In the busy corporate landscape of Melbourne CBD, the significance of ergonomics for workers cannot be overstated. As a physiotherapy clinic serving a largely office-based clientele, we’re incredibly passionate about good workplace design. And we witness every day the difference it makes to the well-being and productivity of professionals.
Promoting correct posture and reducing eye and physical strain, efficiently designed workspaces and ergonomic furniture and accessories contribute to reduced musculoskeletal issues. Furthermore, they enhance the concentration of workers and foster a healthier, happier work environment.
So, if you’re a manager, ask yourself this: can you afford to ignore ergonomics?
In this article, our Senior Physiotherapist and ergonomics advisor, Jane Lau, will explain why you can’t. She’ll outline how to achieve a comfortable and productive work experience – at home and in the office – through sound ergonomic design. And also provide information on our workplace ergonomics assessments in Melbourne CBD and surrounds.
As the science of designing work environments to optimise human performance and well-being, ergonomics holds profound significance in the modern office setting. In the bustling Melbourne CBD, office workers often encounter ergonomic challenges that impact their daily lives.
For instance, prolonged desk hours and sedentary work habits often lead to issues including discomfort, fatigue and musculoskeletal disorders like Upper Crossed Syndrome. Not to mention the significant health risks associated with extended sitting – akin to those associated with smoking and obesity!
Ergonomic Issues Faced by Melbourne CBD Office Workers
Melbourne CBD office workers frequently grapple with ergonomic concerns, including poorly designed workstations, inadequate seating and incorrect monitor heights. These issues contribute to the prevalence of musculoskeletal disorders we see day-in day-out at The Alignment Studio, including back and neck pain, headaches and repetitive strain injuries (RSI).
The Link Between Ergonomics and Musculoskeletal Disorders
Poor ergonomics in office settings can contribute to various musculoskeletal disorders among workers. The sustained pressure that incorrect posture places on muscles and joints can result in chronic discomfort, decreased productivity, and, in many cases, time off work.
Common issues include:
- Back Pain: Improper chair height, inadequate lumbar support or incorrect sitting posture can strain the lower back, leading to chronic pain and discomfort.
- Neck Strain: Incorrect monitor height, poor desk ergonomics or prolonged periods of looking down at screens can cause neck strain and stiffness.
- Carpal Tunnel Syndrome: Poorly designed workstations or improper placement of keyboards and mice can contribute to carpal tunnel syndrome, causing numbness, tingling and weakness in the hands and fingers.
- Shoulder Pain: Incorrect arm and shoulder positioning, often due to poorly adjusted desks and chairs, can lead to shoulder pain and discomfort.
- Eye Strain: Inadequate lighting, improper monitor placement or extended screen time can result in eye strain, dryness and headaches.
- Tendinitis: Repetitive movements in an ergonomically inadequate setup can lead to painful tendinitis, causing inflammation and restricted mobility.
- Repetitive Strain Injuries (RSI): Tasks involving repetitive motions without proper ergonomic support can lead to RSI, resulting in pain, numbness or weakness due to the continuous stress on specific muscles and tendons.
If you’re in charge, proper workstation design, regular breaks and ergonomic education for your team can significantly reduce the risk of musculoskeletal disorders. While improving productivity and morale – a win-win all around.
The Role of Physiotherapy in Ergonomics
As physios, we have a clear picture of the consequences of poor ergonomics. Every day, we treat musculoskeletal conditions and workplace injuries that are largely preventable. And, with our intimate understanding of the human body’s mechanics and the relationship between posture, movement and workplace ergonomics, we can recommend adjustments to workstations, seating arrangements and practices that alleviate strain on the body.
Physios like myself who have completed additional ergonomics training can also conduct comprehensive workplace assessments. Physiotherapy is not just about rehabilitating injury – we can help business owners deliver ergonomic solutions to their employees and foster a healthy work environment before problems arise.
Ergonomic Solutions for Desk Jobs
Establishing an ergonomic desk setup is crucial for comfort and productivity. This starts with an adjustable chair with lumbar support that allows you to maintain a 90-degree angle at your knees and hips.
Next, set your desk height to allow your elbows to rest comfortably and position your monitor at eye level, looking at the top half or third of the screen. Feet should be flat on the ground with a 90-degree angle at the hips or with the knees slightly lower.
Laptop user? Add an external screen, keyboard and stand to align the screen at eye level and support your forearms on the desk. These simple adjustments contribute to a comfortable and efficient work environment, promoting overall wellbeing.
