Ergonomics is one of those words you hear in some of the news articles about healthy living. Ergonomics is defined as the scientific study of people at work. According to the Center for Disease Control, the goal of ergonomics is to prevent soft tissue injuries and musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) caused by sudden or sustained exposure to force vibration, repetitive motion, and awkward posture.[i]
However, if you're anything like me, you may have just brushed the concept aside. I think things like 'I feel fine at work,' 'I don't have any pain,' or 'I'm too young for that.' Recently, I've started to see things differently.
I've found that slouching in front of misaligned and too close monitors for eight hours a day might affect my body. I find myself more prone to headaches and experiencing more neck pain.
I try to live my life as pain-free as possible, so I decided I needed to do something, but I didn't want to buy all new office supplies.
Here are four ways you can improve ergonomics at the office by spending $0- $10 on new items or item modifications:
Fix Your Sitting Posture
It seems incredibly simple, yet we all still struggle with maintaining a good posture at our desks. It is so much more than just sitting up straight.
"But Joy, I like my desk chair!"
You don't need a new desk chair to have good posture. There are some simple ways to fix your posture without redesigning your office. You can use a box or crate you found by the recycling bin to prop up your feet if your chair is too tall. If you find you need more support in your lower back, try putting a firm pillow at the small of your back when you sit.[ii]
Put Your Monitors in the Right Place
Do you ever find your vision starting to go blurry after staring at the screen for a couple of hours? Or have you felt a tension headache starting to build at 3 pm after working all day? This may be due to the placement of your monitors. Your monitors should be adjusted so that the top of the screen is at eye level.[iii]
"But Joy, my monitor doesn't adjust to that level!"
There's no need for a high-tech hydraulic movement monitor. If your monitor can't be adjusted to the correct height, head back to that recycling bin. You may be able to find a box that your monitor can sit on to be the perfect height. Stacked-up books under the monitor will do the trick as well.
Finally, be sure your monitors are about an arm's length away from your eyes because, as we all know, sitting too close to the screen is incredibly unhealthy.[iv]
Support Your Wrists
We all need a little support every once in a while, and your wrists are no different. The typing position isn't exactly anatomically correct wrist posture.
"But Joy, I don't have a keyboard wrist rest!"
If you don't have a wrist rest and don't feel the need to go out and get one, there are other options to avoid wrist pain or carpal tunnel.
A straightforward fix to wrist pain is to take more frequent breaks if you are typing for an extended period. Choose an interval, and when you reach it, stop, and stretch your wrists.
If you're still feeling wrist pain while typing, you may need to fashion a wrist rest out of something you can find around your house. A rolled-up dish towel, scrap piece of foam, or even a scarf may be just enough to relieve the uncomfortable angle your wrists are in a while typing.[v]
You still need to take breaks even if you are your own boss. This is one of the easiest ways to make your workplace more ergonomic.
"But Joy, I don't have time to take breaks!"
Often, it's easy to feel like you have no time for breaks throughout the workday. If you have back-to-back meetings and need every free second for emails and paperwork, it may feel like you have no time.
However, ensuring adequate breaks will benefit your time in the long run. An injury due to poor workplace ergonomics may take more time out of your day than being proactive and taking breaks.
According to OSHA, you should be taking micro-breaks every 20 minutes. For 20 seconds, stretch your arms, stand up for a second, and look away from your computer. Every hour, take a 3-to-5-minute break to get up and walk around.[vi] These breaks will help you refocus and improve your productivity in the long run.
Practicing proper ergonomics is crucial to your health and well-being. While it can seem that these things are extra tasks you don't have time for, they are proactive measures designed to save time taken up by injuries in the future. Remember, you can not pour from an empty cup, so look after your health to succeed in your work.
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