Posts tagged ergonomics

Taking Work to Bed

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Does working away on a laptop and spreadsheets in bed lead to more productivity and comfort than working behind a desk? A recent poll found nearly 1 in 5 employees spend two to ten hours working from bed in a given week. A mobile-security company polled its workers to find half of the 1,000 employees work from bed. Many claim to respond or read work emails, addressing colleagues that may work in different time zones. While this may be a comfortable theory, ergonomically speaking it is not a good practice.

WSJ looks at the negative affects of working in bed. Not only is it physically demanding on your body, it also has negative emotional and mental affects. Consider making your bedroom a device-free zone and make efforts to have a more productive day while at the office. However, if you believe you get your best work done this way, we recommend using a Bed Wedge System to properly support your back while you work.

Working in Bed

A Brief History: The Evolution of Ergonomics

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In the 1940s, an advancement of machinery and equipment during and post-World War II lead to a disharmony between people and the equipment they were using. There was an increased risk of human error and poor user performance. In order to avoid negative effects of human limitations, equipment had to be designed to take advantage of human capabilities consequently, establishing the scientific discipline we know today as Ergonomics. While the early focus of ergonomics was on aviation and aircraft controls, it has become a standard practice in designing computers, cars, and other consumer products.

With 33% of work-related injuries being caused by poor work station setup, occupational ergonomics is a top priority for many employers and employees. Over the years, there has been a shift in the way companies look at ergonomics. Companies were reactive when addressing proper ergonomics, oftentimes waiting to react to injuries or employee complaints, whereas today, the approach is proactive. Companies use tools, equipment, and best practices to prevent injuries and reduce the level of exposure. Companies are now encouraged to have integrated design phases, which take equipment, products, layout, and standard ergonomic guidelines into account when designing workspaces. Another shift in the discipline has been the method of assessment. Years ago, employees would attend classroom training sessions, in-person evaluations by a certified staff member, and chair-fitting rooms. Today, there is a stronger emphasis on employee-driven, in-office assessments. Chairs and workstations offer full range of adjustability, workstation design is based on computer use, and employees are able to assess and adjust their own workstations.

Here at Relax The Back, we continue to learn and improve our knowledge on ergonomics, and the tools and equipment that can be used to reduce and prevent injuries.  Read more information on ergonomics or visit your local Relax The Back store to speak with one of our trained specialists about a free workstation assessment.

 

Office Work Habits: Desk Habits

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For many, sitting at a desk for work is unavoidable. A desk that is appropriately adjusted in addition to being well designed is an important part of an ergonomic workstation. A well-made desk should provide proper clearance for your legs, minimize awkward exertions and postures, and allow for proper placement of computer accessories.

A desk that isn’t properly set up or well designed can cause shoulder, back, and neck pain, which can lead to discomfort and performance inefficiencies. Generalized fatigue and contact stress are also a result of a poorly designed desk and the inability to change working positions.

Follow this ergonomic guide to avoid unnecessary strain and pain:

  • Frequently used devices (phones, keyboards, and mouse) should be within comfortable reaching distance.
  • Work surface depth should allow the monitor to be viewed at a distance of at least 20 inches.
  • If necessary, remove center drawers or insert stable risers under table legs to create clearance for your thighs and legs.
  • Use a height-adjustable desk, such as a Standing Desk, to have the ability to change working positions from sitting to standing throughout the day.
  • Standing up from your desk every hour for 2 – 3 minutes can help reverse the negative effects of sitting all day.

For more information on Ergonomic workstations and solutions, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or visit your local Relax The Back store to receive a custom adjustment of the proper Ergonomic workstation.

 

Workplace Pains & Strains: Solutions

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Studies have shown on average we are sitting at least 56 hours a week. Even if you have an active lifestyle outside of work, you can still be susceptible to pains and strains from prolonged periods of sitting.

Having a proper ergonomic workstation is key to preventing aches and pains. Common pains that happen due to improper ergonomics include: back, shoulder, and neck pain, headaches, eye fatigue and strain, spinal curvature, poor circulation, contact stress, swelling and numbness of the legs and tingling of the arms, hands and fingers.

While it isn’t always easy to avoid improper ergonomic behavior, there are ways to help ease the pains. Here are some solutions to the most common pains you may have caused by your work environment:

Follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more tips and solutions to everyday discomforts or visit your local Relax The Back store to get further assistance on products that can help relieve pains.

