Ergonomics is a huge buzzword in the working world today. But do you really know how ergonomics can improve your well-being so that you leave work healthier and happier than you arrived? Recently, I sat down with Heather Zapf, our Ergonomics Specialist at Storr Office Environments to get her take on this hot topic.
First off, what is ergonomics and why is it important in the workplace?
By definition, ergonomics is how your body interacts with the environment around you. It’s about fitting the task to the human and not the other way around. We spend more time at work than we do sleeping so let’s make sure we are comfortable.
What is your history and background with working in ergonomics?
My background is in interior design and I’ve worked in both the commercial furniture and kitchen & bath industries. You may not realize it but ergonomics plays a role in everything you do. My concentration in ergonomics really vamped up when I joined Storr Office Environments.
Since you are a certified trained ergonomics specialist, what does this mean for customers who speak with you specifically? How are you able to help them more versus someone without this training and your background?
Last year, I earned my certificate as a certified trained ergonomics specialist. This was a two day intensive hands on course. With this training, I can better evaluate clients based on their needs and concerns, and teach them the proper way to sit and to work with the equipment (chair, desk, keyboard tray, etc.).
Someone without my experience and training would not know what signs and patterns to look for when evaluating a customer’s habits in their workspace. After working at Storr for almost two years, I am well versed in the wide variety of products that we offer and can give suggestions to best suit your needs. My process of evaluating a customer’s needs involves a series of steps. I will observe the customer in their current workspace, learn what discomfort they are experiencing, and figure out a solution to best meet their needs. When a customer is uncomfortable in their workspace, I am able to evaluate their postures and workspace conditions to help alleviate their discomfort. Sometimes the problem areas are obvious, other times it takes more detailed questions and observations to determine what adjustments should be made to improve their workspace.
What do you like best about working in ergonomics?
The most gratifying experience in ergonomics is when I go in and help customers and they have an immediate reaction to the adjustments that I’ve made or when they try out the new product. I also like that I am able to work with all different kinds of employees and people. Some are just starting out as new employees and others have been at a company for years. It is the best when someone has been working for a company for 10+ years and I am able to see an immediate positive response after adjusting their work spaces.
Why should someone pick Storr for their ergonomic needs? What makes you an asset at Storr? How does your role differentiate Storr from our competitors?
We have the specialist & experience along with the products to back up any recommendations. I know all the Steelcase products and can tell you their ergonomic benefits. We have the insights and knowledge. I am experienced and can personalize or customize a product to fit your needs as an individual. I will work with your budget and will do what is best for you and your company. I am able to give options with my recommendations and other ideas to improve your practices. We have the products to support a healthy work environment. One of the best things about Storr Office Environments is that we are all inclusive. We are your one stop shop for everything. Some companies will give you advice on how to better improve your ergonomics in the workplace but they do not have the ability to provide products to help alleviate the problem. Storr is here for you every step of the way and Steelcase has a complete wellness program that we can utilize at all times.
How do you work with users to develop the appropriate posture/seating/working experience?
My process includes a phone call, appointment, and follow-up. The appointment is very hands on. Not only will I show them how to sit and use the products properly, but I also explain why it’s important to use them the correct way. First I start with the chair, and then go to the keyboard, and finally the monitor. It is a domino effect. I make the equipment work for you and not the other way around. This could be a one on one evaluation or I can also do group training sessions.
What kinds of products allow for proper work experiences/postures?
Ideally, your workspace should offer multiple postures so that you can be flexible when working. So for example, having chairs with ample adjustments, keyboard trays, monitor arms, height adjustable tables or worksurfaces. Having these types of products allow for employees to adjust their work station to their specific ergonomic needs. Each employee has individual needs.
Why do you think there is there such a great importance of wellbeing in the workplace?
The importance of wellbeing in the workplace is a huge buzzword right now because we spend so much time each day in the office. It is important that we are comfortable and are able to get our work done in a healthy environment. It is imperative to keep employees happy and keep the company morale high. This helps with employee retention. It is also a wonderful feeling to know that your company cares about you and wants to make sure that you are at your best while working. Steelcase supports these initiatives with their Wellness Program where the purpose is “to help people work more effectively- no matter when, where or how they work.” According to the Steelcase Workplace Survey, 37% of workers lose up to 30 minutes a day from dealing with physical discomfort.
What are some other things users or companies can do to improve wellness in the workplace?
For employees some of the easiest things are to simply take micro breaks that include quick stretches, or a walks around the office. Also, try to keep your feet flat on the floor, crossing your legs limits circulation and chances are your feet will fall asleep. And always remember to make your equipment work for you, not the other way around!
If I am talking to the organization, I would suggest creating wellness programs that promote healthy lifestyles, creating break away areas that offer a second option for different types, and ask that they consider incorporating walk stations or standing height adjustable tables to all for employees to switch postures throughout the day.