In fact, these conditions are so common in the workplace that the Australian Work Health and Safety Strategy considers them (musculoskeletal disorders) a top priority. After all, the pain they bring can be so debilitating they lead to hospitalisations.
The good news is, you can apply the science of ergonomics at the workplace to prevent such conditions.
But what is ergonomics exactly? How does it work to help combat pain?
All these and more, we'll explain throughout this post! Keep reading to learn how this scientific method can make everyone in the office healthier and safer.
A (Visual) Intro to Ergonomics
Imagine it's the weekend. You've reserved your day off from work for a much-needed get together with family and friends. You're stoked to see them, so you plan to make a gastronomical feast for everyone.
As you reach for your fridge's veggie compartment, you feel a sudden dull and aching pain on your lower back. A few seconds later, the aches travel down to your hips.
All these are symptoms of low back pain. A condition that as much as 70 to 90 per cent of people will experience at some point in their life.
And you know what? One of the most common culprits behind it comes as a shock to many people: Sitting!
Yes, sitting is vital. But according to health experts, too much of it can result in diabetes, overweight or obesity, and heart disease. Some studies have shown that it can even heighten your risks for cancer!
This is where applying correct ergonomics in the workplace come into play.
What is Ergonomics?
Let's start with the technical stuff first.
Ergonomics is the study of the science behind workplace design, layout, and environment. It's the scientific process of ensuring a workplace (and everything it contains) fits the needs of all its users.
The "ergon" in the term ergonomics is a Greek word that means "work". Nomos is Greek for "laws." Together, they form the word that means addressing a person's needs by analysing his/her interaction with the objects used at work.
Understanding how these "interactions" affect us humans is important. This is how ergonomics can then help improve both the design and the function of these objects. By determining the human body's range and capability, ergonomists can increase the effectiveness and safety of these interactions.
The Impact of Poor Ergonomics
To better understand how ergonomics work and its importance, let's talk about how lack of it can lead to suffering.
Musculoskeletal disorders (think neck, shoulder, back, and wrist pain) aren't the only problems resulting from poor workplace ergonomics. It also puts employees at higher risk of other injuries. For instance, those that affect the nervous system.
All these can lead to pain and problems with movement. These conditions can be so debilitating that they force hundreds of thousands of employees to take time off work.
Between 2015 and 2016 alone, a staggering count of 786,000 Aussies took time off from work. All due to health conditions like back pain. What's more, this cost the nation A$37.2 billion in income support.
Even if employees don't call in sick, those who are sick and still come to work still cost their employers in some form. Though physically present, their painful conditions bring their productivity levels down. This can then lead to loss of concentration, which can affect their work output.
Working while already in pain can make exacerbate their condition too. Plus, they're more at risk of accidents that can lead to even more injuries. In fact, 90% of serious claims filed between 2014 and 2015 had something to do with injuries and musculoskeletal disorders.
As you can see, ergonomics play a massive role in keeping people hard at work safe and healthy. So... How do you incorporate it in your own workplace?
Build an Ergonomic Workstation
With many hardworking Aussies sitting as much as 77% of the time at work, it's no wonder a lot of them suffer from MSDs.
As such, better workplace ergonomics often start with making the switch to ergonomic workstations. This means swapping those non-adjustable chairs and desks with ones that offer better body support.
Here are the key elements to look for when investing in healthier workstations:
- Chairs that provide sufficient lumbar support and promotes better posture
- Chairs and desks that have adjustable heights (to accommodate any user)
- Chairs that have comfortable and adjustable arm and backrests
- Chairs with easy-to-rotate swivels and packed with enough padding (go for breathable materials)
Aside from ergonomic seats and desks, you should also invest in footrests. Not a lot of people consider them a primary ergonomic accessory, but they bring massive health benefits.For starters, they help improve circulation.
This is especially important for people already suffering from lower back and leg pains. These accessories provide a welcome relief from sore feet (think of how it feels good to put your legs up). They also correct poor leg position that places a huge strain on the lower back.
Other Strategies to Make Your Workplace More Ergonomic
Make sure that everyone also has adequate task lighting in their workstations, which prevents eyestrains and headaches. Go for lighting systems that have adjustable features, so that users can either dim or brighten them depending on how much illumination they need.
High-quality monitor arms, with their adjustable levers, make computer screen positioning a cinch. Proper screen position keeps the eyes level and looking straight ahead. This also helps keep eyestrains as well as neck and shoulder pains at bay.
Stay Healthy and Productive with Ergonomic Workplace Equipment
Now that you have the answer to "What is ergonomics?", start making the right choices and improvements ASAP! With the right office furnishing, equipment, and accessories, you can reduce the likelihood of common workplace disorders affecting everyone at work.
Remember: Healthy employees are happy employees, and happy employees are the most productive.
Want to know more about ergonomics in the workplace? Then please feel free to check our resources page!