big aspect of ergonomics that can be affected within an individual in the workplace, so it is very important to address this. In terms of risk factors and possible injuries, there is a broad range of different parts that can be influenced and risk assessments should be completed in order to prevent them. These factors can include:
- RSI (Repetitive Strain Injury) from staring at gadget screens for long periods of time
- Back problems from the type of chair used when sitting at a desk and awkward sitting positions
- Hand problems from keyboard use and computer mouse use
- Stress from insufficient rest breaks, overtime, and working long hours
- Eye issues from strong or poor lighting within the office
- Injuries from dangerous working spaces such as hanging cables and trip hazards
Cognitive ergonomics is what is linked with the mental processes of an individual at work, including motor response, memory, and perception. These are aspects that affect basic interaction between humans and the ways in which they communicate with each other. Additionally, cognitive ergonomics involves the ways in which workplace systems are compatible with their users and how humans deal with these.
A few topics related to this cognitive area of ergonomics include decisions, computer-to-human interaction, and the mental workload of an employee. This article suggests that the study of these helps to ensure that human well-being and system performance are both successful and work for hand in hand with each other to optimize these features in the office. The risk factors and injuries of this primary focus on human blunders and errors caused by individuals and include:
- Headaches and migraines from focusing too hard on work and not relaxing on a work break
- Struggling mental health from problems at work such as repeat errors made by an individual, or difficulty in processing their workload
- Physical injuries from devices, computer systems, or wires not working
- Stress from their job both at the office and out of hours in their own time
Organizational ergonomics is connected with the optimization of sociotechnical systems. This includes the structures, policies, and processes organized by these. The more relevant topics within this as stated by Ergo Plus, involve cooperative work, communication, teamwork, virtual organizations, and work design. These are moderated and altered to best suit all employees and cover the whole optimization of the workplace, ensuring that it is a better place to work in. The aim of implementing organizational ergonomics into the office is to improve satisfaction within every department and element so that employees are content when they come to work. There are no direct organizational risk factors or injuries, however, if this type of ergonomics is not adhered to, then it can cause major disruption within the workplace and therefore lead to unhappy staff members.
Why is Office Ergonomics important?
There are many important factors of ergonomics within the workplace and they can also really benefit you and your company. Ergonomics are put in place to keep your employees safe and reduce harmful injuries that they could endure, which is a completely top priority. So it is easy to see why this is significant.
Benefits of Office Ergonomics
They also can help to reduce costs within the workplace; investing in different strategies to improve ergonomics ensure that you reduce risk factors such as musculoskeletal disorders which happen as a result of bad posture or continuous repetitive movement. From a study by Delight Office, it is suggested that a lot of compensation, around a third, is paid to employees due to these disorders. If ergonomics are provided and are successful, then this can dramatically reduce the possible compensation you could be paying.
Office ergonomics can also help to boost productivity, through the design of a workplace that helps to suggest good posture, easier heights for people to reach, and movement that is not repetitive. This goes hand in hand with reducing costs, as good ergonomics not only does this but also promotes productivity and comfortability within the workplace, meaning employees are more likely to work better and more successfully in an office that they are settled into. Adding on to this, if ergonomics within the workplace is insufficient this can lead to employees feeling overtired and irritable meaning they are not able to complete their job at the best of their ability. Investing fully in office ergonomics can ensure that your staff members will work well and will be on peak form.
Employee engagement is a factor that is really important and you should always be thinking of new ways to improve this in your company. It can be enhanced through office ergonomics, as this will ensure employees will less likely be absent and it will help to reduce turnover. It will help them to appreciate the company that employs them and be appreciative that you care about their safety at work, as well as their health.
Safety and Office Ergonomics
Creating a safety culture is really beneficial in understanding the importance of office ergonomics. This image here shows the different elements of a safety culture for you to think about. By supplying good and sufficient ergonomics, it shows to your employees, and onlookers, that you and your company commit to their workers’ health and safety within the workplace.
This should be a core value of your business, but by pushing this and ensuring you abide by this, you help to create a robust safety culture. Your employees are the most valuable ‘asset’ that you have so it is vital that you keep them safe whilst at work, as this is not only good for your company but it is also the best thing to do.
Office Ergonomics Checklist
As outlined by Dohrmann Consulting, office ergonomics can be organized and improved through planning and executing them in an organized manner. Here is a checklist is broken down into sections that you can follow to ensure that ergonomics in your office are sufficient and will be appreciated by your employees.
Exercise, Better Posture, and Physical Activity
- Maintaining a good posture is really important in preventing musculoskeletal disorders and it is important to remember this involves the position of the back (spine), the neck and head, arms and wrists as well as the legs and feet.
- The back of the neck and back should be well supported and shoulders relaxed back and not slumped or too high in an uncomfortable position.
- Ensuring that everyone has ergonomic chairs at the desk will promote good back and neck support, as well helping support the natural posture of the human body and reduce such bad forces on them.
- No one should be sat or stood in a certain position for a long amount of time – changing postures on a regular basis will help to ensure that employees will be less likely to have posture problems later on.
- Whilst working and typing at a desk, it is important not to hit the keys on the keyboard too forcefully as this can cause injuries from repetitive movements.
