Wellness programs: Companies expand wellness programs to rein in health care costs – chicagotribune.com
The following ergonomic tips list is the result of extensive fieldwork conducted with thousands of computer users. Following these tips carefully can help prevent severe orthopedic problems and provide an immediate relief from existing pains.
1. When sitting in front of a computer screen, the most important thing (and one unknown by most) is providing support for the forearms while typing and using a mouse. Sadly, most computer users tend to type with their arms hanging in the air without support. This creates a massive load on the shoulder belt and lower back.
2. The solution? Supporting your forearms by resting them on the armrests or on the desk, or using a padded forearms support device attached to the table.
3. How to position the forearms should be decided in accordance with existing equipment. If the chair arms are uncomfortable to use, not adjustable and padded, do not use them. If your desk is narrow and doesn’t allow you to place your entire forearms comfortably, do not place them on the desk. In such cases, the best solution is putting the forearms on a wide padded surface that connects to the desk.
4. Correct sitting height is critical. Make sure your shoulder belt is relaxed when resting your forearms. Sitting at the wrong height causes you to lift or bend your shoulders and puts a significant burden on the shoulder belt.
5. Be sure to work with the screen directly in front of you, a screen located sideways might quickly cause a cervical disc herniation.
6. A computer screen positioned too high might cause severe neck problems. Make sure the upper frame of the screen is at eye level.
7. Free leg space to allow for comfortable sitting – relocate any accessories (such as computer box, wastebasket, bags) located where your legs are supposed to be.
8. Using a keyboard drawer is not recommended. Keyboard drawers get in the way of your legs and afford no support for your forearms.
9. Be sure not to place any accessory where it can interfere with the mouse movement. Moving the mouse should be a large scope movement, performed from the shoulder joint, and not a small wrist movement.
10. Check your vision often. Impaired vision causes neck distortions and might build enormous pressures on the neck as a compensation for the inability to see well.
11. It’s recommended to place the phone on the opposite side of the typing and mouse moving hand.
12. It is recommended to maintain a sitting posture that is as dynamic and symmetrical as possible, i.e. without a back rest, crossing legs once on the left and once on the right, sitting on a fitness ball or a knees stool.
13. Make sure the computer screen, keyboard and mouse’s cables are long enough and as loose as possible, so you can position them according to your need. Many computer users arrange their work station in accordance with existing constraints, without even trying to correct the problem.
14. Choose a desk with a lot of leg space, and as little leg interference or lower storage as possible. Your desk should allow for a comfortable sitting posture and the possibility of performing stretching exercises while working.
Migraines, shoulder pains, herniated discs, eye strain… these are just some of the symptoms of what can easily be considered as the Millennium’s syndrome – “Computer pains”.
Suffer some of those? No need to rush to the medicine cabinet, make an appointment with the family doctor or see your physical therapist!
Sometimes even minor adjustments to your workstation can do wonders – eradicate your pain and save you money.
So here’s the Complete Guide to Ergonomics!
Elevated computer screen – sitting for hours in front of an elevated computer screen puts a lot of strain on the neck vertebrae – an effort that causes ongoing pain. The neck is a sensitive area and neck pain can radiate to other body parts such as shoulders, elbows, hands and wrists. Lessening the pressure on neck muscles may also resolve apparently unconnected body aches.
Solution: The computer screen should be placed at eye level and lower to allow the neck vertebrae to be in neutral posture and rest.
Lateral posture – At many companies I see computer screens located not straight in front of the user but sideways, often due to the need to communicate with clients face to face, or in order to make room on the crowded desk. Working in a lateral posture for long periods of time, sometimes for many hours, puts an enormous amount of strain and pressure on the neck vertebrae. This can cause headaches, migraines and pain in other parts of the body. Angled screens and lateral postures put a constant load of strain on the spine and cause the body to be organized unnaturally with every part turned in a different direction.
Solution: The best solution for such a situation is placing the computer screen directly in front of the user whenever possible, moving it aside when the user has to serve clients. This can be achieved by using a multi-directional arm that allows for shifting the screen easily from one position to the other when necessary.
Screen distance – too close or too far – a small work area, sight problems, or a smallish desk may result in a computer screen placed too close to the user, causing eye damage and headaches.
On the other hand, placing the screen too far away strains the eyes and causes fatigue, irritability and disquiet.
Solution: the computer screen should be positioned at a distance of 3 times the screen diagonal, or more simply, sitting at a straight-arm distance from the center of the screen.
Prolonged Sitting - By itself, prolonged sitting can cause physical degeneration as well as a variety of back, shoulders and neck problems. Sitting for long stretches of time without movement compresses the vertebrae, which in turn exert pressure on the nerves. The muscles surrounding the vertebrae suffer from degeneration and blood flow is also impaired.
Solution: It is recommended to change posture occasionally, stand up and stretch out at least once every half an hour, and incorporate into your working hours some sort of physical activity that is compatible with working in front of a computer. The most recommended exercises are strengthening the abdomen and back muscles and performing back rotations.
The Correct Sitting Posture Myth – there is a myth that you should sit with your upper body straight up at 90 degrees toward the feet. This is a serious mistake. Actually it’s much better to sit with a 100 to 110 degrees angle – some sort of leaning back or reclining. The reason for that is that when you sit at 90 degrees, your entire upper body weight is exerted directly on your lower back vertebrae. Reclining at 100 to 110 degrees decreases significantly the pressure on the vertebrae.
And the best solution of all:
Physical awareness – the most effective tool in preventing ergonomic damages is the development of physical awareness. Developing such an awareness under professional guidance can help purchasing cost effective equipment suited to users’ needs, and may improve the worker’s productivity , prevent health issues, increase the number of productive working hours and promote the correct usage of existing human engineering.
