Even as the prevalence of standing desks and ergonomic office furniture continues to rise, public understanding about ergonomics is still stuck in some long-held misconceptions. People tend to assume that ergonomics is just about having a really comfy desk chair, that it’s too expensive, or that it’s just a term made up to sell more office furniture and doesn’t actually make a difference.
These myths and misconceptions about ergonomics can lead many people to miss out on the life-changing benefits of an ergonomic workstation—which is why we’re debunking them one by one.
MISCONCEPTION #1: You don’t need ergonomic office furniture unless you have chronic pain or an injury.
This is the most dangerous myth about ergonomics. Ergonomic office furniture is not just for people who have a pre-existing musculoskeletal injury that makes normal work activities painful. Everyone in the workplace is at risk for injury caused by repetitive actions, awkward postures, or forceful exertions. That means that everyone can benefit from using ergonomic office furniture.
The most common workplace injuries are not sudden events, but rather sneak up on you over time through muscle overuse and poor posture. Using ergonomic office furniture will prevent you from developing these conditions in the first place.
MISCONCEPTION #2: Ergonomic office furniture is expensive.
Ergonomic office furniture has a bad reputation for coming with a hefty price tag. That reputation is not entirely accurate. While there are certainly some pricey brands of ergonomic furniture out there, you can find options available for any budget, just like you can for regular furniture.
If leadership at your company is reluctant to invest in ergonomic office furniture due to a perceived lack of budget, do the research for them to prove that affordable ergonomic furniture does exist. To sweeten the deal even further, some brands offer bulk discounts for large orders. Gather the details and present them to your boss. With the data laid out in front of them, they won’t be able to deny that ergonomics is more affordable than they thought.
MISCONCEPTION #3: Ergonomics is just a marketing term.
Some people believe ergonomics is just a term that furniture companies made up to sell more over-priced office furniture. This couldn’t be further from the truth. You’d think it would be obvious that chairs should be designed to support the spine and provide maximum comfort, but it’s shocking how poorly most office chairs are engineered.
Many desk chairs offer little to no lumbar support, no mechanism for adjusting the back angle, and poor cushioning. They’re doing your body no favors, and may even be actively causing harm. An ergonomic office chair, however, should provide good lower back support, promote good posture, and offer easy adjustments. Ergonomics is never one-size-fits-all.
MISCONCEPTION #4: Comfort and ergonomics are the same thing.
Think about how you sit on your couch while watching TV—you’re probably slouching, slumped in the cushions, or curled up into a cross-legged position. Do you think any of those positions are providing adequate support for your spine and neck?
What we find comfortable is not necessarily good for our bodies! When you first make the switch to a standing desk or an ergonomic chair, you may even find it uncomfortable. Over time your body will adapt, and in the meantime, just remember that you’re doing it for the good of your long-term health.
MISCONCEPTION #5: Ergonomics is a waste of money.
Yes, there is an upfront cost associated with switching to ergonomic office furniture. However, this should be considered an investment with guaranteed ROI. In 1991, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kansas (BCBSKS) fielded 103 repetitive strain injury claims from employees performing data input, costing the company over $500,000.
To combat the rising number of claims, BCBSKS began introducing ergonomic office furniture and accessories to create a comfortable and pain-free environment for their employees. Within 10 years, the number of claims per year had dropped by 50%, representing an annual cost savings of almost $400,000—far exceeding the initial investment BCBSKS made in ergonomics.
Don’t let misconceptions about ergonomics lead you to sign up for a career full of workplace discomfort and injury. Now that you’re empowered with knowledge about how ergonomics can transform your work life (and outside-of-work life!) for the better, take action by talking to your boss or shopping for the perfect home office standing desk.