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  • Writer's pictureHannah Foster-Middleton

Wellness in the Workplace

My last column was about how important good posture is for our mobility and the avoidance of aches, pains, and even permanent damage to our skeletal system. Following up on that I want to share a conversation I had with Estella Thompson, Ergonomist. For those of you not familiar with that word, it is used to describe how we sit, stand, and use a computer or any other piece of equipment in our work. These days the workplace can be in a traditional office or a home office as many more of us were forced to disrupt our normal working lives by the pandemic restrictions.


So: Workplace ergonomics is the science of designing the workplace keeping in mind the capabilities and limitations of the worker. The process of ergonomic improvement in the workplace removes risk factors that can lead to musculoskeletal injuries and allows for improved human performance and productivity. If you feel and are comfortable physically whether sitting or standing this automatically allows you to be more productive. In a traditional office environment where we have all the standard office equipment in an appropriate space i.e. desk, chair, computer, and so on, it is easier to set up properly. If we are working from a home office that may be a different story altogether. We may have had to urgently find and transform a space for ourselves to work in or for our children to home-school. At first, we thought remote working and learning would be a short-lived arrangement but it soon became apparent that this would be a long-term arrangement.


So: if you have not yet abandoned your sofa or kitchen chair as a make-shift workstation, there is no time like the present to do it to prevent injuries and improve your productivity through good ergonomics. Having the correct posture whether sitting or standing at a workstation, even if it is one created in your home will help you avoid eye strain, head, back, and other aches as you and your spine will be in as natural a position as possible. Remember your adjustable chair, your monitor stand riser, your keyboard, and your mouse from the office?  All of those helped you achieve good posture when used correctly. With ergonomic-friendly tools, we can prevent musculoskeletal disorders that can affect the lower back, neck, shoulders, elbows, forearms, hands, and wrists.


Although many companies send the majority, of their employees to work remotely with laptops, these devices are not made for you to spend long hours on. As practical as they are in some ways, without a good setting, they are adding pressure to the body, especially the back and neck. Setting up a designated work space will help you avoid injuries. You may not have the money to equip yourself with office items right away but there are set-up solutions you can employ without breaking the bank. Find a suitable chair that allows you to sit straight, your spine supported by the back and your hips slightly higher than your knees, feet planted firmly on the floor. Use a table or a desk at the correct height for your laptop or computer to be at eye level which allows your arms to be at right angles to the body and your wrists aligned with the table top. There you are - ready to work as usual!


Ergonomics also impacts your mental health. Having a comfortable working environment allows us to enjoy and produce effectively. It is all too easy to get distracted or distressed as working from home in these difficult times means learning to handle the many different demands from our families. It is important to establish a quiet space for work and to treat it as if you were still actually leaving to go to a workplace. This means, setting yourself a work-day routine, with work hours. You are not on duty 24/7 so develop healthy habits - time for work and time for family or recreation. The e-mails will still be there in the morning, just as they were when you got to the office. Be safe, be healthy, and be happy at home and work.

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