Ergonomics and the power of personal choice
Ergonomics and health
What comes to mind when you hear the word “Ergonomic”? Most would associate it with some kind of induction process where education is provided on the correct ergonomic set up for equipment or their work station, or maybe something that the WHS person talks about a lot? Ergonomics are actually everywhere in day to day life and tie into manual handling which is also everywhere (however, that is a topic for another day), including that vast wide world outside of work.
Ergonomics and personal choice
Now I can say with good authority that I have been quite bossy in the world of ergonomics with my previous work colleagues and close friends. The thought of someone having headaches and a stiff neck and shoulders due to poor (computer) work station set up made my heart hurt. I would crawl around on the floor, shifting cables, finding foot rests if needed, adjusting things that were not up to my standard, and generally creating chaos in the name of good ergonomic alignment. This same bossiness and staunch view was applied to all those who crossed my Ergonomic Path as a consultant. Once the review was performed, adjustments made within the best of my abilities and recommendations for future purchases documented, education on how to best look after yourself regarding stretching, work pacing and self management was provided with the end goal being that the client understood how to best look after themselves at any given workstation they may end up at. Education is, in my view, the most vital component. There is a wonderful thrill to have someone provide immediate feedback that their long term discomfort has been alleviated under your care, and this is when they are prime for the key points on how to maintain their new found awesomeness. From a sustainability perspective, it is the personal education of the individual that allows for the ongoing self-management in their world.
Ergonomics have changed over the years. With the recent interpretation of data indicating that we will all meet our maker at an earlier point if we don’t have a sit to stand desk, there was a spike in ergo reviews within the corporate sector, with consultants requested to be onsite to quell the concerns of those who were now demanding the right to stand during their work day. The funny part is that as a consultant, you would spend time assessing those whose job it was to stand all day and discuss options of how they can ease their associated aches and pains with perching stools and appropriate anti-fatigue mats. Interesting, yes? The key point here once more is education. If I know that I work in a sedentary role for 8 or so hours per day and then factor is transit of an hour or so each way (plane/train/bus/car), there is 10 hours of my day gone. Let’s take out about 7 hours for sleep, it leaves us with 7 hours of a 24 hour period left. Where education becomes important is that though you may be at work for 8 hours, you get to choose how you spend the other 7 hours of your day. Plus, depending on the flexibility of your workplace, you may get to be creative with how you spend your 8 hours. Do you walk to people on the same floor as you rather than email? How often do you stretch the muscles you are using to type and drive and carry groceries and make dinner and …(etc, etc)? How many of the 8 hours do you take responsibility for within the context of ergonomics in your workplace?
This is tough to hear, I understand that. When we are on ‘work time’ we have this belief that ‘work’ is responsible for how you feel - physically and emotionally. Have you ever worked with a cranky person? Check out their workstation at 2pm and see how they are interacting with it… That may be source of their crankiness. Maybe don’t point that out to them until the next morning though! Ultimately, the education part comes down to understanding that though we are on the clock, how your body feel through your ‘whole’ life is really up to you. At the end of the day, end of the week, end of your career, your body is yours and it will feel exactly how it should, pending the manner in which it was used. The hardest part of the whole approach is being proactive before something is achy, before something arises on your spectrum of things to deal with, before you can’t move quite like you used to.
Three top tips:
MOVE! Your Personal choices impact how your body feels (work, home, and leisure)
Stretch regularly- it feels good and has positive bio-psycho-social implications
Shoulder rolls/shrugs with deep breaths - they feel fantastic, and also have positive bio-psycho-social implications
As you can imagine, the world of ergonomics is a large topic. It would not do it justice to leave it here without addressing the impact of Ageing Well within ergonomics, along with the Bio-Psycho-Social perspective of Ergonomics and maybe even Ergonomics at Home.
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