Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The Importance of Ergonomics

Most of you out there will be reading this at a computer screen, slouched in some form with one hand on your mouse and the other propping up your head. It’s comfy, right? It’s not great for you though.

Work stations have always been a problem since the traditional ‘desktop’ layout came to be commonplace. The fact is, the work stations that we use just aren’t designed around us and our bodies needs. Give it long enough and you’ll start feeling some tweaks and aches in your lower back and wrists. Leave it too long, it could develop into full blown musculoskeletal disorders. Not a great thing.

Luckily, a brainy bunch of scientists came up with the theory of ergonomics, and designing our world around our needs. Specifically, they developed chairs that give you the right support, keyboards that make sure your arms aren’t strained and mouses to minimise repetitive strain injury (RSI) in our wrists. You may have seen the pads that you can place in front of your keyboard and mousepad to make sure that your wrists are properly elevated and receive the appropriate support. Well, those same brainy bunch of scientists talked to designers and chiropractors and all sorts of experts in order to bring better furniture into the workplace.

There’ a large chance that the majority of people reading this will spend most of their day in front of a computer, sitting down and staring at screens. This isn’t good for us. Sure, the cat pictures are hilarious and dogs in clothes are as surreal as anything else, but we humans weren’t made to sit around all day. It’s leading to problems with weight gain and other problems due to a sedentary day, but ergonomically speaking we could be doing even more damage to our bodies.

Most companies will try to implement these ergonomic lessons, because treating the cause is cheaper and quicker than treating the symptoms. Screens can be dimmed, or have translucent pieces of plastic to reduce the glare that can damage our eyes. Chairs can be made to recline and shaped to support the lower back, so that we can lean back and away from our computers comfortably, rather than place our face up close with the aforementioned screens glaring at us. Mouse-mats can be softened and padded to make our wrists feel like we’re scrolling on a cloud and keyboards can be shaped to make typing feel like we’re stroking air.

Many people who switch to ergonomically designed products can feel an immediate difference, strains you were putting on your body without realising will come to light and begin to ease. Overall, you’ll be a far more comfortable and happy person, which will make work a little less terrible to head to.