The Myths of Workplace Ergonomics
Myth #1: Your office chair is killing you, really?
Popular press and product sales materials say your office chair is a killer, but let’s be clear about what we know from the research. A large study showed that sitting and low activity increased the risk of obesity, heart disease and diabetes—but that research was done for Leisure Sitting, like at home or in the car (Patel 2010). Medical studies have shown that posture and activity can change how the body manages blood sugar and cholesterol (Owen, Healy). It is important to realize that sitting at work and sitting at home are two very different conditions in terms of physiology.
Myth#2: A Standing Desk Is Good For You.
The discussion to stand at work should also include the known health risks from standing. Research that specifically looked at the amount of sitting time at work did not find a consistent association for the degree of health risk of diabetes, obesity, heart disease, cancer and death from all causes (van Uffelen 2010). Standing at work can be an expensive solution that does not address the original health risk problem of leisure sitting, and which may not exist at work. Standing workstations may even cause additional health risks. (See Pros and Cons of Standing).
Myth #3: More Activity Is Better.
If every kind of sitting is considered the cause of disease risk, it seems reasonable that standing, and generally more activity at work should be better. Unfortunately, simply increasing the effort at work may have unintended consequences that may be far worse, particularly with the known disease risks reported with increased work demands (Smith, Krause 2007).
Myth #4: A Good Chair Will Fix The Problem.
Often the “best ergonomic” chair is designed for only one kind of work—that which is relined and relaxed. The unspoken expectation is that the user can adapt their work to be done in that relaxed posture. If the work demands draw the torso forward the result is slumped posture, unless the chair can be adjusted to support the new forward posture. The combination of a reclined chair and forward work tasks is the most typical cause of slumped posture. Initially, slumping doesn’t seem to be a problem, but over time the damage is clear. Often, the user does not know how or when to adjust the chair, or maybe the chair cannot be properly adjusted.
Myth #5: Computer work needs an adjustable keyboard tray.
OSHA Ergonomic Guidelines suggest that an adjustable keyboard tray is recommended for computer use more than four hours daily, but how the computer work is done may predict when to use an alternative method. Early computer work was primarily data-entry, and it was done by skilled keyboard users. That kind of production keyboard use required full freedom of the arm and hand to sustain the high speed and volume of keyboard entry for transcription or dictation.
The numbers speak for themselves.
A two-year study demonstrated a consistent 80% recovery rate after ActivSeating™ adjustments to workstations.
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Charting the results of the study.
Graph of average difference in the initial report of discomfort and the follow-up survey vs. the average time in months between initial visit and follow up survey vs. the average time in months between initial visits and follow ups. Discomfort was reported as the product of frequency and severity on 1-5 scale, with the total severity range of 1-25.
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Resolving Back Pain At Work.
For individuals, health consultants, companies and corporations wishing to increase productivity and reduce physical stress related costs in the workplace.
Product sales do not influence our recommendations. Usually the simple changes that support the best posture, like chair adjustment or moving the height of a work surface are the best and most cost-effective solutions, and they are often overlooked.
John, thank you for this very observant follow up report! Personal comfort, in concert with expert professional guidance must be the gold standard! Thank you for everything, and especially for your attentiveness to the particular needs and idiosyncrasies of each individual.
Thank you for all of your insights, exercise tips, and equipment ideas. You obviously have a great deal of experience and knowledge in your field and it was very gratifying for me to be able to talk to someone that really understands my specific back problem.
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