Staying active and mobile at work is important for wellbeing and productivity, however according to a study by the University of Texas, good ergonomics doesn’t mean much if you’re not equipped with the right furniture and knowledge of how to use it.
The study examined the effects of ergonomics intervention with 219 office workers. One group received a ‘highly adjustable’ task chair and proper ergonomics training, another group, training only and a control group received training only at the end of the study. The bottom line? All the ergonomics knowledge and training in the world isn’t going to make a difference if you don’t have access to the right furniture. This may sound dramatic and you might be thinking, “surely I can just take regular breaks and change my posture?”, however research shows it’s still not enough.
So what furniture is important to optimize good office ergonomics? Ultimately, its everything that encourages movement and a variety of postures, reduces repetitive action injuries and musculoskeletal disorders. The study mentions that to maximise the benefits of an ergonomic task chair, it must be used in relation to other workstation features. For instance, we know prolonged sitting isn’t ideal so we need to easily transition between sitting and standing positions while working. This is where a great height adjustable desk becomes invaluable. Also, making sure your monitor and technology are set up properly at the right angles is critical to ensure you’re not putting strain on your hand, arms, neck and back. While laptops are great for mobility, they’re an ergonomic nightmare, so don’t compromise posture for convenience.
It’s worth noting the study also makes the point that proper ergonomic training is necessary to help staff understand why and how they should adjust their furniture to achieve correct postures. The group that received training and an ergonomic chair was associated with increased productivity calculated at US$354 per worker per day, with a benefit to cost ratio of 22:1. They also reported significant long-term reductions in musculoskeletal strain, particularly the neck and shoulders.
In our knowledge economy, where work requires a refreshed and energised brain and body, the research provided in this study has immediate implications for organisations and their staff. Ergonomic interventions in the workplace are not a ‘nice to have’ but a significant, cost-saving and productivity-optimising tool for business success.