office furniture

Ergonomics Tip: What Office Equipment Will Make Me the Most Productivity?

Ergonomics Tip

As employees struggle to self-diagnose and troubleshoot the discomfort they have at work, many reach out to management with a request for equipment. Without proper training and diagnosis, this can be a waste of resources or escalate the problem.

See if this sounds familiar:

An employee starts to experience constant or even occasional discomfort and will start to become preoccupied. They are unsure what they exactly need, but they know they need something. They may even start trying to find any excuse they can to step away from their desk.
It occurs to them that maybe a new piece of hardware will solve all their issues. “My desk is horrible. I need to be able to stand.” Management doesn’t seem to agree, so the employee seeks the support of a medical professional. They book an appointment and lay out their case – the only think that will make them better is this new piece of office equipment and possibly some anti-inflammatory medication.

The medical professional without ever seeing the person’s work setup or how they interact within that setup writes a doctor’s note recommending an “ergonomic sit stand desk.” The employee takes the note to management to get approval of a new desk. The employer buys the cheapest intervention they can find, which is something that sits on top of the existing desk and will allow the person to stand. This is delivered to the employee and unfortunately 3 months later not only do the symptoms still exist, they are worse.

Preoccupied employee = loss of productivity

Doctor visit = claim against insurance

Diagnosis without visuals and proper case management = inaccurate or incomplete documentation in the system

New desk hardware that doesn’t solve problems = wasted resources

Employee with unresolved high discomfort = Increased risk of injury

Is there a better way?

Many companies with a proactive ergonomics program will tell you – absolutely. Let’s look how this situation plays out different in a company with a comprehensive ergonomics program.

The employee starts to have discomfort. Instead of letting things escalate, they go into their online ergonomics portal and take a survey. This survey collects key information on how they work and where they are having discomfort. Upon completion of the survey the person gets a set of recommendations and training based upon their responses.

The employee is feeling a bit better, but still has some discomfort. The ergonomist stops by for an evaluation. The ergonomist sees that the employee’s desk is too high. Putting something on top of the desk that raises the keying height for the individual is likely to make the discomfort worse.

The ergonomist instead recommends a keyboard tray that will allow the employee to bring the keying height lower to better fit their needs and allow them to get into a neutral posture. The ergonomist goes over how to use the equipment and how to best maintain their fit to avoid discomfort.

Employee concerns are addressed efficiently = Employee feels company cares and decision making is in hands of trained professional, which unburdens employee

External doctor visit not needed = no claim on insurance

Proper diagnosis from an expert who sees the work area, talks with employee and sees how the employee interacts within area = complete and more accurate documentation

New equipment may or may not be issued = A more educated allocation of resources based on need with emphasis on training and fit

Employee complaints addressed and managed = decrease risk of injury and increased morale

What many of us have learned in this industry is – what works to solve the problem of one employee will not necessarily work for the masses AND until you know what the problem is, it is very hard to treat it correctly.

A person has a leg injury. Would you order a cast or a band-aid? Is the leg broken or is it a scrape? Proper diagnosis is key to a proper solution.

No doubt hardware can help a situation, but it can also do the opposite by making things worse. Properly evaluating the situation and making educated recommendations based on the person and environment, this translates to a more accurate diagnosis and greater probability for success in the solution.

2018-10-16T04:13:41+00:00Ergo Squad News, Tips|

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.

Clearance:

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+00:00Ergo Squad Events|