Ergo Squad Events

Prevent Fatigue at Work for a Healthier & More Productive Workforce

We have all had those days where we are working intensely at our computers, not taking breaks, and under a great deal of stress. At the end of that day we are exhausted. We didn’t do heavy physical activity, rather we worked too hard, for too long. For many of us this means that when we get home we crash.

If this happens every once in a while that is one thing, but many people repeat this pattern every work day. Can you imagine the stress that places on their health and what it does to their quality of life?

Fatigue might not seem like a big deal but, it decreases our ability to respond to situations and zaps our energy. It is also a risk factor for injury.

To prevent this ongoing cycle, one must learn to manage fatigue by balancing and pacing themselves throughout the day. The skill of pace is not one that comes easy for many. You have to remind yourself to slow down and take small breaks along the way to achieve overall endurance.

One study analyzed elite performers spanning from musicians to athletes to chess players. The study concluded that more rest can maximize achievement. This goes against what many of us practice.

We arrive to work, focus on the task at hand and go as hard as we can without break until we get really fatigued. Sadly, some estimates show as many as two-thirds of office workers eat lunch at their desk. Employers tend to see these people as the hardest workers, but what they are doing has been shown to be counterproductive. Going without breaks exhausts us and the result can be lack of focus and reduced quality of work.

Top performers, by contrast, tend to practice in focused sessions lasting no more than 90 minutes. They work in bursts taking frequent breaks to ensure recovery and avoid exhaustion. This supports studies that conclude that performance deteriorates in continuous work, but can be reversed by taking rest breaks.

Breaks from sustained activity as short as one minute have been shown effective in restoring performance while at the computer. These should be a combination of both physical and mental breaks (depending on personal need) so employees can learn to master their pace.­­


There are many types of fatigue in the office – mental, eye, static muscle and muscle over-use. The effects of fatigue on your body can manifest in the form of tiredness, headaches, body aches, and even irritability.

All of the fatigue types combined together can be quite the monster.

When I talk about fatigue I always think about a long car trip. Imagine yourself driving for 9 hours. A trip like this is always exhausting. You have static muscle fatigue from holding the same sitting posture for so long. You have mental fatigue from the monotony of the drive and extended focus. If you are in heavy traffic or have crying children – increase that mental load. Your arms and hands are likely tired from gripping and holding onto the steering wheel. There is no tremendous physical activity involved, but the majority of people will be extremely tired by the onset of fatigue during the drive.

Some people’s work environments closely resemble a long road trip. Sitting for hours without movement in a closed space, intense focus and repetitive arm work. Replace the traffic and crying kids with work stress, deadlines, customers and co-workers.

It is often the combination of multiple types of fatigue that can lead to complete exhaustion. It is up to each of us to do what we can to manage our fatigue. Awareness is key and taking the time to rest is necessary to optimize our work performance over the long-term.


Studies have shown that scheduled breaks were generally more effective than leaving workers to take breaks at their own discretion.

I have been working with the company Efficiency Software on CtrlWORK Software. It was created to coach and encourage workers to take the breaks they need to avoid fatigue. The goal of the software is to raise consciousness in a natural, non-forced way that a small break is needed.

The software targets different types of fatigue and gives users the ability to customize their own plan. The user chooses a setting that best represents their needs and then they have the ability to enhance this with custom reminders and content.

The software measures the time and intensity to which employees engage with their computer. If the computer user works for too long without taking a natural break, the software will advise that they need to take a micro-break. Computer users get feedback on their computer usage and intensity. CtrlWORK lets them know what they are doing well and what they could improve on to have more comfort and energy.

Admins can view statistics to see how employees are doing and better target which departments could use more coaching/support.

The proactive feedback closes the loop for an organization between providing a tool to take breaks, to providing them feedback on the actual usage of the tool, to responsibility of taking breaks on part of the individual employee.

This article was originally published to LinkedIn.
Written by Ann Hall, Vice President of Workplace Ergonomics and Marketing at Ergo Squad

2018-07-07T12:14:04-07:00Ergo Squad Events|

Don’t Overlook Safety When Setting Up Your Sit To Stand Desk

Don’t Overlook Safety When Setting up Your Sit to Stand Desk

I would like to think most office set-ups have been well thought out and the furniture set-up by a well-trained installation team. The home office however is entirely different. I would guess most home workers have set-up their own workspace. Some of us have pets and kids (grown kids too) that interact in our space which makes controlling the space difficult.

There can be hazards in self-constructed static models (I often see tipping and loading hazards in online pictures). Also, anytime you have moving components you could possibly run into a safety issue, either person or material. This goes for electric and manual (have you ever had your fingers smashed in a door?).

