You’ve probably heard the word ergonomics before. But are you using the principles to make your work easier and healthier for your body?
Ergonomics isn’t only for your work environment, whether that’s in a factory or in an office.
Its principles cross over to any setting where you might be performing tasks that aren’t comfortable for your body.
Read on to understand more about what is ergonomics and how you can apply it to any setting you find yourself in.
What Is Ergonomics? The Main Principles of Ergonomics
Ergonomics means the study of balancing a task with your method or approach.
Most often, you apply these principles to the work place because that’s where repetitive motions or uncomfortable postures cause damage to our bodies.
It happens only because we spend most of our time at work.
To understand more about the science behind ergonomics, exploring the principles behind the theory is important.
Look at the main pillars of the ergonomics and you’ll see how each one can apply to the workplace or any other setting.
There are lots of principles to look at when thinking about ergonomics, yet no one agrees on a specific number. You can grasp the main ideas by looking at 7 principles, though, so we’ll start there.
1. Neutral Posture
The goal of ergonomics is making sure that our bodies are aligned the right way. That means that we’re standing or sitting in a neutral posture and everything balanced.
The ideal situation is to have all bones lined up without putting any stress on different parts of the body.
If you’re standing up, you’ll want to pay attention to where you’re holding your weight. If you have more weight on one foot than another, you aren’t maintaining a neutral position.
Instead, focus on keeping your hips directly over your knees, which should be over your ankles.
The same goes for your upper body. Align your neck with your spine, instead of hanging your head forward and hunching your shoulders. Shoulders should be in line over your hips, too.
If you’re sitting down, it’s even easier to assume a slouchy posture than standing. Keep your elbows at your sides. Pay special attention to a straight spine and lining shoulders, elbows, and hips, along with knees and ankles.
2. Comfort Zone
This brings us to the second principle of working in the comfort zone. The best spot for your workspace is right in front of your body, around waist height.
Your desk, keyboard, or work table ought to adjust to stay in that zone for maximum comfort.
If you’re working in this space, it will be much easier for you to keep your body aligned in a neutral position as outlined above.
While keeping track at first might seem difficult, it can help to think of it as the handshake zone, where you might greet someone.
You don’t shake hands above your shoulders or at your knees.
Performing work at these awkward levels makes the task more difficult and harder on the body.
Keep the work you do in the comfort zone to get the most out of your efficiency and your health.
3. Medium Force
Any task where you have to exert extra force at intervals (or at worst, during the entire task) isn’t healthy for your body.
For example, if you’re pushing a cart across the shop floor and you hit a bump, you’ll have to heave to get it over the rough spot. Maintaining safe and clean workplaces helps with ergonomics.
This third principle has many applications, from factory work like we mentioned to tugging things in an office.
When carpet is involved, as in a desk or cubicle type office floor, you’ll want to use tools to help exert the least force possible.
Instead of hefting a heavy item, use a cart with wheels to help you move it without too much strain.
You can also use a tray or a box to help carry smaller items, rather than squeezing them in an armload and exerting extra force.
The extra force required for monumental tasks is sometimes all it takes for you to strain a muscle or injure yourself. Remember this can happen at home or anywhere else, not only in the workplace.
4. Less Movement
The fewer times you have to complete the same motion over again, the better for your body. Help stay healthy and avoid conditions like carpal tunnel or aggravated old muscle injuries.
You can make minor adjustments to the workspace to give yourself less distance for each small movement.
If you move materials closer to where you’re performing the work, you’ll be able to move less in between each switch. You can do this at home doing crafts or cleaning tasks, at work in an office, or outside landscaping.
Remember to use tools and equipment to help.
If you’re weeding the garden, use a wheelbarrow or bucket to collect weeds and take them to a dumping place or fire pit.
This works better than throwing them (a bigger motion) or turning and placing them behind you (also more movement than necessary). When the wheelbarrow is full, take it to the dumping place.
The best way to understand how much movement you are doing is to pay closer attention. We don’t always notice when we’re making extra motions because it’s a habit.
You can add shelves, or modify the work area so there is more space in the comfort zone to store the items you need.
The same principle can work anywhere for you. Stay healthier by moving less. Make sure every motion you do has a purpose.
5. Exercise and Stretching
Every so often you should take the time to stretch and change positions. Spending only a few minutes doing brief exercises can make a huge difference in the health of your body and muscles.
While many of the principles here make it seem like you ought to be lazy, that’s not the intention at all. It’s good to use your body and your muscles in the right way.
It’s also healthy to put as little constant strain on them as possible, which is the goal of ergonomics.
To help you keep your body limber and ready to work, it’s a good idea to warm up with some stretches at the beginning of the day.
Whether you’ll be working a strenuous job with much activity, or sitting at a desk, your body with thank you for taking the time to warm up first.
It’s also a good idea to change positions after you’ve been working at the same task for an hour or longer. Even hard work, rather than sitting at a desk, can make your body ache.
Taking a break and changing your posture helps alleviate these problems and refresh your muscles to stay efficient.
Stretches that take your limbs out of the neutral posture and the comfort zone as discussed above are best. Reach up over your head or bend over and touch your toes.
Bend at the knees, and move your body in a way that it hasn’t in a while.
6. Less Contact Stress
Contact stress is when your body touches something or rubs against something for a long time.
The edge of a desk or any other object might not bother you at first, but eventually it can make you sore or even blister.
You can adjust your chair or workspace to eliminate contact points, along with changing positions.
Contact points create stress for our bodies that we don’t notice right away, yet they add unneeded strain to our already hefty load.
Places like seatpub.com have unique options for chairs you may never have considered.
Evaluate the space you have and see if there might be other options to make it more ergonomic.
7. Good Light
One of the ways we don’t notice our bodies creating strain is when the light is low. We automatically adjust so we can see better or work easier, or what we think is easier.
Then we notice the aches and pains because of the non-neutral postures we’ve assumed.
Increasing the light in the workspace means that our bodies don’t have to compensate as much to get the job done.
Whether we’re at home or on the job, sometimes moving a lamp to a more conveniently located plug will save us hours of squinting, hunching, and discomfort.
Before concluding there is no better position or ergonomic principle to apply, make sure you considered the lighting situation, too.
You’ll be surprised how well brighter light helps you work and keeps you healthy and efficient.
Caring for Your Comfort and Health
Now that you’ve asked yourself the question, “What is ergonomics?” you can rest easy.
You know how to make the most of your workspace, whether you’re crafting, gardening, cleaning, or performing tasks at your job every day.
Taking care of your body is important, and following the 7 principles of ergonomics can lead to a healthier, happier you.
For more help with interior decorating and how to get the most out of your space, read more articles on our blog.