Office Ergonomics

The past two blog entries have focused on industrial ergonomics.  Hopefully you have a greater understanding of ergonomics in an industrial setting and are a master at implementing simple cost-effective solutions to improve workstations.  Now that you are an industrial expert, you may be wondering how ergonomics apply to an office setting.  Industrial ergonomics and office ergonomics may seem like completely different practices; however, it is surprising how many commonalities the two studies have.

Simply put, office ergonomics is like industrial ergonomics on a smaller scale.  Everything being handled is smaller, lighter and less physically demanding.  Where industrial positions may be extremely active and dynamic in nature, requiring frequent to constant levels of a variety of movements, office ergonomics are static in nature and may require only a few movements. In many ways, improving office ergonomics can be more puzzling than improving industrial ergonomics due to everything happening on such a small scale.

What are Common Complaints?

My services are typically requested when an employee is experiencing some sort of discomfort associated with sitting and they have filed a complaint with their manager.  Neck and back discomfort are the most common complaints and the employee is usually convinced that their workstation is a contributing factor.  For the most part, there are usually affordable, easy to implement solutions that can be utilized. Please notice that I said “affordable” in the last sentence.  In a previous post, I mentioned that the word “ergonomic” is a buzz word that is placed in the title of most new office related product. When I consult with an employee about the discomfort they are experiencing and the design of their workstation, 9 times out of 10 they are convinced that purchasing a more “ergonomic” chair is the answer to their problems.  This employee is usually disgruntled, does not want to listen to what I have to say and usually has a self-selected a chair on amazon for $500 that has the word “ergonomic” in the description.  This chair is expensive and talks about ergonomics, so it must be good, right? The team member is convinced that if their manager would approve the purchase of this chair, their issues will magically disappear, and they become a happier, more productive employee.  Most of the time, their current chair is fine (the setup is just wrong) and they are oblivious to the real issues that are causing their symptoms. 

Let’s Pretend that Instead of Hiring a Professional to do an Ergo Analysis, You Bought the $500 Chair Instead

Raise your hand if that is you! Come on, it is okay to admit.  If you have found yourself in the situation I described above (buying the $500 “ergonomic” chair) it probably didn’t take long for you to figure out this was not the solution.  Usually, after using the new chair, symptoms remain (or get worse), and the employee becomes more frustrated and confused as to what the problem is.  Additionally, the other 50 team members the department have become frustrated because they did not receive this new “ergonomic” chair.  So, you purchase new chairs for 50 more people.  $25,000.00 later, you have no solutions, people are still complaining, and you now have a very expensive problem on your hands.

But did it have to Come to This?

The short answer is no.  By following some very simple guidelines, this $25,000.00 problem could have been addresses for rather minimal investment.  This small investment would have been effective, built a culture of wellness and improved workplace dynamics.  Office ergonomics should be an opportunity to create a better work environment, not create a workplace mutiny! 

In Summary

Office ergonomics is the study of how a worker interacts with their workspace (usually desk/computer etc.) and determining ways to improve setup and efficiency.  Most of the time, the solution to improving the workstation is simple and cost effective.  Spending a large sum of money does not equal a successful intervention. Sometimes, the workstation could be set up perfectly, but the employee may have symptoms that are a result of something unrelated to ergonomics. It is important to utilize a specialist to determine what is causing these symptoms and make engineering, administrative or work practice control recommendations. In next weeks post we will provide some easy ergonomic solutions office workstations.

If I can be of any assistance to you or if you have any questions, please connect with me by your favorite platform below.  I would love to start a conversation!

#MUUVWell,

Kevin Winn B.S., CIEE, CSCS, NSCA-CPT

Kevin is the Executive Director of HealthWorks Kinesiology and is a Certified Industrial Ergonomic Evaluator (CIEE), Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) and a Certified Personal Trainer (NSCA-CPT).  Kevin holds a bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology and Health Promotion from Louisiana Tech University.

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