Saturday, 15 September 2012

Ergonomic Controversy!!

Does having an ergonomic set up really make a difference?

The article below raised some interesting points, namely that having an ergonomic set up, whilst beneficial, would not prevent injury, and instead people need to change out of a sitting posture more often during the day. My thoughts are along similar lines - that the two - workstation set up and changing posture regularly, should go hand in hand. As I've said so many times during assessments - you can have the most ergonomic chair in the world, but that won't help if you sit with poor posture and don't move from your desk all day!

Here are some of my tips to get you up and out of your chair during the day:

  • Avoid having a printer on your desk. Instead, set your printouts to go to a printer across the office
  • Half fill your water jug / bottle so that you get up more often to get refills
  • Walk over to your colleagues to talk to them rather than sending an email or using messenger
  • Hold stand up meetings
  • Start a mid-morning and mid-afternoon 5 minute group stand-and-stretch session in the office
  • As a rule, stand up to access anything that is above shoulder height when you are sitting
  • Take your breaks away from your desk - if you can leave the building and go for a quick stroll, even better! 

Here is the article:

Whilst it is very important to change your work posture during the day, it is equally important to acknowledge how much time is spent sitting down when at work. In saying so, a well set up workstation will help to prevent bad work postures putting additional strain on your body.

Until next time,
1300 820 877

Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Free tips!!

Who likes getting something for free? I know I do!

How about something that will actually make you feel better too (and not just because it's free)? Yes again.

Here are a couple of free tips from me to you, I hope you take one or both on board.

Sore back when washing the dishes? Often the smallest forward tilt can bring on a great deal of back pain.

TIP: There are two quick and easy ways to help alleviate the pain

1. Stand close and lean your hips onto the bench. This will make your body bend more naturally at the hip rather than through the spine, relieving the pressure instantly.

2. Open up the cupboard door below the sink. There is often a small ledge which is the base of the cupboard. Rest one foot up on the ledge and keep the other on the floor. This can change the weight distribution through your back, and give sore and tired muscles a break.

Sore hand / wrist when squeezing the petrol pump trigger? It can take a few minutes of standing and squeezing to fill a car. And that can place a lot of strain on already sore fingers, hands and wrists.

TIP: You don't have to squeeze the trigger the whole time! See if the pump has a little attachment like below..

OR use petrol cap lid and slot it into the trigger space. The petrol will continue to fill automatically and you can just stand next to it with hands on hips or getting your discount voucher ready or if you are really keen, clean your windscreen while your car is getting filled! The petrol will stop flowing once the tank is full, so there is no risk of the petrol overflowing (in Australia anyway).

Hope you found those useful!

Until next time,
1300 820 877

Monday, 16 July 2012

What a pain in the neck!

Who out there has ever experienced a pain in the neck? No, I don't mean the tight muscles that would love to be massaged; I mean pain that results in crying out in pain with certain movements, difficulty sleeping due to not being able to lie down without getting sharp pains, and having to turn your whole body side to side when talking to people next to you because it's too painful to turn your head.

For the first time in my life, I felt this pain last week. I couldn't even pinpoint what had caused it - I was on holidays, on a cruise, and hadn't handled my heavy suitcase for a few days. The only thing I think it could have been was a gradual onset, leading to an acute episode of pain from carrying a satchel style camera bag with a heavy SLR camera for hours on end while exploring gorgeous European cities. 

The pain was terrible. It was limiting. It hurt. And it got me thinking...

In today's society, how much strain do we place on our necks each day? Let's look at a few possible causes:

  • Mobile phones: While they used to be used for making phone calls, and then the introduction of sms in the late 1990's, they are now seemingly permanently attached to our hands at any appropriate (and often inappropriate) moments. Neck flexion often begins first thing in the morning when we reach out to pick up our phones from our bedside tables to check what has been happening with our friends and in the world during the past 7 - 8 hours as we slumbered. The neck flexion may continue through breakfast and I've even heard of people who put their phones in zip-lock plastic bags to use whilst in the shower!! Waiting for, and then catching the train or bus to school or work brings forth more neck flexion while our thumbs tap and slide across the little screens. Sneaky phone checks at work are often done by reaching across the desk to open the top drawer. Then more phone checks at lunch, and repeat the same pattern on the way home.. with final checks before going to bed.
  • Computer screens: As much as I used to despise this phrase when one of my earliest managers would  say it to me, "You just don't know what you don't know". How many people really know what height their monitor should be? Based on the people I've seen during the hundreds of ergonomic assessments I've done, sadly not all that many. So often, they are positioned too low, too high, too far or too close to be comfortable. So here it is, the magic formula:
Eye level to be in top 1/3 of screen
Centred to user and keyboard
Distance from user:
Approximately an arm's length from user

