Does Your Workspace Need an Ergonomic Makeover?

Picture of Does Your Workspace Need an Ergonomic Makeover?
Photo: Steve Linster
By Cynthia Dalton
It is through the alignment of the body that I discovered the alignment of my mind, self, and intelligence. — B.K.S. Iyengar

It’s a Matter of Good Health

Most of us spend a great deal of time at our desks, focused on our computer screens. We take it for granted that this is simply a part of modern life. But, is it good for our long-term health?

James Levine, in his article for Scientific American, Killer Chairs: How Desk Jobs Ruin Your Health, tells us:

… researchers have found that sitting for more than half the day, approximately, doubles the risk of diabetes and cardiovascular problems… Sitting for long periods is bad because the human body was not designed to be idle. I have worked in obesity research for several decades, and my laboratory has studied the effect of sedentary lifestyles at the molecular level all the way up to office design. Lack of movement slows metabolism, reducing the amount of food that is converted to energy and thus promoting fat accumulation, obesity, and the litany of ills—heart disease, diabetes, arthritis, and more—that come with being overweight.

Yikes!

Move it!

We can, of course, take steps (literally) to counteract this by incorporating into our workday more variety in our movements. Standing desks are becoming very popular, and cell phones and headsets free us to walk around while conducting business. A lunchtime walk can also help, with the added benefit that it clears our thinking and wakes us up for the afternoon ahead.

Ergonomics to the Rescue

But sometimes we are bound to our desks. But there is help. An ergonomic redesign of your workspace may be in order, starting with your chair. Ergonomics is all about fitting the work environment to the person doing the work, rather than that person having to negotiate an environment that isn’t really designed for the needs of the human body. In his article for lifehacker.com, How to Ergonomically Optimize Your Workspace, Whitson Gordon outlines the features to look for in a desk chair designed for efficiency, productivity, and comfort in a work environment:

  • A comfortable cushion
  • Arm rests
  • adjustable seat height
  • Adjustable back rest height
  • Lumbar Support
  • The ability to swivel and/or roll around

In her article for greatest. com, Here’s How You Should Be Sitting at Your Desk (According to Ergonomics), Hannah Newman provides advice about properly aligning your eyes, arms, back, legs, and feet, while seated at your desk. She writes:

While seated, you never want to be reaching or leaning forward. Why? Well here’s a fun fact: For every inch that the head comes forward, the spine feels like it has taken on an extra 10 pounds — bringing on some major strain for your muscles.

Bustle.com has a nifty slideshow round-up of products to make your work area healthier and more comfortable. You’ll get some good ideas — a standing desk, a lumbar support pillow, a monitor stand that brings your computer screen to eye level, and an adjustable footrest to name a few.

For a truly comprehensive rundown, uclahealth.org provides a series of articles and PDFs on office ergonomics including:

  • How to Setup Your Workstation
  • What is Good Posture?
  • Selecting an Ergonomic Chair (PDF)
  • Keyboard and Pointing Device Tips (PDF)
  • Technology Tips & Tricks to Reduce Ergonomic Risk (PDF)
  • Sitting to Standing Workstations, Workstations on Wheels
  • Ergonomic Lighting (PDF)

What do you think?

  • Do you feel it’s important to avoid being sedentary?
  • Do you work in an ergonomically-friendly workplace?
  • Do you have any tips you’d like to share about healthy workspaces?

Do you have a question, comment or an idea for an article? Email: [email protected]

Leave a comment!

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