Ergonomics has been described as a science and is now a lucrative selling point for most office suppliers and computer manufactures, but what is it? How can the strain put on our bodies from the day to day office work environment be reduced?
Ergonomics is the design and manufacture of equipment to suit the worker. Years ago equipment was produced, and our bodies adjusted to it. Many people have experienced back pain, headaches and other long term problems all related to these designs. Although most ergonomically designed equipment tends to be more expensive than other equipment, money spent now will almost definately be saved in the long run.
Ergonomics can be broken into 3 categories:
· Cognitive, and
Physical Ergonomics is related to human physiological characteristics. This includes working posture, materials handling, repetitive movement and workplace layout.
Cognitive Ergonomics includes the mental process, i.e.: perception, memory, reasoning and motor response. These topics include mental workload, decision-making, skilled performance, human-computer interaction, human reliability, work stress and training.
Organisational Ergonomics is concerned with sociotechnical systems. Such as, organisational structures, policies and design. These include communication, work design, designing of working times, teamwork, organisational culture.
Although many of these points are out of reach, we can do multiple tasks to reduce the office workload on our bodies. Everyone knows the human body was not designed to sit in an office all day, although many of us enjoy it, our body and particularly our spine does not enjoy 8-10 hour days sitting behind a desk.
So, what can be done to reduce the strain on our bodies? Many things… First of all, buy an ergonomical chair. This should have an inclination of 120 degrees, and a lumbar support of 5cm. This will reduce the pressure put on the lumbar (Bottom 5 vertebrae in the spine). Keep in mind that some people – including myself do not have the same spinal curvature of others, and if the lumbar support is too aggressive, it can do more harm than good. I can say this with confidence as I am, and have been battling a disc bulge – quite painful I might add.
My next major point is the height of the good ol’ LCD screens. If you are looking at it from a seated position, it is best to be looking in the middle towards the top. If the monitor is too high, or too low, neck pain and headaches are likely to come. Not great for productivity.
It is also very important to stand up, have a walk and a stretch every 2 hours or so. This will give the skeletal system a break from the strain of sitting, and will increase productivity.