You’ve probably heard the term “ergonomics” before, but if you’re like most people you’re not quite sure what it is or what it means. Simply put, ergonomics is the science of fitting a workplace to the user’s needs. It’s meant to reduce discomfort while increasing productivity and efficiency.
What are some examples of office ergonomics that you might not think about everyday, but nonetheless affect your working environment…and your body?
For starters, how are desks arranged? Do people sit or stand at them? How high off the ground are the desks in the office? Are desk chairs adjustable? How are computer monitors arranged? Are people looking up or down at them all day? Or straight ahead? Ergonomics take questions like these into account, with the intent to make an office space comfortable for people’s bodies and their movements throughout the day.
If an office is designed well for the people who use it then people are able to maintain their flexibility and strength. They’re not putting too much stress on their muscles, ligaments, bones and joints if they work in a strategically-designed, ergonomically-correct environment.
At the heart of office ergonomics are two key things: posture and movement. Did you know that the human body can only tolerate staying in one position for about twenty minutes? After that, it can get mildly uncomfortable to downright painful. That’s why so many people feel the need to cross and uncross their legs, turn their heads to the sides now and then, and, when possible, get up and stretch throughout the day. When a person is forced to sit in one awkward position for a time that’s longer than 20 minutes, such as an airplane ride or at the local movie theater, they can easily develop back, neck, shoulder, leg and arm pains. You’ve probably experienced this for yourself!
Similarly, standing too long in one position can be rough on the body. Anyone who has ever stood in one spot on a concrete floor for more than twenty minutes without being able to move inevitably complained of back pain.
Here’s the deal: when your body is stuck in a prolonged static posture your soft tissues elasticity decreases. Stress takes over and you get uncomfortable.
It’s no wonder, then, that chiropractors encourage office workers to pay attention to their posture during the day, as well as their movements. For instance, sometimes all it takes is one person reminding another that they need to get up out of their seat and take a little walk in order to help that person feel better by loosening up.
Indeed, people are encouraged to move around often at office jobs in order to combat fatigue as well as to stretch. Smart ergonomics ultimately helps prevent workplace injuries and keeps people healthy and happy.