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21 December 2017
Written by Gareth Jones
What is an Ergonomic Office?
Is your office built around the needs of your employees – or do your employees have to fit around your office design?
Ergonomics is one of the biggest buzzwords in office design at the moment, and introducing ergonomic principles, equipment and furniture into your office can deliver real benefits in terms of both productivity and office welfare.
In this post, we tackle some commonly asked questions about ergonomics – looking at what it is, the benefits and how you can enact it in your workplace - so what is an ergonomic office?
An ergonomic workplace is one that’s designed with the needs of its employees and productivity in mind. The goal of an ergonomic workplace is to adapt to the needs of each individual worker, providing them with the equipment, space and furniture they require to complete their individual role and tasks in a comfortable and productive manner.
Ergonomics can deliver real, measurable benefits to an organisation in terms of employee health, wellbeing and productivity. In addition to reducing periods of absence due to common workplace injuries and illnesses (especially back pain), it can also reduce the time it takes employees to complete the day to day tasks associated with their job roles.
An ergonomic chair is one that can be adjusted to suit the requirements of the person sitting in it, so they are able to complete their tasks in comfort. To be ergonomic, an office chair should feature easily adjustable: seat height, back rest, seat, armrests and lumbar support. It should also have sufficient padding, casters that roll easily, a concave seat shape and the ability to make adjustments whilst seated.
You should sit on a properly adjusted, ergonomic office chair to minimise the risk of back pain and repetitive strain injuries. Your screen should be directly in front of you, and at eye-level to minimise the risk of neck pain. Frequently used objects should be placed within easy reach to reduce straining. Put your keyboard directly in front of you, with a 10-15cm gap at the front of the desk, and the mouse as close as possible (use a wrist pad to avoid strains).
To avoid common posture related and repetitive strain injuries, you should sit so that your back is properly supported up to the shoulders, with your feet rested flat on the floor. Your arms should be supported by the armrest, with your wrists and forearms straight and level and your arms bent in an L shape at the elbow. An ergonomic, adjustable office chair will make this much easier and more comfortable.
Start by putting your hips as far back as they will go, so your lower back is fully supported – then adjust the backrest so your upper back is comfortable. Place your feet flat on the floor (or on a footrest if more comfortable), and adjust the height so that your knees are slightly lower than your hips. Now, place your arms on the armrests, and adjust them so that your wrists and forearms are level with the floor.
Everyone is different – and the best office chair is an ergonomic chair that can be adjusted to suit the requirements of each individual, and a full range of job roles. The best office chair is one that provides effective support, improves the posture and is comfortable – this will help to reduce the instances of workplace injury and improve employee wellbeing.
The three ergonomic risk factors are high task repetition, repetitive and/or sustained awkward postures and forceful exertions. High task repetition (doing the same task over and over each day) is a leading cause of musculoskeletal disorders (MSD) and pain. Awkward postures can contribute towards strains in joints, tendons and muscles. Forceful exertion (like heavy lifting) can cause a range of problems, including fatigue, MSDs and strains.
According to the U.S. Department of Labour Occupational Safety & Health Organisation (OSHA), ergonomics is defined as the study of work. It is described as the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than forcing the worker’s body to fit the job role. In practice, it involves adapting the job role, tasks, equipment, tools and office furniture to reduce physical stress on each individual’s body.
Productivity is the basis of every successful organisation – and taking steps to improve productivity delivers real benefits for customers, employees and the company. For employees, being more productive contributes to the performance of an organisation – potentially leading to better pay, bonuses and benefits. To an organisation, it leads to better performance and profits.
Ergonomic design is the science of creating and refining the design of all kinds of products for human use – making them more comfortable and useful in the process. It considers how the human body works, and how a range of different human characteristics (like height, weight and proportions) impact the design of a product. Ergonomic office furniture is designed to reduce physical stress, strains, discomfort and fatigue – so people can work productively and comfortably for extended periods of time.
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