I often find it difficult to believe that people who pride themselves on their awareness of ergonomics have put so little thought into the setup of their offices.
In an extreme example, a client was referred to me by his health care professional. He was back at work fresh from shoulder surgery for a torn rotator cuff, and was still in so much pain that he was on morphine.
He was sitting at a fairly large desk, approximately 2 meters long and yet, he was crowded over his monitor at its extreme edge. His computer tower was taking up the space under the desk where his legs needed to be. This setup was forcing him to hunch, twist and bend to see his screen and increasing his pain and risk of further upper body injury.
His phone was resting on his computer underneath his desk, and difficult as it was to believe, he he was scrunching his shoulder to his ear to hold it during calls.
Why wasn’t he using the available real estate of his spacious desk to sit properly? Because the computer and monitor cables were too short.
This in an office with its own in-house IT support person who could have provided longer cables in a matter of hours.
Of all causes of poor posture, incorrect setup of equipment is the easiest to fix and therefore the hardest to excuse.
The Solution? Awareness
Often when I come come to a consult I am greeted with the words “this is what I’m doing wrong”. The clients have diagnosed what they believe is the cause of their discomfort.
Sometime they are right. Usually I prefer to ask them to go about their regular activities until they are no longer aware that they are being observed. Like a good skiing, public speaking or dancing instructor, I film them in action.
“You’ve already helped me a lot”.
The awareness that comes from seeing themselves filmed is often enough. The client described above wasn’t in an a job with unusually strenuous physical conditions. His problem stemmed from incorrect arrangement and low awareness.
Helping you to increase your awareness is often the biggest contribution of an ergonomics risk assessment. Sometimes something as simple and immediate as centering your equipment in front of you – bringing the tools of your trade to reach you instead of straining to reach them- can result in a dramatic reduction in pain.
Unfortunately, many people are not open or ready to get advice until they are in extreme pain. Since many repetitive strain injuries are cumulative sometimes employers won’t authorize a consult for their younger employees because they know that they won’t be in enough pain to be motivated to make changes.
This is a shame, since an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. In the case above, just pointing out what the client above was doing wrong was enough for him to say “You’ve already helped me a lot”.