  • Handbags: Most of the time, they are just plain too full and much too heavy, and result in pressure on one side of the neck! It's worth doing at least a fortnightly spring clean of bags, which means everything comes out and only essential items go back in. Do you really need the 1L bottle of water while getting to and from work? How about leaving it at work, and using a 500ml or smaller bottle during travelling time to keep hydrated? Or for those of you who just have to carry lots of things to and from work, including laptop, iPad, files etc., how about considering a trolley bag? They don't have to be bulky or ugly, there are some really nice ones on the market. And yes, you will have to carry the bag up and down stairs, but think of all the in-between times when you can just roll it behind you! There are alternatives to having red strap marks on your shoulders from the pressure and weight of the  bag. 
I'll leave it there, but there are so many other possible causes.. craning neck when driving, not using good manual handling technique when reaching down to pick up kids off the floor.. I could go on and on.. but I won't. This time. 

The key to avoiding such neck pain is by ensuring your environment is correctly and safely set up around you, so that it isn't even an option to get it wrong. Limit phone use, position your monitor correctly, lighten up the load in your handbag.. and yes, I should have used a camera backpack to evenly distribute the load. Lesson learnt. 

Until next time! 

1300 820 877

Tuesday, 19 June 2012

The Economics of Ergonomics

I came across this interesting article from an Ergoport newsletter.. It's great to see some actual figures outlined in how ergonomic assessments and devices can actually SAVE money per employee! 

We all know the benefits of suitable ergonomic equipment and furniture although can we actually put a price on it? Scenarios vary from case-to-case with psycho-social, physiological and environmental factors.  The cost estimation hypothesis below may help determine a return on investment at a rudimentary level.  Human Resource hourly employment rate savings are the prime source of measurable productivity gains within an organisation (Time = Money).  An example of time/cost savings is generated by utilising ergonomic devices (keyboard, mouse & laptop stand) where an Ergonomic deficiency was recognised.  An example of a common Ergonomic deficiency would be a worker performing work on a laptop computer without an external keyboard, mouse and appropriate stand: (keyboard, mouse & laptop stand cost: $300)

Savings Calculations:
  • Average life of Ergonomic Intervention items (combined) = 5 years
  • Value added employee performance savings per day = 5 minutes (1% of time worked per day)
  • Intervention set; usage per day, per employee = 7.0 hours
  • Average hourly rate per employee = $42 (includes 20% incremental costs)
  • Productivity savings per employee per day =  Productivity rate (5 minutes / 7.0 hrs) =  0.0119 %
     0.119 $42 x 7.0 hrs. = $3.50
  • Number of days to recoup cost of interventions = $300 / $3.50 = 85.7 days
  • Number of years to recoup cost of interventions = 85.7 days / 300 = 0.29
  • (ROI of 0.29 yrs. assumes 200 work days per employee year)
  • Value added time = 5 years – 0.29 years = 4.71 years
  • Cost savings = 4.71 years x 200 work days/ year = 942 days
  • 942 work days x $3.50 = $3297
This ergonomic intervention set would save $3297 per employee after initial cost
Additional cost savings/ can be attributed to increased employee output, fewer errors due to reduced fatigue/ discomfort, lower costs for medical, workers compensation, lost time, restricted work days, and various other supervisory /indirect costs.

‘Article courtesy of Ergoport Pty Ltd’.

Contact Get Ergonised to find out how we can save you money in your business! 

1300 820 877

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Queen's birthday special: The painful facts about high-heels

This is one for all the women out there: Are you a flats or heels girl? 

I for one am a flats girl. The handful of times I have worn heels for short periods, I've ended up with terrible blisters and sore feet - an instant reinforcement for me that I should get back into my comfy flats asap! I've seen many women (with back or hip problems) lament about the fact that they can no longer wear heels.. they no longer have a choice, but many still do. Have a think about what heels are doing to your body - the higher the heel, the greater the damage. If the thought of wearing flats causes involuntary shivers down your spine, try a smaller heel, one that doesn't make you topple if you take a misstep. Don't believe me? Read the fact sheet below:

Problems from back pain to joint degeneration to ingrown toenails can accompany the wearing of those stylish pumps.

Scary huh?

Until next time,
1300 820 877

Monday, 14 May 2012

It's a bit nippy!

It almost feels like winter already! I suppose we're not that far off the chilliest season of the year, 2012 is really zooming along, isn't it? 

With the cold comes coats.. and scarves.. and boots.. and gloves. But despite piling on the layers, most people will be walking around outside with their arms crossed, head tucked down and shoulders hitched up, bracing themselves against the chilly air. And for your body, that means TENSION!

