The modern office. We love to write about it, the good, the bad, and the practical. In many ways ergonomic concerns can be mediated with simple approaches, and we love these types of solutions. Other times a counter-intuitive approach will give you surprising results… and that is what we are going to talk about today.
Have you ever had eyestrain before? If not, then lucky you! But, if you have then you are likely with the majority of us who have felt the visual symptoms of eyestrain, including stinging and burning eyes. This can all lead to a reduction in productivity, obviously. This is where ergonomics come into play. Past research has suggested that ergonomic interventions designed to improve musculoskeletal health may also affect visual health! Wait.. how does that happen? These areas don’t necessarily have a clear overlap. Well, office ergonomics training can do this because it has the expectation to increase the employee’s pro-health knowledge and behaviour to encourage positive habits such as taking more frequent rest breaks, or ensuring that all the elements in the workstation are set-up optimally whenever they return to their desk. And by educating employees why this is important, research shows that it can leave a lasting effect on employee health (including reduction of eyestrain).
The traditional approach to managing eyestrain is from a ‘top-down’ approach, where a Consultant observes and analyzes a workstation set-up to write their recommendations in a report. Typically, the report would go to both the supervisor and the employee. In my experience, the supervisor usually implements the solutions (correct me if I’m wrong!), and the employee may just passively look at the suggested solutions. The traditional solutions to reduce eyestrain that the employee may find in the report may include any (or all) of the following:
- The 20/20/20 rule, where every 20 minutes you look at something 20 feet away for about 20 seconds.
- Optimize the type of light used, brightness, light orientation, and placement.
- Optimize the user’s workstation.
Of course there would likely be the specifics around any risks observed and the specifications of the solutions suggested. The concern with the traditional approach is that instead of really understanding why their workstation should be set-up a certain way to reduce eyestrain, employees are simply given the solution. And, research shows that the more ‘bang for the buck’ is with the education front.
We mentioned that we were going to chat about some counter-intuitive pieces of advice. Here they are:
- The best results surprisingly had a combination of providing all employees with a new highly adjustable chair AND office ergonomics training. This strategy resulted in a reduction in musculoskeletal/eyestrain symptom development over the workday and also increased worker productivity by 17%! Another big value add is that all of these results persisted for 12 months after the ergonomics intervention.
- The training was based off a 90 minute training intervention that included the following: powerpoint presentations, and office ergonomics video, problem solving exercises and hands on training for the chair (all users brought their own chair).
- The training discussed reducing or eliminating direct and indirect glare by moving the monitor or adjusting the window blinds, managing visual distance and viewing angle, monitor placement, exercises to reduce eyestrain, eye exams and considering appropriate eyeglass prescriptions.
- If you do implement something like this, it may be a value-add to go with the entire strategy, not just the more ‘cost-effective’ training part. This is because workers who received only office ergonomics training did not report reduced visual symptoms, even though the research had shown employees engaging in making adjustments to their workspace following the training.
If you decide to ‘go for’ this counter-intuitive strategy, then you will likely need to be selecting a new type of office chair. Of course, there should be a reason why you need a NEW office chair – we will never recommend buying an expensive chair just because. We appreciate that selecting chairs can be a difficult and confusing process. Check out our e-resources to help you along your way. We’ve also written some blogposts on the subject. You can check them out here:
- Chair selection hack
- How to finally get a good office chair
- The Ultimate chair selection guide, part 1
As always we hope that you get a lot of value from this post that can help you in your day to day life. Need more help? Leave a comment below or email us!
Amick, B., Menéndeza, C., Bazzanid, L., Robertson, M., DeRango, K., Rooney, T. & Moore, A. (2012). A field intervention examining the impact of an office ergonomics training and a highly adjustable chair on visual symptoms in a public sector organization. Applied Ergonomics, 43, 625-631.