Keeping workers comfortable and preventing pain in the workspace

This just in: standing is not exercise.

It may sound obvious, but when scientists began warning us that sitting for hours could kill us (aka “sitting is the new smoking”), a lot of sedentary office workers demanded sit-stand work stations, confident the new-style desks would put them on the path to better health.

Turns out, standing is not a substitute for exercise. Some studies now say that workers using sit-stand desks are not burning extra calories or gaining any real health benefits – at least not compared to getting out of the office and walking.

It’s not all bad news. Sit-stand desks are known to alleviate neck and back pain, and changing positions throughout the day is better than sitting for hours on end in one position, which causes many work-related musculoskeletal injuries.

The U.S. spends about $1 billion a week to deal with these kinds injuries, most of which are entirely preventable. If you want to keep your employees pain free – and spend less than the price of a sit-stand desk -- there are some simple changes you can make in your workplace.

Check your chair

Your chair is literally your biggest supporter. It should have adjustable height and lumbar support, should recline easily and support your upper and middle back. The seat should be at least an inch wider than your hips and thighs on either side, and you should be able to sit all the way back without the edge of the seat hitting you behind the knees.

Size up your desks

Not all desks have changed with the times. Many are the right height for writing but not for typing and using your computer. A desk should promote good posture – you shouldn’t have to hunch up your shoulders to type. And you don’t want to bend your wrists up or down. The keyboard should be about two inches above your knees.

If your desk is too high, get a keyboard tray that slides out from under the desk and slopes downward. A split keyboard also works to keep your wrists in a horizontally neutral position.


Take look at the other tools of your trade to see if you can make further adjustments.

· Make sure you don’t have to reach to use your mouse.

· Arrange your keyboard so the “B” or “H” key is at your midline.

· Set your monitor straight in front of you. You’ll avoid neck pain if you don’t have to look up or down to see it.

· If your Smartphone is your main phone, download a swipe-to-type keyboard app, which is much easier on your thumbs.

These are just a few practical and inexpensive tips for preventing workplace injuries. Just for fun, here are some other interesting ideas:

· Invest in standing desks that tell you when to stretch;

· Buy smart chairs that nag you when you slouch;

· Bring the outdoors inside, with moss on the walls to (supposedly) help employees forget they’re in airless, windowless cubicles.

If you’d rather stick with the less expensive, more practical ergonomic suggestions, see the free online workplace ergonomics checklist to help you create an environment that will benefit the musculoskeletal health of your employees.


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