Think of the soothing feeling of a lovely massage in a nice heated room. Firm, warm fingers run up and down your back, relaxing your muscles, easing away the knots.. Think how nice this feels, so calm, so relaxed.. Now read the 2nd paragraph again and imagine the difference your body feels when trying to keep warm in the cold. Such a contrast!

For people who have been feeling aches and pains for the past few months, the start of winter will likely exacerbate those symptoms, purely due to how we tend to hold ourselves when cold. The more tense the muscles, the more significant the pain. The more pain we feel, the more tense we hold ourselves.. it's a lose / lose situation.

To try to break the cycle, we need to see what factors we can control:

1. The weather? Not the last time I tried.

2. Our clothing? Yes, layer away! Don't be afraid to pull the thermals out if it gets much colder than it did this morning. The main areas to remember to keep warm are your neck (a nice chunky scarf will do the trick), hands (woollen gloves), feet and head (to retain the heat). Of course the rest of you will be covered up too!

3. Ourselves? Yes again. When you notice yourself tensing up in the cold, make a conscious effort to roll your shoulders back, lift up your head and straighten your back.. and then take a deep breath and notice your body relaxing with the outward breath. My Get Ergonised clients will know how fond I am of visual prompts, so find something visual that will remind you to check your winter posture... whether it be any time you see someone in a red coat, or wearing a hat.. you get the idea. A visual reminder, just for you... just for your body.

Keep yourself warm, keep yourself ergonised.

Until next time,

Monday, 30 April 2012

Mother's Day special - the pregnant lady at work

With Mother's Day just around the corner, here's one for the mums-to-be out there! 

As if needing to pee frequently, food cravings and nausea wasn't enough to deal with while pregnant, you may also be experiencing increased low back pain, sciatica (when the pain shoots down the bottom and into one or both legs), and pelvic pain. And as much as you try to sit up straight, there is a big belly that stops them from getting close enough to their desk (especially in the 3rd trimester!).

I recently did an assessment for a woman who had 3 weeks left of work before starting maternity leave (was 34 weeks pregnant), and was experiencing intolerable back pain. The assessment identified that she was working at a rectangular desk and using two monitors, plus a laptop that was placed on the left side of the desk. By  turning between the three monitors, she was continuously rotating her spine all the way from her neck to her low back. Luckily her work had kidney-shaped desks and she was able to move to one of those. We were able to eliminate one of two monitors, thus centralising the main monitor and adjusting it to the correct viewing height, and then moved the laptop (used only as a reference) closer to the monitor and elevated it with books to the level of the monitor. The desk was height adjustable, but as she found that she was leaning forward throughout the day, I recommended a small footrest to encourage her to lean back into her chair. The backrest was adjusted to provide the best support for her back and a document holder put in place to eliminate her neck rotation and flexion when entering data. She noticed a difference immediately and was able to maintain working for the remaining few weeks. 

Here are some tips:

  • As tempting as it is to sit sideways to get closer to the desk, try to maintain a neutral spine as much as possible. Remember the phrase 'Nose and Toes' and always try to face your nose and toes in the same direction to avoid straining your back.
  • Check the backrest of your chair - the lumbar support should be nestled into the small of your back, not near your bottom. While you're at it, check the tilt of the backrest as well and adjust it for comfort.
  • Make sure your feet are flat on the floor. If they can't reach the floor without you moving forward in your seat, get a footrest to elevate the floor surface to you. This is really important and will make a big difference. It should be at a level where your thighs are parallel to the floor or slightly sloping down.
  • Keep your most frequently used items on the desk as close to you as reasonably possible. Even if that's your tissue box - you need to avoid repetitively over-reaching. Keep things within an arms reach. 
  • Check your monitor height (especially if you use a laptop). Avoid neck flexion where possible by bringing the screen up so that your eye level is in the top 1/3 of the screen. So, if you are using a laptop, that means elevating the laptop with a laptop stand and then using an external keyboard and mouse so that you're not stretching out to work. 
  • Most importantly - take breaks away from sitting! This doesn't mean taking 10 minutes for a cuppa every hour, just changing your posture with a walk around the office, walking to the printer or refilling a glass of water. Try for a posture change every 30 minutes. 
Hope that helps! 

(If you are experiencing increased pain while sitting at your desk, it is advisable to have a professional ergonomic assessment. Contact your preferred provider or Get Ergonised to arrange an assessment).

Monday, 16 April 2012

Who says travelling is relaxing?