Get Moving

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Movement is key for well-being, but due in part to rapidly changing technologies and lifestyles, we have effectively removed movement from the daily routine. Many popular publications claim that sitting “is the new smoking,” “reduces your lifespan” and “causes cancer.” As an ergonomist, I receive many questions about incorporating movement into the workday that revolve around this negative reaction to sitting. My approach has always been to recommend movement. Sitting all day might be bad, but prolonged standing is not the answer either.

Let’s look at the facts: the typical American spends 95% of the workday sitting. Sitting in static postures for extended periods of time is hard on the body. Such sitting elevates spinal disc pressure, increases muscle loading in the back, neck and shoulders and lowers the demands on the circulatory system, which can impact heart activity, blood flow and fatigue. In fact, sitting for just one hour can result in a 90% decline in production of enzymes that are responsible for burning fat.

But switching to a permanently standing workstation may not be the best solution either. Prolonged standing can be more tiring and requires about 20% more energy. It can cause pooling in the lower legs and has been linked to foot pain, varicose veins and static muscle fatigue in the lower body. The solution is movement, not one posture or the other.

There is increasing evidence that varying posture throughout the day has significant health benefits. Allowing the body to undergo postural changes improves circulation, keeps the spine nourished and minimizes unnecessary static muscle fatigue. There are many ways to achieve postural changes and integrate more spontaneous movement into your day. If you are at a permanently seated workstation, try unlocking the backrest of your chair, adjust the tension to support gentle movement in your upper body when you lean back and look for opportunities to take “micro breaks” to stand up, stretch or take a walk.

To integrate more movement into your day, you can try a height-adjustable table. These workstations allow for the greatest amount of postural variation and have been shown to significantly reduce discomfort and health risks. A 2011 study in conjunction with the CDC found that implementing dedicated height-adjustable workstations and encouraging employees to stand for just one hour per day resulted in a 54% reduction in upper back and neck pain, and a 71% increase in focus. A 2009 Mayo Clinic study found that it was possible to burn an additional 340 calories per day by spending two hours standing. If you’re considering a height-adjustable workstation, think about the types of technology that are available, their energy requirements, the table’s ease of use and the intended use of the table.

No matter what your workstation setup is—seated, sit-stand or standing—the key to optimal health and performance is providing support for the body in neutral, healthy postures and integrating spontaneous movement throughout the day.

Office Work Habits: Chair Habits

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More than 50% of office workers say their chair is the #1 thing they would change. A chair that can be appropriately adjusted and one that is well designed is a vital part of any ergonomic workstation. A well-made chair should support your legs, back, and arms while reducing forceful exertions, contact stress and awkward postures.

Chairs that are made poorly can cause back pain and fatigue as well as restrict circulation in the legs and cause swelling, numbness and pain. Inappropriately adjusted armrests can cause awkward postures or fail to provide sufficient support.

Follow this ergonomic guide to avoid unnecessary strain and pain:

  • Use a removable back cushion if your chair does not have a lumbar support.
  • Consider a backrest that is easily adjustable and is able to support your back in a variety of seated postures.
  • The seat should be height adjustable and wide enough to accommodate various hip sizes.
  • If the seat is not height adjustable, providing a footrest can help elevate the knee to relieve pressure on the back of legs.
  • Use a height adjustable lumbar support so it can be appropriately placed to fit the lower back.
  • Armrests should support lower arm and allow upper arms to remain close to torso.
  • If armrests interfere with workspace or cannot be adjusted, remove them or stop using them.
  • Chairs should have a strong, five-legged base.

For more information on Ergonomic workstations and solutions, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or visit your local Relax The Back store to receive a custom adjustment of the proper Ergonomic workstation.

 

Ergonomic Workstations: Office Mouse Habits

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Creating a safe computer workstation entails finding the correct mouse size and proper placement. Today there are a variety of mice, trackpads and joysticks to choose from. Not to mention different sizes, shapes and configurations.

If your mouse is not placed near your keyboard or you are using one that is an inappropriate size and shape, you may experience contact stress, forceful hand exertions, stress on the shoulder and arm and awkward postures. Being in these prolonged awkward postures and positions can cause fatigue of the shoulder, hand and arm, as well as musculoskeletal disorders and injuries.

