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Ergonomics Tips: Pros and Cons of Open Offices

Ergonomics Tips: Pros and Cons of Open Offices

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

“70 percent of US offices have some form of an open concept” International Facility Management Association 2018

While there are many issues to consider when designing the perfect workspace (ergonomics, safety issues, sitting vs standing, etc.), the open office space is a trend worth examining. In fact, according to the International Facility Management Association, “70% of US offices have some sort of open concept.” Despite so many offices adopting the open office, there has also been an increasing pushback to the idea. So, just what are the pros and cons of an open office environment?

Ergonomics Consultants | Solutions Northwest Inc.

The Pros

Tech companies like Facebook and Google helped make the open office environment popular and many other companies have followed suit. One of the major selling points of the open office is that it tears down cubicle walls and allows employees to openly communicate and build relationships.

The idea is that, without walls, office workers will be able to brainstorm and bond while working, ultimately becoming a greater team with greater productivity than their cubicle counterparts.

Additionally, open office spaces tend to be more affordable to build than cubicles as well as more attractive to look at in an office setting.

The Cons

While the cubicle wall sounds old fashioned, it was serving a few purposes. Having walls around you allows for you to work in privacy and focus directly on your task, which can be lost when exposed to the noise and distractions of the open office environment. In fact, “75 percent of office workers report frequent noise during the workday and 38 percent would change jobs to have an office door they could shut,” according to Gallup 2017.

While open offices are designed to promote more communication, the lack of privacy may have had a negative impact on communication. YouGov reports that “31 percent have had to go to a closet or hall to make a call and 31 percent have held back thoughts and opinions for fear of co-workers hearing and judging.”

Design the workspace that feels right for your workers

Open office layouts may increase face time, leading to stronger bonds, but it could also lead to negative communication or fear of communication due to the lack of privacy in the forced open space. Knowing there are pros and cons to having an open office, it may make sense to seek out alternatives.
 
The Hub and Spoke office design attempts to extract the best of the open office while maintaining some of the concepts of the private office design. The Hub and Spoke utilizes “a singular entryway into common spaces and hallways that spoke out to different individual offices” as described by ArchDaily. The concept is meant to be a mixture of the open office and the personal office, which allows workers the ability to collaborate, but also work on their own in private.

An important takeaway is that you should balance different concepts and create a custom space that works best for your needs.

In conclusion

Whether your workers work in a home office, open office, cubicle workstation, or other type of workstation, it is important to create a healthy work environment for your workers because it will lead to more productivity in the long run.

We recommend contacting an ergonomics expert to perform an ergonomics assessment on your workspace. For more tips about your workspace, be sure to visit and subscribe to our blog for more office and ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

Ergonomics Tips: Work Safe While Pregnant

Ergonomics Tips: Work Safe While Pregnant

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

Ergonomics Tips: Work Safe While Pregnant

“About 75 percent of women in the workforce are of reproductive age, and more than half of new mothers are employed.” Workcare

While pregnancy is generally a joyful time, it can impact your safety outlook in the workplace. Considering that “more than half of new mothers are employed” according to Workcare, it is important to discuss any possible job hazards with your employer and educate yourself on what hazards to look out for and how to avoid workplace injury.

There are many temporary adjustments and additional precautions workers can take to stay safe when working while pregnant.

What are some of the workplace hazards to look out for?

As with all safety issues, it is important to always speak with your doctor. Additionally, you should never hesitate to speak to your workplace administrator or human resources department for assistance specific to your job tasks.

