The reality for many of us – especially those employed in 911 centers, security, and control rooms – is that our jobs require us to work at a desk for 8 hours or more per day. Sitting or standing in one place for long periods of time hurts. Beyond that, prolonged sitting can have serious consequences. Studies show that sitting is linked to health problems such as heart disease, cancer, and vascular complications. Thankfully, with the right ergonomic office furniture and a few simple adjustments to your everyday routine, you can help minimize the negative impacts of long shifts at your desk. Here are our top four tips for working long shifts at a desk:
1) Invest in a Chair that Fits your Body
A good ergonomic chair for multi-shift workplaces (important) will have simple adjustments that promote good posture and accommodate many body types. Important ergonomic adjustments and features to look for are:
Adjustable Backrest Height – Your chair’s backrest height should accommodate the length of your body. In addition to supporting your lumbar spine, the backrest also needs to be adjustable for different types of workplace and control room tasks.
Seat Width – You need a seat that fits your hip width. A wider seat will give you the freedom to move. This feature is not typically adjustable, so make sure to select a chair with the most appropriate seat width from the onset.
Adjustable Seat Height – To be adjusted properly, your chair’s seat needs to support your thighs evenly as your feet rest on the floor or a footrest. If the seat is too low, your back will flatten and you’ll feel pressure over your rear end and tailbone. If it’s too high, you’ll feel pressure behind your knees and, possibly, numbness in your feet.
A Stable Chair Base – Because a chair’s base is its foundation, this component is crucial for effective chair design. Look for a chair that has a sturdy base made of steel, aluminum, wood, or another stable material. Ideally, it will have five to seven legs with casters extending from a center column.
Dissipating weight – Foam feels comfortable at first, but it does not dissipate weight. As foam deteriorates, it creates hots spots that cause discomfort. Concept Seating chairs feature the Ergo Air Suspension System (EAS2) to keep blood and oxygen flowing through your body, especially the lower extremities, thus improving blood flow and oxygen levels to tissues.
2) Maintain Proper Posture Throughout Your Shift
Having a fully supportive ergonomic chair is only a part of the equation, as having the correct sitting posture is just as important. Sitting the right way can help you avoid stress on your muscles and joints that can leave you hurting. Here’s how to have perfect posture:
Adjust the chair height so your feet are flat on the floor and your knees are in line, or slightly lower, with your hips.
Sit up straight and keep your hips far back in the chair.
The back of the chair should be somewhat reclined at a 100- to 110-degree angle.
Ensure the keyboard is close and directly in front of you.
Sit at least 20 inches, or an arm’s length away, from the computer screen.
Relax the shoulders and be aware of them rising toward your ears or rounding forward throughout the workday.
3) Adjust the Workspace to Fit Your Body
Investing in a 24/7 ergonomic console is a must for you to be able to adapt your workspace. While working on a height-adjustable console can help improve your overall position, it is still important to make sure that you are standing correctly. For example, an aspect that is often overlooked when working at your desk is the position of your arms and LCD monitors.
Leg/Knee Clearance: The workstation should also allow users to stretch their legs with the depth under the desk being more than or equal to 24 inches. In terms of knee clearance, height-adjustable consoles can give users anywhere from 24 to 48 inches of knee clearance.
Arm/Hand Placement – The arms should be angled at 90 degrees and the desk should be set to the height of your forearms. It is preferable to have the arms sit on the armrests rather than the surface itself to ensure the 90-degree angle is respected. Wrist pain or carpal tunnel syndrome being one of the most common problems for office workers, the best way to use a keyboard is by keeping hands parallel to each other. However, the ideal angle when standing is slightly more tilted upwards than when sitting. Similarly, the hands should sit on the mouse in a natural position to avoid any strain on the wrist.
LCD Monitors – Over time, constantly having to look up and down to the monitors can cause pain, fatigue, and muscle discomfort. The recommended focal distance between the eyes and the surface of the screen is anywhere between 20 and 40 inches to prevent eye strain. The top of the screens to be eye level with a slight upward tilt of 10 to 20 degrees. The goal is to reduce as much as possible the need to tilt your neck up or down to compensate.
4. Invest in Ergonomic Sit/Stand Consoles
As you’ve probably heard, sitting is now considered to be the new kind of smoking. The American Medical Association (AMA) estimates the average sitting time per day to be 7.7 hours up to 15 hours for certain individuals. In the case of 911 dispatch centers, telecommunication officers can easily spend 10 to 12 hours a day at their desks. Considering the sensitive nature of calls in the 911 call center, operators need to stay alert at all times to respond efficiently during emergencies. Height-adjustable consoles are designed to help operators to stand and stretch while working to reduce discomfort as much as possible, which is known to have a direct impact on the productivity and health of employees.
Sit/Stand Ratio: According to research, the best sitting and standing ratio for optimal comfort and energy levels is 1:1 or 2:1 sitting time versus standing time (Karakolis, Thomas, and Jack P Callaghan). In other words, for every 1 to 2 hours you spend sitting, 1 hour should be spent standing.
Ergonomic Features: Ergonomically designed workstations take into account the primary and secondary reach zones, allowing users to simply extend their arms to grab their items without the need to stand up or stretch out.
Taking Breaks: Even with ergonomic chairs, height-adjustable consoles, and a healthy work routine, taking short 2-minute breaks throughout the day are beneficial to move and stretch, clear your head, and rest your eyes.
An ergonomic and comfortable work environment can benefit both employees and employers, some advantages include better employee retention and lesser complaints in the workplace. Additionally, 24/7 work environments such as control rooms and 911 call centers which are responsible for managing complex systems and taking critical decisions regularly require much more advanced tools and equipment to ensure the overall performance of the organization. Conversely, the performance of the organization is dictated by the comfort and well-being of the ones making those decisions, the operators. Other advantages of ergonomic chairs and workstations include reduced discomfort, fewer injuries, increases job satisfaction, and enhanced productivity.
About the Authors
Marketing Coordinator | Concept Seating
Marketing Coornidator | Sustema Inc.
Davis, Kermit G., et al. “Combating the Effects of Sedentary Work: Postural Variability Reduces Musculoskeletal Discomfort.” Proceedings of the Human Factors and Ergonomics Society Annual Meeting, vol. 53, no. 14, Oct. 2009, pp. 884–886, doi:10.1177/154193120905301406.
Karakolis, Thomas, and Jack P Callaghan. “The impact of sit-stand office workstations on worker discomfort and productivity: a review.” Applied ergonomics vol. 45,3 (2014): 799-806. doi:10.1016/j.apergo.2013.10.001