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February 2021 Newsletter
In This Issue
  • Thanks for Joining Us!
  • How Do I Know If I  Need Help With Ergonomics?
  • Sitting At Work
  • Biophilia and Its Impact on Ergonomics
  • Will A Standing Desk Work For You?
  • Good Lighting Ergonomics For The Office
  • Give Your Workstation a Makeover 
  • Quick Reference: What to Consider When Researching Ergonomic Chairs
  • Video: Why Every Desk Needs a Personal Plant
  • Quick Reference: Music in the Workplace
  • Coach's Corner: Don't Forget to Take Care of Yourself - Easy Ergonomic Exercises for the Workplace
February 2021
Volume 8, Number 2

Thanks for Joining Us!

It's February and we're not out of the woods with our COVID situation - this means many of us are still working diligently from home. More than ever, it's important to take care of each other - and ourselves.

In this edition, we are exploring ergonomics and how planning and creating good work stations can benefit all workers in any office type of environment. That includes those working from home, as well. 

At its core, workplace ergonomics is really about building a better workplace. When jobs are designed to match the capabilities of people, it results in better work being produced and a better experience for the person doing it.

Through that lens, ergonomics creates value on several fronts. It’s good for your people and good for your business.
  • Benefits of Ergonomics
  • Lower costs
  • Higher productivity
  • Better product quality
  • Improved employee engagement
  • Better safety culture
Keep reading for more learning!
The Government of Canada defines ergonomic hazards as workplace conditions that pose the risk of injury to an employee. They include repetitive and forceful movements, vibration, temperature extremes, and static and awkward postures that arise from improper work methods and improperly designed workstations, tools and equipment. The main ergonomic risk factors in the office are:
  • Repetition: Tasks or body movements carried out over and over again;
  • Awkward postures: Body positions that deviate from neutral, such as twisting the neck to view a monitor or reaching to use a mouse; and
  • Static forces: Maintaining a position for a prolonged period of time (e.g., prolonged sitting, viewing the monitor with a bent neck, or reaching for the keyboard).
How Do I Know If I Need Help With Ergonomics?
Some 'triggers' that the Association of Canadian Ergonomists suggest that your workplace would benefit from an ergonomist’s services include the following:
  • Employees in your workplace, or in certain specific work areas, are experiencing soft-tissue injuries (STI), also known as Work-related Musculoskeletal Disorders or (WMSDs) such as tendonitis, back injuries, sore muscles, etc. These are all indicators that the job demands are excessive due to one or a combination of risk factors (i.e. force levels, work postures, repetitive actions, long durations, and/or psychosocial stressors).
  • Accidents such as slips and falls, and injuries such as cuts and bruises, struck by/on, caught on/in events. These accidents may be a result of inadequate clearances, design of controls and tools, poor design of stairways, lack of appropriate lighting, poor visibility, etc.
  • High rates of general absenteeism and/or worker turnover. These can be indicators of high levels of physical or mental demand, poor workplace design, and/or poor organizational design.
  • High number of mistakes, and/or rework due to poor quality. These are often the result of difficult work processes, high workloads and fatigue, inadequate communication/information, poor visibility, poor or declining productivity over the course of a shift or over a series of shifts.  This can also mean that the work is not well designed for workers.
The Canadian Centre of Occupational Health and Safety has created this detailed visual that provides good information on how to protect yourself while sitting. Click on the image for a larger version.
Biophilia and Its Impact on Ergonomics
Biophilia means the innate desire of human beings to be in touch with nature via their surroundings, and biophilic design aims to bring nature into the built environment. Feeling closer to nature helps lower the blood pressure; it’s also calming and helps us think more clearly and creatively. According to interior design experts TruSpace, researchers have found that more than 90% of people would imagine themselves in a natural setting when asked to think of a place where they felt relaxed and calm. Being in or around nature makes us feel good; our physical and mental wellbeing depends on us spending time in a natural environment and this effects our productivity and general wellbeing too. Biophilic design incorporates natural elements, maximizing daylight, views of nature, natural materials and natural features such as indoor planting and water features, into architecture and interior designs.
 A poll of 7,600 employees across 16 countries found that people who work in spaces with natural features reported 15% higher levels of overall wellbeing. Furthermore, the respondents expressed feeling 6% more productive and 15% more creative at work.
Source: Global Impact of Biophilic
Design in the Workplace Study
When considering including biophilic design in your work place, you may wish to focus on:
  • Windows. Design the space to maximize the sunlight and natural views coming in
  • Greenery. Potted plants are a great start, but don’t stop there; living walls and flower gardens make a stunning impact
  • Form and patterns. Integrate naturally found patterns and forms, such as honeycomb or leaf outlines
  • Air. Provide operable windows when possible. If this isn’t an option, ensure proper air flow
  • Water. Add a water feature. The appearance and sound of water elicit feelings of serenity
  • Tone/texture. Use varying wood grains, concrete, and brick. Paint walls and choose textiles using colors found in nature
  • Physical connection. If space is available, create an outdoor sanctuary employees can retreat to (rooftop patio or staff garden, as examples)
Will a Standing Desk Work For You?
Standing desks, or sit-to-stand desks, have become very popular these last few years. Research has linked sitting for long periods with health problems, including obesity and metabolic syndrome — a cluster of conditions that includes increased blood pressure, high blood sugar, excess body fat around the waist and abnormal cholesterol levels.

