Employees or managers with desk jobs may not think twice about possible work injuries or workers’ compensation claims like other sectors. But even white-collar workers can suffer work-related ailments: specifically back pain. According to the American Chiropractic Association, 50% of all working Americans have back pain issues each year. It is also the leading cause of disability and one of the most common reasons for missing work. As you can see, your cushy chair may not be as great for your health as you think it is; making some changes to reduce office-related back pain could save you problems in the long run.
The site Business Insurance says that workers’ comp claims related to overexertion (this includes lifting, pulling, pushing, or carrying objects) cost businesses a little over $12 billion every year! However, these kinds of injuries could easily be remedied if you got creative.
For instance, if your office has a freestanding water cooler that uses large jugs of water, you may want to switch to a water dispenser that is hooked into the building’s main line instead. Since water cooler jugs can be about 50 pounds, eliminating them altogether will get rid of the unnecessary manual labor because employees won’t have to change the bottles out. Another way to reduce overexertion is to go digital with as many documents as you can. While some items will require hard copies, you can reduce injuries by limiting the need to carry large boxes with documents. A secondary benefit of both of these solutions is that your business will be more green since you will save on large plastic bottles and paper.
If you know that you or employees will still have to carry heavy items, it is imperative to follow proper form, such as lifting from the legs, keeping the back straight, and engaging the abdominal muscles. While proper form may seem obvious, it wouldn’t hurt to prepare a safety presentation if you oversee other employees.
Thinking About Movement & Ergonomics
Although it seems like movement would be the cause of back pain, long periods of sitting can exacerbate the low back since that position increases pressure on your spinal discs, back muscles, shoulders, and legs. You should try moving for a few minutes at least once an hour says Patti Neighmond at NPR. Work this into your day by walking to a coworker’s office instead of sending an email or take a brisk walk to your office water cooler for a refill.
Along with more movement, you should invest in a good chair. There are so many office chairs with ergonomics in mind these days, finding a suitable product shouldn’t be too hard to find. Your chair should have an adjustable height, adjustable armrests, and an adjustable headrest. You should set up your chair so that your back is straight and supported. Your legs should be at about a 90 degree angle with your feet touching the floor. Your armrests should be level with your desk and ultimately take some of the weight off your shoulders. Lastly, you should set your headrest in such a way that your computer is at a reasonable eye level without needing to strain your neck.
Carrying a Different Bag
While you can certainly bring a nice briefcase or a professional messenger bag to a meeting, you should consider getting either a backpack or some rolling luggage. Messenger bags and briefcases don’t distribute weight evenly, so your back muscles may become sore. Also, consider storing excessive documents in a cloud or USB rather than lugging that weight around.