The benefits of office ergonomics

The city of Atlanta is full of buildings that stretch for the sky. Those big, beautiful buildings are filled with offices and cubes, right? For city dwellers, office jobs are common. If you’re an employer who works alongside your employees in an office building, you might think that you’re at a low risk of workers’ comp claims. There’s not much risk associated with talking on the phone, typing at a computer, or getting a cup of coffee.

Or is there?

Having an office job that requires sitting at a desk for long, extended periods of time, while not involving physical labor, is still hard on the body. Joints and muscles get sore and strained. Repetitive motions, like typing, can cause stress to joints. Wrists, backs, and necks are all in the line of fire when it comes to musculoskeletal disorders, or MSDs. Some MSDs you might have heard of are carpal tunnel, lower back injuries or strains, and tendonitis.

But the good news is that there are things you can to do to take some of the strain off of your desk-bound employees’ bodies. You can help make your employees more comfortable and reduce their risk of injury.  

It’s called ergonomics.

Ergonomics is a fancy way of saying that the job is fits the person. It’s the way that the body interacts with the workstation. In the case of office workers, that means that the workspace is set up in such a way that it causes the least amount of stress to the body. Strain can quickly lead to pain, so it’s important that the body is able to move naturally. That means that the chair provides good support, the computers are positioned in a certain way, and the phones are within easy reach (and are equipped with headsets to avoid a neck crunch.)

Why should I implement ergonomics?

There are plenty of reasons that you should make your office more ergonomic. Ergonomics can help you…

  • Reduce the risk of workers’ comp claims.
  • Increase employee productivity.
  • Make your employees happier.

 What can I do to make my office more ergonomically friendly?

1. Set up workstations properly.

In office jobs, the highest risks of strain come from hunched or awkward postures, repeating the same movement over and over, and using too much force. Sitting at a desk and looking at a computer screen can put a strain on the body if the station is not set up in a way that’s natural for our arms, backs, and legs.

To make sure that computers are set up ergonomically…

  • Make sure that monitors are at least 18” away from where an employee’s eyes would be. The monitor should also be at a level that is slightly below the employee’s eye level so they can look down at it.
  • The keyboard should be placed in such a way that the elbows can rest at a 90° angle.
  • The mouse should be level with the keyboard and in easy reach. The employee shouldn’t have to stretch to reach either the keyboard or the mouse.
  • Wrists should be able to be in a flat, straight position while the employee is typing.
  • Provide document holders so that any papers your employees have to look at can be placed at the same level as the monitor. 

2. Provide proper furniture.

The kind of chair and desk that are provided also make a difference to ergonomics.

Your employees should be able to adjust their chairs to the appropriate height. Their feet should be able to rest flat on the ground. The chair should also provide good back support and have five legs for added stability. There should be no sharp edges on the chair, and the fabric should be breathable.

The edges of the desk should be curved so that there are no sharp edges that press into the employee’s arms. Preferably the table would even be height-adjustable so that the employee can move it to be at a comfortable height. There should also be lots of room so that the computer screen can be pushed back or moved as needed. Any cabinets or drawers should be out of the way so they don’t interfere with the employee’s knees or legs.

If your employees are required to talk on the phone for an extended period of time, provide a headset so that they can talk, type, and relax without having to tilt their head.

3. Involve your employees.

Ultimately, it’s your employees who will be able to tell you if there’s a problem with their workstation. They can make suggestions about how to fix the issues they encounter and they can provide feedback about ergonomic changes that are made. Touch base with them to make sure their workstation is to their satisfaction.

4. Make sure your employees know to report any strains or pains they may be feeling due to their job.

Provide training so that workers can recognize the signs of MSDs. The earlier your employees are able to report an MSD issue, the sooner you’ll be able to address the problem and keep it from becoming worse.

Taking breaks and stretching are good for the body. Make sure that your employees know it’s okay for them to get up and move around if they need to.

5. Treat ergonomics as an ongoing process.

Creating an ergonomic workplace isn’t an overnight process. It’s something that you can keep building on. It’s important to track how well the ergonomic adjustments have been helping your employees and to get feedback.

A lot of us who live in the Atlanta area work in offices. Even though an office job might not seem like it’s strenuous or physically demanding, it can still be hard on the body. As an employer, you can help make your office a more comfortable place for your employees to work, and in doing so you reduce your chances of facing workers’ comp claims from MSDs.

Need insurance? Contact us today. We can help you make sure that you’re protected from all of the risks your business faces. We’ll even get you a free quote.