Disability Prevention Practices: Making the Most of Your Space


If it’s time to re-organize your work-space, either the layout of an individual cubicle, a busy shared space, or even a home office – otherwise known as “The Spare Bedroom” –  start asking the following questions: What space do I have? What do I need in a workspace? What do I want from my workspace? Here are a few things that we have learned:

Let It Go

Firstly you should stop cramming your workstation with everything that you need for every possible eventuality. Many workers take far too much on themselves, with multiple projects open at the same time and too much paperwork on their desks, all to satisfy a muddled, ongoing daily plan. This results in too tight a working space, shrinking it to a crowded, overbearing environment, and making you force yourself into too uncomfortable a space for productive work. Learn to use your computer more, and paperwork less.

You should be able to work in a logical, ordered manner that focuses your concentration on one area. It stops you having to turn your head continually or stretching too far repeatedly – both bad habits that affect your working posture.

Are you Sitting Comfortably?

Are you comfortable when you work? You should be able to hinge at the waist easily, sit squarely, with both feet flat on the floor, supporting your lower back, reaching your computer keyboard without stretching, and without splaying your elbows out either side into thin air.

While you are looking at your keyboard, check out some of the new ones on the market that feature columnar key arrangement, so that you aren’t using staggered keys. You will find that your fingers lay and work much easier on these keyboards than on the more traditional computer keyboard. These keyboards are truly ergonomic, create less wrist-hinge, and take up less desk space to save you stretching for your mouse.

Where is Your Storage?

If it is possible to have storage above your head, use this to its maximum. It is far too easy to use files in lower desk drawers that force you to turn, hinge, reach and pull heavy items out of the usual stacking desk drawers when you are in an uncomfortable, unsupported position.

Bu using higher storage that is at eye-level usually requires you to stand and retrieve items while you are facing straight, your arms are in front of you, and you are anchored in a better position to take weight.

If you must have storage for items that are too unwieldy to store and be available when you require them, store them in another area, away from the desk. This forces you to stand up from your desk, and walk somewhere to complete this task. Once again, this leads to a better lifting posture that cuts down on the twisting and weight transference that lead to many workplace injuries.

The Home Office

Who would have thought that we have reached a point in time where everything we do is now at a desk, or in the palm of our hands? Now we are working, playing, communicating, and researching at a desk through the same piece of equipment.

Because your Home Office is part of your living conditions, it tends to look different from your work area: More elegant, bigger, more ornate and plusher. Ask yourself the same questions as above, when thinking ergonomically. Does it do the job without causing strains in your lower back, shoulders, or wrists? You would be surprised how much time you actually spend at it – and this time is growing annually. If your copies of Nineteenth century Lawyer’s chairs and Partner Desks look fantastic but cause you pain, then it’s time to get rid of them, and get something more ergonomic.

We all spend a lot of time sitting down, staring at a screen, referring to documentation, and lifting and turning. There are great computer peripheries and office equipment to make your days and evenings more enjoyable, less painful, and a lot less stressful. You owe it to yourself to make your online time as comfortable as possible.

Do you need a workplace Ergonomic Program?

Yes, and Here’s Why….

Have you ever finished a day’s work at your desk, and stretched to relieve some pesky back or shoulder pain? Have your wrists ever felt uncomfortably locked in one position for an extended period? Have you looked forward to a loving shoulder-rub from your loved one when you finish work, because you have a nagging ache in them?

Although these complaints seem small, every day, and trivially “niggly”, they could be symptoms of a much larger problem: Irreversible nerve damage caused by a poorly designed workstation, bad body posture, or a lack of support to your wrists and hands.

Workplace Stress Facts

The World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/news/releases/2005/pr18/en/) reported in 2006 that approximately two million people die worldwide each year as a result of occupational incidents and work related illnesses or injuries. Additionally, over 268 million annual workplace accidents result in an average of three lost workdays per accident, as well as 160 million new cases of work-related illness each year. That was 8 years ago, and today thousands more people slave away at a computer keyboard for many more hours every day.

In Canada, worker’s compensation boards routinely pay billions of Dollars due to workplace absences, and reduced productivity – more than costs concerning Cancer or Cardio-Vascular disease.

Everyday Pain

These incidents include traumatic events including vehicles, falls, and the results from occupational events outside of the everyday administration environment. However, the stresses to those who live their working lives at a computer keyboard are a ‘silent killer’ that take multiple years to form. They have no reversible cure and not only leave workers in constant pain, but increase disability costs associated with work absenteeism and a rising prevalence of chronic disability in the population that contribute to reduced workplace productivity.

Is there a way for us to reduce the amount of payouts, make workers happier, experience less pain, grow a happier, healthier workplace and stop the slide of productivity?

Yes and the answer is Ergonomics.

Prevention and Collaboration

Even for those that aren’t working in the factory, on the lot, or in dangerous occupations, small changes in working style, office equipment, and working time can answer all of these problems, as well as lower the stress levels of busy interior working environments shared by many individuals. After all, if you have one worker that is short-tempered due to personal pain, how much of this negativity is being spread across the entire office?

In fact, there are guidelines already in place from Governments, Insurers, Unions, and Health Professionals that are readily available at no cost that show a spectrum of informative plans to make your office environment a more pleasant and less painful place to spend your day. It’s valuable to take the time to study these free resources to see what can be easily achieved.

Ergonomic Programs.

In every office there are similar collaborator networks that can help you: From management to human resources, disability management and trainers. Employees need to access these resources. Even those that work in a home office environment, alone with no-one to hear their pain, need to address posture issues, office equipment, computer keyboards, and do whatever they can to ensure they have a Truly Ergonomic workplace.

It’s time to take a proactive approach to support disability prevention, ergonomically planned workplaces, and to ensure that that small twinge that is hardly worth mentioning, or a very small shoulder inflammation that requires a rub occasionally, isn’t a sign of something bigger. Grow your working productivity, lower your stress, be happier at work, feel less pain, and save yourself from undocumented stress problems that will mount over time and cause major life-long problems later in life.