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Surprise: Mobile devices don't help office ergonomics

Lamont Wood | Aug. 12, 2013
Getting a move on is good, but understand the devices' limitations as you do so.

For general eyestrain, Weitzel recommends that sufferers make sure that their display screen is clean and that their eyeglass prescriptions are up-to-date. They should also take breaks every hour that involve looking off into the distance, she adds.

The search for relief
Unlike the posture-bound prescriptions of the old office ergonomics (see sidebar), the new playbook is more art than science, especially as it has to constantly address new technology, sources agree. In other words, there is no one answer.

"Sitting should be a posture of choice, not the posture of obligation," says Levine. "I am not saying to stop working and go for a walk, I am saying you should do the same amount of work but do it while in motion."

Besides standing desks, Levine recommends treadmill desks, plus less elaborate fixtures such as telephone cord steppers that let you pace up and down while on the phone. Office workers should schedule calls when they can be walking while on their cell phone. These can be color-coded green in Microsoft Outlook, so they can see at a glance how "green" their schedule is.

He also suggests holding office parties in art galleries (or other venues where everyone stands) instead of in sit-down restaurants or bars. Instead of rewarding employees with movie passes (and encourage yet more sitting), management might bring in massage therapists or yoga instructors. Office competitions can be launched with health-related objectives.

"Take the stairs. Go to the water fountain," Vernikos adds. "If you would get in trouble for going to the water fountain, keep a water bottle across the room. You have to change your habits, but the amazing part is that when you do you have more energy."

Finally, sources agreed that office workers need to accept a basic premise that, for many, apparently flies in the face of their work ethic: You are supposed to be comfortable at the office.

"The first principle is to be comfortable," Hedge says. "Have a neutral posture. If there is any sign of discomfort change what you are doing straightaway. Do not think that if you are at work it is supposed to hurt."

If it does hurt, Weitzel says, "we have to figure out something different."


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