Given my experience with motorized components and sit to stand desks I had rated myself entirely capable of setting everything up myself (perhaps that is where I went wrong- being overly confident).

I went over the basics such as avoiding pinch points and clearance from the lowest to highest point. I even trained my kids (well I tried anyway. The desk is apparently too irresistible).

What I missed was side clearance. On both sides of my desk I have doors (see picture). Imagine my surprise when I walked into my office and one side of my desk was pinned underneath the door knob and the other side was almost fully in standing position. My 11 year old son was raising the desk to standing position when the top collided with my door knob. In his confusion he kept running the desk upwards until it stopped.

The picture is what my office setup used to look like. It simply had to be changed to avoid potential obstacles.

With so many different models of desks and types of workstations I can only offer the basics below. The intent is to create awareness of potential issues so that hopefully you can avoid them.


Make sure that nothing could collide with the desk as it moves up and down. This doesn’t just include above and below. This includes things like drawers, doors or chairs that could come in from the side and create an obstacle. Most spaces are dynamic so just keep in mind how things change for the space day to day.

Pinch points:

When moving the desk from the lowest position to the highest position make sure there is plenty of room around the desk. The rule of thumb on this I have always heard is at least 2 inches of space all the way around the desk. BIFMA has a standard for pinch points that might be helpful for you if you have concerns.

Cord length:

If you have something on your desk that is connected to something else by cord/cable (lamp, fan, etc…), you want to make sure that the cord is long enough and has enough slack to go the entire range of travel without incident.

Load/Tipping point:

I have viewed several pictures online of homemade contraptions that convert sitting desks into standing desks (plastic containers holding giant monitors, stools stacked on desks, loads of books and boxes, ironing boards). For product safety and reliability, commercial desks are tested for loading and stability. Issues such as bending moment are examined. Basically, engineers use their extended knowledge to understand and predict how materials and “structures support and resist self-weight and imposed loads.” (Wikipedia)

This may not seem important to you but if you are determined to build your own desk you need to examine these things and maybe even consider anchoring some things to the wall to prevent tipping. This is especially important if you have children. What happens if they climb on the desk? Pull something off the desk?

Turn it off:

Some desks have a lock out where you can somewhat control who can use the desk. I don’t have this feature so when I want to disable my motorized desk I unplug the switch or power cable. I have a software where I can control the desk from my computer so for me it doesn’t matter if my switch stays unplugged. That is how I had to approach the issue with my kids. I simply disabled the movement when I was not at the desk.

I am not sure what you could do about a manual system. I am not sure if they have lock-out features.

Impulse drive movement:

This is when you simply touch a button and the desk moves to another position automatically. This is seen as a cool feature, however it is much safer for a hand to be controlling the movement at all times.

Collision control feature:

Many of the commercial grade brands of motorized components have engineered safety devices into their components such as anti-collision features. What this means is that if the desk collides with an object it will stop running and slightly retract back in the other direction. You would have to check with the furniture manufacturer to see if your model has this feature.

Exposed moving components:

Keep your person and materials clear of any moving components that may have openings. Most of your better motorized components will be fully enclosed (and for good reason!), but I have heard of some that have potential openings. There are several different manual systems that are the same. I have seen them enclosed and also exposed.

Tripping hazard:

If you have engineered your own desk you need to make sure that the base of the desk is not protruding out where it would cause a tripping hazard. This also goes for cord management. Make sure the cords of all equipment on the desk are clear of your foot space.

If you have questions or concerns about safety the best thing to do would be to talk to the group from which you purchased your desk and follow their recommendations. If you have anything to add that will help please feel free to comment.

This article was originally published to LinkedIn.
Written by Ann Hall, Vice President of Workplace Ergonomics and Marketing at Ergo Squad

2018-07-07T12:16:10-07:00Ergo Squad Events|

Summer Social & Networking Event, June 29th, 2017

Advance your knowledge on how to further reduce costs, minimize lost work time, and increase staff productivity with Ergo Squad and The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC). Join us on Thursday, June 29th, for a summer social and networking event at our Seattle Performance Center. Beverages and light snacks will be served. We invite you to sip wine with colleagues and enjoy the view on a beautiful summer evening. 

We are honored to co-host this fun evening with The Disability Management Employer Coalition (DMEC), a national organization committed to providing focused education and resources for maintaining legally compliant absence and disability programs.

2107 Elliott Avenue #306, Seattle WA 98101

Thursday, June 29th
5:00 p.m. – 7:00 p.m.


