Office Furniture Ergonomics and Health in the Workplace

ergonomics_webErgonomics is the science of design that focuses on the worker and its physical features in order to offer the best working conditions. These “human factors” play an important role in the workplace environment because they can make the difference between low and high productivity. Researchers often make extensive tests on furniture items in order to reduce stress at the workplace and lessen the toll they take on the human body. Although furniture ergonomics is high on the list, ergonomics is also considered when dealing with external factors such as lighting, temperature and noise. These three can often be found working in unison to decrease human productivity. Since the human resource is the most important in a company because it is the only one that actively controls other resources, ergonomics are considered an integral part of office design and layout. Health in the workplace is based on five principles of ergonomics: safety, comfort, usability, productivity and aesthetics. A company should always seek safety first and aesthetics last. The exception to this rule represents a working environment in which the two are connected without taking into account budget restraints. There is also the possibility of purchasing refurbished ergonomic furniture items that can offer the best of both principles at a reasonable price.

Physical Ergonomics and What They Entail
Office activity is always seen as sitting in a chair for hours on end with great physical toll on the spine. To avoid physical injury and stress to the structure of the spine, office chairs and desks need to be highly adaptable to the needs of the user. Office furniture ergonomics must offer support in terms of lower back support and perfect height (chair-desk combination). These two together should promote a posture that has little to no effect on the spine when they are used for an extended period of time. A wrong sitting position can affect the spine and develop compounding back problem in time. Desktop computers have extended the time people spend working while sitting in a chair. The musculoskeletal disorders have also increased in the internet age, making lifestyle choices and working environments a cause for concern.

This is Where Ergonomic Design Steps In
Sitting does not entail too much physical effort when compared to jogging or walking, but it damages the lumbar area of the spine because it focuses the upper body weight on a single area. People who live a sedentary life both at home and at the office are the first to experience the effects of long working hours in a fixed position.  Ergonomic chairs balance the weight, improve sitting position for the back and offer better cushioning. All these design features maximize the benefits of a good posture but do not handle other health issues such as neck pain and headaches. Muscles in the neck can lead to headaches if they are constantly tightened up by keeping the head in a forward position. Positioning your workstation properly is of utmost importance if you are looking to successfully combat or reduce neck strain and pains. It is considered a good practice to always check if your head is in line with your shoulders and your back is no arched back too much. Ergonomists give this advice to ensure a correct position of the spine, with less body mass to strain certain areas.

Positioning the Chair and Using Seat Mechanisms
Company managers and logistics experts should know that one chair model and size cannot fit all the employees. A chair should always be picked according to all dimensions, not only for general comfort. One body part can fit snuggly while the other can be strained. The perfect height for a seat is known to be roughly 25 per cent of the user height. Leg length can vary considerably, while the torso maintains relatively similar lengths. Chair sizes and shapes differ from task to task. It entirely depends on the type of activity the user performs, operating a computer, assembling parts, or working a machine.

Ergonomic Features to Look for in a Chair-Desk Combination
Ergonomic chairs need to have adjustable seats, rests, and tilts in order to keep employees productive at work and strain-free. This will ensure an overall good office health and better work performance without sacrificing too many sick days and off-time. First of all, an ergonomic chair should be stable, with quality seat material and nice padding for comfort. The backrest should be vertically adjustable and also free to be moved backwards and forwards. Lumbar support is critical as well as enough width and depth. While the chair is by far more important than the desk in terms of body support and comfort, the process of choosing the right desk must not be entirely overlooked. It ultimately provides the working space in offices where employees spend considerable time at their computer stations. Desks should not be too high or too low, too wide or too narrow. Despite the chairs’ multitude of ergonomic features, the desks can nullify them if they make the user extend too far to reach items or having to move with the chair to perform general activities.

What Ergonomics Do to Improve Health and Safety in the Workplace
Ergonomics are human-oriented design features to improve health and stave off accidents, injuries and detrimental effects on health. It focuses mostly on ensuring overall productivity and increasing performance at the workplace. Ergonomic designs have to increase the operating life and efficient use of the items as well. Furniture items need to be designed in order to suit the need of a high-paced working environment, where repetitive actions can lead to strains and even object fatigue.

For example, those who operate movements using a mouse (graphic designers) but keep repeating movements that make them reach out too much can suffer from Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI). All items should be positioned within reach, easily accessible in order to prevent such injuries. Chairs should always be close to the desks to keep the user from hunching, but also at a reasonable distance to protect the eyes from light radiation coming from the computer’s display.

Ergonomics extends beyond ease of use and even applies to workers who are taking shifts in order to prevent exhaustion and mental fatigue. Applying ergonomic techniques to humans and choosing ergonomic items for the company will not only improve workplace safety and overall health, but will also increase productivity and profit.