May 9, 2012

Ergonomics...It's Not About the Chair! I was trained as an Ergonomics Coach not too long ago and, combined with my Kinesiology degree, can now assess your workplace ergonomics and suggest what's what. You would think, by now, I would get the concepts of office ergonomics, but I have more questions than answers.

No...nothing terribly wrong, we just advanced our technology without advancing our understanding of how to work with it.  Sitting isn't going to kill you; but it wouldn't hurt to get up once in a while and take a short walk around your building or something.  Think about your posture, keep your feet on the floor, and stretch during the day. 
During the entire coaching course, I recall asking the question of all Kinesiologists...what about personal fitness? Why don't you see much information (if any) on exercises to keep you working well (without having to spend thousands of dollars on chairs, desks, ergo-friendly staplers, and the like)? You know what the answer was? "People don't think about that stuff."  Nice, eh?

So in keeping with my personality, I decided to develop a presentation that took into account what the employee can do now that will make a difference to their ergonomics.  It doesn't take much time, you can do most of it seated (or even lying on the floor).  By strengthening the body (through stretches and core stability exercises) you may help reduce your risk of overuse injury down the road (plus keep your employees and save money through a reduction in absenteeism...pretty good deal, eh?). 

I remember, (a long long time a land far away), I was hired by one of the largest hotels in Victoria to conduct an ergonomic assessment on all service staff. I learned all about each job and then created a plan of action to help each member reduce their risk of injury (ohhhhh, young; so naive; so full of hope and trust....).  One by one, each group fell into the large conference room and sat there with smiles (albeit polite) on their faces - some bursting into laughter while others just shaking their head in I relayed my highly educated and insightful suggestions to them.  In the end, the reality was each group of service people were timed on their efficiency at getting the job done. Fast customer service leads to short cuts (reaching over unsupported, bending from the back, lifting heavy objects without asking for assistance). In the analysis was ridiculous, trite, superficial, and ignored. Boy...was that a lesson to learn.

The reality of office ergonomics is pretty much like the reality of any health practice or change.  It takes time, personal awareness, and a desire to make a change. You can have the most expensive office chair on the market, but if you want to slouch in it or drag your butt around in it to get something from across the will. You will round your shoulders if you are tired, you will find ways to make things quicker, you will cross your legs while typing (something I am very guilty of). This is the reality of change....even ergonomic change. I never got the concept of stability balls because of that. I was told you couldn't slouch on a stability ball....but I found a way very quickly (either I'm an expert at stabilizing while in the slouch position, or someone's got some 'splaining to do).

So employers....hey! I'm talking to YOU! If you are concerned about the health and well-being of your employees (but also about the price tag that usually goes along with such concerns) concerned no more.  There are little things you can do today (adjusting the current equipment and furniture, stretches, walk breaks, etc.) that will make a huge difference in employee health.

You could also book an entertaining, informative, (and practical) session with Kathi Cameron (speaker extraordinaire) for your next conference or association meeting....seriously, no joke! Just hit the "Health Promotion and Education" link for more information on how to book me!  

....need I say more?



  1. I can see lots of hard work and passion in this article. Thank you for such an incredible and informative blog.
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  2. So kind and thoughtful of you to say. Thanks so much for reading! I hope to hear from you again. K