Office ergonomics is one of the most commonly discussed ergonomic topics due to the sheer volume of workers we have working in offices. Whether in a workplace, or a home office, here are 5 of the most frequently asked questions and our take on each of them:

  1. What are the short term and long term effects of improper office ergonomics?
    The effects of poor ergonomics in an office are not as acute as poor health and safety in the industry, and thus it may be less noticeable. Short term, workers may experience minor discomfort while working. Although the discomfort may be considered negligible or minimal, over time, these symptoms may increase and develop into MSDs such as carpal tunnel syndrome or a low back disorder.
  2. What are considered 'ergonomically friendly' products?
    There is currently no regulation on which products are labelled 'ergonomically friendly'. Many manufacturers and designers will use this as a sales tactic to attract buyers. We highly suggest you consider these products using your ergonomic eye. Products that are ergonomically friendly should be adjustable for the user and allow them to perform the task at hand in a more efficient and/or safer manner. It's also important to remember that although a product may be 'ergonomically friendly', it does not mean that it will solve all muscular issues. For example, some mice are meant to minimize shoulder movement which is great for a shoulder injury but not ideal for a hand/wrist injury as movement at this joint may be increased to compensate.
  3. What is the best posture to sit in?
    Ideally, workers would not be sitting for longer than an hour or two at a time. When sitting, we tend to forget about our posture as we get more into our work, however; most employees work stationary for prolonged periods of time which can cause discomfort and injury. To help improve posture, the 90-degree rule is often suggested: to sit with 90 degree angles at the hips, knees, ankles, and elbows. This posture is considered to be the most ergonomically correct because it places your joints in a position that is closest to their neutral state.
  4. I heard that sitting on a medicine ball helps you to strengthen your back muscles while you sit, should I invest in one?
    This is a myth. In 2006, McGill et al., proved that muscle activation is not significantly affected by sitting on a stability ball. In fact, most users found that using the ball was uncomfortable; this may be due to the increased compression on soft tissue areas. Sitting on a medicine ball further adds a safety risk of falling off the ball while sitting, and is therefore not recommended in the office.
  5. Is it worth it to invest in a sit-stand desk?
    To fully answer this question, many factors must be considered. Typically sit-stands are recommended for those that spend the majority of their time working at their desks, or for workers that have sitting restrictions (i.e. a back injury preventing them from sitting for long periods of time). For workers that must walk away from their desks frequently to perform other tasks, this may not be as useful because they are able to take breaks from sitting. In the current market, sit-stands are an expensive investment that must be used appropriately for them to be effective.

McGill, S., Kavcic, N., & Harvey, E. (2006). Sitting on a chair or an exercise ball: Various perspectives to
guide decision making. Clinical Biomechanics, 21, 353-360.

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