Some benefits of standing desks may include a reduction in blood sugar spikes; lowered risk of heart disease; lessening of chronic back pain; and reduction of fatigue and boost energy levels. 

It's important, however, to ensure you purchase, set up, and use a standing desk in a way that doesn't create other health problems such as joint pain, bad posture, and lower limb swelling. In that regard, sit-to-stand desks may provide a better option as it allows for more flexibility at your workstation. Dr. R. J. Burr created this infographic below that provides good information on how to use a standing desk properly. As always, we recommend using a trained ergonomist when considering standing or sit-to-stand desks.

Click the image for a larger version.
Source: Dr. RJ Burr DC, Cert. MDT, CSCS
Good Lighting Ergonomics For The Office
Here are the main things to look at when optimizing for good lighting ergonomics at the office or your desk:
  • Is there sufficient lighting to accomplish the task without straining your eyes?
  • Are there unwanted dark spots and shadows being cast that can be eliminated?
  • Is there excessive glare, especially on your computer screen?
  • Is there enough contrast between your task and the background?
  • Is the color temperature appropriate based on your mood or task?
Above all else, ensuring sufficient lighting around your workspace is the most important part of good ergonomic lighting. Inadequate lighting forces your eyes to work overtime to make sense of the task, creating eye strain and headaches.

The best lighting arrangement is a combination of direct and indirect lighting. Use the latter to provide a consistent level of ambient lighting that eliminates shadows and dark areas, and direct lighting where you need more illumination, such as on your keyboard or writing area.
Glare is also an important factor: it causes eye fatigue by forcing your eyes to adjust to its brightness level, leaving duller areas of your workspace harder to see. Glare greatly strains your eyes by impeding your ability to discern anything but the brightest light (the glare) properly.

Direct glare is caused by bright lights that are within your field of vision, such as a bright overhead light or floor lamp with a naked light bulb. Windows directly in front of your workspace can also produce direct glare on bright days. Indirect glare is caused by light reflected off of glossy surfaces such as your computer screen, a shiny desk surface, or windows stationed at certain angles, onto your eyes. Here are some ideas to help reduce the impacts of glare in the workspace:
  • Replace a single high intensity light fixture with several lower intensity ones instead.
  • Avoid positioning your monitor directly below an overhead light fixture.
  • Equip conventional florescent light fixtures with diffusers to soften the light.
  • Cover naked bulbs with shades or louvers to soften and direct the light away from your eyes.
  • Use monitor privacy filters that filter out blue light and glare at the same time.

Quick Reference: What to Consider When Researching Ergonomic Chairs       
Let's face it: most of us spend the majority of our work time seated. Even as we make concentrated efforts to stand, stretch, move about - we still spend a lot of time sat at a workstation. That's why it is so important to consider investing in an ergonomic chair, which is one that aims to find a solution to body pains and strains created by using a standard chair for prolonged periods. It is a chair designed to best support the body when sitting at a desk. It considers posture, back support, distribution of weight, comfort, and movement. An ergonomic office chair will have multiple adjustable parts, so it uniquely fits every user.

While one chair does not fit everyone - the users' body dimensions must be considered when selecting a chair so that the chair does not strain one part of the body while fitting another - some features are important for a good chair regardless of how you intend to use it:
  • Adjustability
  • Seat height range
  • Backrest 
  • Seat depth 
  • Seat width 
  • Seat angle 
  • Seat surface
  • Armrests
  • Stability 
It is important that a properly trained ergonomist be involved when measuring, choosing and selecting a proper ergonomic chair for employees. 

Quick Reference: Plants Just Make Everything Better
Indoor plants offer a wide variety of incredible wellness benefits:

Stress relief. Keeping a plant at your desk can help reduce workplace stress and improve your mental wellbeing. Caring for your plant is a relaxing hobby, plus, adding some greenery to your workspace has been shown to help fight anxiety. 

