Office ergonomics: this why it really matters

Office ergonomics: this why it really matters

What comes to mind when you think about health at the workplace? Perhaps it’s the guarantee of safe and comfortable conditions, or a great human resources department for your mental health needs or company concerns. But what about your physical needs? In this guest post, we have teamed up with Dr Carlo Conti, a physiotherapist specialising in posture and ergonomics, who shared some expert insight on why it all really matters.

If you sit at a workstation all day, either at the office or working from home, your chances of having suffered or are actively suffering from aches and pains from prolonged sitting are more likely than not. And in cause and effect, the more aches and pains you have, the more your work becomes a chore and the more likely it becomes riddled with errors.

This is exactly why an investment in office ergonomics is more than just an investment in your well-being and comfort – an investment in ergonomics, office or otherwise, is an investment that translates into increased productivity.

Having you or your employees working in a pain-free environment directly translates into increased focus, i.e less errors, less sick days taken, better morale, better employee retention and overall better work output.

Countless aches and pains are a result of repetitive strains that arise from poor postures sustained for indefinite periods. These ailments can escalate to a tipping point where massages, stretching and over the counter remedies stop being effective. In such scenarios, which are becoming increasingly common, both the employee and the company stand to lose..

To start grasping the basics of good ergonomics two points need to be made clear:

  1. Ergonomics is not a product, but a concept – it’s a concept that describes the quality of support given to an individual in order to carry out their work safely and effectively. Assuming that the ergonomics at a workstation are adequate simply based upon the price tag or generic description of purchased equipment is a common yet often erroneous practice.In other words, raising the height of a monitor by placing it over a stack of papers can offer a better ergonomic setup than having a pricey monitor stand that doesn’t accommodate the user’s needs.
  2. Every individual presents a unique set of needs that would determine the ergonomic setup required. A tall person suffering with headaches and neck pain would not benefit from the same setup that a similarly tall person suffering from lower back pain would need, or say, a shorter person suffering from headaches and neck pain. Building upon the previous point, a thorough ergonomic assessment must go beyond a simple questionnaire or product acquisition; the factors that come into play with each scenario, such as, the nature of the task, stature, and any underlying pathology need to be identified. Once the needs of a situation are well understood the solution is often far simpler, more cost-efficient and overall more effective than having a myriad of costly gadgets that offer generic support.

For those just beginning to appreciate the importance of good sitting ergonomics, some rules of thumb, as presented in the above picture, can be helpful to get you started. Since the quality of ergonomics is determined by a coherent set of principles being put into practice, one simply cannot adopt singular measures in the absence of other counterbalancing measures. A balanced posture, for example, requires that forces applied to the body are matched by counter-forces that minimise the need of effort to individual structures and to the person as a whole.

It often shocks people working in office jobs that they spend around fourteen hours a day sitting. One simply has to add their work hours with all the other activities carried out in sitting such as dining, commuting, relaxing, and socialising.

With sitting becoming the predominant position adopted in their day, and being aware of all the complications that can arise from sitting badly, it begs the question – can you truly afford to ignore your ergonomic needs further? The science is clear on this one.


About the Author

Dr Carlo Conti graduated in 2001 with a BSc(Hons) in Physiotherapy from The University of Malta. In 2006 Dr Conti went to complete his Masters in Manual Therapy at The University of Western Australia and in 2009 he pursued a Doctorate in Clinical Physiotherapy at The University of Melbourne. Dr Conti focused his research on exploring concepts related to prolonged sitting posture that can easily be applied in the office environment. Currently Dr Conti works in private practice as a Physiotherapist specialising in the treatment of pain and discomfort arising from poor sitting posture. He also offers consultancy services to offices in setting up proper ergonomic workstations.