Wednesday, May 19, 2010

It Only Hurts When I Sit

Our bodies are designed to operate in two postures really well. The first is standing upright and moving. The second is lying down and resting. We really didn’t need to think about what sitting posture does to our bodies until well into the Industrial Revolution. With the proliferation of desktop PCs, huge numbers of us now have jobs that require us to exist in a seated position for hours on end.

It seems obvious to us that a good pair of shoes really helps us if we need to be on our feet a lot. And, it’s equally obvious that a better quality bed equates to a better nights’ rest. What isn’t so obvious is that a well constructed office chair can make a huge difference not only to our comfort but to our continuing well-being and overall productivity as well.

Ergonomic Isn't Just a Fancy Buzz-Word
An effective definition of the term ergonomic is simply: an item that fits/adapts to the user.

Until a few short years ago, office furniture was decidedly not ergonomic. Many companies placed far more emphasis on either the aesthetics or cost than on the comfort of the people using the furniture. More recently, individuals and companies have begun to realize that productivity increases when people use tools that provide better support and comfort. Ergonomic furniture and office products are beginning to be understood and accepted.

Qualities of a “Good” Office Chair

Starting from the ground up, a better office chair will have a 5-star (5 leg) base for improved balance. The casters will be large for better weight distribution. The chair will have a height adjustable piston or cylinder. The seat pan will be contoured like a tractor seat for better and more even support; and it’ll have a rounded or waterfall edge to avoid painful contact against the back of the user’s thighs. The seat pan will be constructed from solid wood or a composite material rather than cardboard or plastic for improved durability. The cushion will be made from HR (high resiliency) foam or memory foam for greater support and comfort. The back of the chair will also be made from quality materials and foam as well as provide adjustable lumbar support. Features which set the very best apart from the rest include: seat pan depth adjustment; articulating armrests; full range lockable tilt adjustment; height adjustable back rest; and, contoured back support which provides lateral as well as lumbar support.

Optimizing Your Workspace

A high quality chair is only one part of the equation when it comes to setting up an ergonomic workspace. Other factors of great importance include correctly arranging other tools such as the computer monitor, keyboard and mouse as well as the telephone document printer and anything else used regularly.

The keyboard and monitor must be placed directly in front of the user, not at an angle. If the monitor cannot be directly in front of the user because the user must also interact with other people across from them, a monitor arm or stand may help. Unless the numeric keypad portion of the keyboard is used frequently, the alphabetic (or “typewriter”) portion of the keyboard should be centered in front of the user. Pay attention to the placement of the mouse such that the user does not have to reach or extend an arm at awkward angles. Often this may be resolved by placing the mouse on the left side of the keyboard. Yes, that takes some practice. But, the decrease in pain is worth the effort.

Any tools used frequently should be placed within easy reach. If a phone is used a lot, especially at the same time as using the keyboard, a wireless headset is in order.

Tools used less often can be placed farther away. Unless the user is constantly printing documents, placing the printer some distance away such that it is necessary to stand up and walk a short distance will provide beneficial “micro” breaks.

All In the Name of Productivity

Whether working in a traditional office or from home, these days it’s all about productivity. By equipping yourself with quality ergonomic office furniture and arranging your work area properly, productivity will instantly improve because you won’t be thinking about how much pain you are in all day long.

Trust the Professionals
Here at the Relax The Back store in central Phoenix, we’re certified in office ergonomics. We have years of experience helping people to understand the importance of top quality ergonomic office chairs, desks, monitor stands, keyboard trays and more. Whether you are trying to improve your office environment or in finding a chair which will make you comfortable for all those hours of surfing the web at home, we can help.

Relax The Back in central Phoenix has been serving the community of greater Phoenix since 1994 from Uptown Plaza conveniently located north of downtown in between Interstate 17 and SR 51. We’re open 7 days a week for your convenience.

1 comment:

  1. Anyone who has had to suffer with RSI would agree; good workplace ergonomics ought to be right set down in every employee's contract.

    Too many employers still equate "ergonomics" with "expensive". And they really need to ask themselves; what is more expensive, an uncomfortable workforce that has to go off sick or the cost of improving office ergonomics?

    Ignoring ergomonics makes no sense on any level and it's time employers realised it.