- Keep arms, hands, and wrists in a straight line, following a neutral and comfortable position so that these do not feel strained or achy after use.
- It is best to avoid reaching for things that are out of reach or too high up, as this can lead to pulling muscles and leading to problems in those areas. Instead, find something steady to place and stand on in order to avoid minuscule and preventable injuries from occurring.
- Another really important physical aspect is to implement mini-breaks if not done so already, encouraging employees to get up away from their desks and give their body and muscles a chance to rest from the position that they have been in for a while. Just a simple walk around the office or up and down the stairs will ensure that they can recover and be ready to work again after.
- Alternating between different work activities throughout the day that uses different muscles is a great way to prevent overuse of specific areas of the body whilst doing the job. This could involve going up and walking to another room to grab an office supply, going over to the printer, or making yourself a coffee – they all follow the same principle.
- Staring at a screen all day every day is very bad for your eyes and can lead to RSI, so it is important to take breaks from looking at a computer screen, whether that be focusing on written work or closing them momentarily. It is also significant to ensure that you practice looking at long-sighted objects, as screens are always close to your face. Doing this and blinking a lot helps to refocus the eyes and give them a break.
- Implementing exercise programs into your company and workplace can be a great way to get your staff moving and away from their desk space and computer screen. It can also help boost employee engagement too so it’s a win-win situation!
Working Environment Within The Workplace
Lighting is actually a very significant ergonomic sector that can sometimes go unnoticed, but it definitely needs to be addressed. Lighting levels should be attended to depending on the activity task in the office. The workplace should be well lit and especially luminous if your staff is reading paper documents, so this should be thought about for a group meeting perhaps.
- Glare is also a factor that needs to be taken into account too, so using anti-glare filters on a computer to reduce this for every employee is very important. You could also think about having window shields, to prevent glare from the outside weather which could be quite distracting.
- There are also settings available on computers and laptops to adjust the brightness and contrast levels to suit each person’s preferences. You should make sure that all your employees are aware of this so that they don’t injure their eyes unnecessarily.
- Cleaning your individual workstation and clearing it of any mess and untidiness should be promoted. Ensuring that desks are cleaned regularly and sorted at the end of the day can really help with mental organization. Desks and documents should be dust-free too to eliminate the possibility of illness due to dust. Air cleaners could also be introduced to get air circulating more in the office as well.
- It can also be quite distracting if there is a lot of noise in the area where employees are working. Everyone should be conscious of this and take it into consideration. Meetings involving lots of employees should be held in private rooms and spaces so that others are not affected by the noise generated. Additionally, if possible, it would be a good idea to place loud equipment such as printers in other rooms to reduce the noise in the office created from them.
- You could also, if needed, promote the use of earbuds or headphones to help employees zone out from sounds around them and encourage them to focus on their work and productivity.
- Ensure that there are no physical hazards such as cables or wires around that can cause people to trip over and hurt themselves. Invest in cable ties or cable boxes that keep them all together away from employees walking through the space.
Organization, Style, And Breaks
- Planning is the key to success, so it is important that every day has a plan and structure to remove any stress felt by your employees. It would be good to also set expectations for your staff that are realistic and achievable so that there is no additional stress here too. Avoiding long amounts of time featuring the same activity can go hand in hand with this too, for example working on a computer for a certain amount of time then switching to answering phone calls can help with planning and articulating engagement with employees.
- There are some parts of the working day, or even months of the year that are generally more stressful than others, so evening out the workload so that these times aren’t as heavy or aggravating. You could also alter and change the activities for the day so that it is more interesting and enjoyable for your staff.
- Having a sense of organization in the office may go unnoticed but it can make a real difference in the way your employees work and react to their office space. Make sure you organize your equipment, supplies, and office furniture so that each day you and your employees start afresh and feel ready to begin.
- As mentioned earlier, it is important to set expectations for your staff. This should be done alongside acknowledging employees’ accomplishments and ideas generated by them to help ensure they feel settled and appreciated at work.
- You could also include more privacy aspects into the office, such as partitions and privacy filters for computer screens. This yet again helps employees to feel like they are listened to and their personal work matters to those above them.
- Although these are office ergonomics, it is important to suggest that your staff practice these at home, whilst commuting and at work too, so that they really are benefitting from the techniques and ideas provided to them. It will also ensure that they are less likely to suffer from injuries and health problems in general, and not just work.
Examples of Office Ergonomics
Located here are a few images that will help give you an idea of what your office and workstation should look like, for both inspiration and reference:
This is a great example from EHS Today on how you should be sat at your workstation to maximize good posture.
Having height-adjustable desks like the one in this image, as well as having other places for employees to change their position and activity is a significant aspect to implement into your workplace.
Not only does this example from Medium show a good sitting position it also presents an organized desk and working space which is good to have so that employees don’t get muddled around with different pieces of work.
So, to conclude, ergonomics is a vital part of office life. When implemented successfully and sufficiently, it can really boost the safety of your workplace and the satisfaction of those who work for you too. Office ergonomics cover everything from the posture of you and your employees to the office setting: lighting and noise. It is fairly simple to enforce ergonomic strategies in your company. And is important that it is done to a high standard to help boost staff engagement and improve the work environment.