Creating an Ergonomically-Optimized Workspace

Ergonomic Office
Photo credit torwai/Getty Images
By , Small Business Pulse

The human body was not meant to be sitting, let alone hunched over all day. Unfortunately, office work can be largely composed of just that. Prolonged sitting will have your neck, shoulder, back and other body parts eventually screaming for relief. Working with computers only exacerbates the strain and pain, which can lead to repetitive motion injuries, pinched nerves and other health problems.

There are ways to avoid or at least reduce all of this. Modifying your work environment into an ergonomic workspace will make a major difference in employee health, comfort and company productivity.

The computer screen
Traditional desks require workers to be hunched over, looking down at ledgers, signing off on paperwork or crunching numbers on adding machines. When offices began using computers regularly, screens and keyboards were merely just placed on an old desk. A riser could be added to raise the screen to eye-level, but were not easily adjustable and fairly ineffective on their own.

There are many ways to raise up a screen, from higher risers to adjustable arms. A screen raised to the correct height forces workers to sit up straight, which is the way the head, neck and shoulders work best together. A screen that is too low requires workers to slouch, hunch over and collapse inward rather than sit up with proper posture. Staring at screens all day can also lead to headaches, eye strain and other vision problems, so consider an anti-glare shield.

Customizable chair is key
Too many offices have vanilla, one-size-fits all chairs. Office chairs need to be adjustable, as not everyone in an office is the same height, weight or build. All chairs should offer adjustable backrests, armrests and seats to promote better sitting posture. A comfortable cushion and some form of proper lumbar support is a priority. For mobility, you can add features that allow you to swivel or roll around, which lets employees move about rather than twist or reach in manner that might cause a strain or other injury.

Standing desks and ergonomic desks
Sitting for long periods of time is harmful to anyone, but it can also cause preexisting conditions to be very painful and potentially worsen. A standing desk is an effective solution for anyone uncomfortable sitting or just wanting an alternative to a traditional desk.

A high table, podium or an adjustable drawing table can be used instead. Adjustable desks can also be modified and altered to meet the needs of an employee or specific job. It's not necessary to stand all day at your standing desk to reap the benefits. There are a variety of furniture options, such as kneelers to accommodate those wanting more support. Ergonomic desks are also easily available, which are scientifically designed to make working at a desk easier on the body. These desks encourage you to properly sit, position and maneuver yourself beneficial to your physique, especially over an extended time.

Get up and move
There are many little things that can be done to make your workspace healthier. You could place wrist cushions between yourself and your keyboard or encourage employees to leave their computers to quickly grab a needed work item. The simplest, easiest and cost-free option is to just get up and move.

An alarm can be set to remind workers they need to take a pause from their computer, stand up, walk around, stretch or otherwise move for a few minutes. Computer programs are also available that require someone to address an alarm, and although a snooze option is offered, the screen will darken or the computer will eventually lock up, encouraging you to leave your desk for a moment. Most employees will soon see that by getting up, stretching, moving about and walking even for a minute will feel better an improve work efficiency.