BY HELEN LAMMERS-HELPS
(This is the second in a series of articles on efficient office management)
Whether you’re setting up a new office, or just want to improve on your old workspace, office setup can be a daunting task.
Where do you start? What do you need, and what should you look for? When done right, creating an organized office space can make all the difference. Reduce stress, increase your productivity and be kind to your body with a fresh start for your office.
When buying furniture, account for ergonomics, and how all the pieces of the office will work together. Function should take precedence over style or price, though finding items that fit all three shouldn’t be too difficult.
Minnesota office organization expert Sue Rasmussen emphasizes that there are three key pieces to most people’s office layouts, a good desk, a good chair and a filing cabinet.
Make sure your desk is large enough but also that everything you need is within reach to prevent straining. Halifax professional organizer Colette Robicheau suggests an L-shaped desk for extra workspace.
Chiropractic rehabilitation specialist Dr. John Papa of New Hamburg adds that the desk should be at elbow height so that arms are supported while keyboarding. Position the computer monitor so that the upper-third is at eye-level for easy viewing, Papa advises.
Most importantly, be aware of your posture and be sure not to slouch, distribute weight unevenly in your chair, or roll your head too far forward or to the side. And don’t cradle the phone between your head and shoulder. Use a headset or the speaker phone feature.
As we spend increasing amounts on computers, tablets and smart phones for both work and pleasure, the risks are becoming apparent. “Sitting - it’ll kill you,” is the tagline around his lab, says Dr. Jack Callahan, who holds the Canada Research Chair in Spine Biomechanics and Injury Prevention at the University of Waterloo.
Callahan has been studying chronic pain related to office work since 1996. The research shows that those who spend the majority of their time sitting have a higher rate of injury than those who perform mixed tasks, he explains.
Known as Sedentary Disease, too much sitting is also associated with an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, high blood pressure, diabetes and premature death.
If you’re sitting for more than two hours a day, Callahan recommends investing in a good quality office chair. “Adjustability is really important,” says Callahan. The back rest and arm rests should be adjustable as well as the height of the seat, he explains.
What’s known as the 90-90-90 position, feet flat on the floor and elbows at a 90 degree angle, is a good starting position but it’s also important to adjust your position several times throughout the day.
For himself, Callahan has invested in a chair that allows him to alter his position between sitting and standing. These chairs have been shown to reduce pain and discomfort, he explains. For every hour of work the best ratio seems to be about 45 minutes sitting and 15 minutes of standing, he says.
And if you’re using a laptop computer or a tablet it’s just as important to maintain good posture. You shouldn’t be bent over, craning your neck to type on it, explains Callahan.
For laptops he recommends a second screen or a second keyboard (the cheaper option) so you can maintain good posture. For a tablet he recommends having a stand and keyboard if you’re going to use the tablet for inputting content as opposed to just consuming content.
Even with the proper furniture and equipment, it’s important to take breaks, says Papa. Repeating a simple stretching routine throughout the day can prevent years of chronic pain.
Simply changing your work habits is more than worth the pain and stress it can save you in the long-term, he points out.
With the right office equipment, the right setup, being aware of your posture, and taking frequent breaks, you can increase productivity and reduce the risk of chronic back pain.