It is important to understand the benefits of ergonomics and its role in ensuring offices are safe, comfortable and productive working environments.

According to Jenny Folley, as more and more Australians return to offices across the country, it is important to understand the benefits of ergonomics and its role in ensuring offices are safe, comfortable and productive working environments.

Folley said:

“Many people are not office fit, and this is going to cause a lot of health issues for workers as they return to the office unless they ensure their workspaces are well set up and supportive.”

“Most people associate the word ‘ergonomics’ with office furniture, but in actual fact, the term refers to the study of people’s efficiency in their working environment. However, office furniture is a big part of the office setting and thus the link between office furniture and ergonomics is important.

“Office ergonomics is all about making sure that working conditions are suitable for people to do their jobs effectively yet comfortably and safely.”

Jenny Folley is the founder and CEO of @WORKSPACES, a world leading premium brand of coworking and private offices with locations across Australia and overseas in suburban and city areas.  @WORKSPACES locations are ideal for long and short term flexible working and office arrangements and they include business services, shared facilities such as meeting rooms and breakout areas, kitchens, end of trip facilities and much more.

With a wealth of experience in appraising office spaces, Folley explained that poor working ergonomics can end up being costly for both employees and businesses.

The importance of ergonomics

Folley said:

“Research shows that people who work in spaces that lack office ergonomics can suffer from a variety of health complaints from minor to serious.”

“Providing a safe and comfortable workspace not only benefits workers, it also minimises the risks to business as well.  When staff are happy, comfortable and supported with the right tools and furniture, they feel better, are more productive and are likely to stay with the business.

“Achieving the right work set up will also help to ensure staff want to keep coming back in to the office instead of working from home.”

Health risks of non-ergonomic furniture

Folley said.

“Working in an office environment without ergonomic furniture can impact the health and wellbeing of workers in many ways.”

“They can experience swollen or stiff joints, or develop pain, tingling or numbness in their hands, wrists and fingers. They can also develop pain or discomfort in the shoulders, neck and back, and even have vision problems.

“Work-related musculoskeletal disorders are very common and can be developed over a period of time if a person is working in a static position for a long period of time.

“The average office worker can spend up to eight hours a day sitting at a desk. When the body is in a seated position, it places a strain and pressure on the body. Ideally, when you are seated, you should have both feet flat on the floor, your hips and knees should be parallel and there should be as little pressure as possible at the back of the thighs.

“Other problem points are doing repetitive movements for long periods, putting a strain on one specific area of the body or working at a speed that doesn’t allow for sufficient recovery between movements.”

Importance of workspace assessments

Folley emphasised:

“Ergonomics isn’t as simple as working in an office and sitting on a comfortable chair.”

“Ergonomics involves assessing a person’s work area to understand their work activities and movements, and then setting up a workspace that meets their needs.  This includes ensuring the right desk type and chair combination is provided along with all the necessary tools and aids needed to optimise comfort.”

Benefits of ergonomic furniture

Folley said:

“Given the range of potential health risks associated with working long hours in an office environment, it is important to ensure that quality ergonomic furniture is utilised.”

“Ergonomic furniture provides better support for posture as well as repetitive movements and usually includes desks, chairs and foot support.  Ergonomic chairs are fully adjustable to align with your height and workstation, so that you can remain in the correct sitting posture at all times.

“Ergonomic desks, on the other hand, are designed with comfort and productivity in mind. One of the best options is the sit-stand desk, so that you can take a break from sitting and stay a bit more active.

“Besides this, ergonomic furniture helps with reducing back and neck pain in workers.  Lower back pain is one of the leading causes of workplace absence in Australia.”

Choosing the right ergonomic furniture

Folley said:

“Be mindful that when choosing a chair, you need to factor in two points. Seat height should be adjustable, and seat width and depth should be sufficient to support the user.”

“There are several types of ergonomic desks, the most popular is the sit-stand desk, however, there are others such as the treadmill desk! The last thing to note is that besides just these big key items, there other assets in the office place that should feature ergonomic comfort. For example, your keyboard and mouse, good lighting and stress reducers such as office plants and air purifiers.

“When talking about office ergonomics, it’s not just the individual items, but the big picture. All the different components come together to benefit the team.”