We have done other blogs on creating productive office space environment that reduce stress, but one of our virtual office clients is an ergonomics consultant and suggested we do this blog. Most business owners think that having healthy employees is about offering sick days and offering to subsidize gym memberships. But they forget that an ergonomic office environment contributes greatly to the physical and mental health of employees.

Before we give you the tips, we should probably explain what ergonomics is. The International Ergonomics Association defines ergonomics or human factors as follows: “Ergonomics (or human factors) is the scientific discipline concerned with the understanding of interactions among humans and other elements of a system, and the profession that applies theory, principles, data and methods to design in order to optimize human well-being and overall system performance.”

Basically, an office that is ergonomically set up can reduce the chances of employees suffering repetitive stress injuries (such as carpal tunnel syndrome), tendonitis, bursitis or repetitive back strain, that occurs when the same motions or positions are repeated over and over. So what are the basic ergonomic factors that you should consider for your office space?

Ensure that every worker has proper lighting for the tasks they are performing. Overhead ceiling lighting or natural window lighting may not be enough – or may not be the right type of lighting for the specific tasks that an employee must perform. Adjustable desk lamps or different temperature light might work better for some close work tasks. Not every worker may require additional lighting or have specific lighting needs, but examining each workstation’s needs is always a good practice.

Get everyone seated correctly. The choice of office chairs is wide, but getting the right chair for the right type of support is very important. A good ergonomic chair should have adjustable seats and backs, but also offer good lumbar support and allow the person to have their feet on the floor with their legs at a 90-degree angle. Even people who work at stand-up desks should have a chair available to them that is also ergonomically correct for them.

Have the right desk for the type of computer the individual is using. For people who spend a great deal of their time working on their computer, a desk with slide-out keyboard tray that is height-adjustable to ensure their elbows are at a 90 degree angle, is ideal. Even those who use use laptop computers should utilize this type of desk with an external wireless keyboard that is more ergonomic than the built in keyboard. A good ergonomic desk set-up should also ensure that the computer monitor is positioned straight ahead and not higher than eye level.

Ditch the office phone handset for people who spend a great deal of time on the phone. Modern headsets no longer require a person to be tethered to their desk or even to their immediate office space – allowing them freedom to talk on the phone while performing other tasks throughout the office. Ergonomically, a headset prevents people from having to crane their neck to hold their phone while looking things up on their computer or reading through a file.

Breaks are not luxuries; they are necessities for the health of you, your staff and your business. As we have mentioned in some of our other blogs that have touched on being healthy in the office, breaks are very important. Even ‘micro-breaks’ that get you away from your desk for a walk to the copy machine, or the other end of the office every 10-15 minutes, are recommended. Hourly breaks of just 5 or 10 minutes can not only revive and refresh, they can stimulate creativity. It is not uncommon for someone to return to their desk from a break with a fresh perspective, but also with new ideas and approaches for the task at hand.

The great thing about computer apps is that you do not need to be the one who keeps track of when you or your staff should take a break. There are several apps and online programs that can help you do it. For micro-breaks, there is a Google Chrome browser extension called Eyecare that reminds users to follow the 20-20-20 rule. The rule is that every 20 minutes you should look at something at least 20 feet away for 20 seconds! This will greatly reduce eye fatigue when working with a computer screen.

When your office is set up more ergonomically, you will start to see a great deal less absences from work due to illness and fatigue.