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What Poor Workplace Ergonomics Mean for Your Health and How Can You Improve Them?

26 July 2023

Workplace dynamics have changed big time. There was a time when employees were considered mere robots who were expected to work every minute of their shift with zero consideration from the employer. Today, employers have started prioritizing their employees' health, safety, and well-being over everything. Employers know how important healthy and motivated employees are for their business, and this has led them to adopt an employee-centric approach.

Talking about employee-centric workplaces, the first change we see today is the employer's efforts to make their workplaces ergonomic, where employee health, safety, and well-being are assured. Employers know if the employees are healthy physically and mentally and have a sense of safety at work, they're highly likely to deliver higher-quality results.

This blog post will help you understand workplace ergonomics, the effect of poor workplace ergonomics on employee health and well-being, and how you can improve ergonomics around your workplace better.

How Can Poor Workplace Ergonomics Affect Health?

Before we can explain the effect of poor ergonomics on your health, it's important to first understand what good ergonomics means.

An ergonomic workplace is one that's designed to cater to the comfort needs of all employees to ensure their health and well-being. An ergonomic workplace addresses every individual's comfort needs to minimize the risk of work-related injuries and disorders.

Having said that, poor workplace ergonomics mean that the employees aren't comfortable and are exposed to numerous risk factors that may lead to work-related injuries, majorly musculoskeletal disorders.

Let's walk you through the many ways in which poor workplace ergonomics can affect your health.

Back Pain

Have you ever experienced back pain after sitting at work for long hours? Well, it's a sign that you aren't working in the best conditions. If your job requires you to sit or stand for long hours, you're highly likely to experience lower back pain. Sitting in an incorrect posture or standing for long hours puts strain on the back and puts you at risk of developing cumulative trauma. If you don't address this problem, the damage will worsen, and you may develop chronic back pain, making it impossible for you to work at all!

Musculoskeletal Disorders

If you experience pain in the back, neck, or shoulders at work, it's a sign that you're working (sitting or standing) in an incorrect posture. If you don't correct it, it'll put you at risk of work-related musculoskeletal disorders. This is because sitting or standing in the wrong posture puts strain on the muscles and tendons of the lower body, causes fatigue, and leads to muscle or tendon damage and injuries if you push yourself too far. Not only this, but working in poor ergonomic conditions also increases the risk of other health conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Tendonitis, and Bursitis.

Eye Strain

Poor ergonomics doesn't only mean a bad posture. It's a broad term that encompasses numerous aspects of a workplace. One of the most neglected aspects of poor workplace ergonomics is the lighting. Poor office lighting (too bright or too dim) causes eye strain that can result in headaches and migraines.

Another cause of eye strain at work is the computer screen placed at the wrong height, distance, and angle from the user. The glare from the computer screen and the inappropriate neck bending to see the computer screen can cause headaches and migraines.

Trigger Finger

If you type on a keyboard all day long at work or your job involves gripping objects, you risk developing a Trigger Finger. It's a condition of inflammation of tendons and tendon sheaths in the fingers that occurs due to repetitive movements of the fingers. Ergonomic workplaces have suitable measures in place that minimize the risk on the fingers and hence, reduce the risk of Trigger Fingers. However, in poor ergonomic conditions, you may develop this condition and experience sharp pain when you move your fingers.

Improving Workplace Ergonomics

If you develop any health conditions associated with poor workplace ergonomics, your work performance will be affected significantly. You won't be able to work to the best of your potential, your performance will take a hit, and your professional growth will get affected. Not being able to perform well at work will also affect your mental health. All of this will only worsen if you don't do something about workplace ergonomics.

The good news is that you can improve workplace ergonomics and save yourself from all sorts of health risks associated with poor ergonomic conditions at work.

Below are some ways you can improve workplace ergonomics.

Work on Posture Correction

The primary reason you're at risk of developing work-related musculoskeletal disorders is that your posture is incorrect. As we've said earlier, incorrect posture strains the body and increases the risk of posture-related health conditions (back pain, stiff neck, etc.). So, posture correction is the only way to reduce or mitigate the risk of these health problems.

The best way to correct your posture at work is to switch to ergonomic office furniture. Instead of using a regular office desk and chair, you can switch to an ergonomic standing desk like the Kana Pro Bamboo Standing Desk, which will mitigate the risks associated with poor posture and sitting for too long. When you work while standing with your work desk adjusted to a suitable height, your arms, wrists, and shoulders will remain in a neutral posture. There will be micro-movements in the leg muscles that'll reduce the risk of muscle fatigue and blood pooling in the legs.

However, if working while standing isn't an option, invest in an ergonomic work desk and ergonomic chair for posture correction. Unlike a regular desk, you can adjust the height of an ergonomic desk so that the desk isn't too high or too low for you and that you don't have to sit in an awkward posture.

An ergonomic chair isn't like your regular office chair either. It comes with special features like adjustable height and seat depth that ensure that your feet are placed flat on the floor, and the edge of the seat isn't pushing into the back of your knees uncomfortably. Ergonomic office chair also provides superior back support with a flexible backrest and also provides elbow support with armrests.

With the right ergonomic office furniture, you'll naturally be seated in a neutral posture which is how you should be seated at work.

Use a Footrest

Ideally, your feet should be placed flat on the floor and shouldn't be dangling in the air. However, even sitting with feet flat on the floor for too long can cause the blood to pool in the feet. It can cause swelling in the feet and also put a load on the heart. One way to make your workplace ergonomics-friendly and reduce the risk of blood pooling in the feet is using a footrest to keep the feet slightly elevated. This would ensure a smooth blood flow to and from the legs and also ensure you don't experience painful swelling from sitting for long hours at work.

Use Ergonomic Keyboard and Mouse

Repetitive movements like hitting the keys on the keyboard all day long put you at risk of health conditions like Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Trigger Finger, and Tendonitis. One way to improve ergonomics and reduce the risk of repetitive strain injuries is to use an ergonomic keyboard and mouse.

An ergonomic keyboard features a unique design that encourages the user to place their hands on the keyboard such that the stress on the fingers and wrists is significantly reduced. The keys are softer, and you don't need to press them too hard. Similar is the case with an ergonomic mouse. The buttons are softer and more sensitive, and you don't even have to move the mouse too much, which might strain your wrist.

Improve Office Lighting

Poor office lighting, as you know by now, can cause eye strain. Lighting that's either too bright or too dim isn't suitable. The lighting should be just right. It would help if you designed your office such that there are large windows to let natural light into your office. Arranging workstations such that you aren't seated directly facing the light or your back isn't directed towards the light will ensure minimal eye strain. Not only that, but you should also ensure that the artificial lighting in your office is just right to keep your office adequately lit during the evening hours when the natural light isn't sufficient.

Use a Back Support Cushion

Using a back support cushion also reduces back strain significantly. This cushion is contoured to provide excellent back support while seated at work. This reduces the risk of you experiencing back pain and also the risk of posture-related musculoskeletal disorders.

Closing Word

Workplace ergonomics are critically important to ensure your health, safety, and well-being at work. The good news is that improving workplace ergonomics isn't so difficult. All you need to do is make the right changes to your workplace, and you're good to go. Remember that every penny you spend on improving workplace ergonomics will pay off in the long run, and you'll be glad you took the plunge!