Well, travelling CAN be relaxing when you're on holidays.. but even so, using the laptop to upload and edit photos during our honeymoon last month led to lots of different 'workstations', and invariably led to needing a couple of massages to help soothe the tight neck and shoulder muscles (sure I would've gotten massages regardless, but this was a valid reason to get them sooner rather than later).

The first example of poor ergonomic set up came when we were sitting on the plane on our way to Perth to start our honeymoon. I glanced across the seats to a fellow passenger, and this is what I saw:

CRINGE! Oh the poor man's wrists! Not to mention his shoulders and neck!

While working with a laptop 'on the road' can't be avoided, here are a few tips to give your body a bit of a break.


In an ideal world, along with your laptop you would carry an external wireless keyboard and mouse, and for extra points, a portable laptop stand that doubles as a document holder. You would have access to a desk and a chair that was either the right height for the desk, or was height adjustable.

In a not-so-ideal world (which is the case most of the time) where the set up can't be changed, here are some ways to change your posture:

  • If there is no desk and you have to place the laptop on your lap, place a pillow on your lap first to bring it to a more usable height, and while you're getting pillows, get a couple to place behind your back to help you sit up straight and supported, as opposed to slouching into the lounge
  • Still on the couch.. if you do have an external mouse (recommended), prop it up directly next to you with cushions topped with a small book or diary to give you a level surface with the keyboard
  • If there is a desk and a chair, but the chair is too high and your feet aren't supported by the floor, place a pillow, phone book, or even upturned bin under your feet to bring your thighs up so that they are parallel or slightly sloping down to the floor
  • Alternatively if the chair is too low and you're finding that you're hunching your shoulders up when typing at the high desk, place a pillow or two on the chair to raise your body up, and then again, find a footrest of some sort to bring your feet to a supported level. 
  • When on trains, taxis or planes, see if you can complete other tasks that don't require typing such as reviewing documents or making calls (when not flying of course).
  • Above all else, when in situations where you know you're working posture is not good, get up and move around more often, at least every 30 minutes.. and give your body a break!

Until next time,

Monday, 2 April 2012

How much is your career worth to you?

Firstly, apologies for the missed blog last fortnight. I've just returned from a wonderful honeymoon in Western Australia. We travelled from Albany to Exmouth, seeing beautiful landscapes and having amazing once-in-a-lifetime experiences like swimming with Whale Sharks! I did notice however (can't ever switch off the ergonomic consultant in me), the challenges of using a laptop when travelling... more on that in the next blog, however in the meantime, I came across this blog today from Less Wrong. Worth a read:

Spend Money on Ergonomics

34Kevin23 December 2011 06:40AM
Warning: This is an applied rationality post, about rationality applied to a specific area of life, not a generalized rationality post.
Ergonomics is incredibly important. Sadly, so many of us in the techno-geek cluster ignore well-defined best practices of ergonomics and develop the infamous hunched back of late night computer toiling.
Seriously, ergonomics is basically a solved problem. The mathematics of anthropometry in relation to body mechanics and repetive stressors on the body are quite well understood.
I am here to offer you a basic, incredibly important, yet widely ignored lesson of rationality.
Spend money on ergonomics!
I really can't emphasize this enough. It's such low hanging fruit, yet I know way too many master aspiring rationalists with egregious ergonomic setups.
It is accepted wisdom on Less Wrong that optimizing your career is important, because you'll spend 80,000 hours working on your career. Strikingly, ergonomics presents an even larger time-based optimization opportunity. With straightforward monetary investment, you can dramatically improve the next hundreds of thousands of hours of your life. The effect size here is just enormous. Spend money on ergonomics, and you will be less fatigued, more energetic, more productive, and healthier into the later years of your life.
Get Ergonised can help you feel better at work by completing preventative or comprehensive workstation assessments in your workplace or home office. Training in ergonomics is also a valuable and cost-effective way to get the message across to employees and managers. 
Visit the website today!

Sunday, 19 February 2012

But isn't it just common sense?

Yes it is! (Although having a solid understanding of anatomy and musculo-skeletal injuries does help)

Someone sent me this link today - perfect timing for this post. It's funny how so many of the solutions provided when doing ergonomic assessments are met with a 'But of course! Why didn't I think of that?'. That's not to think badly of the people being assessed... the majority of people I've come across sit at their desk and start working without even considering the option to make their workstation more comfortable for them.

Here's a cute clip on how easy it is to improve your set up when using a laptop or PC - of course some of the solutions aren't as ideal as I'd like them to be, but it gets the message across.

So simple, yet so effective

Get Ergonised - for your home and office workstation
1300 820 877

Monday, 6 February 2012

Who's giving you a hand?