Follow this ergonomic guide to avoid unnecessary strain and pain:

  • Allow your wrist to maintain a straight and neutral posture by having a keyboard tray or surface that is large enough to accommodate the mouse and the keyboard. If this is not the case, try one of the following:Use a mouse tray like the Clip-on Mouse Platform over or next to the keyboard
  • Use a trackpad if possible
  • Use a keypad without a 10-key pad to leave more room for the mouse
  • Install keyboard trays large enough for both the keyboard and mouse
  • Utilize a mouse pad with a wrist and palm rest to help promote neutral wrist position
  • Select a mouse designed to fit the hand you’ll be operating it with – e.g., right handed mouse for right hand use
  • Select a size that requires minimal force in order to generate movement and doesn’t require you to bend your wrist during use
  • Adjust sensitivity and speed to allow the pointer to be able to cover the full screen while your wrist maintains straight and neutral posture

For more information on Ergonomic workstations and solutions, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or visit your local Relax The Back location to receive a custom adjustment of the proper Ergonomic workstation.

Ergonomic Workstations: Office Lighting Habits

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A vital part of the ergonomic workstation is proper lighting placement and the correct level of illumination. A bright and adjustable light can help ease eye fatigue, neck strain, and headaches in the office.

A majority of offices were not designed for computer use and lighting of the past was made for 20-40 degrees of horizontal viewing rather than the 10-25 degrees of monitor viewing we need now. Desk lamps incorrectly placed and windows behind computers can cause glare. Bright lights shining on screens can “wash out” images, which can cause you to strain your eyes to make out the objects on the screen. Having a high contrast between light and dark areas around your workstation can also cause headaches and eye fatigue.
Follow these tips to avoid unnecessary strain and pain:

  • Use adjustable lighting to illuminate your keyboard and paperwork.
  • When doing paperwork, use spot lighting to increase the brightness and reduce eyestrain and headaches.
  • Take into consideration all glare sources – windows, overhead lighting, reflection off of glass, etc.
  • Place computers at a right angle to any window.
  • Utilize lamp shades and glare shields to redirect light away from your eyes.
  • Never place lights directly behind a computer monitor.
  • Use blinds or drapes to eliminate bright outside light.

For more information on ergonomic workstations and solutions, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter, or visit your local Relax The Back location.

5 Pillars of Ergonomics

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Ergonomics is the foundation for all of our back and neck pain solutions here at Relax The Back. Accordingly, it’s important to understand the 5 pillars of ergonomics. Read on to find out more about these fundamentals so you too can understand how ergonomics leads to maximized comfort and performance.

  • Pillar 1: Posture is dictated by what you do (and see)
    • Posture will follow what you are doing and seeing. For example, tablets and smartphones are smaller devices so there will be a change in physical body alignment, such as curved shoulders or straining your neck forward, to meet the screen. This can lead to increased neck pain.
  • Pillar 2: Movement is absolutely necessary – Intuitive Engagement
    • We know the importance of movement however the problem is we don’t do it.
    • Stand Up Desks, rocking footrests and chairs that move with you intuitively allow you to engage in movement throughout your day.
  • Pillar 3: No one-size fits all
    • Anthrometrics is the measure of man – no one is built the same.
    • All ergonomic products are made to fit the 5th – 95th percentile of consumers, but no one is built the same and they do not do the same things.
    • Everyone has a different body type and a different way of doing things – it’s important to find what works for you.
  • Pillar 4: Education is key
    • Without education and reinforcement, we simply forget.
    • A person may not know how to readjust a chair’s alignment after somebody else has used it.
    • We need ergonomic reminders.
  • Pillar 5: Neutral posture is the template (and the priority)
    • No matter what body part we are talking about, in regards to pain and health problems, the solution is to get your body back to a neutral posture position which allows for the least strain on you body.

Visit your local Relax The Back store location for an in-store ergonomic assessment or follow us on Facebook and Twitter for more information.

Visual Guide to Office Ergonomics

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A comfortable workspace can make a big difference in your physical health, productivity, stress level and energy throughout the day.  If most of your work takes place at a desk, you are likely to suffer from pains and strains, loss of productivity and loss of alertness.

With proper office ergonomics you can avoid these pains and strains and stay comfortable at work.  From proper chair height to monitor angles, follow this visual guide to office ergonomics and be on your way to a happier, healthier workspace.

For more information, be sure to follow us on Facebook and Twitter or visit your local Relax The Back location to get an ergonomic office assessment from one of our trained neck-and-spine experts.