Several years ago I surveyed approximately 1000 office workers concerning their comfort and quality of life. 75% of the workers said they had "little energy left at the end of their work day to do what they wanted to do". Over half said they had "significant discomfort" from their office work activities. Combine this with the staggering statistics on office related CTS, neck and back pain, headaches and eye strain and you can see why the office needs more of our attention.
Everyone has seen the posters of the office worker sitting like a statue in perfect posture. But when you walk around your office you cannot find a single person that closely resembles the poster. What is the problem? There are likely a number of problems at hand. In the office the number one problem is not understanding the human element. By developing a better understanding of human capabilities and limitations, ergonomic analysis and intervention become much more effective. By learning to look at the differences in the way people are built, the equipment they have available and the work they need to perform, improvements that were once thought to be impossible can become much easier.
Before we take a closer look at the different aspects of the office environment we should answer this question. Why do so many office workers sit so poorly at their workstations? I have found 5 common answers.
First, is lack of knowledge? Most people don't understand the ramifications of slumped sitting. They don't realize that the low back pain they have each morning may have come from sitting without low back support the day before. They don't realize the pain between their shoulders blades comes from over reaching for the mouse or looking down at hard copy on the desk surface. They have no idea that the headaches they feel comes from the poor neck posture caused by incorrect monitor height and placement. People have no idea that the lack of energy is related to lack of movement and exercise. Hardly any office workers realize that their tennis elbows can be from incorrect fit or use of their mouse. By simply showing office workers the cause and effect relationship, many of these common problems can be solved by simple adjustments or behavioral changes.
Second, are bad habits. Once a posture or technique becomes habit it is extremely hard to change. In fact, the worker may temporarily feel worse while getting used to a better work posture or work technique. Only through better knowledge of how their body works and establishing a cause and effect relationship will workers choose to stick with it. It will take a number of weeks before workers develop new habits and become comfortable with new office techniques.