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7 Ways to Improve Workplace Ergonomics

27 July 2023

The best way to maximize productivity in the workplace is to maximize safety in the workplace. Any organization, regardless of how big or small it is, should keep in mind that the safety of their employees is crucial to smooth operations.

Not only is this because a safe employee is physically able to work better, but also because when employees feel cared for and protected, they are a lot more likely to feel motivated to work.

Good ergonomic practices for the workplace are required for the work environment to be one that is safe to work in. Without keeping these in mind, you could be exposing your employees to the risk of injury, or mental health trouble which affects work and productivity as well.

So, how do you go about it? Here are 7 ways to improve workplace ergonomics.

How To Improve Workplace Ergonomics

1. Encouraging Good Working Posture

No matter what kind of work your employees do, there will always be a good posture for it and a bad posture. Bad posture can cause all sorts of problems, from muscle stiffness and tension to nerve compression and long-term pains. Regardless of what kind of work is being done, making sure that good posture is being maintained is the number one priority from an ergonomic standpoint.

Sitting Posture

The body should be in a neutral position, with no stressful angles. When sitting, office workers should be sitting with their hands and forearms parallel to the floor. The head should be level and in line with the torso. You shouldn't be tilting your head to look up or down, but straight ahead.

Your thighs should be parallel to the floor and your back should be straight, ideally pressed to the backrest. Your feet should also be resting on the floor.

This kind of posture is difficult to maintain on your own, which is why it's important to get an ergonomic office chair, like FlexiSpot's Standard Office Chair (C5) This chair comes with lumbar support, armrests, and a headrest to make sure your body remains supported. You can also adjust your height based on what setting you need.

Standing Posture

Sitting for long stretches is not very good though, which is why a sit-stand desk, such as FlexiSpot's Kana Bamboo Standing Desk, is also a very good investment. Standing at the workstation has ergonomic benefits, but keeping a good posture here is also very important. Employees should be standing straight, with their arms and wrists in a neutral position, elbows bent at a 90-degree angle.

Your weight should also be equally distributed between your feet, rather than putting too much of it on either foot.

Standing is good for the body because it helps curb some of the downsides of sitting, such as obesity, circulatory problems, etc. but standing for very long stretches is also not a good idea. That's why a sit-stand desk is a better option than a standing desk which does not allow for adjustment.

FlexiSpot's Kana Desk is also a great option in this regard because you can adjust the height of the desk even while sitting to make sure that your entire body's posture is correct and that you are not putting too much stress on any part.

2. Display Height & Distance

Another important aspect of workplace ergonomics is to look at the distance and height of the displays you provide your employees with. People with different heights would have different requirements around these things.

The ideal height and distance for a computer display is approximately one arm's distance away, and at a height where the top of the screen is at eye level with a person looking straight ahead.

The display should not require someone to strain their neck or squint to see the screen. Bending forwards or looking down can put a strain on the muscles in your shoulder, neck, and upper back and cause problems. With a monitor, this is easier, but it becomes a bit trickier when you're using a laptop. In such cases, a laptop stand can help.

The Portable Laptop Stand Docking Station TD1 is a possible option for this. Not only will it hold your laptop, but it also gives you the option to connect devices to your computer as well through the cable and ports it provides, and it comes with a design that keeps the base exposed for faster cooling.

Regardless of whether you're using a monitor or laptop though, you shouldn't bring the screen too close. If you have trouble reading what's on it, it's best to increase the font size rather than to bring it closer than one arm's distance.

3. Keyboard & Mouse Positioning

The keyboard and mouse are often just afterthoughts when it comes to ergonomics. If you're not using a mouse and keyboard already, you should. Laptop users are at a much higher risk of RSIs and MSDs because of the way laptops are constructed. Even if you're working with a laptop, getting peripheral mice and keyboards can help protect you when you're working at your desk.

The positioning of your mouse and keyboard also matters. If you have to constantly reach out for the mouse, or if either of them requires your hands and wrists to be positioned at a bad angle, the neutral position is lost and you are much more likely to face pains and injuries.

Both of these should be kept in places where your arms remain in a neutral position, you don't have to reach out for them and if possible, can be adjusted for the user's requirements.

Flexibility is a key aspect of good ergonomics.

4. Repetitive Movement

In office settings, most problems stem from the fact that work is done repetitively. No matter how perfect your workplace ergonomics are, they can still put stress on your muscles and cause injury unless you break up the monotony.

The easiest way to fix the problem is to switch around between tasks. Break your tasks up into smaller chunks and do them one at a time, rather than all the work at once and then switching to another task. Breaking up the repetition is necessary to prevent the muscles from becoming stressed.

If you can't do this, you should try and change the way in which you are working - without losing the neutral position! For example, from sitting upright, switch to standing, or from sitting reclined, sit upright instead. Changing your angle can do the job just fine.

However, it's a lot better to switch tasks than to switch angles.

5. Environment

Besides just the equipment in the office space, making sure that the environment is suitable is also important. This includes things like lighting, temperature, humidity, layout, etc. If the lighting is too dull or too bright, it can cause fatigue in employees. Temperature should be set at something that is comfortable for as many people as possible, and cold should be avoided to prevent injuries because of how stiff and tense muscles can get in the cold.

6. Breaks

Taking breaks is essential for ergonomics. No matter how great your ergonomic practices are and how much you switch between tasks, you should be taking breaks. A five-minute break every half hour, or a ten-minute break every hour is good for you, and you should use it to stretch and relax.

Take a walk around the place to release some of the built-up tension in your muscles and improve your blood flow. This is especially true if you've been sitting for long periods of time.

You should also use your breaks to look around and reduce the amount of eye fatigue you place on yourself. If you spend the day looking at the computer, using your breaks to look at your phone screen is not going to help you relax, it will only add to the total screen time.

Instead, look around and relax your eyes as frequently as possible.

You can and should also implement the 20-20-20 rule, which is to look at something 20 feet away every 20 minutes for 20 seconds. This helps refocus the eyes and relax them.

7. Ergonomic Training

No matter what you do as an employer, you can't force your employees to follow good ergonomic practices unless you can emphasize to them how important it is. For example, even if you use ergonomic chairs and sit-stand desks and provide peripheral devices, it is ultimately your employees' choice whether they use them the right way or not. It is very much possible to sit incorrectly on an ergonomic chair.

Teaching your employees the importance of ergonomics is necessary to make sure that they are following these steps as well. After all, their well-being depends on it.

By emphasizing that you care about their physical and mental health, you can also make your employees trust you more since they feel cared for. When they feel that their health and wellness are being given priority, they are a lot more likely to feel motivated to work harder and more productively than otherwise.

Having good ergonomic practices doesn't just result in less injuries, it also results in happier employees.