As an ergonomist, Joshua Estrin studies the physical danger of repetitious office movements and attempts to limit that liability wherever possible. But he can’t help but notice greater implications of office space design — or lack of design.
“Comfort is no longer a luxury in the office, it’s a necessity, because it’s not good enough to just do your job anymore. The pressure on people in this economy is enormous. To expect them to do that when they’re not in an environment that’s physically comfortable is just illogical,” says Estrin, who holds an M.S. in behavior and systems theory from Columbia University and currently works for a Florida consulting firm. “Making positive changes to a worker’s environment goes a long way, especially in an economy where people may not be getting the raises they anticipated.”
And an ergonomic workspace doesn’t necessarily have to be an expensive one.
“I think we’re finally getting to a place where companies understand that it doesn’t have to cost thousands of dollars to be ergonomic,” says Kevin Costello of US Ergonomics, a major consulting firm. “We’ve worked with companies with absolutely no budget for equipment. There are so many simple little adjustments to make: Some old books or stacks of paper can raise monitors to the proper height. It’s about improving geometry, not raising costs.”
Check your desk
According to a recent study by US Ergonomics, more than half of office workers have never adjusted the height of their desk chair. The height and position of a desk chair in relation to corresponding computer monitors is the highest contributor to “cumulative trauma disorders,” or serious injuries incurred by repetitious movements.
» A monitor should always be placed within the “vision cone” of the worker (roughly, no higher or lower than a 30 degree angle extending from their eyes.)
» Laptop monitors are not within this ideal range and often contribute to injury.