As an under 30 CEO (or in my case, 40) you are young, smart, driven and successful. You make what feel like life and death decisions for your business every day. You are moving fast and your team is following their leader’s example. A side effect of your success is you don’t have the time to take a step back and look for productivity leaks let alone plug those leaks.
This is exactly where I was when I suffered carpel tunnel syndrome. It took the loss of my own productivity due to poor office ergonomics to try and understand the relationship between our workstations and work performance.
Here are some statistics to drive home the impact of poor ergonomics:
- Musculoskeletal pain is the most cited reason for missed work and the leading cause of disability in Americans under 45 years old.
- A recent study by the National Center for Health Statistics states that over 25 million Americans experience frequent back pain at any given moment.
- The Institute of Medicine estimates the cost of lost productivity due to pain to be between $297 billion and $335 billion in 2010 dollars.
You are smart. You may challenge me on what these statistics have to do with ergonomics. Even if the workstation doesn’t cause the pain, back pain by way of example, the everyday sitting at a poorly designed workstation will make it much more difficult to recover from an injury and likely exasperate it.
These issues are well known to us, as we publish a site dedicated to helping people protect their spine. Since my workstation was affecting my productivity, I decided to bring in an ergonomics expert to evaluate all of our workstations.
What he found was eye-opening.
Of the 15 people in our NJ office, 13 had suboptimal workstation. Of those 13, 7 were experiencing some form of discomfort. The pain ranged from wrist pain to neck pain to low back pain. Of those seven, all of them believed the pain affected their productivity, including 3 who had missed work for doctor’s appointments.
We should have known better, but what made it worse is the fixes were all simple. $300 worth of improvements could have saves us tens of thousands of dollars in productivity loss.
The following is a list of tips to insure your office is ergonomically sound.
- Stand-up, walk, or stretch for a few minutes every hour
- Avoid repeating the same motion over and over again e.g. answer email for an hour then make phone calls for an hour. Mix up your meetings throughout the day.
- Make sure you your chair and posture are correctly aligned
- Your seat and pelvis should be parallel to the ground with your feet resting comfortably on the floor
- You should have lumbar support for your spine
- You should relax your shoulders with your head positioned comfortably above your neck, not leaning forward to see the screen better
- Your screen should only be an arms-length from your body
- Your keyboard should be even with or lower than your elbows, if it’s not you need a keyboard tray.
- Your monitor should be eye level. Looking up or down causes neck pain.
As you can see, workstation ergonomics affect productivity. As managers, it’s our responsibility to maximize the return on our human capital. Making changes to our work ergonomics is simple and cost-effective. A simple ergonomics audit can help you discover who is suffering lost productivity from their workstation design and provide easy solutions to affect positive change.
Bill Paquin is a patient care advocate and CEO of healthcare publisher, Vertical Health. He operates websites including SpineUniverse, a leader in providing education about conditions of the spine including osteoporosis, degenerative disc disease, scoliosis, and arthritis.