Whether it's just you running your home office or a busy building full of employees working alongside one another, it's important to ensure the most comfortable and ergonomic office environment. Not only will this help reduce risk and liability for injury, but it also boosts productivity and morale.
How can you find the right ergonomic workstation solutions? Here are four questions to answer for each location.
1. What Will People Do Here? Each work station is a little different, even in a traditional office. A receptionist, for instance, answers the phone, greets customers, and often has a larger desk than other office workers. Employees who do a lot of drafting may have very different tasks and needs than a secretary. Start by assessing the individual jobs in each location. Look for actions that are repetitive, tasks that call for unusual movements, or equipment being used.
2. How Is Everything Accessed? Ideally, workers should not have to strain to reach items they regularly use. Placing the most-used items on the surface or in easy-to-reach side drawers means a more comfortable day and less risk of muscle pulls and strains. Do employees find themselves using makeshift work surfaces, such as chairs, boxes, or stacks of books? Provide additional work surfaces or storage to prevent this type of potentially damaging 'jury rigging'. And emphasis the use of drawers or shelves at a comfortable arm's reach rather than placing them too high or too low.
3. How Can You Provide Variety? Repetitive motions and being too stationary causes a lot of aches and pains for office workers. Encourage variety in all aspects of the daily routine. Work stations that change height — such as raising from a sitting position to a standing one — make it easier for people to make adjustments. In addition, you may provide some respite by placing certain lesser-used tools or equipment at a short distance so the worker has to walk around to use it.
4. What is the Worker's Natural Posture? Desks, tables, and chairs should not be considered a 'one size fits all' element. Each worker has a unique body shape and comfort zone. Have users sit or stand at the station and make height or width adjustments based on their personal need for leg room, arm widths, and eye level.
While some elements of ergonomic workstation design may seem detailed and minuscule, think about the long term. You want all your workers and yourself to enjoy working more and have fewer distractions from aches and sore muscles. So investing some time into creating a great workstation will pay off for years to come.
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