It’s Ergonomics Month! Ergo does your body good

October 19, 2021  //  FOUND IN: Updates & Resources

Whether working on-site, remote or a hybrid of both, it’s important that your workspace fits your needs. That’s where ergonomics can help. October is National Ergonomics Month, a good time to think about the relationship between your body and your work environment.

Cindy Zielinski, M.S., OTRL, occupational therapy supervisor and lead for the MHealthy Ergonomics Awareness Program, discussed the importance of making sure your workspace is the best fit for you and, if not, how to improve it.

Simple adjustments make a big impact

Cindy Zielinski: “Your workspace can be optimized to fit your body’s unique needs. Simple adjustments like learning how to adjust your chair, reposition your monitor or protect your back while lifting heavy objects can make a huge difference.

Making these types of small changes to your workspace not only impacts how you feel day-to-day but also your long-term comfort and safety.”

Why it hurts

CZ: “When we don’t optimize our workspace to fit our bodies, we put ourselves at risk for musculoskeletal disorders or MSDs. MSDs affect your muscles tendons, ligaments, bones, joints, nerves or the spinal discs. Common MSDs include back or neck pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, arthritis, sprains, strains and tears.

It’s important to understand what the risk factors are for MSDs and what you can do to reduce or prevent your risk of injury and discomfort. Here are a few risk factors:

  • Repetition: performing the same motion or task repeatedly over a period of time
  • Contact stress: applying force or pressure through an area of the body
  • Force: the need to generate force to perform an action, such as heavy lifting or controlling equipment
  • Awkward postures: being in an awkward posture can result in excessive stress and strain on your body.”

Help is available

CZ: “Whether you’re working onsite or remote, we can help to improve your workspace, comfort and productivity.

Faculty and staff can schedule an in-person or virtual ergonomic consultation to identify potential risks factors and possible sources of discomfort in your workspace. If you work at a desk, we’ll look at your chair, desk and devices like your keyboard and mouse. If you work in a non-office setting, we’ll look at your equipment, station and movements. Then we’ll recommend adjustments so they’re positioned properly for you. To request an evaluation, complete this Ergonomic Evaluation Request Form.

The MHealthy Medical Ergonomics Program is available to employees whose ability to perform their job has been impacted by a change in their vision, hearing, strength, endurance or coordination. This service does require a doctor’s referral.

If you’re not sure if a consultation is what you need, our website includes a variety of self-help tools that you can access anytime.”

Adjusting your remote workspace

CZ: “Many of us are working remotely and may not have access to a lot of office equipment. But there are so many things in our homes that can help us make adjustments to our workspace:  

  • Pillows or blankets are great to add cushion to your seat, improve back support to a chair, or use for arm support if your armrests are too wide.
  • Rolled up towels can provide lumbar support for the lower back.
  • Boxes, books and storage totes can be used as a footrest or to raise the height of a laptop or monitor.
  • An ironing board can be adjusted to your ideal height for sitting or standing work.
  • An external monitor or TV is essential if you’re using a laptop and your screen is too small.

And no matter where you’re working, always remember to keep moving. Try to get in some type of movement (standing, stretching, taking a 2–3-minute walk, etc.) every 30 – 60 minutes. Setting an alarm or timer is a good way to remind yourself.”

For more information, including self-help tools, please visit the MHealthy Ergonomics Awareness website.