5 Ways To Work Smart & Cheap

Ergonomics is all about fitting the job to the person, it’s defined in various areas around the internet, but the definition from the International Ergonomics Association does the best at succinctly addressing that ergonomics doesn’t need to be expensive; it’s all about ensuring that function meets capability. Some of the best, well-used, and most highly liked ergonomic solutions that I have seen have also been the cheapest. It’s not that your cutting corners or trying to save some cash, rather many ergonomic solutions simply don’t need to cost an arm and a leg (pun intended) to be successful at reducing ergonomic risk and improving comfort. Check out our 5 ways to incorporate smart and cheap ergonomic solutions into your business below!

5 Ways That Good Ergonomics Doesn’t Need To Be Expensive

1. A Cheap Way To Sit-Stand

I will be the first to admit that the cost of sit-stand units have come down in price remarkably in the past couple of years. This includes both mountable desk products and a desk that fully goes up and down. But the truth is that these products can still cost you at least $400-$500 (upwards of $1,200) to purchase. That can be out of the budget for many. The good thing is that there are cost-effective ways to get the benefits of sit-to-stand desks without the hefty price tag. There are two methods that I’m going to talk about today that give you the function of sit-to-stand without the required cash. Remember: the key thing is to set-up your standing workstation for a neutral posture. We did a full post on how to exactly do this if you’d like more information.

  • Textbooks, Phone books, Boxes, & Printer-Paper: Finally we have a suggestion for those old textbooks and phone books just collecting dust in your workspace. You can use them to raise your workstation from sitting to standing. You’ll need to raise your monitor, keyboard, and mouse. Truth be told, this solution isn’t the most visually appealing but functionally (when set-up correctly) is an ergonomic solution. Whenever you switch between sitting and standing postures, you’ll need to remove or replace the items back on your desk. Depending on your height and the specific function of your job this may be a very suitable solution for you!
  • Off The Shelf Bargains: If you can’t be bothered with a teetering tower of texts, etc below your monitor, keyboard, and mouse and managing placing/removing texts every time you want to switch between sitting and standing then you could be interested in some of the more economical desk-mount sit-to-stand systems. I have found a lot of recent products from start-ups that are looking to fill the gap in the affordable sit-to-stand market. Here are just some examples that I have come across: the Oristand and the Well Desk. The Well Desk is especially unique because you can orient the height of the of monitor and keyboard/mouse placement independent of each other making it very ergonomic because this allows you to tailor it to any user.

2. An Ounce of Prevention…

As the old saying goes: An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. There is a lot of value in identifying the precursors to an ‘ergonomic’ injury (aka musculoskeletal injury) or using an effective preventative framework and acting on any sort of discomfort/poor ergonomic set-ups before an injury can even progress in the first place. This is very much in a big picture sense but improving the precursors or risk factors to injury can save big bucks to your organization, improve employee morale, and can assist with employee retention and attraction to your organization. From a day-to-day perspective, preventing injury means a whole lot less aches, pains, while at the same time improving comfort levels! Now you may be asking yourself how to do this considering your organization’s limited budget, your position, or time constraints. Using discomfort surveys (free downloadable discomfort survey) are an economical way to identify priority of ergonomic risk amongst a large group of employees. On the smaller scale (like for your specific work set-up) making sure that you are using a neutral working posture can make all the difference in prevention – more on this in our next section.

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3. Better Seated Practices

You don’t need a new chair, you just need to set your chair up right. From my experience helping people out with the ergonomics of their workstations, many people will automatically think that they need a brand new chair without checking to see if their current chair is fully adjusted to fit them. Sometimes it has never been adjusted for them in the first place! If you haven’t yet, be sure to check out these links to make sure that your chair and workspace are set-up correctly for you. Or grab our free e-book. Making small adjustments that better fit you can make all of the difference in your comfort level. Whatever device that you are working on make sure that it is set-up optimally and you are using it with neutral postures.

  • Mouse & Keyboard Set-up: The key thing whenever using your mouse and keyboard is that they need to be within a comfortable reach distance. All too often I see long reaches to the outside of the keyboard during mousing or an extended reach forward when typing. This can put a lot of strain on the shoulders. The simple and cost effective approach is to make sure that you keep these items close to you so that you can work in a neutral posture.
  • Screen Brightness: For many, screen brightness is too bright! Ideally, it should be at the same level as the ambient light in the room. I generally set monitor brightness to below 50% (my current primary brightness is set to about 30%) but it really depends on the make and model.
  • Laptop Set-up: If you use your laptop for prolonged periods, then you should consider using an external keyboard/mouse and laptop stand so that you can use it in the most ergonomic way possible. One of our favourite stands is the Crane Hardware products that come in at about $100 each. We’ve been demoing the Elevate and Classic models over the past couple of months and found that its a really useful for sitting workstations to raise the monitor to an appropriate height. It can also be used in a pinch to quickly convert a desk to a standing workstation, although that is not really its intended function. Of course there are many options out there when it comes to laptop risers, but these are just so easy to fold-up and take with you if you happen to travel a lot. step1

4. Save The Expensive Break Software

Have you ever heard of break taking software before? This is where a computer program tells you to take breaks or stretch throughout out your workday at pre-scheduled times. Depending on the software, there can also be stats about how you use your computer that you can use to change any habits that may be concerning to you. It’s a kind of a preventative approach. The thing with these software programs, in my opinion, is that they are an unnecessary cost. The worst case scenario, they can interrupt your flow of work and lead to a lot of frustrations. And they can cost a lot too! There are many ways to incorporate breaks into your workday that don’t require an expense. Even things like standing whenever you take a phone call, walking meetings, or walking to speak with your colleague instead of sending an email are all valuable to reduce your total time sitting at the computer. Interested in more information? Check out this post we did all about the different types of work breaks and how to incorporate them into your daily schedule.

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5. Be Active & Live Healthy

Total worker wellness will always be a huge value-add to anyone who is trying to remain healthy, productive, and injury-free in the workforce. I know that I am preaching to the choir with this point but its worth mentioning again. Research shows that interrupting prolonged periods of sedentary behaviours even with light-intensity bouts of physical activity can result in improved health outcomes and reduced musculoskeletal discomfort. It can also help keep you at work (less sick days) and improve concentration too! With information like this it’s no wonder that there is a growing trend of incorporating more activity in and outside of work!

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Through the administration of countless assessments in both private and public sectors, Darcie has gained a wealth of knowledge and built a successful practice in the field of ergonomics. She has extensive expertise in conducting office ergonomics assessments in large scale workplaces for all different types of scenarios, from simple adjustments to incredibly complex cases. Darcie also has vast experience in delivering training presentations on the various aspects of ergonomics “best practices” in the workplace. Darcie is a Certified Professional Ergonomist through the Board of Certification in Professional Ergonomics, as recognized by the International Ergonomics Association. She also has a Masters of Science, specializing in ergonomics. A little known fact about Darcie is that she once scored from half, off a free kick, in a university varsity soccer (football) match!

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