Clare Kumar: Is your workstation a pain in your... productivity?

Why paying attention to ergonomics matters.


I’m thrilled that ergonomics is becoming a well-known word in today’s workplace.  I first became interested in workstation ergonomics in the mid-90’s when I had the misfortune of working at a poorly configured workstation for eight months.  The human resources folks welcomed me to the company, but sadly forgot to allocate a desk. Without a home of my own, I was given space in a colleague’s cubical and a workstation was fashioned from surplus furniture.  I mention this because in numerous home offices, in particular, I see the same approach. I can assure you that a round table and chair is no place to spend eight or more hours a day building financial spreadsheets, graphs and presentations.


I developed a nasty case of rotator cuff tendinitis, preventing me from sleeping on my right side for over two years, from carrying a purse, and from continuing to use a mouse with my right hand.  Good did come of it though – I developed:


  1. The ability to use a mouse with my non-dominant hand – something I now recommend everyone do as it’s not as hard as you think, and it helps relieve overuse of your dominant hand.


  1. An acute awareness of the ergonomic issues around me. I saw people with their wrists in braces from carpel tunnel injuries. I witnessed others complain of back pain. I discovered rampant ergonomic ignorance - my cubicle mate had sat in his chair for five years and never knew he could adjust it. It was far too low for him, and compromised his posture at the computer.


I wondered how many more people were unaware that their pain and discomfort was avoidable. I began to lobby for increased awareness of ergonomic issues, and encouraged employers to teach their employees about the wonderful benefits of the office equipment they were investing in. I had the benefit of my first ergonomic assessment and learned about ergonomic keyboards, correct wrist positions and postures. I was, and continue to be determined to spread the word in hopes of preventing more discomfort.  Things have progressed since the mid-90’s, when it took a lot of convincing to attract some attention. Now, as I anticipated, insurance claims and lost productivity are raising alarms and increasing awareness of the importance of safe ergonomic environments.


So, what should you pay attention to when thinking about workstation ergonomics?  Here are a few considerations:


  • Employ correct postures for the tasks you perform whether sitting at a desk and writing or working on a computer, or lifting boxes or moving heavy equipment. Can you move comfortably in the space provided?

  • Pay attention to the intensity with which you work. Reducing intensity, even in an activity such as typing, can reduce strain on the body.

  • Examine how light is affecting your ability to work, whether it be light from windows, or glare off your screen.

  • Is noise influencing your ability to concentrate or affecting hearing?

  • Is the office temperature too hot or too cold?

So now you know what to consider, what will you do to be more comfortable?






By Adam

November 13, 2012