How does a new desk and higher computer monitor make us better?

Workplace efficiency aka ergonomics is often misconstrued as a dull and perhaps pointless exercise with the sole aim of ‘Feng-Shui-ING’ our environment to get us out of pain.  For some, the addition of sparkling new furniture over-shadows the main aim of the exercise, which is to help us work at our best.

How does a new desk and higher computer monitor make us better?

Pain–relief:  The most obvious reason to optimise your workstation, whether at home or in the office is to assist with pain reduction, pain relief, or pain-prevention.  All equally useful, but on the basis that prevention is better than cure, to prevention of symptoms including, the inevitable stiff neck, disc irritation or sciatic pain has to be one of the most important benefits for workplace ergonomics.   

Function:  Within your work-environment, from kitchen, dining room or wherever that may be, we have to ensure that we can function.  Have you got room to stretch your arms out to the side?  Are you next to a wall on one side? Are your legs trapped under your desk in an awkward fashion?  This is functional ergonomics.  Next time you sit at your desk, see if your positioning can be improved.  Assess whether you have the space to turn your head equally side to side and if you can’t, is there something you can do to improve the layout and position of your work-station.  

Efficiency:  Another key topic in this discussion is efficiency.  Can you position your work-station in a way to make you more efficient.  A simple example is in relation to stretching forward to collect paper from the printer.  Could you move the printer forward a little?    There are small inefficiencies in many of our workplace set-ups.  Try and avoid reaching as much as possible which in turn minimises injury.   Keep things in front of you as much as possible rather than to the side and most importantly, stay mobile. 

Productivity: At WorkLifeWell we often discuss the importance of getting 1 hours work done in 1 hour of work. A ratio like this would mean that you are 100% productive.  For the time being ignoring the quality of work in this scenario, being 100% productive would certainly be a desirable attribute.  So how does correct ergonomics alter productivity? Aside from discussing the inefficiencies of being in pain already considered, there are many factors in ergonomics that alter our productivity.  One of the key elements is our brain.  

For those of you that can keep their brain engaged in a subject, are more likely to be productive.  Part of this can include how interested you are in the subject material but another factor is brain function.  A well-stimulated brain is more likely to help us perform at our best.  Using a standing desk position can really help keep us alert and at the top of our game.  Additionally, varying our position, from sitting to standing, can also keep us alert and awake. 

So what can you do to help your productivity, efficiency and minimise the chance of becoming a pain sufferer.

  1. Organise your workstation to minimise repetitive reaching:  Regular reaching can lead to repetitive injuries in the muscles, disc and ligaments.
  2. Try and organise your workstation to minimise clutter:  Most of our desks contain numerous items that simply aren’t used and get in the way.  Clutter limits the space we have to work and can alter our efficiency and functional ergonomics. 
  3. Spend time standing and sitting if possible:  If you simply can’t stand due to limited equipment, then make sure you sit for shorter periods and take regular breaks.
  4. Make difficult tasks earlier in the day:  Part of our efficiency and productivity comes from working on more difficult and laborious tasks when we are at our freshest.  For most of us this would be earlier in the morning but assess your day and decide for yourself.
  5. Have fun:  Staying alert and being productive includes enjoyment:  Try to avoid a day going from task to task that you aren’t enjoying.  Try and mix up easier achievable tasks with more difficult arduous tasks and this should help create a more enjoyable workday.

Author: Dr. Adam Greenfield, Co-founder of WorkLifeWell | Doctor of Chiropractic | Wellness Specialist

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