Compared to other jobs, office positions initially seem much less stressful on the body. Instead of operating heavy machinery, moving heavy products, or standing in production lines or behind cash registers for their entire shift, office workers are able to spend most of their day sitting at their desk. Therefore, one might think that office workers avoid the worst of job-related physical strain.
However, this isn’t necessarily true. If you work in an office, there’s a good chance you either suffer from back pain or know someone who does. It’s a common result of long shifts spent sitting in office chairs. And it doesn’t end there — there’s also headaches, sore shoulders, aching necks and more. Sitting at a desk for hours at a time can be uncomfortable, and if the desk, chair or your posture are ill-equipped for the task, then that discomfort only increases.
That’s where office ergonomics come into play. Good office ergonomics can help keep employees happier, healthier and more productive. On the other hand, bad office ergonomics can cause lasting pain, decrease mental and emotional health, and drag down worker productivity. But now you might be asking — what are office ergonomics?
Ergonomics refers to the design characteristics of an object or space that makes it easier to use. Specifically, this refers to their ease of physical use — you wouldn’t describe a high-tech computer as ergonomic because of its processing speed, but rather how the position of the monitor on the base made it easier to read.
Office ergonomics, therefore, are the characteristics of an office space that make it easier to use. Ideally, the office furniture should be created and organized to make it as comfortable as possible for employees to use, and the employees themselves should utilize proper posture and positioning to minimize strain.
Ensuring proper ergonomics isn’t just a matter of short-term comfort, although that should be important as well. Poor office economics can lead to physical strain and injury, increased stress, and lowered work efficiency. Ergonomics that contribute to these factors are referred to as ergonomic hazards. On the other hand, good ergonomics reduce physical and mental strain and contribute to both employee productivity and happiness.
Ergonomic hazards are anything that increase stress, strain or discomfort in the workplace — without being tangible safety hazards, of course. There are three main types of ergonomic hazards: environment, tools and behavior.
The biggest ergonomic hazard in the office is suboptimal furniture. Even if an employee possesses perfect posture and takes breaks to walk and stretch, an ill-fitting chair and a poorly positioned desk can lead to them suffering back pain, joint pain and more. A work environment devoid of ergonomic hazards is easy and comfortable to use. Some examples of poor environment ergonomics include:
The tools your employees use can have just as much of an effect on ergonomics as the furniture. While office spaces don’t involve much heavy machinery, even simple objects like utility knives or staplers can create extra stress. Make sure your office supplies are functioning properly and aren’t outdated or poorly maintained.
A good work environment and good tools only work as well as the person who uses them. While this isn’t as important in an office workplace as it is in a physically demanding job, having your employees know how to properly carry out their tasks with optimal physical form is important for long-term comfort. Even something as simple as teaching them proper lifting form for boxes can help in the long run. Some instances of ergonomically hazardous behavior include:
As mentioned, poor office ergonomics don’t just contribute to short-term discomfort. Over time, the consequences can pile up, contributing to body pain, mental strain and reduced work efficiency.
While it’s true that an office job isn’t as physically demanding as a hard labor position such as construction, poor office ergonomics can still have a noticeably detrimental effect on your physical health.
These issues can be lessened or worsened depending on one’s posture, but all of them are exacerbated by poor office ergonomics.
Poor office ergonomics can also place a strain on employees mentally. Sitting hunched for long periods of time lowers energy levels due to how poor posture effects the cardiovascular and metabolic systems. When paired with the physical pain that often comes with long office hours, this can lead to poor moods and increased stress.
With both increased physical pain and mental stress, it’s no surprise that poor office ergonomics can contribute to reduced work efficiency. What’s more, lower energy and low productivity can contribute to burnout, which further damages both productivity and the employee’s emotional state. This creates a negative feedback loop of decreasing productivity, leading to a lowered mental state, which leads to a further decrease in productivity.
There are two factors that can be changed in order to improve office ergonomics: the furniture and tools themselves, and the positioning and behavior exhibited by employees while using them. Here are a few tips employees can use to help improve their working experience:
Some of these options will be easier or harder to implement, depending on your workspace. Even if you can only use a few, however, it can still help to improve your physical and mental state, as well as your work efficiency.
Aside from employee behavior, the best way to improve office ergonomics is by adjusting the office itself. Ill-fitting office chairs and desks can force employees to hunch or twist, increasing discomfort and exacerbating physical injury. To improve employee physicality, productivity and mood, it’s important to have comfortable — and preferably adjustable — furniture. For an office building, the most important furniture in this regard are the chairs and desks.
Office chairs are an important part of any office worker’s day-to-day life. They spend most of the day working from them, so it’s important that the chairs be ergonomically sound. Poor office chairs lack adjustment options and don’t support the lower back. An ergonomic office chair should promote optimal posture, support the lumbar region and be adjustable to take into account differing employee builds. For example, here are a few of the features offered by Arnold’s Office Furniture ergonomic desk chairs:
While an office chair is important, a desk is equally so, especially when it’s the first thing someone sees once they step into an office. An ergonomic desk should both look good and encourage good work posture. Arnold’s Office Furniture offers traditional desks in a variety of styles, as well as standing desks. Standing desks help to alleviate neck and joint pain, keep blood flowing, and encourage employees to be more active in the workplace.
If you’re not sure where to go to get new, ergonomically optimized office furniture, consider Arnold’s Office Furniture. Not only do we provide quality desks, chairs and tables for your office, but we are the leading provider of the revolutionary Sunline Signature Cubicle System. Sunline cubicles allow for complete customization — the wall height, accent color and even patterns are yours to choose, and they can be assembled within hours.
Whether you’re in the market for new cubicles or traditional office furniture, Arnold’s Office Furniture has you covered. Contact us today or request a quote and take the first step in creating an ergonomic office!