Many people can't tell the difference between a workstation that's ergonomic and one that can cause you harm. We spend a large portion of our lives at work, so having a workstation that is comfortable and ergonomic is important for our health.
Here are 4 warning signs to look out for to ensure your workstation provides a safe environment to work.
#1 Are You Uncomfortable at Your Desk?
Feeling uncomfortable at your desk is one of the main warning signs that you’re heading towards an injury. If you have to move often trying to find a more comfortable position, it might be time to upgrade to an ergonomic office chair or reassess your workstation setup.
Your Office Chair Might Not Be Right for You
For workers who are shorter, taller or heavier than the average adult, the standard office chair may not fit their needs. An office chair should match your body shape and the type of work you do.
There are office chairs to suit petite workers, whose feet don’t reach the floor using a standard chair. For heavier office workers, a bariatric chair has a weight rating of up to 300 kg. Ergonomic office chairs come in many shapes and sizes. Take a look at our ergonomic office chairs buyers guide and get a better understanding of what office chair will better suit your needs.
Your Workstation Setup is Wrong
Look at where everything is placed on your desk. You may not realise your mouse is too far away and you are reaching for it. Your monitor may be too high or low so you’re craning your neck to see the screen. When you need to use the phone, you may reach across your desk to pick it up without even realising because you do it so often. Make sure a pen and paper is always close by so you aren’t scrambling to find it when you need to write something in a hurry. It’s all the little things that can add up to discomfort at work.
Always remember your work environment should be altered to fit you and the work you do, not the other way around.
#2 Do You Experience Any of These Symptoms?
If something doesn’t feel right and you’re experiencing pain or discomfort at work, you shouldn’t ignore this. Rather than putting a niggling pain down to old age or exercise, people should ask themselves if the pain is due to the way they work.
Aches and pain could be a sign of a Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI). If you recognise the symptoms, any further damage can be avoided.
Symptoms of RSI
RSI is caused by repetitive tasks, exertion, vibrations, mechanical compression, and sustained or awkward positions. RSI can impact almost every part of your body, but depending on the type of work you do, some body parts are at greater risk.
What Does RSI Feel Like?
- Tenderness or pain in a muscle or joint
- A throbbing or pulsating sensation in an area
- Tingling, especially in your hands or arms
- Poor strength
- Loss of sensation
Lower Back Pain
People who sit for long periods are at increased risk of back problems. In fact, 80% of workers will suffer from lower back pain during their lifetime. Poor posture, repetitive movements, and awkward work positions all contribute to back pain.
Pain in Your Wrist
A dull ache or pain in your wrist or hand could be a warning sign of carpal tunnel or RSI. You should alternate your tasks throughout the day, so you don’t spend long periods typing or using a mouse. By breaking up the typing with other tasks, you will give your wrists and hands a rest. Make sure you use an ergonomic mouse, especially if your role requires heavy use of the mouse.
Reaching for items stored above your head is not ergonomic. Think about reconfiguring your workstation, so these items are at a lower height. If you suffer from shoulder pain, a chair with adjustable armrests will help take some weight off your shoulders.
RSI is very responsive to treatment, particularly in the early stages. Chronic RSI is more difficult to treat, and patients can develop chronic pain that impacts their life, not just their work.
#3 Has Infrequent Pain Become Chronic?
If a niggling pain turns constant or chronic, your workstation may be to blame. Most RSIs need time to rest and recover. Continuing to use a non-ergonomic workstation means your injury is being aggravated and doesn’t get a chance to heal itself.
If you can’t take time off work, make sure you have regular breaks away from your workstation. Get up and walk around. When you go back to your chair, be mindful of your posture and typing technique. See a specialist about stretches and exercises you can do to warm up the muscle and possible treatment options.
#4 Has Your Posture Changed Since Starting Your Office Job?
When your workstation isn’t ergonomic, your body’s posture can change permanently. Prolonged computer use can cause postural changes. Slumping back into your chair or sitting forward means your spine is out of alignment. Hunching over your keyboard can cause rounded shoulders. To avoid this make sure your chair is a good fit. Your feet should be on the floor and your chair supports most of your back.
Chronic headaches, neck, back, and shoulder pain are signs of postural changes. Poor posture can cause rounded shoulders, joint degeneration, spinal dysfunction and pain. To reverse changes in your posture you should do regular exercise and stretches. Listen to how your body feels and see a physiotherapist to help fix your posture. Investing in ergonomic office furniture will help maintain good posture at work.
If you have any queries about office ergonomics, or you would like to organise an ergonomic assessment, call us on (08) 9240 7066 or contact us online.