Why Is Ergonomics Important Anyways?

No matter what sphere of life you move in, ergonomic design will affect you in more ways than you know. The principles of ergonomics are an ever-silent, ever-present facet of the man-made world, hidden in the curve of a mouse key or the structure of an office chair. Ergonomics is the art of creating systems or products that specifically promote both the optimization of human physicality and the efficiency of the product’s use. The design considers how and why we use the objects around us combined with the biological posture of those actions.

Essentially, it’s a study on how we use our tools efficiently for both the result intended (the work) and our own preservation (the physicality). 

In short, it is an exploration of how a man-made product can optimize our human performance.  We typically talk about ergonomics with regard to workspace design. The desire here is to create a physical environment that correlates precisely to human needs. It requires a study of the systems around us, their common uses, and their betterment based purely on physical practicality. The International Ergonomics Association 1 describes this as the intent to “harmonize things that interact with people in terms of their needs, abilities, and limitations.”

Why Is Ergonomics Important in the Workspace?

The average American spends at least 8 hours in their working environment each day. In many industries, one will be required to work while seated at a computer for the majority of the day. The reality is that you don’t have to be in an intensive manual labor job to do long-term health damage to your body or risk injury. Whatever your working environment, there are always going to be risks to your physicality. 

The role of ergonomics in workplace design is to curate an environment that allows you to improve productivity and avoid long-term physical strain. The most common workplace injuries include: 

  • Musculoskeletal Injuries - Industries that require heavy lifting, carrying, and manhandling goods bare an obvious risk of muscular damage. However, even sedentary desk-bound jobs come with their own set of risks in this area:
    • Bad neck posture - Straining to stare at an awkwardly positioned computer screen results in cramped muscles and upper neck pain
    • Hunched back / Slouching - Results in lower back pain and spinal damage.
    • Lack of movement - The lack of movement causes your joints to become static and creates a higher propensity for strain when exercising 
  • Repetition - A true example of the subtle consequences of poor ergonomics, since even the merest movements can produce tremendous bodily damage; repetitive strain disorder brought about by small and simple repetitive movements. This leads to:
    • Carpal Tunnel - What starts as a mere twitch, a subtle strain from small continuous motions on a keyboard, can end up resulting in surgery that costs America in excess of $2 Billion 2every single year.
  • DSE Issues - Display Screen Equipment work pertains to any job that relies on a screen, be that computer or other. While scientists negate that DSE will not do long-term damage to one’s eyes, it does lead to short-term discomfort. Exercising regular screen breaks throughout the workday is vital in order to combat tiredness, eye discomfort/ squinting, and headaches.
  • Sedentary Behaviour - Long periods of sitting can have a colossally damaging effect on our well-being. Physicians recommend taking 30-minute incremental breaks to stretch and walk around throughout the day. Without breaks, one is at a higher risk of weight gain and diabetes.
  • Diabetes - Sitting for long hours as a drastic effect on metabolism and slows the creation of HDI Cholesterol (the good kind), both of which aid the prevention of diabetes type 2. 
  • Strained Neck and Lower Back - The daily rhythm of the workplace is like a petri-dish conditioned to spawn bad posture.  Atop the unpleasing aesthetic of a hunched back or rounded shoulders, the tension that these positions bare is harmful to the lower neck and shoulders. More so, this area also serves as a pressure point where most people carry their stress. This kind of tension can lead to severe back problems and even spinal injuries in the future. 
  • Arthritis - The onset of arthritis is typically due to tension in joints or repetitive motions. At a desk job, one is susceptible to both of these arthritic triggers on a daily basis. 

How to Change Your Work Culture

Across America, there has been a huge shift towards education and activism within the realm of health and safety risks in the work environment. No matter the size of your company, there are ways to educate, take inventory and make changes. The prolific Just Stand 3movement encourages offices across America to take regular standing breaks or walks throughout the day. Similarly, the Assessment of Repetitive Tasks (ART) provides an online inventory tool that allows you to vet and address the repetitive tasks and actions of individual employees in order to gauge the individual health and well-being of your team.

The Change

The best way to take pragmatic action is to create ergonomic systems and workspaces. Start by taking an inventory of your office environment: assess the various tasks and duties performed each day and evaluate how individual workspaces contribute to or limit the functionality of the task. 

In a large-scale or diverse company, you will find that there is no one-size-fits-all solution. It takes care and attention to build bespoke workstations that can enhance the specific tasks of each individual. Next, talk to your employees: discover what they believe to be their main pain points. Ask, “where do you feel your work lifestyle takes a toll on your mental and physical well-being?”

