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Dear Ergo Diva – July 2016 Q&A

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

July Ergo Diva

Got a hack for pain in the back?

Dear Ergo Diva,

I know that my sit-stand desk is supposed to cure my backaches forever, but honestly – it hasn’t. I sit, I stand . . . and still my back is sore, tight, and painful. Can you help?

Forsake the backache

Back Pain

Dear Forsaker,

First of all, I want you to know that you are not alone. 80% of American are affected by back pain. In fact, back pain is the most common reason for missed work days.

Secondly, as highly as I recommend sit-stand desks, I want you to understand that by no means will any piece of furniture ever be able to cure your backaches. However, when set up and used properly, good ergonomic furniture will help you avoid backaches.

I wish the industry would have consulted me when they named sit-stand desks. I would have insisted that they drop that moniker and call them Active Desks instead, because only with movement will you truly get the intended benefits.

For every position, there are things you can do to support your posture and ease the pressure on your back.

When you sit:

  • Set up your monitor to be level with the top of your head
  • Use an adjustable ergonomic chair that has seat tilt, back tilt, and lumbar support
  • Ensure that your elbows are at a 90 -degree angle and wrists are level with the keyboard
  • Place your keyboard and mouse side by side and close to you to avoid reaching
  • Support and elevate your feet with a footrest if your desk is too high

When you stand:

  • Always stand close to the desk edge
  • If you find yourself perching your arms on the edge of desk, lower the desk, relax your shoulders, keep your elbows by your side and level with your wrists, and consider getting a gel cushioned wrist rest.  Make sure your feet have solid placement on the floor, wear comfy shoes, and use an anti-fatigue mat for added relief

When you move:

  • Move as often as possible – stretch, exercise, walk around

Set an alarm to get up and moving every 45-60 minutes (a la Pomodoro Technique). Your back doesn’t have to hurt, and by moving more throughout the day, along with setting up your sit-stand desk to be optimal for your body type, you set yourself up to maintain a neutral spine. I think you may even surprise yourself with more energy and a brighter outlook, in general.

Here’s a free guide How to Set Up an Ergonomic Workstation

Work Wings

Dear Ergo Diva,

I need more energy at work. I seem to always be tired, unfocused, and uninspired. I have tried coffee, RedBull, even power naps…but nothing works. Do you have any suggestion for finding my work mojo?

Shake me to wake me

Tired in the Office

Dear Shake,

It doesn’t take a $13 Million lawsuit to know that Red Bull does not really give you wings (and neither does coffee!). Instead, try these tips:

  • Turn on some music that inspires you and makes you move
  • If you need some sugar, forego the sugary drinks and candy, and instead eat fruit
  • Get some sun for a natural boost in vitamin D, which will lift your spirits, and serotonin that will help you sleep better at night
  • Do some stretching routines to get your blood circulating and your energy up
  • Find an office friend and have a laugh…it will energize you, and its good for your health
  • Sit-stand desks have a great energizing benefit – a combination of sitting and standing throughout the day keeps you alert, so consider upgrading your sedentary workstyle with an active one
  • Standing properly at the desk will also give you energy: Stand with knees slightly bent, thigh bones aligned below the hip sockets, the upper and lower leg directly lined up with each other, and feet slightly angled out at about shoulder width. Avoid locking your knees – hyperextension can put a huge strain on the ligaments at the back of the knee.

The bottom line is activity – being active will keep you energized and enthusiastic at work.

ErgonomiX Factor

Dear Ergo Diva,

My team has Ergonomics training at their disposal, but they are not into it. I feel like something is missing. I want to find a way to get them motivated and excited about embracing the principles of ergonomics.

Fun for Everyone

Ergonomic Training

Dear Fun,

Here are some tips for getting your team jazzed up about ergonomics:

  • Set calendar alarms hourly for individual or group stretch, hydration breaks, and short walks
  • Provide your staff with ergonomic tools, and show each person how to use them
  • To develop ongoing good posture habits, have a contest of what ergonomic changes made the most significant improvement.  Reward the winning person or group with a certificate, a small token (like flowers!), or give them an afternoon off
  • Provide ongoing education
  • Offer basic or in-depth ergonomic evaluations

Being able to explain what is in it for each person who gets involved with ergonomics will also encourage them.

For the employer/management:

  • Good morale, employees feel cared for
  • Higher productivity, less mistakes
  • Improved quality of work and interaction in the office environment
  • Reduced costs of covering work-related injuries

For the employee:

  • Employees feel better during the day – physically and emotionally
  • Improved quality of work and interaction in the office environment
  • Employees will have more energy to do the things they love at the end of their day
  • More efficiency – less time spent on making and fixing mistakes
  • Employees are more interested in being a part of a team when they are healthier

Let me know if this information helps you get people motivated to attend the ergonomic education huddles. I look forward to hearing from you!

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About Karen Burke

Karen Burke, the founder of Kare Products, a leading provider of ergonomic office chairs and sit-stand desks with rigorous standards for quality and adjustability. She has been helping corporations improve productivity and the well-being of their employees for over 30 years and is passionate about sharing her extensive ergonomic knowledge through evaluations, publications and delivering solutions that fit every body.
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