Are your employees bent over their laptops at the coffee table? Working while sinking into their couches? Seated at their dining table in a hard wooden chair? Perhaps they've even added a cushion to their chair, making it uneven?

All of these (all too common) work-from-home situations are bad news for employee ergonomics.

What is Ergonomics?

Ergonomics can be described as a science that is concerned with how humans interact with objects around them. In an office workspace, for instance, the objects of interaction would be the desk, chair, computer monitor, keyboard, and mouse.

Common injuries resulting from poor ergonomics

The following are some injuries that can occur as a result of improperly set up workspaces.

  • Back Problems – Your pelvis and lower back will be displaced if your chair is not perfectly level, so that one buttock is slightly higher than the other. An incorrect slope/incline in your chair, as well as sliding down in your chair so that your back is not straight, can also cause issues. Middle back pain can result from hunching over a computer screen that is too low down.
  • Neck Problems and Headaches – Muscle strain and possibly joint problems will result from a screen that is too low, too high, or too far to the side. Bending or twisting for long periods of time causes certain muscles in your back and neck to become tense for hours at a time. These muscles run up the side of the neck to the temples and up the back of the neck to the top of the head, causing tension headaches.
  • Musculoskeletal disorders – Musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) are injuries that affect the joints, muscles, nerves, cartilage, tendons, and, in the case of office workers, the wrists or elbows.

Facts are the facts

Employers are responsible for providing a safe work environment that prevents injury to their employees. When employers ask their staff to work from home, that responsibility extends to their home office setup. Employers, according to Safe Work Australia, the government statutory body responsible for safe work practices, “should provide guidance on what is a safe home office environment, including what a good workstation set up looks like, and require workers to familiarise themselves and comply with good ergonomic practices.”

So, what are some of the fundamentals to keep in mind when working from home?

  • Remind employees to get up and move around every 20-40 minutes. Encourage them to set timers or apps to remind them to get up, stretch, and take a few deep breaths to open up their rib cage.

Here are 2 desktop apps that will help remind you team to move and stretch throughout the day.

  1. Time Out – Break Reminders
  2. Workrave
  • Ensure that employees have the tools they need to create a healthy working from home environment. An external monitor, a mouse, and a keyboard are all required. A three-way movable chair is also a must.
  • Check in with employees on a regular basis to ensure they have everything they need and to address any aches and pains as soon as possible to avoid potential pitfalls.

Here are three of the proven benefits of a strong workplace ergonomics process

  1. Improved productivity. The best ergonomic solutions frequently increase productivity. The workstation becomes more efficient by designing a job to allow for good posture, less exertion, fewer motions, and better heights and reaches.
  2. Improved quality. Poor ergonomics results in frustrated and fatigued workers. And let's be honest: no one who's frustrated and fatigued performs at their best! When a job task is too physically demanding for a worker, they may fail to perform it like they were trained.
  3. Improved employee engagement. Employees notice when the company goes above and beyond to ensure their health and safety. If an employee does not experience fatigue or discomfort during the course of their workday, it can reduce turnover, decrease absenteeism, improve morale, and increase employee involvement.

Here is a summary of the results of published studies that investigated the advantages and the benefits of ergonomic design measures.

Employees with a Health Benefits Plan have greater access or higher limits to services such as physiotherapy, chiropractics, and massage to help maintain balance and self-help. If you are an HR Manager looking to ensure the wellbeing of your employees and increase their productivity while working from home, feel free to book in a time with me to chat.

Here's to safe, comfortable, and productive workspaces – from the team at Anista Employee Benefits! 😃