Did you know that your work environment can negatively affect your body and mind even if you’re not doing any physically demanding work? An office environment might not seem like it can be detrimental to your health, but discomfort and sedentary work can cause various problems.
Ergonomics is defined as the study of people and their efficiency in a work environment. When you improve the comfort and health of your employees, you also increase their productivity. This is why so many employers are looking for ways to implement ergonomic principles in their offices. There are lots of things in modern offices that are in dire need of changes. The only issue is knowing where to start with improvements. Here are some of the best things you can do to make your workplace healthier for employees and managers alike.
Proper lighting is an often-underestimated aspect of a healthy work environment. Employers tend to neglect the lights in their office when looking for areas to improve. Various research shows that lighting affects both employee productivity and mood.
Natural light is considered the best option for any good work environment. Sunlight and natural views tend to reduce stress and anxiety, while also improving mood and morale. The reasons for this are two-fold. For starters, natural light provides the most pleasant experience for our eyes and it doesn’t cause them to strain. This allows workers to focus longer without needing breaks to rest their eyes. Natural light also complements our circadian rhythm. Our bodies rely on sunlight to tell them when it’s time to work and when it’s time to rest. Artificial light throws this delicate balance into disarray and it can lead to fatigue and early symptoms of burn-out.
If possible, employee workspaces should be located near a window that allows for sunlight to enter the office. Lunch breaks should be spent outside of the office, preferably in a park.
Many jobs require work that goes on after the sun has set, which is why artificial light still has a place in the office. With this in mind, light positioning becomes an extremely important part of proper lighting. Lights should be set up to give uniform visibility throughout the office. This allows you to avoid squinting while looking for things, while also never having to worry about the glare on your monitor.
It’s no secret that sitting around for long periods of time is unhealthy. The body requires some degree of movement every once in a while, to prevent back, neck, and leg pain. In an office environment, employees spend an average of seven hours seated per work day. This can be incredibly unhealthy for many joints and muscles. Because of this, it’s crucial that you encourage a bit of movement throughout the workday.
Even something as simple as occasionally standing up and walking to the water cooler can do wonders for back health. Our bodies aren’t designed to stay immobile for long periods of time, which is why it’s important to stay active, even during work hours. Employees don’t have to neglect their work in order to stay physically healthy, either.
A couple of simple stretches and light exercise movements could do the trick just fine. Employees should be encouraged to stand up and do a series of stretches every two to three hours. This will provide a much-needed break for their body and it will allow them to continue their work with additional comfort.
Much of the work you will find in an office is done on computer screens. There has been a lot of talk about how monitors affect eyesight and how to prevent damage to your vision, but very few offices tackle the problem of neck pain. Monitors are infamous for causing bad posture when they aren’t properly set up.
The human head doesn’t weigh a lot, it’s only about ten pounds. Our necks are perfectly adapted to hold our heads straight for long periods of time without getting tired. However, with improper posture, the weight is distributed differently and it can cause stress to your neck. The way you position your neck depends entirely on how your monitor is set up. If it’s not angled right, you’re going to have to move your neck to make up for it.
Adjustable monitor arms can help mitigate the angle issue. If you’re able to set it up just right, there will be no additional stress to your neck. With proper posture, employees can work comfortably even while sitting at their desks for hours.
One way to avoid issues with constant sitting is to switch things up a bit. Working at a regular desk forces you to sit for prolonged periods of time, which is unhealthy by any standards. The occasional walk to the water cooler might not be enough to help people avoid back pain and other musculoskeletal issues. Fortunately, sit-stand desks have proven themselves to be great alternatives for any kind of office environment.
If you can do work while sitting down, there’s no reason you can’t do it while standing up. Sit-stand desks allow employees to do both at intervals that they find comfortable. These desks have an adjustable height that allows them to keep the monitor at eye level, no matter which position they work in.
Standing too long is just as detrimental as sitting too long, which is why alternating these two would be the ideal solution. However, some adjustments have to be made to accommodate a standing desk. For starters, you need to pick out shoes that are comfortable enough to stand in. Your standing desk mat will help you reduce the floor pounding effect from standing and shuffling around while you work. With a sit-stand desk, it’s a lot easier for employees to adapt when they feel uncomfortable. If their feet start swelling, they can go back to sitting down within seconds and it won’t interrupt their work.
Plants are an important addition to any modern office. They add some color and nature in an environment that usually lacks both of these things. However, it’s also a well-known fact that they can improve the mood throughout the office. Just having a window view of greenery can have a restorative effect and lead to increased productivity. It’s not just the visuals of plants that can have positive effects. The smell and atmosphere that surrounds plants can make people feel more relaxed and give them more clarity during their work.
Having natural greenery in your office will positively affect your employees, as long as you’re able to keep the plant alive and well. Not every kind of plant is suitable for an indoor environment, especially when you consider that everyone in the office is going to be too busy to take care of it. The type of plant you choose should be very low-maintenance, while still providing a pretty, green view that matches your office aesthetic.
Jade plants and peace lilies are considered some of the best choices for office greenery. Peace lilies are particularly easy to take care of because they require very little water. Even when they do require water, they signal this with flowers that start to look droopy.
Fitting your office with ergonomically designed furniture and healthy accessories is a sound investment in your company’s future. You are guaranteed to have fewer employee injuries and an overall more productive workplace. Let’s not forget, the employees themselves will be happy to know that you’re looking out for their health. A morale boost will only further improve your bottom line. Even a couple of changes would make all the difference in both productivity and employee satisfaction, so you shouldn’t hesitate to take the plunge into the ergonomic design.
Emma Williams is an Australian writer with a master‘s degree in business administration,
who has a passion for anything lifestyle and design related. She spends most of her time
redecorating and participating in house projects. As a great nature lover, her biggest
pleasure is spending time in a small cottage by the river.