2017-07-02T21:35:14-07:00Ergo Squad Events|

Getting Employees To Use Their Sit To Stand Desk

Behavior change is difficult. We all know what we would like to do, but remembering and following through can often be a challenge.

I rolled out a walking program where one of the hardest obstacles was getting people to remember to use their wearable fitness tracking devices. Every week I heard the drama of people forgetting, washing and losing their device as well as excuses as to why exercise was impossible.

The employees who set morning reminders to use the devices and pre-scheduled their walking times were the most successful. I am talking about the people who walked everyday at lunch with a group or who ran on certain days in the park after work. These were the ones who seem to keep the habit of walking or running in their schedule long after the program ended. I don’t necessarily think they wanted it more, I think the way they realistically integrated it into their schedule was just more effective for them. It essentially became part of their daily routine.

Changing from sit to stand is a change from how many of us have worked our entire lives. The concept is simple, but getting employees to buy-in on this notion and use the desk in the best possible way can be a challenge.

For 15 years I have worked with universities, ergonomists and facility personnel working with sit to stand desks. There is one thing I am sure of – you cannot just give a person a new desk, walk away and expect them to use it the way you intended. With any ergonomic tool, it is only truly ergonomic if it is used in an ergonomic way.

The question is how do we get the majority of employees motivated to use the desks properly?

Some corporations have implied that less than 10% of their sit-stand desk users are actually using their desks. This is a problem that has been reported globally, even in Scandinavian countries where the majority of the working population have had these types of desks for years.

I recommend a focus on these three things to improve your usage rates:


Employees need to be intrinsically motivated to stand and sit. Sounds easy, but why people would want to use the desk is very diverse. You really have to tap into the “what’s in it for me?” for many different types of people.

Many will go straight to calorie burn for motivation. Truth be told I am very skeptical of this as a motivator. I understand this is what people want to see and therefore most interventions have calorie burn included as part of their package. The last thing any corporate wellness professional wants however, is an employee thinking they have burned off enough calories standing to eat more high fat, high sugar junk food. If this is what motivates them so be it, but please help them be realistic about their expectations. I assume every researcher in the field will confirm that you do burn more calories standing, however determining how much per individual is a complex science. In the end there are far more benefits that are better scientifically measurable.

I try to focus on all the great benefits for users that they are likely to experience as they break away from long bouts of sitting (or standing): more energy, more comfort through reduced muscle fatigue, easier to manage anxiety and stress, better circulation, and improved metabolism.

Training on static postures and the key benefits of alternating your position throughout the day is really important so they know how to properly use their desk. If you swap all day sitting for all day standing you probably won’t have more energy or comfort.


As I said before, changing from sit to stand is a change from how many have worked their entire lives. Getting people to advance to the point where they are standing anywhere from 8 to 24 times a day is something that needs to be worked up to for the majority of people.

Users need to start and advance at their own pace. Many may not even have the leg muscle strength to support their body weight standing in a static position for that long. Others may need to be coached to take sitting breaks.

Research has shown that for behavior change to be the most effective and sustainable it should contain these components: specific, measurable, achievable, relevant, and time-based. I would also say that the person having some control over their goals and plan is key as well. You can guide them, but there seems to be more commitment when the pace and goals come from them. I came to terms with the fact that some people may stand 2 times a day (not counting bathroom breaks etc…) for no more than 10 minutes.

I think the more people feel the results then the more apt they are to increase their goals. I have seen this several times – the skeptic now has proclaimed they could not work somewhere that does not have a sit stand desk.

Here is a short list to build upon when coaching people to adopt a sit to stand lifestyle:

Setting Specific, Measurable Goals

  • How long can you commit to standing* each work day?
  • How many different times are you willing to stand*?
  • Why do you want to do this? What do you think you will gain?

Reviewing Goals to Make Sure they are Achievable and Time-based

  • Are these goals realistic to how you work?
  • Ultimately what would you like to work up to?
  • Can you commit to following this plan for 4 weeks?
  • Are you willing to review your progress in 4 weeks?

*For some this may be sit.


For the last four years I have worked with a couple of companies on tools that help remind users to change positions. Some are hardware solutions and some are software solutions. I highly recommend some intervention to help remind people about their commitment. Even if they just use a basic alarm setting on their computer it will help to have the awareness there during the day.

Even those with the best of intentions can forget to use their desks when they get caught up in what they are doing. The goal is to make sitting and standing throughout the day part of their daily routine.


This article was originally published to LinkedIn.
Written by Ann Hall, Vice President of Workplace Ergonomics and Marketing at Ergo Squad

2017-09-08T00:26:11-07:00Ergo Squad Events|