Source: HR Benefit Advisors, a UBA Partner Firm
While someone might not know it when they see it, ergonomics is the science of designing and arranging things so that people can interact with them efficiently and safely. It’s also called biotechnology, human engineering, and human factors. So why should anyone care?
When a workspace — whether that’s an office, home office, vehicle, etc. — doesn’t allow an individual to work easily, efficiently, and safely, it can cause all sorts of problems, from reduced production to serious injuries. Most people can recognize when something just “fits” like a well-tailored piece of clothing or a car where the seats are comfortable and all the buttons are perfectly placed. Likewise, when something seems a little off, it adds a level of discomfort. Maybe it’s a desk that’s too high or low or a chair that hurts your back if you sit in it too long.
In an article in SHRM titled, Don’t Forget Ergonomics Away from the Office, the author urges everyone to evaluate where they work and adjust their ergonomic situation accordingly. The most common injuries are repetitive strain injuries caused by constantly performing tasks in awkward and uncomfortable positions. According to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), these types of injuries affect nearly two million workers every year.
To help maintain proper ergonomics while working on a computer, OSHA has developed a checklist that can assist in creating a safe and comfortable workstation. Most of their recommendations are simple and straightforward, but it’s not enough to know what’s best, a person also needs to do what’s best if they are to adhere to proper ergonomics. This is especially true when traveling.
While an office setting can often be easily adjusted for the best ergonomics, hotel rooms are notoriously terrible. However, that’s still no excuse not to make things better. Phone books can be used to sit higher and pillows can be placed in a chair for proper back support. Also, always use a laptop on a table or desk – never actually use it on your lap.
Speaking of laptops, it’s important to note that these were designed for portability and convenience; they were never meant to be ergonomic. But by using an external keyboard and mouse, adjusting for posture along with proper head, torso, and wrist placement, it’s a much better and more ergonomic way to work versus being hunched over. Also, and especially for those who travel, people need to discipline themselves into a routine of good ergonomic behavior. Rationalizing that “it’s only for one day” is enough to cause an unnecessary injury.
By practicing and reinforcing these actions, a person will develop solid components for the best possible ergonomics. This, in turn, will help lead to happier, healthier bodies.