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What You Need to Know about Ergonomics for a Healthier Work Life

A desk job can be hazardous to your health, as sitting in the same spot for a long time can induce many serious health problems. Instead of being stagnant all day, taking a break to stretch your body or alternating with other activities can ensure the health of your spine. The concept of ergonomics is all about adopting healthy work habits to achieve efficiency, productivity, and a good physical condition at work. However, does everyone really care about being healthy at work? Here is why you should care about ergonomics and how to apply it to achieve a healthy work-style.

Why Does Ergonomics Matter?

Global studies have shown that, on average, people sit 7.7 hours a day to work on computers, and some results estimate people sit up to 15 hours a day. This negatively affects the well-being of people, because sitting for more than one hour has been associated with cardiovascular diseases. When a person sits for over an hour, muscles burn less fat and blood flows more sluggishly, allowing fatty acids to more easily clog the heart. Prolonged sitting has been linked to high blood pressure and elevated cholesterol. Other health risks linked to the habit of sitting too much include over-productive pancreas and colon, and breast and endometrial cancers.

Having to continuously stare at the computer screen and process information induces eye problems, as well. A study conducted by the Vision Council, a company representing manufacturers and suppliers in the optical industry, found that 61 percent of Americans experience eye problems that include dryness, irritation, and blurred vision when they spend two or more hours each day using a personal digital device. Apart from eye problems, the lower back, hips, wrists, and neck also suffer. These problems can lead to more serious consequences, especially a higher risk of heart attack, stroke, metabolic syndrome, and earlier death.

Start with Your Work Space

Physical workspace is as important, if not more so, than actual work habits. A Forbes article suggests that organizations treat physical space like software—in software, they iterate, make changes, upgrade, and evolve. The physical space needs to be thought of in the same way. It is a major factor of well-being, as employees who enjoy their environments are more engaged, productive, happy, and healthy. Physical workspace also reflects an organizational culture and affects business performance metrics, productivity, and what employees value.

There are four ergonomic points to help set up your computer workstation, including your chair, your keyboard, your monitor, and your documents and telephone. Therefore, failing to take any of these significant points seriously will lead to fatigue or other health problems that impede work efficiency over time.

For an ideal workspace, the monitor should be placed directly in front of you in a way that you don’t have to look up too high or too low—the screen is at your eye level—and is about 20-30 inches away from you. The keyboard should be in front of the monitor so you don’t have to turn your head and your neck back and forth. The mouse should be placed close enough to the keyboard to prevent straining the shoulders and arms. Documents and the telephone should be positioned in a way to minimize the frequent movement of your head, your shoulders, and your neck. You can use a speaker or telephone headset to receive a phone call.

Your Work Habits Reflect Your Lifestyle

You can be a physically active person or someone who is less outdoorsy, but you just cannot deny the fact that you need to be healthy at work. Your work habits, specifically your work posture such as sitting in office chairs, staring at the computer, picking up a phone call, etc., all affect your physical and mental condition. Poor posture can easily cause back and neck pain, as well as damage spinal structures. If you don’t want to get off work feeling all painful and exhausted, follow these tips below to adjust your work habits every day:

  • Sit up straight and align the ears, shoulders, and hips in one vertical line.
  • Don’t sit too high.
  • Boost your feet in certain situations. Don’t lift your feet off the ground all the time.
  • Get up and move every half hour for two minutes. You can stretch, stand, or walk to remain relaxed.
  • Place your armrest in a 90 degree.

Basically, change your position frequently, because movement is important to get blood circulation through the muscles. You should also take a “stretch break” periodically throughout the day to divide up repetitive activities and give fatigued muscles a chance to recover.

 

Paying attention to practices that focus on your well-being is important in the workplace. If you are healthy, you will feel happy and inspired to work, and will be likely to produce more productive and positive outcomes. You should be able to answer these questions, “Are my working postures comfortable (or not)?”, “Do I experience physical aches, pain, fatigue, or feel unable to keep up with the flow of work?”, and “Is the equipment appropriate, easy to use, and well maintained?” Ergonomics is a good way to display what you value in life and work, and how determined you are in striving to constantly improve the work condition.

About My Nguyen

My is a staff writer for AITS. She has a varied background in writing and marketing, having previously worked for the World & Vietnam Report among others.

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