Physical Ergonomics - The Struggle is Real
I was speaking with a prospective client recently and she didn’t really understand what the concept of “ergonomics” was. She had never been exposed to it and wasn’t suffering any ill effects from her workspace and computer use. Ergonomics has been part of my vocabulary since early in my career and I think I took the knowledge and my personal interest in the subject for granted and assumed that everyone knew about it. This is a great opportunity to dive a little deeper into what ergonomics is and how it impacts our lives both personally and at work.
Loosely, ergonomics is defined as how we react and interact with the environment around us so its often only considered as “physical”, but it impacts us “socially” and “cognitively” as well and is typically a holistic combination of these concepts. We will start by exploring physical ergonomics and will touch on social and cognitive in future posts as they each deserve their day in the sun.
The physical aspect of ergonomics is the easiest to understand and will be front of mind for anyone struggling with environments that don’t physically work for them. Your goal should always be to fit your environment to you and not force yourself to fit into it. Imagine that you were wearing a pair of shoes that were several sizes too small. Yes, you could likely squeeze your feet into them and walk around but they would quickly become uncomfortable and cause pain. While maybe not as extreme, when our environment doesn’t “fit” us, like a desk that is too high for a petite person, the same outcome occurs, initial discomfort eventually followed by pain while working.
Physical ergonomics is exactly as its described, our physical interaction to the world around us which addresses adjustability, neutral posture, body sizes/dimensions, reducing the risk of discomfort and fatigue, movement, etc. When we take the time to educate ourselves on how to set up these adjustable environments, such as our workspaces, and follow the principles of ergonomics and proper posture, the outcome can be empowering and positive.
While we may not have all the tools, such as an adjustable chair or sit-to-stand table, the simple act of awareness of our physical environment and how our body interacts with it can provide marked improvements. For example, if I can’t adjust the typing height of my desk, perhaps I can adjust my chair, add a footrest and a keyboard tray, prop my laptop on some books and create a better environment, simply because I was aware and was educated.
As a petite person, I can tell you with confidence, much of my environment is not designed for me unless I take the effort to make changes. It was a glorious day when I finally had a car with a fully adjustable drivers’ seat and no longer had to sit on a pillow or when I installed a height adjustable table in my office and was able to lower it to my proper typing height. Sometimes, you don’t understand how much your physical environment doesn’t fit until it finally does. Then, you might ask, why did I wait so long to act? I am still waiting, however, for an engineering solution to reaching grocery items on the top shelves. Until then, you will find me climbing shelves or asking a nice tall person to give me a hand. Tall people, you know who you are! Thank you for your service!
Do you need help understanding how to adjust your workspace to fit you? Are you looking for ways to solve ergonomic challenges for your employees or perhaps you have complaints or concerns from those who are struggling to get comfortable? We can help you find solutions to these challenges through workstation assessments, training, and other resources. Contact Be Well Ergo to learn more and schedule a complimentary discovery call via the link below.