In general, occupational hazards and limits are set for non-pregnant workers and what is safe for you may not be safe for your unborn child. The Center for Disease Control (CDC) offers some examples to consider:

  • “Changes in your metabolism increase how quickly you absorb some chemicals (e.g. some metals).
  • Because of physical changes, the personal protective equipment that you could wear correctly before pregnancy may not fit properly, such as lab coats or respirators.
  • When pregnant, changes in your immune system, lung capacity, and even ligaments can alter your risk of injury or illness due to some workplace hazards.
  • A fetus might be more vulnerable to some chemicals because of its rapid growth and development, particularly early in pregnancy when its organs are developing.”
  • During pregnancy, women experience fluid retention, which may cause vulnerability to De Quervain’s tenosynovitis, which is an inflammation of the fluid-filled sheath that surrounds the tendon, especially if a repetitive job is involved. Outside of the workplace, new mothers experience wrist and thumb pain from lifting their baby or holding their baby’s head during feeding.

Additionally, the CDC.gov website provides job specific examples at: https://www.cdc.gov/niosh/topics/repro/pregnancyJob.html.

It is also recommended that employers perform a worksite-specific evaluation of hazards and contact an ergonomics specialist for an ergonomics assessment.

What can you do to avoid injury?Ergonomics Consultants | Solutions Northwest Inc.

Aside from getting plenty of rest and not overworking, communication with your employer is key. It is important to communicate with your employer and learn more about their safety protocols as well as your safety options as a worker.

Once you notify your employer, they should be trained to provide accommodations for you and be open to providing any additional, reasonable accommodations needed.

Additionally, it may be necessary to contact an ergonomics expert to ensure that your workstation (for example, a computer desk) is properly adjusted to your needs.

Be sure to know your rights

According to the US Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), “if the employee can no longer perform the essential functions of their position, and there are no other reasonable accommodations available, reassignment to an open position, or if no open positions, a leave of absence, may be the only potential reasonable accommodations possible. However, it is important to be aware, an employee may not be forced to take a different position or a leave of absence as a reasonable accommodation, if there are other reasonable accommodations available.”

SolutionsNW.com recommends that pregnant workers visit https://www.eeoc.gov/eeoc/publications/pregnant_workers.cfm to review their legal rights in the US.

In conclusion

Due to several workplace protections set in place for pregnant workers, you should have a positive experience. If you are the workplace admin or work in the human resources department, be sure that your workplace is properly prepared for pregnant employees by knowing the laws listed by the ADA, the CDC, and OSHA.

It is also a good idea to have experts on standby, for example, for any ergonomics issues you may encounter, you can contact an ergonomics specialist to assess your workplace and ensure your workstations are flexible for a variety of workers.

Hopefully these ergonomics tips can help keep your workplace a safe work place. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

Subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

 

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Ergonomics Tips: How to Work in Comfort

Ergonomics Tips: How to Work in Comfort

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

Ergonomics Tips: How to Work in Comfort and Avoid Workplace Injury
Ergonomics Tips: How to work in comfort

“A total of 5,190 workers died from a work-related injury in the U.S. in 2016, the highest annual figure since 2008. The fatal injury rate was 3.6 per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers, the highest since 2010.” BLS.gov

Whether you work in an industrial plant or retail store, it is important to understand how to avoid workplace injury. Musculoskeletal injuries such as, tendinitis, carpal tunnel syndrome, osteoarthritis, rheumatoid arthritis, fibromyalgia, and bone fractures can be the result of working in awkward positions instead of your best work zone.

In order to avoid injury, it is important to perform the majority of your work tasks in your best work zone.

What is your best work zone?

Your best work zone (sometimes called the “optimal zone,” “comfort zone,” or “hand shake zone”) is the zone (or area) in which you can perform your work task while maintaining a comfortable or neutral posture. Working in this zone is less likely to cause musculoskeletal injury because you won’t be straining in any awkward positions.Ergonomics Consultants | Solutions Northwest Inc.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has created an illustration to show exactly where your preferred and best work zones are:

According to OSHA, “work is safest when lifting and reaching is performed in these zones. Working outside these work zones results in non-neutral postures that may increase the risk of injury. It is particularly important to perform heavy lifting tasks within the best work zone.”

