I recently heard an architect speak of design work as “a labor of love” which got me wondering if that wasn’t just a nice way to label “work-aholism.” It is no secret that the profession puts in long hours and cares deeply about the quality of work, which can be, at times, at the expense of our own well-being. Over the past few decades, research has piled up supporting the importance of ergonomics in the workplace.
Workstations improperly designed to support today’s work habits have resulted in lasting physical maladies including vision strain, motor system damage and Musculoskeletal Distorders, or MSDs, such as soft tissue inflammation (tendonitis and Carpal Tunnel Syndrome), lack of circulation in the muscles (numbness and tingling) and vertebral compression, which can lead to serious nerve pain.
The increased awareness of such work-related injuries has captivated the contract interior world, resulting in furniture, technologies and entire space planning strategies to help reduce employee pain and injury. These solutions are aimed to increase office productivity based on the simple notion that the better a worker feels, the better the work he or she will produce. Before running out to purchase the new ergo-chair on the market, look for change in your existing environment:
When slouched over your computer (perhaps occurring at this very moment), take a moment to consider the following adjustments:
- Starting with the foundation, adjust your chair so that your knees come to a 90-degree angle, with feet flat to the floor. Get familiar with your chair’s features.
- Stack joints in the neutral position, e.g. shoulders over hips, as tilting forward beyond range creates problems down the road.
- Adjust your table (if you have that option) so that your elbows come to a 90-degree angle with forearms resting on the table. If you do not have adjustable tables, advocate for them.
- Position the monitor 20” – 28” away (30” – 36” away for large screens) and align the top with the center of your sight line.
- Limit Static Posturing – when the body falls asleep, as does the mind. Occupying the body with a supportive range of motion keeps the mind alert and increases circulation to the brain.
- 20/20/20– Every 20 minutes, look 20 feet away for 20 seconds. “Eye yoga” strengthens vision during periods of intensive, screen-focused work.
Photo: Flickr Creative Commons, by “dot”