Back pain and other related symptoms are among the top 10 reasons workers visit a physician, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In many cases, this pain is a direct result of how we hold ourselves at our work stations. Referred to as ergonomic injuries, these typically include symptoms like discomfort or pain in the back, neck or shoulders; pain in the wrists or other parts of the body, tingling or numbness in the fingers or hands, and swelling and joint stiffness.
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As the University of California Riverside notes, these often-painful symptoms are the direct result of what are called ergonomic risk factors. These include things like sitting for a long time in an uncomfortable posture, straining the body, repetitive use of one part of the body, contact pressure, and exposure to vibration.
Fortunately, there are steps that business owners can take to help make the workplace as ergonomically friendly as possible. The following tips can help create a comfortable working environment that allows for maximum productivity along with a minimum of injuries:
1. Make sure arms are well-supported
If your employees spend a lot of time in front of computers or sitting at a desk, it’s imperative that their arms are well-supported during the day. As Ergo-Plus notes, workers whose arms do not have some type of support under them—for example, an arm rest on a chair—will typically have sore and tired shoulders and necks by quitting time. Solutions include supportive office chairs that offer sturdy arm support like the Endeavour 103A office chair from Wayfair.
2. Adjust the position of computer monitors and keyboards
As Humantech notes, the way computer monitors are positioned on a desk has a big impact on ergonomics. Ask your employees to adjust their monitors so that the top of the screen is slightly under or right at eye level. In addition, make sure that the monitor is more than an arm’s length away from the employee’s face. In order to keep the arms as horizontal as possible, work with your employees to adjust the height of their keyboards so their elbows remain at about a 90 degree angle when they are working. If the keyboards are usually placed on the desk, consider investing in adjustable trays that mount underneath.
3. Encourage frequent breaks
In order to decrease the risk of ergonomic-related injuries, make sure your employees are taking breaks from any repetitive activities. For example, if your workers typically spend a lot of time doing data entry, vary their responsibilities so they can also incorporate other tasks like making copies, calling clients, and other jobs that will get them away from repetitive motion. Although there is no cut and dry rule for this, getting away from the computer every hour for five minutes is a good place to start.
4. Watch employees’ posture
A great way to reduce the risk of ergonomic injuries is to make sure your employees are practicing good posture throughout the day. Ask your employees to sit or stand as close to their desk or workstation as they can; this will reduce the chances of slouching or leaning too far forward. In addition, if your employees are on the phone often, purchase devices that allow your employees to keep their head upright while talking. Holding a phone between your neck and ear is not only uncomfortable, it can easily lead to neck pain.