Ergonomic, the word sounds like rocket-science vocabulary yet every furniture manufacturer is branding their products with it.
It is even more confusing when experts say proper ergonomics dictate how you should sit in your office chair and is the key to being productive at one’s workplace, but none has taken their time to break it down for the common office Joes and Janes who crave workplace productivity every day.
So what does the ‘E’ word really mean?
Not to introduce an all-new history lesson but it’s important if you know a little about the origin of ergonomics.
The name comes from two Ancient Greek words; ‘ergon’ meaning work and ‘nomos’ meaning laws or customs. It is believed the term was first used in early 1857 by Polish professor Wojciech Jastrzebrowski in his articles related to furniture and work.
The term however didn’t instantly become popular across the world. In the UK for instance, it was until 1952 when the Ergonomic Society was formed. The society later played a huge role in recommending designs of furniture and other workplace tools.
What is ergonomic furniture?
Concerning an office setting and the furniture aspect in particular, ergonomics can be defined as the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment.
OSH says, “Ergonomics is the science of designing the job to fit the worker, rather than physically forcing the worker’s body to fit the job. Adapting tasks, work stations, tools, and equipment to fit the worker can help reduce physical stress on a worker’s body and eliminate many potentially serious, disabling work-related musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs).”
Think of ergonomic furniture as any piece of furniture- an office chair, desk or table designed to complement the human body for a comfortable and safe working experience.
Should I Understand the Science of Ergonomics?
Sure, you should. By understanding the science of ergonomics and its importance in your daily life, you can easily adjust your workplace setup and operations to help you work more comfortably and also prevent possible pain or injury caused by straining (unnecessarily).
Ergonomic Furniture is Expensive but Worth it
Sure we know your standard office chair cost you less than an ergonomic one would have. But that’s because you focused on the cost more than your workplace health and productivity. Think of it as an investment in your health and productivity.
The leading, non-negligible reason for you to get an ergonomic office chair is health. An injured or sick body doesn’t work and thus, your health should be guarded at all costs. More specifically, sitting for long hours in a non-ergonomic chair can lead to musculoskeletal problems. This affects your joints and muscles, often leading to accumulation of pressure on your spine and eventually back pain.
Choosing Ergonomic Furniture
For any piece of office furniture to be considered ergonomic, it must:
- Support the natural posture of the spine rather than forcing it to take a certain shape
- Be easily adjustable to suit a range of users and specific needs
- Put ahead user convenience rather than aesthetics and the beauty aspect
- Encourage body movements often to prevent repetitive strain injuries and fatigue
The whole human body needs support when sitting. When a person is comfortable, that’s when they can do their best work and become more productive.
Ergonomic Office Chairs
If you still don’t enjoy working at your desk, chances are you haven’t got the best ergonomic office chair yet. Ergonomic office chairs are designed to help you sit comfortably for long hours while you work.
They are highly adjustable than their standard counterparts and what’s more, is that they can be used by people with different body types and shapes.
Here’s what to look for when shopping around for an ergonomic office chair;
- The seat height should be adjustable to enable the user to get the correct height when working
- The depth of the chair should be enough to accommodate the length of the user’s thighs
- The chair should have armrests to support the user’s arms when working. Adjustable armrests do the job even better.
- The chair should provide adequate lumbar support; this is the support given to your lower back region to prevent buildup of stress on the spine and the pelvis
- The chair should have a stable base
- The seat cushion should be made of a comfortable and breathable fabric that also shouldn’t be hard to clean when stained
Recently, there has been a lot of hype on standing desks and all that they have to offer. It is all however in an effort to do away with prolonged sitting, which has been associated with numerous health risks, including diabetes and heart disease.
We are not saying that you will die of heart disease just because you don’t own a standing desk, but what we are stressing on are the effects of prolonged sitting on your body and mind.
A new type of desks has also filled the market, i.e. those that can be adjusted for either sitting or standing when at work. The sit-stand desks range widely in price from cheap ones to high-end options that will cost you a great deal.
Don’t feel pressured to get a standing desk or even an adjustable one, so long as your current one is of the correct height and allows you to stand for some minutes, it’s good for the job.
Also, when switching to standing, don’t just wake up and decide to work standing the whole day since prolonged standing also has its fair share of health defects. Instead, start small in chunks of up to two hours or even less depending on what your body tells you.
Ergonomic keyboards and mice
Ergonomic keyboards are designed to make typing as easy as possible while preventing users from developing repetitive wrist strain and injury.
When typing using an ergonomic keyboard, you can keep your wrists and hands as static as possible for maximum comfort.
Place your keyboard directly in front of you so that your elbows are as close as possible to your sides. Your elbows should sit at a 90-degree angle when resting your hands on the keyboard.
An Ergonomic mouse fits effortlessly into your hands, making clicking and scrolling easy. With an ergonomic mouse, you are able to keep your hand in the most comfortable position possible to enable you to work for long without experiencing wrist discomfort.
A correctly set computer monitor makes typing and reading from the screen easier. However, not all monitors have arms to hold them at the correct height, and that is where extended monitor arms come in.
Your monitor should also be as glare-free as possible to prevent eye strain. You can achieve this by adjusting the brightness and contrast settings.
We need to emphasize the essence of standing up frequently and taking short walks just to ensure you’re not over sitting, but that can’t be achieved if half of your office space is full of cables, some of which no one knows their use.
Cables consume a lot of space and also pose a risk to employee safety. Making use of cable management accessories like cable spines and cable baskets can help enhance the look of the office and also contributes to good ergonomic practice.
A typical office is full of documents and files used for reference and other official duties. When typing, you don’t want to keep your source document under your monitor so you have to bend forward to read the next line. Using a document holder will enable you to work with the papers at the right viewing angle and posture without having to stretch your neck.
What Does Ergonomic Furniture Mean? Final Thought
It however doesn’t stop at getting the best office desk and an ergonomic office chair, and there are things that you can (and should) do to ensure you get the best out of your workspace.
First of all, is posture. You have probably heard a lot about posture and that is because it is important whenever one is working.
Do you slouch? You have no reason to worry if you do since you are not alone. However, you should consider rectifying your slouching behavior before it drives you into a chronic pain condition that you surely won’t like.
In addition to ensuring good posture at all times and avoiding slouching, taking frequent short breaks to stretch will relieve your joints and muscles and help you stay relaxed.
You may not be able to pause working for a push-ups session, but simply stretching out your arms and legs will ease muscle tension and is beneficial to your health.