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How Ergonomics Can Affect Your Mental Health

11 September 2023

Most people associate ergonomics with their physical health. Ergonomics is almost always presented in a way such that it deals with the problems of poor posture, risks to your health in the work environment etc.

While it's true that ergonomics is about your physical health, that's not all it's about. Just like physical and mental health are connected in all other areas of life, they are connected when it comes to ergonomics as well.

But how can ergonomics affect your mental health? Let's take a look.

The Effects of Ergonomics on Mental Health

Posture

If your posture isn't appropriate, you'd find that you're not able to work your best. Sitting for 8 hours is already tiring, but sitting for 8 hours with poor posture can put extra strain on your body. Your spine, shoulders and neck may start hurting by the end of the day, and by the end of the week, you'd be completely exhausted.

Posture can also cause other problems, from headaches and migraines to bodily pains that continue on for several hours. This can cause your work to be affected, because you aren't able to work at the same speed, which means that your workday becomes longer and you struggle to meet your deadlines.

This can put you under a lot of mental stress and pressure, and you may even end up criticizing yourself a lot more harshly.

On top of that, all those aches and pains can get irritating, because they stop you from doing other things you like to do - like perhaps engaging in your hobbies or going out on the weekends.

Poor posture causes your body to weaken, but this can then move on to affect your mental health.

Workstation & Office Setup

Your workstation setup also affects your mental health. If your workspace is uncomfortable, you don't really want to spend a lot of time there. But being forced to spend the whole work day there can sour your mood and make you irritable and crabby.

This could make you spend your time thinking more about how much you don't want to be there, rather than actually working. As a result, you'd be concentrating so hard on getting work done as soon as possible that the quality of your work might be affected, and this can cause further problems in the workplace.

But sometimes, the workspace may also hinder your ability to get your work done properly. For example, if your desk is too small and the mouse and keyboard are crammed together, you'd easily get irritated by having to sit there. If your furniture isn't ergonomic, it could cause pain in your arms, neck and shoulders, which can irritate you further.

At some point, you'll be so fatigued that you just want to get your work done and leave, which will make you rush through it faster. All this does is put extra pressure on your body and make it hurt more.

All that irritation and stress can quickly start to build up and affect your mood and mental health.

Lighting

If your workplace doesn't have adequate lighting, it can cause problems like eye strain, fatigue and headaches. If the lighting is too bright, it can hurt your eyes and give you a headache. If the lighting isn't bright enough, it can make you strain yourself to get your work done because you can't see anything.

If you work at a computer and your workstation is not placed in a spot where contrast and glare can be avoided, you'd find that your eyes get strained a lot more than usual.

By the end of the day, you'd be tired out and your eyes and head may hurt. In fact, this can affect other things as well, like the ability to sleep comfortably, or if you're driving home after work, how well you're able to do so.

Does any of that sound familiar? You're not the only one. There are plenty of workspaces that are designed to minimize the cost of having a workspace, rather than how well you can work in them. It’s no surprise, then, that employees get frustrated!

If you feel like your work is affecting your mental health, it's most likely not the work itself, but the conditions you're made to work in. Fortunately, these problems can be avoided.

Preventing Mental Health Problems With Ergonomics

Workplace ergonomics is focused around comfort and physical health. Ergonomics is about how the body interacts with the space around it, so of course, you'd want to maximize the benefits by incorporating good ergonomic practices into your workplace design.

The Use of Ergonomic Chairs

A good ergonomic chair is pretty much an essential when it comes to the workplace. A good chair doesn't just provide you a space to sit, but also keeps you supported while you do so. Good chairs will support your spine, which is important because all your body's vital functions are related to the spine.

By minimizing spinal problems, you get to avoid all the stress that comes with back, shoulder and neck pain. Ergonomic chairs are designed to be used for longer durations, because of their comfort level. Because they provide lumbar support, back pain can be avoided.

The height and depth adjustment options allow people to customize their workspace so that they are comfortable in it. A regular, non-adjustable chair may work for some people, but most people would prefer to adjust their workspace to one that suits their body type and posture.

A good chair, such as FlexiSpot's Ergonomic Office Chair BS2, can help you stay comfortable while you work, and thus get rid of all the problems that come with poor posture. Those long hours you spend at the office don't have to pass by with you getting annoyed at the various ways your body is hurting. Instead, you can sit comfortably, and get your work done. At the end of the day, you'll be in a lot better mental condition than if you went for a standard, non-adjustable chair.

The Use of a Good Ergonomic Desk

Your desk also plays a part in how comfortable you are at the workplace.

For example, standing desks can make a difference. When you sit for too long, even in the most comfortable chair, you can get tired of it pretty fast. A standing desk can help you get your work done while standing without having to put your body in an awkward position, and also helps with restoring the blood flow in your legs.

They can also help you stretch out your leg muscles and get rid of some of the tension from having spent a long time sitting. In fact, better circulation and spending more time standing also results in more endorphins being released by your brain, which puts you in a better mood overall.

On top of that, they will also help with the problem of posture, because even while sitting, you can adjust your desk height to one that works for you, rather than having to adjust to the standard.

However, even if your desk isn't an adjustable one, it should be one that provides you with a larger amount of space for you to get your work done. Being cramped in a corner is never comfortable, and as mentioned earlier, can easily make you angry and spend your time at work wishing you were at home.

A good desk is one that is comfortable to sit at, has ample space for employees to spread their things out, and gives them enough room to move around without constantly bumping into things.

If you don't dread the space you'd be spending 8 hours in, you're a lot likelier to have a better time at work than if your workstation was a cramped and uncomfortable one.

Taking Breaks

Above all else, you should always incorporate breaks into your workday. Whether you feel like your mental health is being affected or not, breaks are important to help your body rest and recover after spending a long time in a fixed position, doing the same kind of work.

Ideally, you should be taking a five minute break every half an hour and stretching your muscles a bit. This helps with reducing the aches in your body, and thus getting rid of that source of stress.

Breaks can also help you get away from your workstation for a bit if you feel like your mental health is being affected. If you're uncomfortable and agitated, taking a walk around the office and making yourself a cup of tea can help lift your spirits a bit.

Talking to some of your colleagues (if you get along with them!) can also help you lift your mood, so that when you get back to your workstation, you're in a lot better headspace than you were before.

Mental health is important, and workplace conditions do contribute greatly to declining mental health in the workforce. Being mindful of ergonomics and providing support can help prevent these problems and keep employees safe.