What does Ergonomics mean?
Ergonomics is defined as an applied science concerned with designing and arranging things people use so that the people and things interact most efficiently and safely —called also biotechnology, human engineering, human factors.
The main takeaway there are the words “efficiently and safely.” As chiropractors, that’s why ergonomics is important to us - because poor ergonomics actually leads to poor posture, unnecessary stress on your body, and increases the risk of injury. That’s why we give every one of our patients ergonomic recommendations for their lifestyles at home and at work. They make a fantastic complement to the chiropractic care in our office and help our patients achieve the best results possible when it comes to their overall health.
How does Ergonomics help me?
Proper ergonomics ensures that you are positioning and moving your body in the best way possible. Specifically, there have been 5 well documented benefits to proper workplace ergonomics which include:
1. Reduced Costs: By reducing ergonomic risk factors you actually prevent costly injuries and health bills. Not only that, but you help reduce indirect costs like missing time from work and your employer saves costs on new employee hiring, and new employee training.
2. Improved Productivity: Designing your desk or workstation ergonomically usually leads to improved productivity. This is because an ergonomic workstation promotes good posture, less exertion, more efficient motions and better heights and reaches. This saves time and improves comfort.
3. Improved Work Quality: Poor ergonomics leads to inefficiency, fatigue, frustration, and ultimately poor quality work. When the job is too physically taxing or uncomfortable, we become more concerned with the state of our bodies versus the actual task that needs to be completed.
4. Improved Employee Engagement: This benefit can go both ways. As en employee you would appreciate and respect the attention from your employer. You’d likely feel happier and more comfortable in your work environment. From an employer standpoint you’d be increasing morale among your employees as well as employee involvement.
5. Better Safety Culture: A focus on ergonomics displays your company’s commitment to health and safety as one of their core values. Healthy employees are happy and productive - the most valuable asset to any company.
What can you do about your workplace/home ergonomics?
The best place to start is by asking questions. Ask your manager or human resources representative if your company has any ergonomics policies already in place. If they do then fantastic, try to implement them or improve on them until you feel comfortable and safe at work. If they don’t, then you get to be the trailblazer who can request to make ergonomic changes for the good of all the employees and the good of the company!
Start by talking with a trusted health professional to get their opinion on positive ergonomic changes you can make at work or at home. In unique job situations you may need to consult with an ergonomic specialist, but for general desk work or typical home environments we’ll go over the recommendations we give to people in our community.
-Desk Jobs: try to position your chair and workstation so that when you sit down all of your main joints (ankles, knees, hips, elbows) are all at 90 degrees to reduce any unnecessary stress or strain. Most computer monitors, especially laptop screens, are too low and should actually be raised to the level of eyes when we up straight and look forward. Keyboards should be placed at a level where you can type comfortably with your elbows at 90 degrees and your wrists in a neutral position. This will keep pressure OFF your carpal tunnel and prevent the dreaded carpal tunnel syndrome that so many office workers fear.
-Home Office: the large majority of people who work from home are doing it on a laptop. It’s convenient, but the problem with laptops is that they force you to hunch forward and look downward at the screen which places a large amount of stress on the muscles, bones, and spinal joints in your neck and upper back. In this situation we recommend that you purchase a wireless keyboard so that you can then place your laptop on a stand or on top of a stack of books so that the monitor becomes raised up and level with your line of vision.
-Kids and Ergonomics: The least ergonomic position seen in society today is that hunched forward position staring down at your phone screen for hours on end. The added problem with this position in children specifically is that it prevents the spine from developing the normal curvatures that are essential to keeping stress and strain off the spinal cord and nerves. So a simple tip you can do to help you and your kids would be to install wall mounts in your house where your child can place a phone or iPad so it’s level with their vision. Another healthy alternative would be to install a holder or “pop-socket” on the back of the phone so you are better able to hold your phone up at your eye level rather than hunching forward to stare down at the screen.