Maintaining a healthy, safe and productive office environment requires designing workspaces to allow each employee to work comfortably and without awkward postures (such as craning the neck forward or tilting the head to the side) or the use of computer input devices (keyboard and mouse) for long periods without breaks. Ergonomics – commonly referred to as “fitting the work to the worker” – is a science that seeks to optimize the relationship between people and their work environment. In an office setting, ergonomics principles can be used to improve the physical “fit” between each employee and his/her computer workstation. A qualified ergonomist can also work with employers and employees to explore organizational and psychosocial factors that may also contribute to musculoskeletal discomfort, such as the design of specific tasks and occupational stress.
For the Employer
Musculoskeletal pain and disorders are common among office workers and can result in more frequent absenteeism and reductions in productivity. Effective and successful ergonomics programs involve employees throughout the entire process, from identification of the problem to the development and implementation of solutions. A participatory approach gives employees a voice in the discussion and planning of workplace changes and may promote greater acceptance of potential solutions. Click here for more information on office ergonomics and links to resources for designing a participatory ergonomics program.
Encourage Frequent Breaks
Prolonged sedentary behavior is associated with many chronic conditions including type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, hypertension, obestity, and musculoskeletal discomfort. Typing for long periods without breaks likely increases the risk of musculoskeletal pain and disorder. Taking short (one two minutes) breaks away from the workstation as often as every 30 minutes may limit discomfort. Employers should encourage and support breaks to promote more movement throughtout the work day for employees in an office environment. Read more on moving more in the workplace.
Take Action with a NIOSH Essential Element for Effective Programs
Involve and engage employees by encouraging and supporting their participation. Ergonomics programs, as well as other health protection and health promotion programs, are most effective when employees participate in the process. NIOSH Essential Element to Develop a “Human Centered Culture” states effective programs thrive in organizations with policies and programs that promote respect throughout the organization and encourage active worker participation, input, and involvement. Download the elements here.
Small Business Oureach Project Launches Employer Tip of the Week
Tips related to employee safety, health and wellness will be shared weekly through Facebook, Twitter and the HWCE website. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter to automatically receive tips each week.
For the Researcher
Sit-stand workstations, treadmill desks, isometric ball chairs and other alternatives to more traditional office equipment are are making their way into many workplaces and many employees report positive changes with their use. However, more research about the potential benefits of alternative equipment is needed before certain recommendations can be made.
Ergonomics and musculoskeletal disorders: overview. Buckle, P. Occupational Medicine, 55(3), pp. 164-7 (2005).
Keyboard use and musculoskeletal outcomes among computer users. Gerr, F., Monteilh, C.P., & Marcus, M. Journal of Occupational Rehabilitation, Vol 16(3), pp. 259-271 (2006).
NIOSHTIC-2 is a searchable bibliographical database supported in whole or part by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health NIOSH. Click for the NIOSHTIC-2 search results on Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders.
Sedentary behaviors increase risk of cardiovascular disease mortality in men. Warren TY, Barry V, Hooker SP, Sui X, Church TS, Blair SN. Medicine and science in sports and exercise. May 2010;42(5):879-885.
Sedentary lifestyle and risk of obesity and type 2 diabetes. Hu FB. Lipids. Feb 2003;38(2):103-108. Hu FB.
Sedentary behaviors and the risk of incident hypertension: the SUN Cohort. Beunza JJ, Martinez-Gonzalez MA, Ebrahim S, et al. Am J Hypertens. Nov 2007;20(11):1156-1162.
Physical activity and sedentary behavior: a review of longitudinal studies of weight and adiposity in youth. Must A, Tybor DJ. Int J Obes (Lond). Sep 2005;29 Suppl 2:S84-96.
Self-reported workplace related ergonomic conditions as prognostic factors for musculoskeletal symptoms: the "BIT" follow up study on office workers. Juul-Kristensen B, Jensen C. Occupational and environmental medicine. Mar 2005;62(3):188-194.
Healthier Workplaces through Ergonomics–An Iowa Worklife Forum webinar presented by Tom Cook, PhD and Nathan Fethke, PhD from the University of Iowa College of Public Health, highlights the goals of ergonomics and how to prevent injuries at the workplace. Outcomes and exposures of musculoskeletal disorders such as back pain, hernias, strains, overexertion and repetition as well as work posture, work laws, and environmental factors are discussed. View the full recording or the download the presentation slides.
Marketplace plans and prices are now available, with a 6-month open enrollment period lasting through March 31, 2014 via HealthCare.gov. Visit the site to view plans available by state and compare prices for coverage that will begin as soon as January 1, 2014. If you have questions, you can call 1-800-318-2596, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Under the new health care law, if a company is covered by the Fair Labor Standards Act, they are required to notify their employees about the Health Insurance Marketplace by October 1, 2013. View required information to be included and links to model notices from the U.S. Department of Labor here.
Nomination Period Open for 2014 Corridor Worksite Wellness Awards
Employers from Linn & Johnson County, IA are invited and encouraged to apply for the 2014 Corridor Worksite Wellness Awards. Worksites receive a free, onsite assessment developed by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) and resources to help improve their programs. Scores are based on how their efforts align with best practices in worksite wellness. Download the nomination form or view past winners here.
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Upcoming Webinars & Events
A more detailed listing with registration links is available through our online calendar of events.
* Rebalancing the Heartland: Public-Private Health Care in the Sector Strategies
-October 15, 2013, 8am-3pm, Embassy Suites, Des Moines, IA
-Agenda and registration information available here here
* 2013 APHA Annual Meeting and Exposition
-November, 2-6, 2013 in Boston, MA.
-More information available here.
* A Health Promotion Model for Small Businesses-The Healthy Small Business Pilot
-Free webinar hosted by HR.com; November 21, 2013; 1:30-2:30pm ET; Register here.
* Using Health and Wellness Initiatives to Prevent Absenteeism and Poor Health Outcomes
-Free webinar hosted by HR.com;
-November 21, 2013; 2:30-3:30pm; Register here.
* Workplace Stress Reduction/Management for Increased Productivity, Focus and Creativity
-Free webinar hosted by HR.com;
-November 22, 2013; 11:00am-12:00pm ET; Register here.
* Iowa Governor's Public Health Conference
-April 1-2, 2014 in Ames, IA; More information here
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