Start with low-impact changes. Take the following easy actions to increase general well-being:

  • Increase ventilation and the flow of clean, fresh air through all areas of the office. 
  • Keep air temperature between 55-60 Fahrenheit. 
  • Empower workers to take walking breaks, have meetings outside and generally increase time away from their desk.
  • Provide healthy snacks, fruits and teas to encourage healthy eating habits.

Next, research the various types of ergonomic desk tools available, and create bespoke workspaces that help ease any physical demands on your employees, while maximizing their productivity. Investing in an ergonomic work environment is additionally beneficial for employee health insurance plans. Reducing employee back pain or musculoskeletal will, in turn, be beneficiary to the reduction of claims on a company health insurance policy. Take action now, before it becomes a problem for you and your team.

Proven Benefits of an Ergonomic Office Arrangement

What Furniture to Invest In

Venturing into research regarding ergonomic systems can be daunting. Mount-It alone offers over 600 individual products. The best place to start is the Mount-It Ergonomic Office Collection, which gives an essential breakdown of the recommended items intended to elevate every facet of office life. When kitting out an entire company, Mount-It will work with you to handle bulk large-scale orders and alleviate the anticipated headache of a company-wide upheaval. 

Let's start with the basics:

The Standing Desk 

Central to ergonomic innovation is the sit-stand desk. Mount-It offers both a desk extension with a built-in USB port or an adjustable deck that integrates both a sitting and standing height option. It is highly recommended to couple this with this is their anti-fatigue mat which allows for a comfortable planting should you choose to be on your feet all day. The cushioned cover absorbs the shock from any movement and creates a padded placement that is easy on the knee and hip joints. 

The move from seated to standing workstations has a multitude of benefits, including:

  • Increase blood flow to the brain which in turn helps to:
    • Increase brain functionality and the pace of thought patterns 
    • Increase creativity
    • Increase memory output
    • Increase productivity 
    • Decrease the likelihood of cardiovascular disease 
    • Alleviate stress
  • Standing for even 3 hours a day (recommended during lunch), can help to decrease blood sugar levels by 43% over time.
  • The act of standing uses 13% more daily energy throughout the day. This increases metabolism, eases digestion, and helps with weight loss. 

Anti-Fatigue Floor Mat

The detriment of standing is that tension or pressure points simply slide down your body to your knees and feet joints. To combat this, stand on a padded floor mat. The mat absorbs shock from movement, alleviating your body from carrying any direct tensions or knee-lock. This means that no matter how impractical your office shoes, you’ll feel as comfortable and supported as if you were wearing your favorite sneakers. 

Laptop and Computer Stands

Since the majority of desk work is computer-based, there should be as much attention to detail in regards to the position and height of the computer screen, as there is the position or height of a chair. Mount-It offers an extensive range of ergonomic laptop and computer stands to fit to all models and hardware brands. 

The stands aim to combat slouching by lifting the computer screen, thereby bringing your neck up to the “level view.” Stands typically bring the screen closer to you, aiding to eliminate eye-strain from squinting at text that is too far from your face. For example, the monitor mount with articulating gas spring arms creates a nimble way to hang screens vertically, which reduces the strain on the eyes and neck. It benefits posture and instead encourages shoulders “back and down” and opens up the chest for better respiration. The benefit of this device is that it clamps on to the back of your equipment keeping your desk free of clutter. 

Mouse and Keyboard Trays and Mounts

Our wrists are sensitive to even the smallest of movements. If you’ve spent a day crunching on a spreadsheet or writing a paper, you’ll recognize the particular sharp pain that targets the nerves of your wrists. They stiffen in a slight paralysis and can be tender long after the working day is over. This damage, caused by the most micro of repetitive movements, can be severe and even precede the onset of carpal tunnel. 

The antidote to this issue is having strong wrist support for both your keyboard and your mousepad. These work in tandem with the computer stand by assisting you with that 90-degree angle at your elbow and carrying the load of your wrist, which, in turn, allows for ease and mobility of your fingers. Mount-It offers a variety of keyboard trays and mounts designed specifically to help alleviate these small repetitive movements.

Smarter Solutions | Health Forward | Productivity Optimization 

To benefit from the full impact of your ergonomic solutions, designers recommend committing into the full setup. While a foam-mounted wrist stand might have little effect independently, it can make a monumental impact when coupled with an ergonomic desk chair and a well-positioned computer stand. The double benefit of productivity and health preservation is a win-win for business owners. It is a tangible demonstration of respect and value for your employees and will have an undoubtedly beneficial effect on your office culture. 


Sources:

1: https://www.iea.cc/whats/index.html 

2: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7797856

3: https://www.juststand.org/the-facts/