In Conclusion

As you do your daily work, be sure that you are working in this best work zone. You can call it your “handshake zone” as an easy way to remember or print this blog out to be sure you’re working in your best work zone.

Additionally, if you work on a work bench, assembly line, or countertop that is not in your best work zone, then you should consult with your manager or supervisor about installing height-adjustable equipment to prevent workplace injury. You may want to refer your manager to an ergonomics expert for a workplace assessment as well.

Hopefully these ergonomics tips can help keep your workplace a safe work place. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Kent, Renton, Arcadia, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

 

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Taking Breaks Makes You More Productive at Work

Taking Breaks Makes You More Productive at Work

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)


Ergonomics TIps: Taking Breaks Makes You More Productive at Work

“Adults employed full time report working an average of 47 hours per week, which equates to nearly six days a week”Gallup 2017

For a lot of American workers, taking a break can come with a feeling of guilt when your boss or co-workers work through their breaks. In fact, the average full-time employee reports working an average of 47 hours per week, according to Gallup.

Even more telling, “54% of employees left vacation days unused in 2016” according to Travel Association research. Skipping breaks and vacation is leading tErgonomics Consultants | Solutions Northwest Inc.o high stress in America’s workers.

Overworking is bad for your health

Overworking yourself will leave your body tired and your mind stressed out. Stress is bad for your health, the University College London found that stress can even impact your heart when studying 10,000 London workers. UCL found that “white-collar workers who worked 3 or more hours longer than a normal, 7 hour day had a 60% higher risk of heart-related problems than white-collar workers who didn’t work overtime.” Moreover, not everyone copes with stress well, which could lead to developing poor habits to manage a stressful work day.

When you factor the risks of constant stress, with being over tired due to lack of breaks – your work quality declines and you put yourself at risk for injury and poor health.

Overworking is bad for your work

If your health isn’t enough to sway you, consider that overworking doesn’t necessarily mean you’re doing a better job.

According to the University of Illinois, most people will lose focus on their task and their project will suffer if they work non-stop without breaks.  “The breaks we take to recharge, eat meals, or spend time with the people we enjoy help us step back from our work and stay mindful of how our work contributes to our goals,” the study shows.  These breaks improve our ability to finish tasks and contribute to overall better performance at work.

Find ways to take breaks during the day

Using professional sports as an example, coaches rest their players to keep them useful during critical times of the game. Knowing this, it is important to find ways to rest from the daily grind throughout the day to improve your overall performance.

If you sit in an office all day, make sure you find moments to move your body. Visit the water cooler, grab a coffee, go eat lunch outside in the sun, or just restock the printer with some new paper.

If you do repetitive tasks at work, stretch your back, neck, or hands. Try some desk exercises you can do while at work to keep your body strong and take your mind off work.

By the end of your work day, you will have enough focus and rest to finish the work day strong.

In Conclusion

Don’t feel guilty taking your breaks, it will help you do a better job in the long run. If you’re a supervisor or managing employees, be sure to let them take their breaks, so you have a rested and focused staff.

Hopefully these tips can help keep your workplace a safe work place. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

 

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Drinking Water Improves Job Performance

Drinking Water Improves Job Performance

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)
Ergonomics Tips: Drinking Water Improves Job Performance
Drinking Water Improves Job Performance

“If you’ve noticed more joint pain and stiffness as you’ve gotten older, you may be overlooking a critical cause that most people don’t realize can affect joint health: hydration (or lack thereof).”  Dr. Williams

The water cooler is your friend. Whether you’re sitting in an office or walking the floor of a warehouse, you should always stay hydrated at work. Water will not only keep you from being thirsty, it will also provide you with health benefits and help keep you and your workers productive at work.

Learn how drinking water helps you become a better worker and just how much water should you should drink.

