Why ergonomics matters: comfort affects productivity

Ergonomics encompasses just about everything about comfort in the workplace, including the size and brightness of your monitor, the space on your desk, and even how you hold your hands when typing an email. An improper ergonomic workspace can leave you feeling unnecessarily tired, grouchy, and sore – and that can lead to an unproductive work life. Over time, the wrong ergonomic set-up can even cause debilitating and painful degenerative problems such as carpal tunnel syndrome. Here are five common physical problems improper ergonomics can cause, along with ways to combat them!

1. Bad Posture

Sitting hunched over a keyboard or a steering wheel all day can lead to painful lower back problems such as bulging discs and strained muscles. The human body is designed to be in motion and can only sustain a single position for about twenty minutes without pain. In common seated-job scenarios, people tend to sit toward the front of their seats to focus more intently on the road or the computer. The best way to combat this is simple: sit back so the seat’s lumbar and neck supports can do their job. Place your feet flat on the floor. Finally, shift positions or stand up and move around as often as possible, but no less than five minutes per 20 minutes of sitting time.

2. Carpal tunnel syndrome

Many professional writers and people who spend a lot of time typing are prone to this extremely painful degenerative disease. Carpal tunnel is so named because when the median nerve, which runs through the carpal tunnel into the palm, thumb, index and middle fingers becomes inflamed, it can affect the range of motion and strength in the hand, as well as causing numbness, tingling, and pain. To combat this, you can use a special ergonomic brace for your keyboard or lower your desk so your wrists don’t raise upward while you’re typing.

3. Eye Strain

Eye strain is one of the most common problems an ergonomically incorrect workspace can cause. If left uncorrected long enough, this can result in degenerative eye diseases such as astigmatism and nearsightedness. These can frequently result in the need for corrective lenses or eye surgery. Keeping your computer screen dimmed, especially when you are using it for long periods, and making sure your workspace is well lit can help prevent this problem. It’s also a good idea to take frequent breaks, especially when staring at a computer monitor or plan text for long periods. If possible, arrange your computer screen so it’s 18-24 inches from your face and you’re reading it from a downward angle.

4. Repetitive Strain Injury

Anything you do repetitively day in and day out can cause RSI. This applies equally to typing and pushing wheelbarrows, as well as using a hammer, turning a spanner…just about anything your job requires on a regular basis can bring on RSI. Keeping a good posture and using appropriate safety equipment (see Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, above) can help reduce or eliminate RSI symptoms.

5. Twisted Posture

This may seem to tie in with bad posture, and in some ways it does. However, in many offices, space is at a premium, forcing employees to sit in awkward positions. If possible, arrange your desk, monitor, and chair so everything sits in a straight line. Keep your desk phone and other things you use frequently close, so you can reach them without straining. If there’s not a way to reorganise your cubicle, ask your employer if it’s possible to move the wall back enough to give you a proper alignment to prevent posture and RSI problems.

*This article was supplied by Joe Shervell, a blogger and small-business enthusiast. He wrote this on behalf of www.officefurnitureexpress.co.uk, UK-based office furniture suppliers.

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