Workplace ergonomics: Comfortable Work Environment 32 Tips
The goal of office ergonomics is to design an office workstation that doesn’t just fit the business and the brand, but also suits the people, creating a comfortable working environment that encourages maximum productivity and efficiency.
The ancient Greek word ergonomics means the study of human efficiency in the working environment. Ergonomics in the workplace is something you can't ignore. Every business needs to think about workplace ergonomics when creating their office design, simply because good ergonomics make people feel good, and people who feel good work harder and better. In short, it's the science of refining product design to optimise them for human use, and it covers all manner of kit including desks, chairs and computers.
At least ten million Brits work at a desk, in an office, whether at home or at an employer's premises, and we tend to spend an average of 42 hours a week there. We tend to spend as much as 70% of our time at work sitting down. Around 90% of working Brits use a computer for their job, and too many are stuck with a workstation that isn't fit for purpose. In a world where a massive 28.2 million working days are lost every year thanks to work-related illness and injury, ergonomic working is more important than ever.
Say you want to create a comfortable working environment for your people, or for yourself. What, exactly, does it involve? Here's some expert insight into ergonomic issues in the workplace., our top 23 tips for comfort and well-being.
The main causes of office work-related pain
The major causes of pain in an office work setting are:
- Furniture and equipment that isn't set up properly or is poorly adjusted
- Workstation layouts that are poorly organised or inappropriate
- Being forced to adopt an awkward posture for a sustained amount of time
- Reaching and stretching too much, too often
- Sitting still for too long
- Stress and muscular tension as a result of all of the above
Safety suggestions at work - First, remember everyone is different
One of the key principles of ergonomic excellence is that no two people are the same. One in ten of us, for example, is left-handed. Fifteen percent of us find it hard to read 10 point text without glasses or a magnifier. One in ten of us has dyslexia, and one in five will ultimately end up with a disability of some kind.
Disabled employees might struggle with hot-desking, and some people might not have a proper desk at all, stuck working at a table or bench. But everyone deserves a suitable workstation, one that dovetails with the task at hand.
Employers like you need to make 'reasonable' changes to avoid discrimination, including modifying workstations and furniture, adapting computers and other tech, improving access, allowing flexible working and different ways of working that enable people to fulfil their role.
Workstation issues – 7 tips for creating healthy workstations
An ergonomic workstation makes all the difference between an unhappy, unproductive person and someone who thrives at work. When your chair is poorly adjusted or unsuitable, a few hours sitting at it will leave you in pain. Badly positioned monitors and keyboards have the same effect. Luckily the main causes of pain and discomfort in an office setting are fairly easy to fix.
Here are six hot tips to help you:
- Adjust the furniture and equipment to suit the individual's height and the type of work they do – does anyone need an ergonomic management keyboard, for example? Or a special computer desk for disabled people? Ergonomic keyboards are more comfortable, easier to use, place less stress on the hands and wrists, and can reduce stress, pain and discomfort dramatically
- Help people organise their workstations so they're well laid out and appropriate for their role
- Make sure nobody has to adopt a painful or difficult posture for any length of time, particularly in awkward or twisted positions, both of which can easily damage a person's back
- Ensure nobody has to spend a lot of time reaching up or stretching
- Make sure nobody sits still for too long – a static posture can be very damaging, resulting in stress and muscular tension
- Check everyone knows how to use and position their mouse and associated equipment to avoid pain
- If anyone suffers from pain, see whether a standing desk might reduce the discomfort
17 DIY ergonomics tips for employees
Employees can do a lot for themselves. Here are seventeen top tips for employees.
- Move your chair close to your workstation so you don't have to reach for your keyboard and mouse and potentially strain yourself
- Don't hunch, sit straight and upright and let the chair back support you
- You should have an adjustable chair – if not, ask for one. Then incline your seat 5-10° downwards for supreme comfort
- Face your computer screen head-on and don't twist your neck or body
- Also place your keyboard straight so you're not twisting your body or body when using it
- Position your computer screen at eye level
- If you use a laptop, raise it up and use a separate keyboard
- Sit with your feet flat on the floor, or support them on a stool if you're too short to do that
- Stare into the distance every ten minutes or so to avoid straining your eyes
- Avoid glare and reflections on the screen. If you can, site your screen at right angles to a window. If you still suffer a glare on your screen, ask for an anti-glare device to mask it
- Consciously relax your shoulders frequently and get in the habit of checking in case you're hunching, slouching or tensing up
- Make sure your upper arms hang naturally from your shoulders, creating a right angle at the elbow when you type
- Keep your head directly above your neck – it's so much more comfortable than craning forwards
- Don't sit in a way that puts weight more on one side of your body than the other
- Never talk on the phone with the receiver between your ear and your neck – it's really bad for you
- Avoid eye-strain – don't place your screen to close, keep it at least an arm’s length away
- Care for your your musculoskeletal system by drinking plenty of water, getting plenty of exercise, stretching, taking regular breaks and avoiding staying still for too long
7 tips for using your mouse properly
Poor computer mouse protocols alone can leave a person in pain. Here are 7 simple tips to use a mouse safely.
- If your hands are unusually large or small, get an adjustable-size mouse
- Don't use your wrist to move it, use your elbow
- If you use a tracking mouse, take care not to over-use it
- Learn keyboard shortcuts so you use the mouse less often ...
- Have you tested a mouse with a scrolling wheel? Some people find them more comfortable than a regular mouse
- Click gently, since clicking hard means you're probably straining yourself
- Know how to hold the mouse properly Make sure you're holding your mouse correctly, nice and loosely with your arm bent at 90 degrees
One last ergonomic workstation tip – How to resolve existing pain at work
Last but not least, if someone who works for you is in pain, a qualified physiotherapist will be able to recommend effective exercise to either help alleviate the issue or solve it completely.
We'll help you achieve your ergonomic goals
Ergonomics is part and parcel of what we do, a vital element of our work. If you'd like to ensure every single one of your employees feels comfortable at your premises, fully able to do an excellent job for you without experiencing pain or discomfort, we'll be pleased to advise you about ergonomics in the workplace.