In my work as an ergonomist, advising companies across the UK on how they can minimise back pain in the workplace, I meet some people who can’t see the point of a workstation assessment. “Why should I bother?”, they sometimes ask me.
The truth is that workstation assessments are critical to your overall back health and wellbeing and in worst-case scenarios, can save you a lifetime of pain and misery. I so often get the ‘Ah-ha!’ moment with my clients when simple changes have made a huge difference to their comfort levels.
Have you ever suffered a back issue and had to book in with a physiotherapist or even taken time off work? If you are having treatment, it is essential to avoid just undoing all of that good work as soon as you sit back at your desk. A healthy posture when working is crucial for long-term back health. There will be many subtle barriers to you adopting an upright posture, psychologically encouraging a slouch. An expert ergonomist will be able to instantly recognise these and rearrange screens, keyboard, mouse and chair set-up so that you are effortlessly able to remember to sit correctly and undo years of bad-posture habits.
Do you find you tend to slouch at your desk, or when you are flexi-working with your laptop? If so, you will be at risk of suffering long-term wear and tear to your back, age prematurely and develop back pain more quickly – whereas if you sit up, more oxygen will flow to your brain and your spinal discs will stay healthier for longer.
There is a current craze of wellness options being provided in the workplace, like yoga or massages. These are indeed wonderful, but if you are simply returning to the same set-up that is causing your back issue in the first place, you are still not resolving the problem at its core. Ergonomic workstations include taking a history of your back issues and identifying a holistic approach that will help speed up your recovery process.
So, here are my 5 Ways You Can Benefit from an Ergonomic Workstation Assessment:
1. Increased comfort levels: An assessment allows us to make some quick and key changes to improving your comfort levels significantly in a very short period of time. So many people don’t even discover what the levers on their chairs do. They just ‘sit and go’. But sometimes, just a few tweaks here and there will make a massive difference to your comfort levels. We can also advise on the right chair for you if your current one isn’t up to the job.
2. Long-term protection against injury to your back: If you sit and slouch all day, increased pressure builds up on your discs. The muscles will lengthen, which causes them to weaken. If you are leaning over to one side or another, you will develop pain on one side, in your back, shoulders or neck. By getting us to check the way your workstation is set up, we can subtly encourage you to adopt a healthy posture every day, with your back supported to reduce any tension and pressure build-up. It may be as simple as your screen or keyboard placement encouraging that bad posture.
3. Fast recovery from a musculoskeletal injury, wrist or back-pain injury: If you are seeing a physiotherapist or have had surgery for an injury, the last thing you want to do is go back to your desk and prompt any increase in tension or pressure build-up. This may stop you from recovering as fast as you could. This includes issues such as RSI, hip and back issues.
4. Increased productivity: Good posture increases oxygen to the brain and so when you sit up in a nice, healthy posture, you will enable oxygen to travel faster to your brain. This allows the blood and nutrients to reach the muscles and keep your back healthy. Outcome: you will feel more efficient. And when you are more upright, you can also increase the amount of testosterone in your body which helps you be more assertive and more productive. A win-win!
5. Learn how to use that sit-stand desk correctly: If you are lucky enough to be using a sit-stand desk, we can teach you how to engage with it correctly. Standing correctly, and weaving in intermittent usage and height placements are all crucial for maximum benefit. If you don’t have an adjustable desk, you can still benefit from taking standing breaks correctly or incorporating key active working tips into your day.
If you have any questions, do not hesitate to contact me, or visit www.inspiredergonomics.com
Nichola Adams, the Founder of Inspired Ergonomics (www.inspiredergonomics.com), is one of Britain’s leading ergonomists, who specialises in helping UK companies minimise the risk of back pain in the workplace.