Employers are looking for every way possible to keep their employees happy, especially in light of the great resignation that has left many industries short-staffed.
There’s a long list of potential ways to boost retention, from improving benefits and perks to promoting a positive culture and flexible work environments.
There’s no silver bullet when it comes to worker satisfaction and employee retention, but an often-overlooked area for improvement is a workplace’s physical environment and how comfortable the workspace is.
Office ergonomics goes beyond adhering to OSHA recommendations for ergonomic safety. Providing ergonomics in the office can help boost productivity, enhance mood, prevent chronic injuries, and promote a culture of appreciation and care.
To follow are several ergonomic office design and furnishings tips that can easily be implemented in nearly every workplace.
Best Ergonomic Chair Features
You’ve probably heard the phrase: sitting is the new smoking. While that notion is debatable among some, the importance of ergonomic seating and taking frequent breaks shouldn’t be minimized. Poor posture, pressure points, and improper alignment can wreak havoc on the human body over time. These stressors can weaken or strain neck, shoulder, and back muscles and lead to chronic pain.
One of the top ergonomic task chairs is the highly regarded Aeron chair from Herman Miller. It provides zonal support that conforms to the natural curve of your spine to improve posture. It also includes patented material designed to keep users comfortable and cool. The design of the Aeron chair is so innovative that it is featured in the Museum of Modern Art's permanent collection.
Source: Herman Miller
Tips for Adjusting Ergonomic Office Chairs
Position the seat height so that knees are approximately at 90˚
Feet should be flat on the floor
Position armrests just under forearms when shoulders are relaxed
Seat depth should allow for the user to sit all the way back to receive the full benefit of the chair’s support
Taking breaks from long periods of sitting should be encouraged among employees to help promote physical activity. Most experts recommend getting up every 30 minutes to stretch or move around to help minimize stiffness and other physical issues. Standing for five to 20 minutes to change postures is also recommended.
Best Ergonomic Work Surface Features
A properly positioned work surface is another crucial step in preventing chronic shoulder, neck, and back pain. A great way to minimize how much time workers stay seated is to provide adjustable sit-to-stand desks. With the flip of a switch, a desk can be raised or lowered to any sitting or standing height.
Look for desks with soft, angled edges and corners to reduce scratches and bruises. The desk’s legs should be slim and positioned toward the back to minimize bumping into them. Choose an easy-to-clean work surface that is large enough to hold two monitors, a keyboard, mouse, and other items without feeling confined. Allow enough space for photos, indoor plants, a cup of coffee, or other personal items to help employees create a homey feel.
Source: Herman Miller
Tips for Adjusting Sit-to-Stand Desks
Position the top of the work surface near elbow height
Keep elbows at a 90˚ angle or greater
Wrists should be in a neutral position
Place monitors at arm's length
Ergonomic Office Equipment
The equipment and accessories placed on a work surface also play an important role in reducing physical issues like tendonitis, headaches, carpal tunnel syndrome, eye strain, and others. Use the following guidance when selecting and positioning various office productivity tools.
Position monitors or laptop screens directly in front while seated. When necessary, use a laptop stand to raise the screen to proper viewing height (looking straight ahead). Workers should not have to twist their neck or body to view screens. Always try to use an external keyboard and place it level so that wrists are in a neutral position in line with the forearms. Users should not have to reach for the keyboard; instead, arms should remain close to the sides of the body. Use a mouse that allows wrists and fingers to remain as straight as possible.
Source: Herman Miller
Some individuals may have difficulty finding a balance between the right chair and desk heights while still keeping their feet flat on the floor. Using a footrest is one way to solve this challenge.
Source: Herman Miller
Without proper lighting, productivity can suffer and eye strain can occur. It may also lead to hunching over a desk to see better, leading to muscle strains. Use adjustable lighting that can swivel over a work surface to illuminate exactly what needs to be seen.
A messy desk is a recipe for reduced productivity. Provide slots or small containers within reach for storing everything from file folders to pens and paper clips. Also consider where employees can store personal items out of the way, like purses, coats, computer bags, cellphones, and earbuds. Keeping those items secure also needs to be considered.
Place power outlets and USB ports within easy reach on top of work surfaces to allow for charging of mobile devices and laptops. Employees should not have to crawl under desks to reach a power source. Many are surprised to discover the strong connection between power and furnishings when designing their office space.
Ergonomics for Remote and Hybrid Workers
Today’s workplace looks a lot different than it did a few years ago. The number of remote and hybrid workers has skyrocketed since the pandemic, and the trend is expected to continue. Employers need to consider the physical and emotional well-being of work-at-home employees, too.
In fact, one survey found that half of hybrid workers reported increases in back and shoulder pain. Perhaps it’s because many also reported cutting their mobility by half and took less than 1,000 steps during the work day.
Encouraging wellness doesn’t need to be confined to the office. Employers need to provide ergonomic solutions for all employees no matter where they choose to work. Educate employees on proper ergonomics and share the tips included here. Also, consider providing a stipend or reimbursement program for remote workers who want to purchase ergonomic equipment.
For additional tips, visual recommendations, and ideas to help improve ergonomics in your workplace, access the complimentary guide offered by Herman Miller in partnership with The Samuels Group. Just click the link below for your copy of the Herman Miller Ergonomics Guide or check out our Hybrid Work Model Guide for additional interior solutions considerations.