We can all relate to the satisfaction of a pencil grip that you can hold just right, or the comfort of that neck pillow that gets you through a red-eye. Ergonomic design is all around us, working with us to optimize, elevate and enhance our behavior. Ergonomic design is specifically and scientifically tailored to optimize human productivity. From the shape to the size, or even the texture, any product that is ergonomic in function has been sculpted in order to enhance productivity and a person’s well-being.
So what is ergonomic design, anyway? Ergonomic design is solution-oriented, intended to comply with both the strengths and limitations of human physicality. The design engages in anthropic study (the biological design of the human body: our statistics, our proportions, our posture). It leans on the principle of “shape borrowing,” creating a product that is bespoke to fit the instrument or body part with which it interacts.
From Ancient Roots
While we deem ergonomic design to be highly innovative, the reality is that ergonomic design has been a part of human culture for thousands of years. The term itself was coined in the mid-19th Century, and we can clearly see the principle woven into the design and systems of days past.
- Ancient Tools and Efficiencies - While basic tools and weapons have existed since the dark ages, we credit Ancient societies such as The Greeks and Egyptians for their innovative and resourceful design use. They elevated their systems to optimize human physicality. Take for instance the pulley system or the wheel. These instruments require human leverage, and, once optimized by our actions, work to enhance our productivity. This is a primitive ergonomic design at its simplest and finest.
- The Industrial Revolution - In the 18th and 19th century the boom in economy and industry efficiency fueled an enormous evolution in industrial prowess. This helped society catapult into the contemporary working structures that we recognize today. The development of ergonomic design specific to the needs of the workplace became a vital factor in this movement. The emphasis on productivity was clear, and workers needed the utilities to attain it.
- 19th Century Ergonomic Aesthetic - By the 19th century, ergonomic design was elevated beyond the simple matter of usability and gained prominence through fashion and artistic aesthetic. A key figure in this movement was Antoni Gaudi, the Spanish architect who carefully curated every detail of his designs for maximum ergonomic efficiency. In Gaudi’s apartment, even the most basic utilities such as doorknobs and banisters were crafted with attention paid to ergonomics.
- 19th Century Great Exhibition - In 1851 Thomas E. Warren presented his patented design for the Centripetal Spring Armchair1. This breakthrough serves as a springboard to the contemporary renditions of an ergonomic chair, still used in contemporary offices across the country.
- Ergonomic Workspace - Since the 20th Century, the conversation about Ergonomic principles and design have primarily been in relation to systems within the workspace. The invention of the computer revolutionized the office experience and the notion of a “desk job.” Careers became sedentary, confined to the limits of a seat and screen. Given this lifestyle shift, Ergonomic design belongs at the forefront of conversation, as we pioneer a way to create a workspace that best fulfills our human needs and health habits.
Ergonomics in the Workplace
What does all this mean to an employer? Beyond basic functuay and a well-lit environment, ergonomic designs surpass the basic needs for interior style. The following areas of conversation serve as a good starting point for anyone looking to renovate their office space. We recommend taking a mental inventory: what does a typical workday look like at your company? What are the lifestyle needs of each team you employ? What does the quality of life look like? Is there a culture where rest and walking is encouraged? Is most of your work screen-based?
These questions will help you to denote the appropriate ergonomic office set up for you.
Standing Versus Sitting
Workplace ergonomics is turning office culture on its head. Picture an office environment. No matter what comes to mind, be it rows of cubicles, be it the babbling cacophony of a newsroom, the sleek meeting rooms of Madison Avenue, or even the Oval Office, chances are you’re envisioning a setup of desks and chairs. Since elementary school, we learn to sit in order to work. This is our status quo, the desired posture for concentration and productivity.
Ergonomics disputes this and instead proposes that we stand at our desks. The benefits of standing are bountiful:
- Your posture is better since your neck no longer arches from your chair to your computer screen.
- Your chest isn’t crumbled, allowing you to breath deeper.
- The more oxygen in your body, the better your brain’s effectiveness and concentration.
- You burn approximately 88 more calories an hour if you are standing rather than seated.
- While this isn’t enormous it will have a long term impact on decreasing weight gain and increasing metabolism, which in turn helps to prevent obesity and diabetes type 2.
At Mount-It we offer ergonomic computer stands & sit stand desks that allow you to stand at your current seated desk. These solutions allow for a range of flexibility, no matter the current furniture status of your office space, there is a solution for you.
More so, the stands are compatible with slow-moving treadmills (for those who wish to stay in motion while working). Take standing to the next level, and work at a gentle pace of 1.5 miles an hour. This slow walk will allow you to burn 210 calories per hour and is highly recommended for anyone looking to battle obesity or make a more dramatic lifestyle change.
