Dear Ergo Diva – April Q&A

Ergo Diva addresses your ergonomic questions…and their effect on health and well being.

Dear Ergo Diva - April

Understanding oversitting

Dear Ergo Diva,

Our staff is suffering from a lot of ergonomic injuries lately. I am not sure if it is just bad luck or something we are doing wrong, but I would like to find a way to help. I am not a doctor or a physical trainer, but I am responsible for purchasing furniture for the office. I have been researching the harmful effects of long periods of time spent sitting, and I think our team sits entirely too much. Looking at furniture choices, I am considering investing in sit-stand desks. Do you have any input for me?

Sitting ducks no more!

Sitting too much

Dear Ducks,

Way to take ownership of taking care of your ducklings! We hear of many companies that are forced to hire fewer employees, each of whom handles more tasks, meaning they need to spend even more time at their workstations. Thank you for understanding that the well-being of your team helps you support and grow your business.

Taking care of your staff with ergonomic furniture that suits their body types and their work needs has many benefits:

  • Improves the safety and health of workers
  • Improves employee satisfaction
  • Lowers absenteeism
  • Reduces the company’s costs for injuries
  • Reduces mistakes and the time to correct them
  • Improves productivity and quality issues
  • Decreases negative labor relations
  • Makes organizations more profitable

By investing in workstations that transitions from sitting to standing postures, you are investing in freedom, choice, and the option to move.

The article, Incorporating Sit-Stand Desks in the Office is a great read, and I think you will find that it answers a lot of your questions. Here are a few more tips for you:

  1. When selecting your desks, opt for the biggest height range, so you get the most for your money and accommodate the 95 percentile height people. This will accommodate current and future employees with no added costs.
  2. Get all of the furniture upfront: Sit to Stand Electric Desk, Ergonomic chair, and monitor arm. This will set your team up for sitting or standing, and will encourage people to try both.
  3. If your budget is tight, start with just a few sit stand desks, and have people take turns working at the desks so they can see and feel the benefits. Then, budget for a few desks every month until you can furnish the entire team.
  4. People must be trained on how to use the desks and other ergo equipment to encourage healthy choices.
  5. It’s important to make a compelling business case for the ergonomic improvement using cost justification to prove a return on investment (ROI):
  • Employers pay for 2,000 hours per year per worker, at $xx.xx per hour
  • Workers are not 100% productive, and may be only 85% productive or less under non-optimal work conditions
  • Ergonomics solutions can help to regain some of the lost 15% productivity by improving work conditions and increasing efficiency
  • A 15% improvement can make a difference between break even and corporate profitability

Good luck to you and your team, and kudos to you for leading them toward a healthy tomorrow!

Neck is a Wreck

Dear Ergo Diva,

I work in an Accounting office and this time of year, we are all putting in long hours and lots of work. I am having severe pain in my neck and am desperate for relief. What do you suggest?

No relax time at tax time

Accountant with Neck Pain

Dear Relax,

It is important to first understand the root of the problem so that we can avoid further injury. If we know what is hurting your neck, we will be able to better relieve you from your pain. Here are some common ways people tend to get musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs), which affect the muscles, nerves, blood vessels, ligaments and tendons. Exposure to these known risk factors for MSDs increases your risk of injury:

  • Working in awkward body postures (this is the #1 issue I see due to the height of the standard desk and the postures people are holding in their bodies to work at desks that are wrong for them)
  • Bending
  • Reaching overhead
  • Pushing and pulling heavy loads
  • Performing the same or similar tasks repetitively – for example, if you are talking with a client, facing them while your body is angled toward the monitor

Once you understand the root cause of your neck pain, I recommend taking the following steps to fix it:

  1. Get an Ergo Evaluation

An ergonomic evaluation will analyze your situation with one-on-one, on-site observations and recommend changes that can make an immediate positive impact. Some changes are temporary to be followed by recommendations for equipment and changes needed. Your physical issue needs to be documented and observed as a baseline measure. An ergonomic evaluation will educate you and focus on taking personal responsibility for changes and recommendations.

Infographic- My neck is a wreak

  1. Research protocol

Understand your company’s protocol for requesting ergonomic equipment. Often, companies request a letter from a doctor that explains the medical need, along with an ergonomic evaluation report and recommendations.

  1. Opt for adjustability

Whatever type of equipment is recommended for you, opt for models with the greatest adjustability. This will ensure that the equipment helps your current situation as well as any future issues for you or other team members.

  1. Take personal responsibility

Ergonomic furniture will be a big help, but you also need to take responsibility for how you use it and for other habits that may be affecting your health. Are you moving and stretching enough throughout the day? Hydrating? Taking breaks? All of these things can have a tremendous effect on your neck and your entire body (and your mind!).

Public Radio Ga Ga

Dear Ergo Diva,

NPR did a piece that claims that sit-stand desks are not brag-worthy. I trust NPR for everything from political commentary to jazz music and the “Listener Limerick Challenge.” I was really keen on a sit-stand desk, but now I am not so sure it is worth it. What would be your Panelist Prediction?

Not My Desk Job

Sit-stand desk

Dear Desk,

I saw that NPR article too, but it really doesn’t negate the fact that we all need to sit less and move more (between you and me, that is just common sense!). A few things I want to say in response to the article:

  • Get the most for your money by selecting furniture that is the right size for your space and the type of work you do, has the largest range of height adjustability for correct sitting and standing postures, and is easy to use (and YOU need to learn how to use it)
  • Movement is the key – a sit-stand desk will help you move more
  • Invest in a model that is easy to adjust. I recommend the electric push button sit stand desk. It’s easy to adjust and has memory settings for sitting and standing
  • Add motivation to help yourself move more
  • You will use your sit-stand desk more and more as it becomes a habit for you

Got ergonomic questions?

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About Karen Burke

Karen is the founder and president of Kare Products, specializing in active ergonomic solutions. She has 30 years experience in ergonomic product design and consulting.
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