Air quality. Plants produce oxygen and absorb carbon dioxide; they also help improve air quality by removing harmful chemicals from the air – like benzene and formaldehyde – to help make the air cleaner to breathe. Breathing in cleaner air and more oxygen every workday will help keep you energized and healthy. 

Creativity. Everyone needs some help getting their creative juices flowing every once in a while. Having a desk plant can do just that. The color green sparks creativity because it reminds us of nature – which is stimulating to the mind.

Mood. Indoor plants promote happiness and can have a positive impact on your mood. When you’re in a better mood at work, you’ll feel mentally healthy and ready to tackle the day.

Productivity and work performance. Studies have found that seeing plants in your workspace helps you stay focused and energized, which allows you to accomplish more and feel more productive. 

Need more convincing? Check out this Tedx Talk Video for some fascinating insight.
Why Every Desk Needs a Personal Plant, with Mike Robinson

Quick Reference: Music in the Workplace
There are plenty of studies that show listening to music while working can provide many benefits. Check out this infographic created by Musician Bytes for tips and ideas; click on the image for a larger version.


Give Your Work Station a Makover

Here are some suggestions for creating a work station that optimizes health AND productivity:

Chair: Choose a chair that supports your spinal curves. Adjust the height of your chair so that your feet rest flat on the floor or on a footrest and your thighs are parallel to the floor. Adjust armrests so your arms gently rest on them with your shoulders relaxed.

Key objects: Keep key objects — such as your telephone, stapler or printed materials — close to your body to minimize reaching. Stand up to reach anything that can't be comfortably reached while sitting.

Keyboard and mouse: Place your mouse within easy reach and on the same surface as your keyboard. While typing or using your mouse, keep your wrists straight, your upper arms close to your body, and your hands at or slightly below the level of your elbows. Use keyboard shortcuts to reduce extended mouse use. If possible, adjust the sensitivity of the mouse so you can use a light touch to operate it. Alternate the hand you use to operate the mouse by moving the mouse to the other side of your keyboard.

Telephone: If you frequently talk on the phone and type or write at the same time, place your phone on speaker or use a headset rather than cradling the phone between your head and neck.

Footrest: If your chair is too high for you to rest your feet flat on the floor — or the height of your desk requires you to raise the height of your chair — use a footrest. If a footrest is not available, try using a small stool or a stack of sturdy books instead.

Desk: Under the desk, make sure there's clearance for your knees, thighs and feet. If the desk is too low and can't be adjusted, place sturdy boards or blocks under the desk legs. If the desk is too high and can't be adjusted, raise your chair. Use a footrest to support your feet as needed. If your desk has a hard edge, pad the edge or use a wrist rest. Don't store items under your desk.

Monitor: Place the monitor directly in front of you, about an arm's length away. The top of the screen should be at or slightly below eye level. The monitor should be directly behind your keyboard. If you wear bifocals, lower the monitor an additional 1 to 2 inches for more comfortable viewing. Place your monitor so that the brightest light source is to the side.
Coach's Corner:

Don't Forget to Take Care of Yourself - Easy Ergonomic Exercises for the Workplace
Have you ever felt intense back pain at work from sitting all day at the cubicle? Or maybe you find yourself hunching over or rounding your shoulders frequently, even after you’ve left the office?

These common maladies are called MusculoSkeletal Disorders (MSDs), and accounted for many of workplace injuries. However, ailments such as back pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, Tendinitis, rotator cuff injuries, Tennis Elbow, Trigger Finger, and other aches and pains are absolutely preventable with a proper routine that involves ergonomic exercises at work. In fact, something as simple as standing periodically or as easy as stretching your arms overhead often can have major benefits when done on a regular basis.

There are several simple ergonomic exercises and stretches that can be done in the comfort of your office cubicle.. These include a series for wrist, hand and arm, as well as for neck, chest and shoulders. Visit for details and instructions.
Available in ebook and soft cover at Wendy Ellen Inc.

Available for Kindle on Amazon
Proper ergonomic safety requires knowledge and expertise.

Contact Wendy Ellen Inc. for all your HR needs today!
About Wendy Ellen Inc.
Wendy Ellen Inc. specializes in providing human resource and benefits management skills to small to mid-sized companies on an as-needed basis. From recruitment, Human Resource policy development and legislative compliance, employee retention and engagement, individual advisor/coaching, succession planning to employee development and performance, Wendy Ellen Inc. will help you protect your most valuable resource, your people.
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