The benefits of water

According to organicfacts.net, the health benefits of drinking water include “the maintenance of energy levels, body temperature, metabolism, and breathing. It helps in the prevention of constipation, heartburn, migraines, gastritis, ulcers, kidney stones, cardiovascular disorders, rheumatoid arthritis, backaches, and osteoporosis.” Water also plays important roles in kidney function and skin care.

The key takeaway is that water can help you boost your energy. It may be time to consider switching from the daily coffee or energy drink to focusing on staying hydrated for that extra energy boost at work.

How much water should you drink per day?

Consuming half your body weight in ounces of water every day is recommended. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, you should drink 75 oz. (7 ½ cups) of water every day. If it’s hot, or you are exercising you should up your water intake. When drinking something dehydrating such as a caffeinated drink or a glass of alcohol, it is recommended to drink 1.5 oz. of water for every oz. of caffeinated drink or alcohol you’ve consumed.

Remember, you don’t have to pour a glass of water to consume water, as 20% of our water intake can be fulfilled by a proper diet rich in fruits and vegetables.

How do you know if you’re not getting enough water?

If you experience any of these symptoms, try drinking more water:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Lightheadedness
  • Dark under eye circles
  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability and confusion
  • Dark colored urine
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Kidney stones
  • Rapid heart beat
  • Shriveled dry skin which lacks elasticity

In Conclusion

Drink plenty of water at work. Water is usually provided by most employers for free and is much cheaper than coffee (if you must buy it bottled). If there are no water coolers in your workplace, speak with an office administrator or supervisor to see if management will install one for you. Remember to always consult with your doctor to rule out a possible underlying cause of pain at work.

Hopefully these ergonomics tips can help keep your workplace a safe work place. For more guidance on all work related health and safety issues, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more information.

Be sure to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California, Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, and Portland.

 

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3 Back Stretches for Desk Workers

3 Back Stretches for Desk Workers

Post By: Celeste McLaughlin, Ergonomics Manager
Produced by: Solutions Northwest, Inc. (Ergonomics Experts serving Washington, Oregon, and California)

Ergonomics Tips: Back Stretches for Desk Workers

31 million Americans experience low-back pain at any given time. … Low back pain is the single leading cause of disability worldwide, according to the Global Burden of Disease 2010. Back pain is one of the most common reasons for missed work.” – GBD 2010

While every office admin should consult with an ergonomics consultant to ensure the workstation is properly set up, prolonged sitting at your desk may still lead to workplace injury if you do not properly care for your body.

Beyond making sure to take breaks by getting up and moving, try these 3 back stretches our ergonomics experts have collected from the CCOHS.

1. Middle-Upper Back Stretch

Sore back from hunching over a computer screen? Hold your left arm with your right hand, right above the elbow and gently push your elbow toward your right shoulder. Hold this stretch for 5 seconds and repeat with the right arm.

Middle Upper Back Stretch

2. Back/Side Stretch

This next stretch is great for your back and side aches: Interlock your fingers and lift your arms over your head, be sure to keep your elbows straight and slowly lean the left and then to the right. In a similar way, you can also bring your arms in front of your body, or behind to stretch the shoulder blades and chest.

Back and Side Stretch

3. Back Curl

A back curl stretch will stretch your mid back as well as your legs. To do this stretch, grasp your shin, lift your leg off the floor and bend forward (curling your back), reaching your nose to your knee. Repeat with the other leg.

Back Curl Stretch

In Conclusion

Be sure to print these out and post them near your workstation for yourself or your co-workers. Staying proactive by stretching at your workstation is a great way to avoid workplace injury. If you are in serious pain, be sure to consult with your doctor to see if it is serious. And for more tips check out our blog featuring advice from our ergonomics experts.

For an ergonomics consultation, visit SolutionsNW.com or Contact Us for more detailed information.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our blog for more ergonomics tips from Solutions Northwest Inc., ergonomics consultants located in Washington State, Northern California (Arcata), Oregon, Seattle, Olympia, Tacoma, Kent, and Portland.

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