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You bet it can.

We’ve all heard the term ‘ergonomics’. But what does it really mean? By definition ergonomics is “the applied science of equipment design, as for the workplace, intended to maximize productivity by reducing operator fatigue and discomfort.” This means providing furniture that adapts to people, so they can spend more time on tasks comfortably and less time away from their workstations.

Ergonomics does indeed have an impact on the bottom line. A recent study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association surveyed roughly 29,000 computer users and found that 52.7 % were working with at least one form of daily musculoskeletal discomfort. The average lost productive time among those experiencing discomfort was more than 5.2 hours per week.

“Musculoskeletal discomfort” can mean any of the following conditions: Carpal Tunnel Syndrome, Raynaud’s Phenomenon, Trigger Finger, Rotator Cuff Syndrome, Epicondylitis, Herniated spinal disc, Sciatica or Tension Neck Syndrome. Considering how common they are, you probably know someone who is suffering from one of these conditions.

So, what can be done to ensure employees a more comfortable/efficient work experience?

Ergonomics can actually be boiled down to four key challenges we all encounter at our desk.

  • Hand & Wrist Posture
  • Task Seating
  • Monitor Positioning
  • Task Lighting

Everything from the way you hold your mouse to the way you sit or even the available light at your desk have an impact on your overall comfort at work. This in turn, affects productivity.


1. Don’t assume it’s ergonomic.
The purpose of ergonomics is to ensure health and safety, but just because a product says it’s ‘ergonomic’ doesn’t mean it’s safe to use. There’s currently no regulatory oversight to keep companies from labeling products in this manner or marketing something as the Ergo-Chair, for example. And forget what your mother told you about it always being best to sit up straight – it’s simply not true. Studies have shown that it’s best to recline slightly, to put less stress on your spine.
2. There can be too much of a good thing
A popular misconception is that the more adjustable a piece of equipment is, the more ergonomic it is. Yet every chair and every person is different. It’s actually dangerous to have too much control if it means that a chair or workstation is configured in a way that’s unhealthy. The sad reality is that most people don’t adjust their chair, even if the option is available.
3. Don’t forget the lighting
Lighting is the most important element for maintaining good eyesight and the type of lighting is just as important as your ability to adjust its position. Reading on-screen and reading on-paper have different requirements for minimizing eye strain. There’s also the issue of glare and the need to minimize it. All this, plus there’s an emotional benefit to having good light while you’re working.
4. Educating with ergonomics
It’s not enough to buy the right furniture. You should promote ergonomic safety as well. Make sure that your monitor height is correct, that you minimize glare and be sure to take breaks from repetitive motions and tasks. Having ergonomic furniture and helping others adjust it appropriately is the best way to ensure that your co-workers and employees stay healthy and productive at work.

For more research and ideas, you can read the Office Ergonomics Handbook by Knoll. Does  your office think “ergonomically?”