The world of ergonomic products has changed significantly as the office, cubicle, and then the home office became more centered around the computer workstation. A good seat, desk, and viewing area can have a significant impact on your efficiency, but the wrong seating arrangements can begin a slow but sure destruction of your back and joint health. To understand what is at risk, the severity of those risks, and how to keep yourself safe, here are a few comfort, health, and productivity pointers for office furniture and equipment.
What Could Go Wrong While Sitting?
There are a lot of workplace injury stories that involve machinery, heavy objects, or at least a slip and fall incident. Many people ignore the potential problems caused by a bad workstation posture until it's too late, and the costs of letting the problem continue are far higher than getting a proper fit to begin with.
Poor ergonomics leads to back, neck, and general joint problems. The human body is designed to distribute weight in specific positions—mostly while standing or prone—that are less stressful for the body. Sitting isn't specifically dangerous to the human body, but excessive sitting is.
Unfortunately, office workers and people with sedentary lifestyles are sitting down far too long.
Sitting with your back curved outwards—slouching, in most cases—can lead to spinal disc damage. If your elbows are supporting your upper body while you slouch, you're also adding unnecessary stress to your shoulders and neck.
Arching the back inwards isn't much better, as disc damage happens inwards as well. Your arm positions can cause multiple points of damage, either from pinched and swollen wrists in awkward positions, elbows that cramp easily, or the dreaded carpal tunnel.
Office Furniture Selections
Ergonomic products are not perfect for all body shapes and sizes. You'll also need to keep an eye out for gimmicky ergonomic designs that are either prototype comfort designs or simple ineffective marketing ploys.
The office chair is a mainstay of ergonomic design. For the basic level of comfort and efficiency, go for chairs that promote an S-curve in the body. It's not about finding a perfect S-curve fit; flexible office chairs simply offer a guide for the body to press its own S-curve into the chair.
Your main goal is finding a chair model that fits you firmness or soft sinking needs, which depending on a bit more than personal preference. Your body weight and shape can change the effectiveness of a specific model, as heavier users will want a more firm chair that gives resistance against a heavier-pressing back, while angular bodies will want something with a bit of give to the shape.
Desks are important, but must be sized with the chair. The surface should allow you to type above the desk or in a tray mounted under the desk, and your arms should form a 90-degree angle at the elbow. This can be achieved with chair adjustment, so the desk just needs to be within the chair's height range.
Contact an office chair, desk, and general office furniture professional to discuss other ergonomic needs.