Schedule Regular Movement
If you struggle to take breaks during the workday, it’s a good idea to set a timer at least every 30 to 45 minutes and get up, move about and stretch. Regular breaks are necessary for both your body and mind – and using a productivity app like Focus Keeper can help you concentrate on tasks and increase your output.
Stretch Throughout the Day
I often recommend the following stretches to clients who spend a lot of time seated at their computer.
Neck/Upper Trap Stretch: Use your right hand to pull your right ear toward your right shoulder, holding the stretch on the left side of your neck.
Levator Scapulae Stretch: With your right hand, pull your chin down toward your right armpit and maintain the stretch.
Upper Back Stretch: Interlock your hands behind your head and arch over the back of the chair. Additionally, interlock your hands behind your head and twist your body from side to side.
Forearm Stretch: Stretch your right arm out, extend the wrist back (palm facing away, fingers towards the ceiling), and use your left hand to gently pull the fingers towards you. Repeat with the wrist flexed downwards (palm towards you, fingers towards the floor).
Glute Stretch: Sit at the edge of the seat, cross your right ankle over your left knee, keep your back straight, and lean forward from the hips. Feel the stretch in your right glute and, for a deeper stretch, press down on the right knee.
Hip Flexor Stretch: Assume a half kneeling/lunge position, moving the back knee further back until you feel a stretch through the front of the opposite hip. Keep your back straight during the stretch.
Invest in Standing Desks and Ergonomic Peripherals
An adjustable standing or sit-stand desk is an excellent investment for a home office or workplace setup. Available in budget-friendly and more high-spec options, this type of desk is designed to provide flexibility. It allows individuals to alternate between sitting and standing throughout the day, promoting good posture and a more active, ergonomic workspace. While reducing the risk of musculoskeletal (and broader health) issues associated with prolonged sitting.
Not only does incorporating more standing into your workday boost circulation and burn more calories, but it may also be good for your business’s bottom line. One 2016 study found that call centre employees who used sit-stand desks were nearly 50% more productive than their seated colleagues. And almost 75% of those working at sit-stand desks experienced decreased body discomfort over the six-month duration of the study.
There is also a wide range of ergonomic peripherals such as ergonomic chairs, mice, mouse pads and trackballs, keyboards, footrests, monitor stands and more. If you’re unsure how to optimise your employees’ workstations, an ergonomics-trained physiotherapist can assess your office environment and recommend the right equipment.
Beyond the Desk – Comprehensive Ergonomic Practices
Ergonomic practices shouldn’t be constrained to your desk, either. Our Melbourne office worker clients also spend a lot of time in meetings and commuting on the tram or train, and the principles of good posture apply equally here.
Maintaining Ergonomics in Meetings
If your manager allows (or you’re in charge), switch to walking meetings where possible. Not only is the movement very beneficial to break up all your seated stretches, but a change of scenery can enhance creativity and mood – especially if you’re outside in nature.
Otherwise, ergonomic chairs with appropriate back support are essential. As are short breaks to stretch if having long meetings.
In communal office areas, a variety of ergonomic seating and standing options should be available to accommodate different activities and body types.
During Your Commute
When taking public transport to and from work, try not to spend the whole commute looking down at your phone. If sitting, sit upright with your back against the seat. And stand up briefly if sitting for a long journey.
When standing, try not to hang off the overhead handles. Instead, hold onto the handrail close to your body. Weight shift from side to side rather than leaning on one hip for extended periods.
Increased Productivity to Fewer Sick Days: A Final Word on Ergonomics
Full-time desk jockey? You might like to read more about the impact of sitting ergonomics and low back pain. Or try this handy workstation ergonomics self-assessment checklist from Queensland Health to determine how ergonomically sound your office setup is.
To book a Melbourne ergonomics assessment for your office or your WFH setup, contact us on 9650 2220. Offering personalised ergonomics screening and corporate workshops and training, we’re here to help – no matter your needs.
With over a decade’s experience, Jane Lau is a senior physiotherapist with a background in private practice in Australia and overseas. A University of Melbourne graduate and member of the original Collins Place Physio team, she is skilled in treating musculoskeletal and sports injuries, with a primary focus on alleviating neck, back and shoulder pain. With expertise in postural analysis technology, workplace ergonomic assessments and biomechanical screening, Jane is in demand for her comprehensive and caring approach.