As an independent ergonomic counselor offering my services to high tech companies, I often wonder – who would be the right person to meet at the organization in order to create a serious and effective ergonomic program?
My experience tells me that in each organization, the correct answer will be different.
The crucial person or function to approach could be located at: Human Resources, Staff Welfare, Operations or Acquisition management, R&D Department, or it could be any of the organization’s vice presidents: Safety, IT, Administration, or any departmental Manager.
One of the main obstacles in promoting ergonomics in organizations is that the employees themselves may lack ergonomic awareness. They do not put any pressure on the organization or ask emphatically enough for ergonomic consulting services. After all, not all employees are aware of the causal connection between working environment and bodily pains.
It’s not always easy to make the connection between work and pain. The discomfort and pains suffered by computer users usually develop gradually and do not force the users to stop working immediately. The discomfort turns into chronic pain that the employees learn to live with, suffering quietly and hoping for the best.
Even when employees are well aware of the situation, some of them might hesitate to complain of discomfort and pains they feel at their daily work out of fear of being fired, or being regarded by the organization as trouble makers.
Employers sometimes take advantage of this ignorance or fear, and do nothing to raise awareness. After all, why create problems where you have industrial peace? So they sort of “let sleeping dogs lay”. The situation is the worst in organizations where employees’ turnover is high and the employer has no incentive to improve working conditions.
But ending on a positive note – we see more and more organizations that are open minded towards ergonomics, being well aware of its importance. Those organizations do not hesitate to invest substantial amounts in order to create the right working environment.
As I’ve noted in previous posts, organizations are not promoting ergonomics solely for the employee’s interest. They understand that in the long run, investment in ergonomics has a very high ROI.
For one good example I can give the Israeli Low department that after a long period of consultation, trial period and ROI calculation bought for all its clerics an innovative forearm support board the ergocloud.
What turns a computer mouse into an “ergonomic” accessory?
What are the criteria for an ergonomic mouse?
When purchasing a new mouse, how can we be certain that the mouse touted to be ergonomic does indeed comply with ergonomic criteria?
Does any mice manufacturer have the right to attach the word “ergonomic” to their products?
And is an ergonomic mouse really better than a regular mouse? That is, would an ergonomic mouse helps in preventing carpal tunnel syndrome and inflammations of the wrist?
And last but not least, given the huge assortment of ergonomic mouse devices on the market, how do we know which would be the best and the most appropriate for us?
In order to solve some of these questions, we would first need to determine what exactly is an ergonomic mouse, and what functions are not included in the ergonomic definition.
You might be surprised to know, but the design process of any product involves certain ergonomic considerations.
That being so, basically any product can be called “ergonomic”.
Confused? So am I, but the answer is simple – ergonomic means “suited to the user”. That’s right – Suited to You. That’s the greatest secret of ergonomics.
For example: a small handed girl working with an ergonomic mouse significantly big for her hand or a large man working with a smallish ergonomic mouse will feel very uncomfortable, even though they’re using a mouse that supposedly is ergonomic. An accountant using an extremely narrow or cluttered desk, who chooses to use a large mouse that can hardly be moved on such a desk, will also feel discomfort.
The obvious conclusion is: the mouse should be chosen first and foremost according to body size, work needs and desk format.
Having chosen the ergonomic mouse that fits us we have to ask – would that mouse itself prevent wrist pain?
The answer depends on how we sit and the posture of our hand on the desk.
For example: if we sit too low in respect to our desk, we will not be able to place our hand correctly on the desk, and no ergonomic mouse can or will help us. Or if due to the table structure or the multitude of devices placed on the desk (laptop, telephone, folders… you name it) there is not enough free space to place our wrist, we will not be able to achieve the correct hand posture to benefit from the ergonomic mouse.
So, we understood that we need to choose a mouse that is appropriate to our structure and needs, and have arranged our sitting position and desk to enable us to create the right arm and hand position. The question still remains: Should we buy a mouse defined as ergonomic or can we be satisfied with a simple mouse?
The answer is not that simple. Our best advice would be to try out several mouse devices for a period of time, to feel if there’s any change. I believe some of the ergonomic mouse devices sold today have a structure that definitely lessens the pressure on the hand. Those are worth trying first.
One of the first things I have noticed as an ergonomic advisor was the lack of uniformity and total absence of any standardization of the working environments at offices and working places.
This is mainly evident when you look at the equipment being used – a haphazard mix of old and new appliances, furniture items and ergonomic equipment. In many offices you can find a medley of different desks and chairs even in a single working space.
How would such a situation be created? There are a ton of different reasons.
For example, many working places might replace malfunctioning or broken equipment, but anything that is still functional gets left as it was.
Another reason could be replacing a specific item or equipment, only for those employees who used some sort of leverage to get their equipment renewed. And sometimes, it’s all about ranks – new and improved equipment is bought for the higher rank workers of the organization, but not for the lower ranks.
Additional reasons might be different decisions reached by different purchasing officers, a decision made by the operational vice president, a change in the budget allocated to acquisition, etc.
What is more clear is that this lack of uniformity can and does create an array of problems:
- Those workers left to work with outdated equipment suffer discomfort and pains;
- Each working station requires different ergonomic accessories (which ofcourse entails a higher monetary expenditure);
- It is impossible to offer a uniform ergonomic guidance to all workers;
- Planning the arrangement of different work stations in one working space is complex and unecessarily problematic;
- It is a situation which could create resentment among workers and lead to demands for ergonomic equipment;
- And of course this is a situation which could damage the organization’s public image.
Using solid ergonomic advise and planning when getting ready to purchase ergonomic equipment in the early stages of building work stations is a critical step. Good ergonomic advice will allow the organization to create a healthy, ergonomic and uniform work environment.