American adults spend an average of 10 hours each day3 on their computer screens. For a tool that we use frequently, it is vital that we give due attention to the right and wrong ways to position ourselves to the screen. This is easier said than done. Much of our lapse in posture is entirely unconscious: the lull of your neck if your screen is too small, the hunch of your shoulders that are already carrying the physical stress of the week. Paradoxically, sitting stiff as a board with a bolt upright back is equally unnatural and sure to take a toll on your neck and shoulders.
This is where the beauty of ergonomic design kicks in. Investing in computer/laptop stands or monitor mounts transforms the positioning of your computer to specifically benefit your physical needs. When adjusted to suit your height, you’ll find yourself capable of sitting with your shoulders back looking up to the screen, rather than stooping down to it. This open posture alleviates the potential for long-term back issues or headaches caused by spinal stress. The adjustability of these utensils enables you to build out specific stations individually tailored to the bodily dynamics of each employee.
From Your Wrists To Your Toes
Every last detail of ergonomic design counts. There is a purpose to every design attribute, which breeds from an anthropomorphic understanding of our bodily needs. For example, details as small as the positioning of your wrist to your keyboard not only has a colossal effect on your short-term productivity but also on your long-term health.
Chiropractors recommend sitting with your elbow joints at a neat 90-degree angle. This allows for open movement in your arms and wrist while continuing to encourage your chest to remain forward (with your shoulders stretched back and down). This positioning eases blood flow, which is highly important when your wrists are working a mouse or keyboard. The tiny, repetitive movements of these tasks can be damaging and open blood flow eases any cramps or discomfort that could ultimately lead to carpal tunnel.
At Mount-It, every mouse pad and keyboard is designed with a padded cushion that supports the wrist, lifting it comfortably and enabling you to hit that 90-degree angle with precision. This is the point of ergonomic design: not to disrupt your flow, but to give you the tools to operate at your highest efficiency.
Our mounted floor pad provides this same cushioning for the soles of your feet. If you are adopting a standing desk, then this is a vital complement. The mat works to absorb any shock from movement, and to ease the strain on your knees and ankles. This means that even in the most crippling of heels or smart office shoes, you can guarantee that your feet will feel as comfortable and supported as if you were wearing your favorite sneakers.
The Physical Benefits of Good Ergonomics Design
Introducing ergonomics design into the workplace can have the following implications:
- Reduction In Carpal Tunnel - Repetitive strain injuries cause American workers a collective 20 Billion dollars a year. In 267,000 annual cases4, such strains result in carpal tunnel surgeries, time off work, and hefty medical bills. The simple introduction of ergonomic tools can have a vast impact in decreasing the likelihood of RSI, and in doing so eliminate the issue of carpal tunnel.
- Reduce the Implications of Sedentary Behavior - The move to standing desks and the introduction of frequent breaks is the perfect combination to tackle the negative effects of sedentary behavior. The results will include:
- A decrease in the risk of diabetes
- An increase in metabolic function
- Reduced susceptibility to musculoskeletal disorders
- Lower risk of obesity
- Lower risk of back pain, neck tension, and bad posture
- Lesser Risk of Arthritis - The onset of arthritis is typically due to tension in joints from repetitive motions. At a desk job, one is susceptible to both of these arthritic triggers on a daily basis. Investing in workstations that work with the human body to limit tension will have a transformative effect on the long-term risk of arthritis.
The Mental Benefits of Good Ergonomics Design
Beyond the physical implications of poor ergonomics in the workplace, one should also be aware of the mental risks of an office job. The benefits of good ergonomics far surpass the physical. There are striking mental implications that should also be taken into account and celebrated.
An example is the way that ergonomic tools can help to reverse the negative side effects of DSE5. The very act of looking at a screen all day can have a profound effect on our mental well-being. It dampens creativity, stifles imagination and hinders concentration. More so the epidemic of screen dependency trickles far beyond the workplace: 80% of American smartphone users profess to checking their phones before brushing their teeth in the morning. An ergonomics design, such as a laptop stand, breeds a healthy boundary of where and when one uses their laptop, hopefully encouraging your employees to break patterns of screen dependency.
Healthier Working, Optimal Performance
The introduction of ergonomic products into your work area will have an obvious impact on the physicality of the room. More so, investing in ergonomics is a statement of company culture that will percolate far deeper than posture. It will no doubt have a cataclysmic effect on the education and appreciation of office health for your employees. As an employer, work hard to establish a culture that empowers your workers to take regular breaks, get outside, walk in meetings, and break the shackles of a desk lifestyle.