For many of us, it's not what we do that is hard, it's how much of it there is to get done! 

This message was reinforced to me today after completing a workstation assessment. The desk was piled high with paper.. not in clearly defined stacks, but strewn across and over and around everything else on the desk. My client was complaining of back pain, both upper and lower, neck pain, and just looked plain tired. During the assessment we cleared the desk and reorganised it starting with correct placement of the essential items: monitor at the correct height (it had been too low), keyboard and mouse within close proximity to the client (they had been used with arms outstretched), and phone within easy reach. Due to the high level of paperwork and referencing required, I also created a temporary document holder to stop him from reading his notes from places on his desk that required awkward neck postures.

With the physical aspects of the workstation addressed, we then delved into the matter of workload. My client stayed back at work long after their colleagues had left for the day, didn't take lunch or tea breaks, and felt like he was never on top of things. He showed me his list of things to do that week, which went over a few A4 pages. Taking the list off him, we broke the it down into achievable daily tasks, and wrote them as a check list in his diary for each day. He also realised that many of the tasks on his big long list were actually meant to be done by other people in his team, but he had just taken them on board for some reason or another, and as such become burdened with an unrealistic level of work. A delegation list was developed, and trays arranged on his desk to keep his documentation in organised and easily identifiable locations.

With a clear desk and achievable workload, the relief was evident on my client's face.

Morale of this story:
* Organise your desk so that you don't feel burdened by work before you even start your day
* Make sure your workstation is well set up to prevent physical discomfort at work
* Make sure you are not doing work for other people! Delegate it back to them and focus on doing a good job on your own work
* Break down your to-do list into achievable tasks each day

And feel better!
1300 820 877

Sunday, 22 January 2012

It's only a little niggle...

In the many years of working as a rehabilitation consultant in worker's compensation, I can't begin to tell you how many times injured workers' have told me how their injury occurred, explaining that 'it was only a niggling discomfort, I thought it would just go away'.

Lower back pain, upper back pain, neck pain, wrist pain, shoulder pain, elbow pain.. the list goes on and on. Left to get better on their own, these niggling discomforts can sometimes develop into full-blown injuries that can take months and even years to recover!

Besides getting an all-important workstation assessment to ensure that how you sit and work isn't contributing to the discomfort, other things that can help out in these early stages can include:

  • Massages from a qualified remedial massage therapist or physiotherapist
  • A few physiotherapy sessions (and then actually doing the stretches and exercises they prescribe)
  • Some anti-inflammatory medication (talk to your doctor or pharmacist first)
  • Light exercise and movement (we sit down for way too long each day)

Also, it's worth looking at the things you handle everyday - For example, some handbags are really heavy! Do you really need a full 1L water bottle, a diary, a book, a make up bag, spare shoes etc. with you at all times? See what things you can leave at work or home, what you can downsize (i.e. using a small bottle and refilling it as needed), or other ways you can carry things to and from work (backpacks and trolley bags are a couple of options).

The most important message out of this is that it's so much better to be proactive rather than reactive when it comes to aches and pains that just don't go away. Act before they become more than just a bit of pain in the neck!
1300 820 877

Sunday, 8 January 2012

What is ergonomics? What's a workstation assessment?

I've come to a realisation that many people don't really know what I do, or what Get Ergonised stands for. Having conversations with people over Christmas, I noticed that they were doing a lot of nodding but not a lot of understanding.. so here it is:

What is ergonomics? 

Essentially, ergonomics is making products and tasks more comfortable for the user. When applied to office workstations, it means making it more comfortable for people to sit and work at their desk. That's it, nothing more, nothing less. Just something to make your workstation not make you sore. When you think about it, many of us experience that niggling neck and upper back tension that always seems to get worse when working on an intense project or after a long day or week.. and how about that low back pain that can sometimes make it hard to stay seated for hours on end. Even things like forearm pain, wrist pain, headaches, eye strain and leg soreness may be symptoms attributed to sitting at a desk that has not been set up specifically to suit you. Hot-desking seems to be the new thing in workplaces, where you get to sit at a different workstation every day.. do all these people spend 2 minutes each morning setting themselves up for optimal comfort?

So what's a workstation assessment? 

A workstation assessment is an evaluation of you at your workstation. It includes making sure your chair is at the right height, and that the backrest fits the curves of your back; that the monitor, keyboard and mouse are positioned correctly for you; that your phone is accessible without straining yourself; and also as importantly, that your workflow is effective and work areas on your desk are appropriately designated.

January is a great month for having a workstation assessment, as most people will still be relaxed and pain-free after a few days or weeks off from work. Start the year off getting yourself ergonised!

Check out for more information on work and home workstation assessments.