Maintaining Physical Health at Work

All jobs present their share of daily challenges. Whether working on a website or a construction site, anyone can face physical stresses caused by workplace routines.

Ergonomics is the science of designing the job, equipment, and workplace to fit the worker. Combating the strains and pains of the worksite is an important part of a positive, productive, and healthy work environment.

Physical Health at Work

Understanding workplace ergonomics

The basic goal of workplace ergonomics is to increase comfort on the job. Whatever your work, stresses from repetitive movements, done in a way that isn’t quite right for your body, can accumulate and increase your risk of injury. Common injuries can include:

  • Repetitive Motion Injury (RMI)
  • Repetitive Strain Injury (RSI)
  • Cumulative Trauma Disorder (CTD)

Constant typing, sitting, walking, and lifting are just some of the daily duties that can lead to musculoskeletal disorders over time.

You can take control of your comfort level and improve your mental and physical wellbeing by recognizing stressors and working to improve your workplace and your personal health.

Five steps to an ergo-friendly workplace

  1. Change your pose. Extended sitting, walking, or standing during the day can cause muscle strains and overall fatigue. To avoid aches in your back, shoulders, and neck:
  • Purposely change your posture regularly throughout the day.
  • Gently stretch your head to each side (ear toward shoulder) and hold for 15 seconds.
  • Make sure your chair has some support for your lower back. The hollow of your back should have some support to maintain the correct lumbar curve.
  1. Refocus. From staring at a computer screen to focusing on a production line, many work-related tasks can be visually demanding. Fatigue, strain, and irritation of the eyes are all unfortunate by-products of some positions and can lead to headaches and nausea. To help make your work easy on the eyes:
  • Stare at a distant point (a few feet away) for several seconds to readjust your focus.
  • If indoors, step outside and get some natural light.
  • Frequently blink or force yourself to yawn—both produce tears to fight dryness and discomfort.
  1. Do the legwork. To prevent cramping or poor circulation in your legs and joints, consider:
  • Getting up and walking around at certain points of the day to avoid stiffness and improve circulation.
  • Varying your leg position frequently and ensuring there is a good amount of leg room under your desk or workstation.
  • Doing foot rotation exercises while seated or standing in place.
  1. Take a break. Taking short breaks throughout the day allows you to step away from a strenuous routine, and can actually increase productivity by providing a clearer state of mind. Try:
  • Taking a walk or stopping to have a short conversation with a colleague to relieve work tension and mentally regroup.
  • Stretching and moving around to re-energize your body and mind.
  • Taking deep relaxing breaths regularly to provide a sense of calmness.
  1. Make the most of the right equipment. Making small adjustments to your workspace can reap big benefits in terms of your wellbeing. Here are some tips to try for indoor-based activities:
  • Reduce overall strain by adjusting your computer monitor so that it is parallel to your face and tilted toward your eyeline.
  • Make the most of your chair’s adjustment features. The seat should be tilted forward slightly and feet should be able to comfortably sit flat on the floor.
  • If you work on your feet all day, make sure to wear comfortable shoes, and pants that don’t cut off blood flow. Also, invest in an anti-fatigue standing mat to reduce discomfort and tiredness.
  • Are you always too hot or too cold at the office? If you find yourself too hot, make sure to wear breathable fabrics, invest in a personal fan, and/or snack on frozen fruit. If you find yourself too cold, wear layers, bring a blanket, and/or sip on warm liquids like coffee, tea, or hot chocolate.

Most people spend one-third of their day or half their waking hours at work, so it’s vital to make healthy lifestyle choices at home and on the job. Small changes to your routine and a little proactive planning will not only help you stay healthy but function better personally and professionally. With a little effort and a few simple steps, you can create a happier and healthier environment for everyone, and help your workplace “go ergo.”

As large and small businesses across all industries are adapting to changes brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic, one thing that shouldn’t be forgotten in the fray is the focus on supporting employees’ physical and mental well-being. Employee wellbeing in the United Arab Emirates has improved during the Covid-19 pandemic, but stress and the ‘always-on’ culture remain the biggest threat to mental health, according to research. The Covid-19 Global Impact study, which engaged more than 10,000 employees in various sectors across six continents to determine their wellbeing in terms of family, work, social, financial and physical health, showed that the UAE scored well above the global average at 67.4 points, compared with Hong Kong’s 56.7 points and 60 points for the US.

Since high stress levels can manifest in serious physical conditions such as heart disease and obesity, as well as mental health problems that affect healthcare costs and productivity, it is imperative that companies address the situation.

This article on “Maintaining Physical Health at Work” was taken from the Lifeworks Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) library of resources available to all insured members with HanseMerkur health insurance plans. Please check it out to find other interesting and useful articles, pod casts and tips to help with your well-being or ask your local sales agent for more information about it.