In today’s business environment, employees work long hours, typically hunched over computer keyboards or, in a customer service environment, on the phone. Did you ever stop to think about whether your employees’ workspace is ergonomically sound? I didn’t either until years ago when one of my employees began suffering from repetitive-stress injuries and eventually had to have surgery.
Ergonomics, or the study of how to fit work systems to workers, doesn’t get a lot of press these days—which is ironic considering a new generation of employees are working in ways that can be harmful to their health. Over time, typing on a keyboard that’s not suited to them, holding their hands in the wrong position or sitting in an uncomfortable chair for long periods can lead to injuries such as carpal tunnel syndrome, back and neck problems or even tennis elbow (which is on the rise among iPad users). My doctor recently gave me an earful about my bad habit of spending hours slouched over my laptop on the couch.
Injured employees lead to worker’s compensation claims, lowered productivity and other problems for your business. An ounce of prevention is really worth a pound of cure in this case! Here are some steps to make your office more ergonomic:
- Buy adjustable chairs that offer back, neck and armrest support. If needed, invest in additional cushions to support lower backs.
- Encourage employees to get up and stretch or walk around for a few minutes every hour. There are many online apps that can pop up on their computers and remind them.
- Provide headsets or cordless options for employees who spend long hours on the phone, such as customer service or salespeople.
- Laptop keyboards are a big cause of repetitive stress injuries because they’re typically smaller and flatter than desktop keyboards. If employees use laptops for long periods, a simple search for “wireless ergonomic keyboards” will turn up many keyboards you can deploy with laptops.
- Provide a selection of computer mice and let employees choose the one that feels best to them.
- Make sure workspaces are properly lighted so employees don’t strain their eyes. Provide task lighting as needed—for example, desk lamps or under-shelf lighting for when employees need to work on paper.
- Encourage employees to come to you when they’re feeling pain so you can get them treatment and adjust their workspace to resolve the issue. Repetitive stress injuries take time to build, but can appear quickly, so acting fast to treat the problem is key.