Article By Rachel Mitchell, CCPE, ERGO Inc.
With the recent move to return to offices, many organizations have adopted a hybrid working model, which entails having employees working part-time at the office and part-time from home. At the office level, the hybrid model has in turn given rise to “hot desking,” where employees can work from any open seat on a given day. But while hot desking makes good financial sense, temporary or shared workstations may not be the most ergonomically sound for employee health and wellness. With that in mind, Staples Professional enlisted Rachel Mitchell, a Canadian Certified Professional Ergonomist and a member of Staples’ Work from Anywhere Advisory Council, to demystify some of the most common myths about ergonomics in the workplace.
Myth #1: My employees have ergonomic workstations; we have provided them with ergonomic chairs.
An ergonomic chair is only the first step (albeit one of the most important ones) to a fully ergonomic workstation that optimizes comfort, productivity, and wellbeing of your employees. If you place employees at standard 29” height desks, most who are under 5’10” are going to require either a footrest to support their feet or an adjustable keyboard tray that will allow them to work with their feet flat on the floor. ERGO TIP: Provide employees with sit/stand workstations that adjust to a minimum height of 25-26”, and you will likely eliminate the need for keyboard trays and footrests for all but the most petite employees. Find out how to set up a healthier workstation, whether sitting or standing, here.
Myth #2: Adjusting an office chair is intuitive – employees don’t need training.
Most employers provide employees with an office chair and leave the rest to the employee. However, companies do themselves a disservice when they spend money providing quality office equipment but don’t seek to educate employees about how to make the most of them. If you ask employees if they know how to use all the features of their chair, the majority will say they know how to use only a subset of what is available. Our experience is that most employees don’t know how to optimally adjust their chairs to fit their body. Without a full understanding of how and when to use an adjustable chair’s features, employees may not be able to achieve an optimal working posture, which can lead to aches and strains down the road. ERGO TIP: Most chair manufacturers have chair adjustment guides or instructional videos available. Post these on your company’s intranet or send the link out to your employees. Or use this handy guide for tips on adjusting an ergonomic chair.
Myth #3: Our standard office equipment should fit all our employees.
If you opt for only standard equipment without some adjustability, many employees will end up working in non-optimal postures; one size does not fit all.
Chairs with features such as seat pan sliders allow the depth of the chair to be customized for shorter or taller individuals, allowing the chair to fit a larger percentage of employees. By the same token, selecting monitors with adjustable support, using monitor arms, and/or adjustable laptop stands will allow a greater number of people to optimize the height of their screen. However, there will always be a handful of employees for whom “average” size equipment is not an ideal fit. Consider having a few petite and large stature chairs available for employees who may need them. The same is true for things like compact keyboards (for petite individuals) and larger bodied mice (for those with larger hands
Myth #4: A laptop is an adequate input device when working from home.
Laptops are great mobile devices, allowing us to work from anywhere – whether from a coffee shop, a conference room, or from home. However, working from a laptop for prolonged periods of time presents inherent ergonomic problems: laptop screens are typically too low, causing the head to tilt forward, which puts stress on the muscles of the neck. The Canadian Standards Association Office Ergonomic Guidelines (CSA z412-17) recommends that laptops be docked to allow for optimal postures when used for long periods of time. This means laptops should either be docked and closed when an employee is working off an independent monitor, or the laptop should be placed on a riser to allow the employee to work with an upright, neutral head position. Additionally, employees should use both an external keyboard and mouse when using a laptop as their main computer workstation, or when working for extended periods of time. Follow these helpful tips for setting up a dual-monitor workstation.
The bottom line: Investing the time and money to optimize your employees’ workstations today is well worth the time and will pay big dividends for employee health, well-being and productivity in both the short and long term.
Rachel Mitchell is a member of the Staples Work from Anywhere Advisory Council, a collective of industry experts and thought leaders across the fields of tech, productivity, design, ergonomics, and more. The Council supports our community in the new world of work with expert insight, thought leadership and informative content to work smarter, learn more and grow every day. Find out more about the Staples Work from Anywhere Advisory Council and its members here.