Ergonomics Q&A With a Professional Ergonomist

Ergonomics Q&A With a Professional Ergonomist
Dale Kennedy

Dale Kennedy
Certified Professional Ergonomist

The workplace today is a very different place from the one that people worked in 15 years ago. Let us face it, it is a different place from a year ago.  Not only has COVID-19 changed where we work but has also changed how we work. Never has Ergonomics played as vital a role in our workplace considerations as it does right now. The prevalence of the home office set up is now a ‘must have’ for most working people.

All Office spoke to Dale Kennedy, Certified Professional Ergonomist at Ergomax about a few considerations we should take before setting up our Home Offices.

AO: Hi Dale. Thank you for taking the time to speak to our valued Client base regarding Ergonomics and the new workplace. What, in your professional opinion is the key to understanding Home Ergonomics?

DK: Thank you for the opportunity. I think the most prevalent conversation needs to be around “awareness”.  It is overwhelming for people who are now working remotely to think about things that they have never had to think about before, because someone else may (or may not) have thought about it for them.  Sometimes the more comfortable, and easy to use something is, the more complex the engineering needs to be, which the average person does not think about. All they want to do is be in a comfortable space so that they can be as productive as possible. Bill Stumpf (Designer, Inventor of the first ergonomic work chair and winner of the 2006 National Design Award in Product Design) liked to quote the novelist and philosopher William Gass who once described comfort as “a lack of awareness” — you are not thinking about the fact that you are doing something because you are so comfortable. This is what we should aim towards when setting up our home offices. It is not only the comfort of a chair that is relevant either.  Vision drives posture and posture is what is vital when thinking about protecting the body against unnecessary strain. Where your monitor is positioned in relation to how you are working is a vital consideration to prevent eyestrain and to make sure that you do not need to lean into the screen.

AO: Is it not true that our bodies are designed to move, and that computer work affects our ability to respond to our bodies inherent need to do so?

DK: Absolutely. We were made to ‘hunt and gather’. The body wants to move, and computer work violates this principle.

AO: People have been asking what they can do to “fix” their home environment, without too much effort. In order of preference, what is your advice?

DK: I would make sure that the Elbows are above the desk (at a 90-degree angle when typing), the Monitor is raised to eye level (the neck should not be bent or strained), the Knees need to be slightly lower than the hips when in a seated position, and the feet should be supported.

AO: Should I stand and work?

DK: There is a lot of information around standing or sitting for too long. Neither is good for any length of time. We in the industry talk about intermittent standing, where you oscillate between sitting and standing during the working day.  As you know, there are amazing desktop products that are add-ons to an existing workstation (or counter or dining room table) that allow the User to go from a seated position safely and easily to a standing one.

AO: If someone does not have a desk or a chair and has no space for a “Home Office” set up what is your advice for them to do?  

DK: There are several options available. It is obviously first prize to follow the principles that we have just spoken about, but in the case of people being forced (through circumstances) to work from a couch for example, use a small pillow to support your lower back and maintain the natural curve of your spine. Perhaps another idea would be to link your laptop to your TV screen via an HDMI cable. Avoid placing your laptop on your lap. This can cause laptop burn on your legs. Use a tray or even a magazine to prevent contact.

AO: Thank you Dale.

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